Dissociation is a true talent of mine, and believe me, it is a talent. At some point in the last two decades I learned to shift myself outside of the body the same way cigarette smoke haloes the smoker for an instant on the exhale, a sunlit cloud of lovely bitterness. I can wait there, if not indefinitely, then for long enough.
It’s a peculiar feeling, this weightless cessation of personhood. I have no one and nothing to identify with or against, I am not in conflict or in a state of desire. I am no body in a body, and the body’s senses are warped and heightened until the world appears to be passing in crystalline slow motion. It is dissolution on a personal level, I have returned to a blank slate and could now be anything, I am just as likely to become the pink petals of fallen cherry blossom as the high-pitched song of a speeding train. I am not merely dissociating, I am meditating.
I receive the sensory input with intense clarity. The raindrops gleaming on bright yellow tulips. The surface of moving water like silk in a breeze. Powerful aeroplane lights piercing the darkening sky like a star on a mission, and the sky itself in all its shapeshifting parallel dimensions; illuminated silver-grey the whole of last week, deep gunmetal drifts of early evening cloud passing swiftly through the atmospheric levels on their own mysterious voyages.
Easy to become nothing under such a sky.
My favourite place to meditate (dissociate – dissolve) is the hospital. I wander the halls for hours some evenings, or sit on a line of silent chairs outside closed departments, waiting outside the body like so many other people there, becoming the light reflecting off a linoleum floor. To my mind, becoming the nothing
– Except, not nothing, see: here is the multi-hued sheen of a starling’s body, here is the ochre painted wall above the cobbled streets which remind me of Florence, here is the ghost of a woman’s perfume –
is not, I think, a symptom of anything terrible. It is not unreality, it is pure reality, and I read about Zen and wonder if they’d lock up all the happy nothings in their orange robes.
These moments of absolute sensation uncluttered by thought or attachment are a blessing, not pathology. It may have been born of trauma, but the scarring heat of the forge doesn’t make a sword less brilliant, it creates its edge. I am not suffering when I dissociate, any more than the starling’s petroleum rainbow feathers are suffering, any more than the yellow tulips feel pain. I am a long way away from such concerns. I am a clear column of ice and air.