Almost twenty years ago, I was suffering from one of the lowest points of my life. I was an undergrad at the time, but the downward spiral of anger and depression that I was going through were so debilitating that I would spend days on end at home, not wanting to go outside, not wanting to see or speak to any of my friends (or whatever friends I had left). I held myself hostage inside of my apartment that I treated like a turtle shell, inside of which I hid. The only energy I had was just enough to sleep, smoke cigarettes, and listen to the radio. At the time, it was the mid-90’s and alternative/grunge was my savior.
And that’s when I first heard Soundgarden’s “Blow Up The Outside World.” I listened to every word of this song with tears streaming down my face, feeling as if Chris Cornell himself were telling me, “Hey brother… I know how you feel.” When you’ve felt grief for so long, somewhere along the line something starts to kick in, and you start feeling angry. For me, I felt rage. Hatred. A resounding resentment towards the human society that seems to do whatever it takes to destroy you, while the family and friends – whom you thought were your support – tend to enjoy ripping the heart out of you. When it came to relationships with friends, relatives, my parents, and the general public, it was an ongoing heartache that eventually turned into hatred of this world. This song couldn’t express more perfectly how I felt. From the moment I heard this song, even till today, it’s become one of my personal anthems.
Someone tried to tell me something:
“Don’t let the world get you down.”
Nothing will do me in before I do myself
So save it for your own and the ones you can help
“Don’t let the world get you down.” People have said that to me before. It’s easy for them to say when they haven’t been subject to the racism, bullying, and abandonment that I’ve endured throughout my life since childhood. It’s easy to say “It shouldn’t bother you” if you’ve never experienced the struggle of being hurt by both society and your own family, as well as people whom you thought were your friends. Unless you yourself were beset on all sides, leaving you feeling cold and alone trying to pull yourself together during those sleepless nights, then you didn’t understand.
Want to make it understood
Wanting though I never would
Trying though I know it’s wrong
Blowing it to hell and gone
Wishing though I never could
Blow up the outside world
I’ve often wished I didn’t feel the way I did, but I couldn’t help it. I knew it was wrong to want to rid myself of the whole world which included everyone I once cared for. I’ve often come at a crossroads between remaining a part of society or leaving it completely. Sometimes I even felt as if maybe it would be best if society just got rid of my existence permanently since I knew I couldn’t do it myself. But trust me, I’ve considered it.
I’ve givin’ everything I need
I’d give you everything I own
I’d give in if it could at least be ours alone
I’ve given everything I could
To blow it to hell and gone
Burrow down in and
Blow up the outside world
I felt that I gave everyone around me – all my friends and my family – every ounce of honor, love, and loyalty that I had in me, but when things got hard for me they all turned their backs on me. I wanted so badly to believe that if I gave everyone my best, from relative to stranger, that everyone would treat me like a human. But deep down inside, I knew nothing would change. It was going to remain a heartless world no matter what. So I wanted nothing other than to destroy it. But I was never the violent type. Destroying the world was figurative to me. But at the time, if the world blew up, it would’ve made me happy.
For more than a decade since then, I held on to such deep-seated hostility until the anger became so tiresome that I needed to start searching for peace of mind. I needed to find a way to deal with this human existence without destroying myself and/or alienating my wife and kids in the process. I needed to bring my mind back to the time when I was once content. So I began a spiritual search for answers in the realm of Eastern Philosophy, an area of study I once engaged in before anger consumed me for several years. Through a thorough life search and several months of introspection, I eventually discovered that being a healer would be the best way to reconnect myself with society, and I thus became reunited with Taoism.
Soon after that realization, I found myself sitting in front of a book by author Livia Kohn, entitled “Sitting in Oblivion.”
“Sitting in oblivion” is the English translation of the Chinese word “zuowang,” which is often translated as “sitting and forgetting.” Zuowang, according to Kohn, is the “heart of Taoist meditation” because it’s a central practice of several Taoist lineages. Sitting in oblivion is very much like many other meditation practices in that it’s a way to achieve peace and tranquility of mind, while ascending to higher consciousness. But what makes it different is the fact that, according to Kohn, “zuowang demands the complete abolition of all sensory perception and conscious evaluation.” In plain English, this means that you focus your awareness deep within the limitless depths of your own soul by letting go of all of the senses that connect you to the world, such as sight, smells, touch, sounds, taste, and thoughts. It’s only when you are able to rid yourself of those senses that you can actually get a glimpse of that peaceful and higher consciousness that we’re all wanting so badly to realize. But you have to destroy your senses and destroy your thoughts in order to sit in oblivion.
In both Taoist and Zen circles, inner peace, happiness, and higher realms of consciousness aren’t something that you attain outside of yourself. These things are already there, deep inside of you. The more far-gone you are from inner peace (like I was), the deeper inside yourself you have to go. You have to sit and forget about everything all around you and journey into the vastness of your inner, limitless universe that lies inside of you. There is nothing outside of you that you can stretch out and reach for, but there is everything inside of you that you can realize. That includes inner peace, contentment, and happiness.
Sitting in oblivion involves destroying whatever sense of “self” you have in relation to the outside world in order to look inward for the answers you seek. So in a sense, you have to “burrow down in and Blow Up the Outside World.”
It’s been more than 20 years since I’ve heard this song, and as I’ve mentioned before, it’s still my anthem. But nowadays, I’m not wishing to blow up the world out of hatred and resentment, but out of love and compassion. Because it’s only when I find peace within myself that I can find peace with the world. The reason why I’ve become involved in healing is because I’ve come to grips with the fact that I’m angry, not because I don’t care, but because I care immensely. I’m angry because I see the way humans treat each other (and everything else on the planet) and I want to fix it. So I use that anger as motivation to help others find peace of mind so they can make much clearer and more compassionate decisions for themselves and others. Bringing peace to this world means everything to me, even if I’m only doing it one person at a time through my healing practice. I’m here to bring comfort to those who’ve been scarred by the same society that’s hurt me. Like a wounded healer, I truly understand their pain, and I’ll do anything within my power to help. I truly believe that the more individual lives I help change, the closer we’ll be to a better society.
So as you can see, sitting in oblivion helped changed my life.
Sitting in oblivion is a powerful practice to bring you inner peace and to transform your life. Just like any meditation technique, it’s a difficult practice to meditate for several minutes a day. And that’s why they call it a “practice.” In the same way you can’t lift 300lbs over your head overnight, you won’t ascend to a higher consciousness overnight either. But I’m proof that it’s possible to go from someone who’s close to giving up on this world, to someone who’s found peace. And all you have to do is sit down, shut up, and Blow Up The Outside World.