Tony’s Story – 8 months after his stroke
D: When we last interviewed you, we were focussed on how you received the changes in you when the stroke hit. I’d now like to ask you, when you said that you lost all the old landmarks, what did you lose at that time, or soon after?
Tony: I lost my speech, obviously, and I lost my ability to use my right side, which came back quickly but then faltered a bit later on. I didn’t notice at first, but I noticed soon after, but I noticed when I wrote to a friend who I had a lot of love for, and I suppose she was asking me if I still loved her, and I said, “Look, because I don’t know who I am in that area, I feel as if all emotions have gone, so I can’t say whether I loved anyone or not, I didn’t feel anything, no response, no love, nothing. So I felt like I’d lost my soul in some way, but I wasn’t sure what that meant. Having no feelings, I didn’t feel bad about it or good about it, just no emotional response. It felt like I was wrapped in cotton wool, nothing could get in or out. Looking back from where I am I can see that gradually little bits of emotion began to break through. I watched a film and I felt moved. Something moved in me for the first time. And then gradually it came back, until recently, talking to Dakota again, I had immense emotional response. But an aspect that I lost and hasn’t come back is my ability to respond sexually, no erection, no ejaculation, nothing.”
So I could respond emotionally but not as far as sexual feelings are concerned. Also, I was told that probably by a year I would be fully recovered. I am just at 8 months and don’t feel I am any nearer walking well. I used to walk to my village and back, which was 3 miles there and back, and I can do it, but it takes a lot of concentration, and it feels like I cannot manage to walk properly, you can’t keep up that sort of concentration.
As far as writing, because that has been a very big part of my life, I lost it completely, and seemed to have no interest in it whatsoever. I couldn’t raise interest. It was a pain even to write short emails. So I got very behind. But suddenly one day I wanted to write my experience of the stroke and I sat down to write it. But it’s like the walking. I can do little things fine. But any major big job I find difficult. I guess it will come back, as it was promised I would fully recover. In terms of writing, I used to love writing poetry. It was never a task, and it never needed correction. And I could probably write poetry, but it wouldn’t be the same. It wells up and forms itself in me, but I haven’t had that at all since.
My intuition, sometimes I think I’ve lost it, but then I went to a meditation course recently, and I was amazed what pours up from the unconscious still. Incredible. But no poetry so far.
Before the stroke also I suffered a lot of dizziness, and had real trouble with it, it ruined some days. It had been coming on for 15 years. It used to come once a year, but then about three years ago it started coming more often. Since the stroke, I haven’t had the reappearance of it. That was a real bonus for me because it was a real pain. I don’t think it was connected to the stroke, but they say sometimes the setting for the balance mechanism goes, and maybe it reset itself. It was torture. Please don’t let it come back again. I don’t want to be tortured.
But I found out from a recent news report that the experience of vertigo is one of the signs of approaching stroke.
I suppose also the way I feel about myself. As I am aware of myself here at this moment, I feel very alive and about 30, but when I move around, I realise how much I’ve aged in terms of my body and what it can do. I feel as if I’ve aged 10 or 15 years. I’m bent over sometimes. So while I move, perception of myself and how people see me, it doesn’t bother me, I quite like it because I can appear like an old man, which I am I guess. I think it gives me a lot more understanding of people’s infirmities. I see people who have had an injury who can’t walk properly and I see them walking with a stick. I feel compassion for them. I feel I am in a wonderful community of age. I say hello to them sometimes, even though I don’t know them.
As far as my inner life is concerned, I feel as if something quite amazing has happened. I feel as if a seal has been put on this personality, a seal, which has said, yes, this is good. I developed a lot of confidence over the years. But this is different. I don’t care what I do where I go or how people see me, because it’s me. In the past, I often felt unsure of who I was, or how I appeared but I don’t feel that any more. It’s okay to be me, who I am. I haven’t taught for 20 years, and suddenly I feel I have something to teach, and it’s happened that it’s come my way to do it. It’s a sort of humility of being like so many other people who have gone this way, are going this way, nearer to death, and what have I got to lose, and somehow age gives you permission to say whatever you like or do whatever you like. I accept who I am. Because I am. And I feel good about that.
I had this thing in the meditation course where I was pushed into a kind of uncertainty because of the ideas they were putting forward, and I spent time looking at it, and I felt the emergence of this ‘me’ I had met many times in my life, this wonderful surge of life, which is pushing you up, pushing you up, forever growing you, reaching you up, through the soil. You once said to me I am like a force of nature. That’s how I feel, nature itself, pushing up. I felt this tremendous thing of being a human animal and how I am at the end of a long line of forbears who have survived, and to do that, took tremendous courage and strength. I feel, “Fuck it, I’m here, and I want to press forward and add to what they’ve done. I want to add to what they’ve done, to make some of it right where they’d struggled with it.”
D: When you were peaceful about the stroke, was that just because you weren’t feeling anything?
Tony: No, that feeling of peace was extraordinary, and it carried on in me, I’d reached it before the stroke, but now it is there solid in me. Of course developing words, you start thinking this and that and it gets in the way, but you can return to it any time. It’s like returning to a pre-verbal self I suppose, and pre-time.
D: People might think that peace is a feeling and you said you didn’t have feelings.
Tony: I think people mix up emotions which are here, there and everywhere, with this, which is a state; it is something that has no cause, if something has a cause, it is caused by something else, but this is simply it, causeless. In Hindu philosophy they say fundamentally you are satchitananda – being, consciousness, bliss, and this is where I am more fully than I ever have been before.
D: In other terms if it has a cause then it is fundamentally empty, but it sounds this peace of yours isn’t empty, it simply is.
You said once that they told you that you would never write again but now you are saying they say you will be completely healed in a year.
Tony: That was someone else. It was one young specialist who looked at me and said “You will never write again.” How does he know?
D: Could it be that this newer doctor is saying that whatever will heal will do by a year, but that you might not get everything back?
Tony: He didn’t say that. I think he based it on what he called a remarkable recovery. He felt at that sort of speed I would be fully recovered.
D: When we spoke yesterday during the session, I felt as if emotionally you had not been with me, and I had been feeling lonely and assuming that it was because you were in love with someone else. But it is not in your nature not to love whoever you are with who you care about. So I thought it’s because your feelings weren’t fully back. But now you’re saying that your love has come back, but I wasn’t feeling it fully until last night? So I’m confused about that.
Tony: Let’s put it this way: I am still developing the ability to respond, but the sexual part hasn’t come back so I feel that means I don’t respond in the same way. I believe that having full sexual feelings is very magnetic and draws one to people male or female but without it is a different way of relating.
D: So it’s as if we had to learn to bridge that gap, which maybe you’ve learned with some other people.
Tony: I’m not sure if I do. I don’t know if she feels close and I’m just going along with it. I don’t know. I used to feel sexual feelings like a magnet that pulls me. I certainly don’t feel that. I certainly don’t feel sexual hunger either, which makes a big difference.
D: So when you said you were in love with her and thought you could be her partner, what was that if it wasn’t the old feeling?
Tony: It was a tremendous exchange of ideas and working together and feeling close and feeling excited about what we could do. She is ready to go in with me and work and teach it. And she’s working with dreams and LifeStream which is probably ninety percent of my inner life, and she’s in there with me. I haven’t met that before. It’s like bloody hell, who is this woman; she’s in there with me.
D: What I see is that when C. decided to get back with you, she surrendered, she loved you, and she crawled right in there with you. Whereas I didn’t surrender in that way. I loved you, but I came with my own world and you with yours and tried to put them together, which is very different. I had a conversation with a man not long ago, where he explained that the reason he wouldn’t be interested in me was he thought I was too independent and it was, as we talked about it, like I was a queen in my domain, meeting a king in his, and he wanted me to join him in his domain, rather than bring the two together. And I suppose Sheba went to Solomon, and in Rumi’s poem she brought her golden throne with her, and Rumi said she didn’t need it. So she came into his domain, and that may be what I didn’t do.
Tony: I don’t think we could have done that. C. hasn’t given up who she is, in fact she is who she is, and what I’ve wanted for ages was someone I could pass on what I’ve learned.
D: And I’m not that person. I’m not your student although you are my teacher. I feel very strongly that you’re my teacher and I’m your gadfly making you keep going rather than rest on your laurels. And that is my nature. I’m a catalyst. So I guess it’s harder for me to have a successful male female relationship because of that.
But do you love me?
Tony. Yes, I do. I found it very strongly this morning as I saw you sleeping.
D: And how had you been feeling about me while I’d been here before our session last night.
Tony: I felt about you. What I feel about you is that you are very curious about finding things out, and I love that and I love you for that. And you won’t rest until you find out what is really going on. I was feeling love but not romance because we kept talking about what we would do with this. But that’s gone because the sexual feelings are gone.
D: I think for me, something was missing, and I felt you had withdrawn.
Tony: I can see now that I feel as if something is being asked of me that I can’t provide so I feel a bit of heart ache.
D: I also wonder if working on the book itself felt a bit like maybe something was being asked of you that you could no longer provide, so somewhere you withdrew a bit and you came back last night.
Tony: I can’t come back fully.
D: Could it be that you felt I wanted from you sexuality which you couldn’t provide, even the sexual feelings rather than the behaviour, and partnership in a book which maybe was gone for you a bit.
Tony: It had gone altogether. What I felt was that I couldn’t even follow where you were going. I had nothing in me about the book or what you wanted to do. Like losing feelings, I had lost it. It’s coming back but it’s not the same.
And of course sexual attraction has such an effect on how you are with people. And when you interviewed me, we could feel it, but it has died even more since then. Died out.
D: When I tune into you I feel in my heart a kind of compassion. I feel your sexuality will come back but it come through the heart. It will not be direct any more. I believe it’s going to have another route. Like the brain that changes itself, a new set of connection.
D: What I’m reflecting is that when one person changes everyone around changes and this is true when someone is enlightened or when they’re angry or whatever. We are in inter-being relationship with people. But if we don’t fully understand what has happened to the other person, we cannot fully understand what we are feeling.
Tony: I’m feeling this feeling: Please don’t ask me to be who I was because I’m becoming somebody new. I don’t even know what I’m going to become. But I want to go on. I don’t want to be held back. I want to push on. I really want to. I guess I’ve been mourning the old me. Somehow it feels as if it’s dying. I guess I have to really, I suppose resurrection is a new you, it’s a new life. I have an image of me crawling out or emerging from an old carcass.
Things are always changing of course, but this was such a radical change, so enormous. I love you. I love you. I feel like I love life because it continuously brings us into the new, continually, continually, continually. The new me is still very young. I am letting go of the old but I don’t know who the new me will be quite.
D: If you did know, what would he be like?
Tony: Tony laughs. I feel much more delicate in love and I would move quickly and easily from place to place, more mercurial I think. I think, please don’t ask me for love that holds me. I cannot be held. An Imp learning such a wonderful freedom. I can give you love that can never stay still but always becomes. I’ll be much more in touch with the eternal part of me. I feel like the human part of me is dying, beautifully dying. I felt this coming on me before the stroke. The stroke has really hit the old me. I can’t find any more than that.
D: The interesting thing was that before I came to France, I got this message inside: Don’t sleep with Tony. And at that point, I hadn’t even considered it yet. I was a bit shocked. But I realised why. I think I’m too vulnerable to love and be left somehow. And to compete with so many other women. I couldn’t do it.
I was going to say that here: we got to death and resurrection which is important. I saw last night the death mask. I saw your face as a skeleton and that was the only psychedelic thing I saw and I thought it was about your dying in the future, but actually you’ve already died and are being resurrected and this explains a lot in my own feelings as well because if I believe you are the same person I’m going to be mighty confused. You’re not. You are also. You are totally recognisable and all these new qualities were already there in the making so in a sense there’s nothing completely new. And yet there was a death in beteen and that changes everyone.
I’m imagining Christ emerging from the grave. Who is he now? Not the man he was even if he looks the same and more or less has the same qualities which you do and you don’t. So I think death needs to be factored in whenever there’s a break in the reality that you knew, and it’s not just you have to know it, but everyone around needs to know it. I’m reminded of after my father died, that when I met people, I felt I couldn’t be with them until I said that my father had died because that had changed everything and they couldn’t possibly know I was without that. So in the same way, anyone who’s died and come back is not the same.
Tony: Every experience changes you.
D: But this is more than an experience, it’s the end of experience of a kind, of the personality kind, you didn’t have it for a while.
Tony: I wasn’t there as the old me at all.
D: So when you say, I’m still here, you’re not talking about the same thing everyone thinks you are talking about. What are you saying?
Tony: That quietness underneath everything, that’s who I am. Whatever it is that is me, shorn of body or whatever, that’s me. And that’s what motivates me even if it doesn’t come through the body. I think a lot about the seed or the seeds, and each of us has a certain quality that may get degraded in its growth. I feel as if I’m very much in touch with that process of unfolding. If you cut down a tree, it sprouts new shoots. Same tree but it’s different.
D: As someone who has died and is being resurrected slowly, what do you want to communicate in this book?
Tony: I suppose I can say that whatever happens to you, even if the worse happens, you have something that can regrow you, if you’ve lost everything, that means you haven’t lost everything, that basic clear quality, maybe it’s a new form, maybe it has gone on a few steps, but it’s still there if you listen to it.
Don’t struggle with it unless it is a struggle, let it happen, don’t make it a big fight because you may be fighting against what is emerging.
I watched a woman on YouTube that had a stroke that kept saying, “I’m a failure”.
I don’t feel a failure. I feel something is working in me.
D: This is really the same message I gave about burnout because people feel a failure and the images there are also of the phoenix rising from the ashes.
Tony: People hold these awful images of failure. She said, “I’m not a person”. How can you not be a person for God’s sake? It’s like this great stone blocking the way out for the resurrection. The stone has to roll away. If they’ve got it, they need to push it away
D: This book has the thought about preparing for change, that we need to strengthen that in us that will never change, and this is what is so clear in the stroke, that everything that seemed important in the eyes of the world fell away, and still that in you, which you had strengthened all your life, carried you through.
This book also has a thought which came up last night, that you need to strengthen yourself not just to carry you through your own changes, but also to be available to help direct changes in the direction that is good for the world.
How do these two thoughts fit together? Does your new state of mind or being help you be available for the transformation of the world?
Tony: I think so because I don’t feel attached or driven so I can be there easily without stress. I have something to offer if people wish for it, if they can take hold of it, and I’d love to pass that on to a few people so that it can develop or grow in their lives. I used to have tremendous kickbacks whenever I taught. I’d teach something positive and I would have this tremendous kickback, like being kicked. And I don’t feel that anymore. I’m not attached to an end. I wanted to feel I was successful or something. And also this. I want to tell somebody what happened to me in that meditation course.
Please don’t say it to anyone else. I was made a *****. This thing came on me, it was like a big headdress, a thing that connected me with this wider awareness, and I’m still not sure what to make of it or whether to believe it. I haven’t told anyone else. But I recognise that there are lots of ****** but it means I have reached a certain stage of growth. It’s that which gave me that authority I feel. It was handed to me. I was told I’d been initiated in two other paths, Christianity and life. And I had received it this time because I was in a direct line of succession so I could receive it. They had kept true to a tradition they had tried to honour and I felt it was very pure and it passed through to me and I received it. It was an enormous experience.
D: How do you feel about it?
Tony: I love it (crying), not the fact that I’ve been made *****, but that I’d been touched with something wonderful. And I felt that I had authority to teach such as I never had before. Laughs. I’m just a silly old man. I’m a silly old man that I stumble around the place. I can see myself hardly able to walk (laughing). (Cries). I received a very great honour. I feel very moved. (Crying).
D: Doesn’t surprise. That’s why I said to you today, do you think you’re *****. Because you show all the signs of it. I won’t say that in the book. It’s wrong to do that. It’s got to be secret. Thank you for telling me.
Tony: Thank you for hearing it. I needed to tell somebody.
I was initiated in east and west. Life is the oldest one because it doesn’t have a creed. It’s just life poking up in people.
D: How are you feeling?
Tony: Very open (cries) Quite vulnerable. I’d like to stay open and receive whatever I can. Maybe there’s something to learn from this. In some way that I don’t understand, I have an effect on people, but I don’t understand it. I love to touch people’s lives in some way.
D: I feel completion is good and what I’m hearing is that sense of completion. It’s not that there’s not more to learn. I don’t think you should do it now. I think you should rest in the completion before things move on again.
Tony: I didn’t realise what impact it had on me. You had to be so bloody quiet there, I didn’t realise how it felt.
D: What does completion feel like?
Tony: I immediately felt it as authority to go out and do what is needed. I don’t need to understand, I just need to go and do it. That is authority. That thing that was put on me, I felt it drive into me, like a spike going into me, like an apparatus that connects with other dimensions I suppose.
D: So it’s an honour but it’s also a responsibility, can’t just behave as you used to. So I think that’s the mark of the reality of what you experienced that you didn’t just take it as I’m so wonderful, but as of now I can offer something even better, and that is the ***** path, it’s the teacher. And don’t’ forget, after ****** the laundry.
So there’s something more you need to say about this. About how completion or ***** feels. If you let it in how would it be?
Tony. I haven’t let myself know it yet. I was just beginning to. It’s being received from above, things streaming into me. I don’t know what they are but I can feel it. Oh God thank you. (Crying). I also received the crown of thorns, human suffering, to know human suffering.
D: So you received in my terms the Love path of the Christ, the wisdom path of another path, and also the One Life path which is more ancient but also underlies all the others. So it’s as if you are the completion or the bringing together of ancient and relatively modern traditions. That is good. That is not chopped liver.
Tony: (Kneels down and cries). How can I deal with this? I’m told I need to stand up and not to kneel. I’ve been told that a while back. I need to stand up and be proud. This is what we all have, this wonder. (He cries and laughs). I thought it was something only the worthy have. We all have it, why did I need to kneel in front of it instead of allowing it to be in me, to grow in me, to be me. I didn’t realise I could be such an ordinary guy and still be what I am. I suppose that’s the story, the carpenter’s son, the son of the greengrocer. It takes some adjusting to. I just asked if there was a promise made years ago, if you come to me each day like this I will know myself in you. Is that promise true? They said, “Yes darling, that is true.” I feel God is very much a woman at the moment. So loving. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
D: It occurs to me that receiving these initiations is made safer by the death you went through because it doesn’t go through your ego, which it might have at one time.