I lived Rene Descartes, the 17th century philosopher’s adage ‘I think, therefore I am’, most of my life. Very early on, I got the value of my intellect. Already at kindergarten and later at school, I realised that being clever got me some attention, almost love. Whilst doing well in all subjects felt effortless in elementary school, as I grew up, I recognised that there were some subjects that I loved (Literature), and some that I abhorred (Geometry). Yet, I stopped myself from being selective in what I put my attention on. Instead of indulging in a literary masterpiece, I poured over Geometry, Physics and Chemistry to make sure I had excellent marks in all of them. I did achieve that, but it’s only now I recognise the cost of pursuing what I thought others expected from me over what I enjoyed.
And to an extent it paid off. As the Soviet Union collapsed and independent Azerbaijan held its first written admission exams to universities in 1992, I was admitted to the state law school based on my knowledge, the first person to do so in my entire clan.
Then things went downhill. I ended up in an abusive relationship. I was a grown-up now and as far as my cultural upbringing was concerned, learning and intellect went out of window once your life belonged to a man. Despite his tyranny, this man happened to take pride in my brains so long as learning took place in the confines of the flat we lived in. I started learning English. Not just sketchy learning I did at school, but reading books and expanding on my vocabulary. I sat with a dictionary and read Agatha Christie’s mystery novels for 12 hours a day. When I started, I did not understand five out of six words in a sentence. A year on, and I wanted to study my major in English at a postgraduate level. That man was not happy about my decision. I was adamant. Gradually, our paths separated.
Intellect got me out of a hellhole and opened doors I had not dreamt of. I started working for international NGOs, completed my Masters’ degree in International law with distinction and started teaching at university in English. I won grants to travel to various universities in Europe and America to develop my skills as an educator.
In 2005, it got better. I won a scholarship to study in England. After I graduated from my masters’ course in 2006, I was fully-funded by my university to do a PhD in law. I passed my PhD viva without a single correction and got a lectureship. All thanks to perseverance and intellect. All those achievements proved that without my mind I was nothing.
But over-identification with mind came at a price. I completely ignored my body. It was not to be trusted because it had got me into trouble in the past. Unconsciously, I put on extra weight to ward off any male attention. I ignored my intuition. By then, I was stuck in another abusive relationship with a man – a ‘psychic’ who ‘predicted’ my every move. I was too scared to navigate my way in the world. My mind constantly conjured scary scenes of me making mistakes and ruining my life… again. I could not even see that staying in that relationship was the most damaging thing I could do to myself. So great was my fear of life that I preferred staying stuck in the shadows of my past ‘mistakes’, which I then projected as fears for my future. Locked in this hell, I was missing out on my life in the present.
After years of healing, there is more balance between my mind, body and spirit. I am committed to befriending my body again, although it’s a slow process. I look after the health of my emotions and work on releasing pain and layers I have outgrown on a regular basis. My spiritual practices are sporadic, but at least I am aware of tools that can help me to get in touch with my soul. Sometimes, it can be as simple as going for a walk in nature, or playing football with my son in the kitchen. I use my mind more constructively to learn about the writing business to move forward on a new career path. I’ve let go of the illusion that I am my mind, particularly where writing is concerned: if I try to write from a mind space, I get blocked. My creative writing flows from a place of experience and deeper knowing.
Yet I am not entirely cured from over-identification with mind. I struggle to stop and be present to the moment. I am constantly chasing something intangible which affects my ability to stop and enjoy life. My to-do lists are never ending. Even when I am not working, I am constantly in a state of doing. That’s how my mind enslaved me. The biggest lie my mind tells me is that if I stop I may fail. If I stop, I may lose momentum, I may miss out, I may never start again. If I stop, I may die.
Right now, stopping is absolutely essential for me. As I am due to deliver my second baby (I am 40 weeks pregnant today!), I am suffering from the tyranny of my mind. Not only does it project fears from the past into my future, but I am struggling to stop and relax. Never before was I so clear of the value of just being, so that my body wisdom could take over and do what it was created to do perfectly. Instead, my mind goes into overdrive because it struggles with not knowing and having no control whatsoever over how and when the birth may take place. In this state of over-vigilance, it’s a relief to put my mind to something constructive, like writing or editing, but then I get caught up in avoidance of being again.
Despite the struggle to stop, I am learning a valuable lesson for my writing life. To me, giving birth is like publishing a book. I have no control over the commercial success of my work or how it may be received. All I can do is to bring mind, spirit and body together, do my best, and then… let go.