John Michael

Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise LXVI: The God Zone

(Photo by Nghia Le on Unsplash)

John Michael’s column Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise ponders life and people. In “The God Zone,” he talks about healing through spirituality and enlightenment. 


“Oh, my friend, how can I tell you how much I care? You have given me so much healing, I love you so much.” That’s a line from a Sufi song I learned from spiritual friends when I was living in New Mexico in the late 1990s. They used the word “friend” because it was forbidden for them to use “God” where they were living.

And I have had so much healing, it naturally fills my heart with gratitude; healing is not without struggle, however. How we are in our hearts and minds may be painful indeed, but we stick with things for too long because we are afraid of change. After all these heart and mind patterns developed to help keep us safe, both emotionally and physically.

My heart feels good as I have grieved my many griefs and forgiven my sins and those who have sinned against me, so to speak. However, I store a lot of emotions in my lower back. That area of my body is numb with occasional shooting pain when I shame myself or beat myself up. Much of it has to do with being molested and sexuality, honestly. I did, and I’m maybe a little embarrassed, look for a sex therapist, but they are very booked up, believe it or not. It may oddly have to do with money. This other night I woke up around 3:00 a.m. hearing myself say, “I’d rather die than have money.”

Since my heart is much better, this area has become the focus of my healing over the last several months. These past couple of days have finally produced some movement from that very deep block. I woke up yesterday with my entire mouth completely sore from grinding my teeth. Evidently, I was working through some rage in my sleep. The last couple of days I have been panicky, off and on, with a few bouts of paranoia, as these very old emotions clear out and love moves into areas of my body that haven’t experienced it since my tortured puberty, honestly.


I have a different take on panic attacks than many. After having so many while living on the streets, to the point of passing out, I discovered it is how the body clears old emotions and wounds.


I have a different take on panic attacks than many. After having so many while living on the streets, to the point of passing out, I discovered it is how the body clears old emotions and wounds. I’ve been smoking noticeably more over the last couple of months as I go through this. I may be fooling myself with the idea that smoking is helpful, but it has gotten me through some stuff if you know what I mean.

I also think yoga would be helpful and I stretch more than I used to. But I’m still a little reluctant to do things I know are good for me, otherwise, I would pick up a drum more often. “I love yoga so much, I never do it,” is a joke I like to tell.

I am a very conservative marijuana user, as I don’t like the head high. However, when I take the rare edible before going to bed, it has been extremely helpful in relaxing those lower back muscles and my body overall. I almost took some last night but was slightly paranoid, so I skipped it.

Shamanic drumming and rattling, sitting meditation, and singing have also been very healing. If you can remember to sing when you are upset emotionally, I think you will be surprised by how beneficial it is. Also, I can’t say enough about how healing just walking around in nature is. I also do a type of mediation where I will stare right into the infinity of a blue sky. There is something very beautiful on the other side that makes it worth it.

Towards the end of my time on the streets, when I immersed myself in some Texas Wildflowers for a month, I started experiencing a self, beyond my personal self, and ever since, in fits and starts, I experience this enlightened self, to use a familiar term. I was having coffee with a friend yesterday and, for whatever reason, I entered that enlightened state, something I call the God Zone. Every sound, every sight was very beautiful, and it all, the whole world seemed to be working as one, a great symphony.

I was a great self-hater and self-punisher for most of my life. Now, I also read a lot of spiritual material from many traditions while considering myself a Christian. I was walking into a coffee shop the other day and had the thought, I always wanted to be a Buddha. The thought made me emotional for some reason. When I sat down with my coffee, I allowed some mercy for myself and sat there and cried for a minute. It felt so beautiful to have some genuine love for myself in my heart.


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“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”

Those Gideon fellas used to bring me small copies of the New Testament when I was living on the streets which I eventually started reading. The book of James, from which the above quote is taken, is perhaps my favorite book in the New Testament. Every sentence seems full of wisdom.

So, my approach to panic, paranoia, and rage has been one of great joy, as they are adding to my endurance and, at some point, maybe even in this lifetime I will “be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” But whether it happens or not, I will be happy, I guarantee you. Life is a blessing.

This is a postscript. I developed a mantra and motto ten years ago: I love you with everything that I have. When I sat in meditation, I would send it to myself, God, and the world simultaneously. Six years ago, I expanded it: To all the sentient beings, I love you with everything that I have. I focus it in my heart chakra when I sit, but also use it while driving, and anytime my mind goes idle it seems to automatically move right in.

To all my friends, I love you with everything I have. I hope people find this helpful and not some kind of sly brag, which the part about enlightenment honestly may be. Oh, the ego, both crass and subtle.


John Michael

Hello, good people. I am rarely sure how to describe myself. If I say I am a Christian, many things may arise in your mind that ain't necessarily so. I was homeless for seven years and learned more about myself in that stretch of time than in any other segment of my life. I read the Bible a lot out there and came across a passage in Proverbs that has shaped my approach to life: "A man's pursuit is his kindness." I am well educated with a Master of Social Work degree and have worked a wide variety of jobs in my 52 years. None have lasted too long however. When I was homeless, the beauty of Texas wildflowers made me decide to want to live again. Along with kindness, beauty, play, and self-expression are life-guiding ideas. My shadow contains things like feeling sorry for myself, a truckload of defiance, a desperate need to please women, and no small amount of cruelty. A quote from Luke also has had a lasting effect on me: "For God is kind to the ungrateful and the evil." When I read that I thought, "Hell, I have got a fighting chance." I am here to tell you, you have a fighting chance as well. Besides Christianity, practicing Buddhist and Shamanic techniques inform my relationship to God and the world.

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