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Thread: What does being overwhelmed mean?

  1. #1

    What does being overwhelmed mean?

    I was just thinking about being overwhelmed, and what that means. Why am I sometimes overwhelmed and sometimes not? Why am I not overwhelmed right now? Life for my wife and I is incredibly full. We have lived in the same city most of our lives, and have memories and relationships in every neighborhood. Life is a continual moving through different social settings (and strata), different personal and professional responsibilities, and different karmic baggage. Each relationship opens out into another world of relationships. For instance when I go to my kid's schools to talk about some offline/online trolling among the kids, this means engaging dozens of different people (teachers, admin, parents), and each engagement is a different relationship evoking a different self-world interface. We are different people in different situations. I think to a greater or lesser scale this description is common today. So why does it overwhelm or not overwhelm? When practice is weak .....less zazen, sangha estrangement..... all these aspects of life pile in. Looking at the calendar means looking at an approaching avalanche. It overwhelms. When zazen is consistent, that does not happen.. because all those relationships and calendar dates do not exist here. Here there is only this and this and this. It makes no difference whether the calendar is full or empty, when there is only this and this and this. When there is one thing at a time, there is only what I am doing. Being overwhelmed is being swept-up in thinking. Sowing a Rakusu is overwhelming (especially for the first time ) if every step is looked at , but not if there is only this and this and this.. even if this is pulling threads and taking a break.

    I am very grateful for Treeleaf Sangha.. ...always here. Gassho. Kojip


    BTW.. If I am overwhelmed I am just overwhelmed... that too.
    Last edited by Daizan; 09-28-2012 at 12:19 PM.
    大山

  2. #2
    Thank you for sharing, Kojip. I think you are right, overwhelm is largely a function of too much monkey mind. Of course, sensory overload and physical exhaustion play a big role as well. When life is busy, it's just busy. Nothing to do but sit and practice life!
    Gassho,
    Kaishin

  3. #3
    I get overwhelmed when the expectations placed on me by others or myself exceed the reality of the outcome. For instance, if I'm working on x number of projects that all have to be done at a particular time. If that timeframe is unrealistic then I may be overwhelmed. It happens from time to time... zazen or no zazen. I have not had the experience that all feelings of overwhelm vanish when I do zazen vs. not do zazen, but I guess the way in which the overwhelm is addressed changes. But you already said that at the end of your post. hahahahah I just felt compelled to respond.

    In Buddhism: Plain and Simple, Steve Hagen cites a story about something similar, and I love it. A man comes to the Buddha and rambles on and on about all his problems. I mean this guy was pretty overwhelmed. The Buddha said, look I can't help you. The man was shocked and asked why not? The Buddha said because we all have problems. You fix one, another will take its place. Your problem is that you don't want to have any problems.

    That pretty much sums up why I feel overwhelmed most of the time; grasping and expecting things to behave in an unrealistic fashion.... holding on to my idea of comfort and so forth.

    Thank you for this post Kojip.

    Happy Friday

    Risho

  4. #4
    Senior Member Koshin's Avatar
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    Thank you Kojip, very handy post in this moment of my Practice/Life

    Gassho
    ______________________________
    Kōshin / Leo



    P.S. Yup, I know, my English sucks

  5. #5
    Hi Kojip and all,

    I kind of agree and kind of disagree. For instance, I agree that it is usually our approach to our life that can make us "overwhelmed" or not. Thinking only of the future, of course, and those impending things that need done, or god forbid we call them "problems" that need fixed, yes, that's typically getting swept up by thinking and emotions. However, there is something else here, and it typically has to do with energy. For instance, typically at the end of a Major Championship in tennis, an tennis player is entirely spent, just wiped, physically annihilated - a real brutal beating, you know. THis is another way of saying their body is overwhelmed - it has a hard time doing that much. Now, we could fault the athlete, if we wanted, and say they didn't live skillfully, shouldn't be playing tennis at that level or whatever, but then you could say the same about everything, and that argument gets diluted fast. The same is true for our brains, though. For instance, I'm grading papers right now, which in my job means about 100 five page papers, and it is just awfully exhausting work, especially considering the amount of attention I try to bring to each paper, a clear awareness and clear mind, not thinking of anything else except the paper - after several days of this, the mind is exhausted, it's overwhelmed. And I have other stuff to do! Like sew a Rakusu, etc! And so it is overwhelming sometimes. And that's okay. It's just a thing that happens - to me, being overwhelmed can be relentlessly thinking about the future; but it can also be expending a lot of energy and still having things to do. In one, the mind makes itself overwhelmed; in the other, we can be overwhelmed with doing. We talk a lot about doing here, just doing, but there can also be overdoing, and unfortunately, sometimes that is demanded of us: the best we can do is be aware that this happens sometimes and rest in it as much as possible and know it will pass.

    Gassho,
    a

  6. #6
    Kind of a balance between too much and too little. Some mantras. Take it easy. Easy does it. Relax. One moment at a time. Slow down.
    _/_
    Rich
    MUHYO
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

  7. #7
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    To me being overwhelmed is in part that we engage ourselves to do too much in little time.

    But I do agree, I found that sitting regularly cuts overwhelming situations almost completely.

    Thank you for this, Kojip.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    Please remember I am only a priest in training. I could be wrong in everything I say. Slap me if needed.

    The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. Mr. Spock

  8. #8
    I am overwhelmed right now. I've been working the past few days to sort out the reality of the situation versus my self-induced suffering. This year I am up for tenure, which is a bit scary. I'm also being assigned a tremendous number of duties that I had not anticipated. I have a project that is not going well. Plus, I have a busy home life.

    I'm looking forward to tonight's zazenkai so that I can let my muddy mind settle. Become a little less "overwhelmed" so that I can more pragmatically pick apart the truth from the delusion and see where I truly stand.

    So to me, overwhelmed is when you get so busy, so stressed, that all your mind seems to do is settle in a level of stress versus even a mild calm.

    Gassho,

    Richard

  9. #9
    Thank you Kojip for sharing, I always enjoy your posts.

    Gassho
    Michael
    倫道 真現

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

  10. #10
    A few months ago I got overwhelmed. At first when bad things started piling up I thought "wow, this Zen thing sure is great!". In the midst of all the stress, even though sitting was irregular, the inner calm never wavered. Then the calm wavered and finally broke. The stress and the effort needed to deal with everything just kept increasing. Then, strangely, when I couldn't cope with it anymore, when I was completely overwhelmed, when I had to give up trying to keep everything under control, had to resign completely, there was a deep feeling of calm, of relief, and I could start solving problems again, one at the time. And it felt as if nothing bad could touch me anymore.

    Gassho,
    Pontus
    In a spring outside time, flowers bloom on a withered tree;
    you ride a jade elephant backwards, chasing the winged dragon-deer;
    now as you hide far beyond innumerable peaks--
    the white moon, a cool breeze, the dawn of a fortunate day

  11. #11

  12. #12
    Thanks for these great responses. Not having enough energy is a big part of getting overwhelmed for me. It comes from taking on too much, and not being able to say “no” when it is appropriate. I'm learning to say no, and disappoint others. Still, IMHO it is perception that overwhelms, and not doing. Anything just done isn't overwhelming. But, that is just speaking of my experience, can't speak for others.

    The experience Pontus describes is familiar. The most overwhelming situation I ever went through was long before encountering the Dharma . It was when I was 16 and it involved the circumstances of my father's death. It was tragic, and coincided with a general family break-up, ending with me out of home and school on my own (the remaining family reunited years later and we are now happy). I was in a cheap rooming house, unemployed, distraught, crushed, and crying. The despair and tears got deeper and deeper until it got all the way to the bottom, then, underneath that was just space. I saw that no feeling, or thought, or state of being, fills all space and time.. So I just sat there in this ridiculous situation and was completely at peace. At first it didn't seem right.. I should be upset ... but the upset was fully felt, and behind it was spaciousness and clarity. It didn't last.. of course, but that glimpse was never forgotten.



    Gassho kojip.
    Last edited by Daizan; 09-28-2012 at 11:36 PM.
    大山

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Kojip View Post
    Thanks for these great responses. Not having enough energy is a big part of getting overwhelmed for me. It comes from taking on too much, and not being able to say “no” when it is appropriate. I'm learning to say no, and disappoint others. Still, IMHO it is perception that overwhelms, and not doing. Anything just done isn't overwhelming. But, that is just speaking of my experience, can't speak for others.

    The experience Pontus describes is familiar. The most overwhelming situation I ever went through was long before encountering the Dharma . It was when I was 16 and it involved the circumstances of my father's death. It was tragic, and coincided with a general family break-up, ending with me out of home and school on my own (the remaining family reunited years later and we are now happy). I was in a cheap rooming house, unemployed, distraught, crushed, and crying. The despair and tears got deeper and deeper until it got all the way to the bottom, then, underneath that was just space. I saw that no feeling, or thought, or state of being, fills all space and time.. So I just sat there in this ridiculous situation and was completely at peace. At first it didn't seem right.. I should be upset ... but the upset was fully felt, and behind it was spaciousness and clarity. It didn't last.. of course, but that glimpse was never forgotten.



    Gassho kojip.
    Kojip - thank you for sharing 'that glimpse'. I feel what you describe (so very hard to describe) is at the heart of our practice and life.

    Every day we struggle with choice/indecision and our perceptions. We rarely 'flow naturally'.

    I have taken heart recently from Jundo's words ' let go and let be'. Zazen in its essence.

    Gassho

    Willow

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Kojip View Post
    Thanks for these great responses. Not having enough energy is a big part of getting overwhelmed for me. It comes from taking on too much, and not being able to say “no” when it is appropriate. I'm learning to say no, and disappoint others. Still, IMHO it is perception that overwhelms, and not doing. Anything just done isn't overwhelming. But, that is just speaking of my experience, can't speak for others.

    The experience Pontus describes is familiar. The most overwhelming situation I ever went through was long before encountering the Dharma . It was when I was 16 and it involved the circumstances of my father's death. It was tragic, and coincided with a general family break-up, ending with me out of home and school on my own (the remaining family reunited years later and we are now happy). I was in a cheap rooming house, unemployed, distraught, crushed, and crying. The despair and tears got deeper and deeper until it got all the way to the bottom, then, underneath that was just space. I saw that no feeling, or thought, or state of being, fills all space and time.. So I just sat there in this ridiculous situation and was completely at peace. At first it didn't seem right.. I should be upset ... but the upset was fully felt, and behind it was spaciousness and clarity. It didn't last.. of course, but that glimpse was never forgotten.



    Gassho kojip.
    Kojip,

    Actually, the more I consider it, I think you're exactly right: there's probably a pretty clear distinction that can be drawn between being overwhelmed (getting caught up in that mind) and simply getting worn out from over-doing, over-committing. In any case, thanks for sharing this - I must say that I've been in similar circumstances. In my case, those all around me were swirling, lost and breaking in some way (my father was very ill, heart stuff, but I won't get into that) and suddenly, from nowhere, I felt completely open and empty and calm and utterly there for everyone else - I don't mean to say this in a bragging way either; it was nothing I did, it just happened, and there was nothing to do but go with it.

    Thank you for sharing and helping us to consider these things.


    Gassho,
    a

  15. #15
    Kojip, Alan, exactly like that.
    Thank you,

    /Pontus
    In a spring outside time, flowers bloom on a withered tree;
    you ride a jade elephant backwards, chasing the winged dragon-deer;
    now as you hide far beyond innumerable peaks--
    the white moon, a cool breeze, the dawn of a fortunate day

  16. #16
    Thanks for sharing these personal life experiences.. It can have an uncomfortable exposing quality, maybe... TMI and all, but since this is Sangha and not just another forum with theoretical debate, sharing what it is like in both good times, and getting burned to the ground .... there is a sense of shoulder to shoulder practice that is really suppoting the sitting. Thanks. Gassho.
    Last edited by Daizan; 09-29-2012 at 07:53 PM.
    大山

  17. #17
    Treeleaf Unsui rculver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kojip View Post
    Thanks for sharing these personal life experiences.. It can have an uncomfortable exposing quality, maybe... TMI and all, but since this is Sangha and not just another forum with theoretical debate, sharing what it is like in both good times, and getting burned to the ground .... there is a sense of shoulder to shoulder practice that is really suppoting the sitting. Thanks. Gassho.
    Gassho


    Shugen
    As a priest in training, please take everything I say with a pinch of salt

    Meido Shugen
    明道 修眼

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Kojip View Post
    there is a sense of shoulder to shoulder practice that is really suppoting the sitting. Thanks. Gassho.
    Yes, yes, for me too.

    Gassho,
    a

  19. #19
    Senior Member Seizan's Avatar
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    I find that I get overwhelmed when I'm attached to things- when expectations exceed the reality, like Risho said. Also love the Buddha story he included.

    I find that when I sit zazen, and after zazen really reflect on my mind garden, I can find a common root to the current overwhelming circumstances. For example, I always found myself in explosive situations- people flying off the handle at me, for no reason, serious fits of rage. I realized it was how I was responding that was continuing these circumstances, so I worked to be passive and calm through the ordeals. I still have insane weird situation karma that I'm working on, and in fact last weekend was put in a spot where I had a SEVERE anxiety attack with a group of good friends, due to one person's negative reaction to a minor incident... might sound vague, but this is the root to me being "overwhelmed" recently, since I actively try to please everyone and manipulate every situation to avoid any awkwardness. I was so distraught when I got home, thinking that I just did not UNDERSTAND why this kept happening. The next day, instead of having months of strain on our relationship per the usual blow ups, things went back to normal with me and my friend. When I had the anxiety attack, I let go of the situation and became passive- I stayed quiet, on the sidelines, didn't further react and BAM a shorter, less overwhelming outcome popped up.

    For me it just takes calm soul searching, which I can only really reach after a mantra session or zazen, and then things sort out. I've been learning my lesson and learning to practice nonattachment. If I didn't have expectations on that situation, it wouldn't have unfolded as it did and overwhelmed me. I find that it's true in almost all overwhelming situations I've placed myself in- I frequently overload my plate with all these THINGS I have to do, but when I was reflecting on Taigu's recent post on Sawaki Kodo, I really thought about the excerpt "isn't it evident that the greatest happiness consists in doing what you have to do?" I really had an attitude change.

    So Zazen, mind gardening and a little philosophical reflecting help me to stop the overwhelming waves from flooding my island!

    Hope this helps some, it's just how I approach things!

    Gassho,
    Dani

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