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Thread: Despair

  1. #1
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Despair

    I apologize for my silent withdrawal from the forum for a while. I'm having a bit of a troubled relationship with Zen--not you all, mind--at the moment.

    I started my spiritual search over five years ago with hopes and dreams about truth and enlightenment. It's been one disappointment after another ever since. I'm left now at the point where I'm not sure such things exist. Not only is it disappointing, but as a person who staked nearly everything on the quest of truth, without it and with dwindling hope it is possible to be realized, I'm left feeling bereft of dignity.

    It feels to me now that maybe spirituality is just a form of self-entertainment, and I wonder if the past several years of my life haven't just been some childish game. Have I simply been keeping myself distracted from some underlying issue that is "purely psychological" in nature? Maybe I'm just depressed and messed up and too broken to relate to people in a way that feels real or meaningful, and my solitary spiritual search has been a way to frame that in a way that makes my life seem better, more important or meaningful, than it is.

    When I do have moments where I seem to get a flash of meaning, of what *is* true about all I've practiced and studied for years, it's a bitter pill. Because it seems to me what it's all about is giving up oneself completely to compassion for others. Which is lovely, but also dreary. It makes me think of something a man I loved told me once: The bodhisattva is the one who makes the toys that the rest of the world plays with. It's a very lonely position. Is that it? For the rest of my life? Be the Giving Tree that the boy cuts down to a stump? Sometimes I can occupy that position joyfully, but sometimes I feel like I have no fuel of my own to sustain that sort of existence. And then I feel like a moral failure as well.

    The answer seems simple, perhaps: just find stuff that makes me happy. But what if the only thing that has ever really made me happy now seems like it was an illusion--that is, meaning? I don't know why I feel like I've finally run out of hope with religion, but I've had that feeling for some time now, even when I haven't felt despair as acutely as I have in the past couple of months.

    Can anyone here relate? Can anyone speak to my condition? Even just a little tidbit of insight would be a huge relief.

  2. #2

    Re: Despair

    Steph, Enlightenment is just having the serenity to accept the things you can not change, the courage to change the things you can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

    Zen schmen, clowns do not make kids happy, most kids are afraid of them. But my kids think that the local monks are da coolest!

    Lighten up, smile, never give up, dont harm others, get a Hobby that makes you actually DO SOMPTHING, strive to be happy. I could go on and on but hallmark dose not pay me at all. And I got to go about making everyone else happy too


    Has anyone seen my mind?

    Gassho,
    Jordan

  3. #3

    Re: Despair

    I apologize for my silent withdrawal from the forum for a while
    Awe shucks. No prob.

    Zen is not a religion Steph. It's about experience. It's not mental. Maybe later, but that peace comes from relaxing, and experiencing everything. Steph. You know when you were a kid and things were easier. You just enjoyed things. You could smell water (maybe) or you could smell a wet autumn day. In there is enlightenment. In that moment where everything just is. WHAT?ARE?????SEARCHING?????


    Doubt, doubt, doubt. Steph. This is life. You are not special. Hehe but yet you are. Like a flash of lightening. That's your life right? So, why spend your existence chasing after something. Just enjoy the breeze. In order to do that, you have to relax and sit. And by the way if no one ever told you before, there is no Stephanie. You only think there is.

    What month is it now? It's March. What's the weather like where you are? BTW not a mundane question. Actually very profound.

    It seems you have yet to taste this or you have and don't recognize it. SCREW YOUR THOUGHTS and say hello to mister touch, taste, smell, seeing etc. RELAX. Are you still doing yoga?

    Gassho Will

  4. #4

    Re: Despair

    Stephanie,

    "it seems to me what it's all about is giving up oneself completely to compassion for others"....I guess the way I see it is that compassion is compassion no matter which direction we perceive that it's directed......there's simply compassion......and how can that be lonely......."who" is this person that feels this loneliness?

    Words are so cumbersome because people can choose to interpret the same words in many different ways so let me just say what I want to say here.....

    It sounds to me like you're just feeling a bit sad and depressed and that's probably just because you're getting swept away by the voices of your own conditioning.

    All I can offer you is encouragement to keep with your practice! I don't think you'd be here in the first place if you really believed those voices in your head telling you that you're a "moral failure"! Now doesn't that sound like egocentric conditioning talking?

    Peace!

    John

  5. #5

    Re: Despair

    Hello Steph,

    Yes, I agree with what Will, Harry, Jordan and Johnny told you. Especially this:

    I think despair, when we deeply accept it without resistance, is enlightenment. Joy and happiness, when we deeply accept them without resistance, is enlightenment. Everything, when we deeply accept it is enlightenment.
    Perhaps what I might add is that, when we deeply embrace the despair and allow the despair without resistance, there is not the same "despair" as before. Not at all. Can we even call it "despair" in such case, as that rings so final and hopeless? It is more, "oh, my mind is sad today and that's okay ... and when my mind is happy that's okay too!". The result, believe it or not, is a kind of Joy and Peace and Happiness even in the face of a bit of despair and desperation on the roller coaster ride of life ... ENJOY THE RIDE!

    Perhaps you have in your mind the wrong image of what you are looking for as "truth" and "enlightenment" when the treasure is right in front of you all along? Got my point?? Folks have all these ideas about what "enlightenment" must be like, and it usually involves a peak experience that lasts forever and never stops ... being high in ecstacy maybe, and never coming down (I am not saying you are looking for that in your case, Steph, just that most folks have preconceptions about what "Zen" is that keep them distracted with fool's gold when there's real gold in them thar' hills). Our teachings offer something much more Profound, Wondrous, Beautiful and HAPPY than just feeling happy all the time (which, by the way, is not possible ... to be human is to be sometimes happy, sometimes in the dumpster. Almost all of us are wired that way from the DNA on up).

    Of course, when one is depressed, it seems that happiness is a long forgotten memory, and may never come again ...

    As to depression ... as a former sufferer of depression I will offer that Zazen and Buddhist Philosophy are aids on your getting beyond that. Zen is great, and will solve much of your depression long term. However, for the immediate time, it is good to talk to a counselor and even try an anti-depressant if needed. I am not one to say that Zazen does everything by itself ... it will not brush your teeth, cure your acne or solve every problem in life. You have to do those other things yourself, or look elsewhere for additional help, or just accept the problem! But, in all cases, Zen Practice has something important to say. Think of it as a great formula for long term living!!

    You want a "Truth"? Here is a "Truth":

    There is nothing more "Truth" then your life right now. (Look out through your eyes. That's the universe right there. Did you think it somewhere else??) But, life is also a dream in many ways, and the "Truth" is what you make of it with your brain. Sad brain, sad "Truth". Happy brain, happy "Truth". Resisting brain, resisting "Truth". Embracing brain, embracing "Truth". Maybe your brain can't fix all the problems in this world ... as we have discussed before, the violence and poverty and such ... and lousy boyfriends ... but it can allow you to see even the beauty and ugliness of this world in new ways (and maybe will help us fix some of those problems too! That is where Compassion comes in ... both Compassion to yourself and Compassion toward others, which are not two).

    So, please do not give up. When you have depression, it seems like you always will and there is not escape. I am here to say that such a belief is not true. And that is TRUE!

    Gassho, Jundo

  6. #6

    Re: Despair

    I'd also like to add something else Steph. You are going to have moments that seem less than desirable, but just know that they will not always be that way. Although Zen is not a religion, you do have to have some faith to get you through the days when it seems hopeless. Eventually, I guess, the days will keep getting better when you start not believing what you normally believe and get back on the cushion. For example, your tense and your belly hurts, your confused. You just want to go to sleep. Just know that it will not always be like this. Faith helps a lot I think. I've had moments almost everyday for the past 10 years where everything seems hopeless and I think that Elightenment is something I will never find. I've also had moments where I thought I got it and became cocky, but then the next day or moment I feel like shit again. You know, people have been doing this practice for freaking 2600 years. There's got to be something to it right? Why are you so different that you can't experience what all these other people have? Doubt seems to be one of the greatest barriers in practice. I've actually turned it around and became like anti-doubt. Still causes trouble, but keeps me sitting.

    Look at all the advice. We know what your going through yo. Maybe not dead on, but close.

    Jundo mentioned that Zen won't solve all problems. This is true. One of my biggest barriers is tension. So then I'd think about the tension and it would just make it worse. Like my head was in a vice. I'd try to get rid of it and that would just make it worse, so eventually after 6 years of trying, I've learned to just notice it and not give it my full attention, which leaves room for other stuff. I've taken up yoga along with my practice and it has helped a lot. Specifically Savasana (the corpse pose). So we all have things that we work through to be able to sit Zazen.

    Gassho Will

  7. #7

    Re: Despair

    Stephanie,

    I can relate. My turn to Buddhism has not spared me from experiencing despair, I'm not sure if we can do anything about this other than accept it and realize that it too is a part of life. I try not to grovel in it for to0 long. Despair/depression sort of becomes a vicious cycle if we don't give ourselves a chance to see the whole picture.

    Everyone's advice seemed pretty good. Although, I'm not sure if advice can always help at times like this --- but rest assured you have my empathy.

    Wishing you the best,

    Greg

  8. #8

    Re: Despair

    Steph, before I attempt to offer anything, can I ask what you're hoping to get from Zen?

  9. #9

    Re: Despair

    Quote Originally Posted by will
    I'd also like to add something else Steph. You are going to have moments that seem less than desirable, but just know that they will not always be that way. Although Zen is not a religion, you do have to have some faith to get you through the days when it seems hopeless. Eventually, I guess, the days will keep getting better when you start not believing what you normally believe and get back on the cushion. For example, your tense and your belly hurts, your confused. You just want to go to sleep. Just know that it will not always be like this. Faith helps a lot I think.
    Preach it Brother Will, Amen! This is so True!!

    So many of the great teachers, Dogen among them, spoke of this need for faith in the Practice. I prefer the word "trust", cause faith has all that religious baggage ... but it means what you say. We have to have a deep, abiding trust in this practice even when we seem kind of lost in it. It will work out in the end.

    And we need a deep trust in life ... trust in the "Great Roller Coaster" of life. That will certainly get to where it goes (which, of course, in the case of a roller coaster ... is just the place you got on!)

    We also need trust, when feeling despair and hopelessness and depression, that it need not always feel like that ... and will not always feel like that. It is hard to have that kind of faith when in the heart of despair and hopelessness. Yet, it is true and we must!

    Here is a very good essay on this topic by a friend of mine, Roko Sherry Chayat, a Rinzai Zen teacher. I really loved this when I read it.

    http://www.thebuddhadharma.com/issue..._practice.html

    Gassho, Jundo

  10. #10
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Despair

    Thanks for all the responses, everyone. Your compassionate attention and caring means as much as anything.

    I'm still doing yoga. I'm still sitting regularly, even if not daily. Some days are better than others.

    I have been hungry for meaning for as long as I remember. Even when I was a small child.

    What I don't get is, that what people seem to be saying here, is that it's just about enjoying life. Then is all this branch of Soto Zen is about is a sort of refined, balanced hedonism? 'Cause that's just it--I've never been much of a hedonist. I enjoy pleasurable things to some extent, but only so much. I know some days will be 'happier,' but the thing is, I don't really care about being happy or sad. I don't mind sadness, or pain, in and of itself. If all I cared about was getting happy, I'd hop on the pharmaceutical train. Sure, I'm a depressive, but that's not all there is to it. I've found some of my most paradoxically joyful, meaningful times have been when I've been somewhat depressed. That's not where I am now, though.

    What matters to me is truth and meaning. Maybe that's a fruitless or illusory quest--I increasingly think so, actually. But I've given so much up to focus on that. If meaning is just the meaning you create, if truth is subjective, then I feel like I have nothing. So what now, I start from scratch to work on all the stuff that I never cared that much about anyway? I embrace "life as it is" when it just feels to me like an exercise in meaningless ennui? I suppose there's no other choice, as I'm not suicidal either. But that just feels like such a defeat to me. I can live with a purposeless existence--I have a pretty strong will--but can I enjoy it? I feel so alienated from others and the world around me. I have friends, I have "meaningful" work, and yet it feels like it's all just superficial.

    And if Zen is just superficial nonsense too, a mind game to try to keep oneself out of the abyss, why not then just try to make a lot of money? But I don't care about money. Sex, drugs, rock and roll--I can enjoy all that stuff to some extent, but only to some extent. And then I feel the meaninglessness underneath it. If "meaning" is just "eating this ice cream cone"--what if I don't give a damn about the ice cream cone? What if I can't enjoy it? Then do I just lick for the sake of licking, because I have no other choice? That depresses me.

    I think the best advice you all have given me is just surrendering to or embracing the despair. There's no other choice, really. And I know it won't kill me, though sometimes it feels like it's crushing the life out of me. And I'll wake to that brighter day. But even then, underneath it all, will be that sense of futility. I guess I hoped that Zen or Buddhism or any sort of religious practice could bail me out of that. Not bail me out of the pain or toil, but out of the futility. I used to be able to pull myself out of the hole by coming up with some formula of truth or meaning but I've done it so many times now I see through it. I still have all of my stupid ideas about meaning and existence but I have nausea for them now too.

    Is all we are here to do reproduce? Am I just a defective human being whose mind is caught in some sort of glitch that causes me to fixate on this "meaning" thing? What the hell is meaning anyway? Why do people look for it? Maybe I'd be happier if I could just be numb and stupid, but then from where I am right now, I think, how banal is that? Just to toot happily along... for what?? I feel like I'll have really given up when I just ask someone to hand me some pills and be done with it.

  11. #11

    Re: Despair

    In my humble observation...

    Your mind is very invested in all these ideas that you present in your posts. These ideas ARE the very source of your suffering. Do not entertain these thoughts...let them goooooo......


  12. #12

    Re: Despair

    Hi Steph,

    Where did you get this from?

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    What I don't get is, that what people seem to be saying here, is that it's just about enjoying life. Then is all this branch of Soto Zen is about is a sort of refined, balanced hedonism?
    Who said that? Go back to the top and read carefully, slowly. You could not be any more mistaken (well, maybe you could be "more" mistaken ... but you are still pretty mistaken! :wink: ).

    Nor does our philosophy teach that truth and meaning are ultimately "fruitless or Illusory", nor is it about "meaningless ennui", or just some "mind game to keep oneself out of the abyss". It does not teach "surrendering" to despair or "purposelessness". In fact, it is pretty much the opposite of all that.

    I think that part of the problem is you do not know what you are looking for, or what you should be seeing. To quote Johhny, above ...

    In my humble observation...

    Your mind is very invested in all these ideas that you present in your posts. These ideas ARE the very source of your suffering. Do not entertain these thoughts...let them goooooo......
    Gassho, Jundo

  13. #13

    Re: Despair

    Stephanie,

    I don't really know you, as I'm pretty new here, but I'd like to offer you some advice because I think it might be useful to you. I hope that isn't too presumptuous. If what I say doesn't speak to you, you can pass it by.

    I'm sorry you're depressed and despairing. It really sucks. I've done some of that myself (though it's been some years) and I know how crushing it can be. One big problem about it for me was that when I was in it, I was totally in it -- I couldn't really see how things would ever be different. I think that what Will said about faith, and what Jundo said about trust, are essential. I highly doubt that faith/trust will get you out of this funk -- that it will actually answer your problems -- but if you can hold to it, it can keep you going until you do the work you need to to get yourself out. So why should you believe in it -- that is, believe that you should trust, that you should have faith? One good reason is that there are a bunch of people here telling you that they've been in depression and despair and found a way out. That should mean something. Try to hold onto it.

    So what is the answer, the thing that will get you out? I can't say. Depression is different for everyone, the reasons one suffers from it are different, the solutions are different. But there are some steps you can take that seem to work for a lot of people.

    One thing that could help is doing a lot of work to figure out what the root of the problem is -- even if you already think you know what it is. You say that

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    I have been hungry for meaning for as long as I remember. Even when I was a small child.
    and it probably looks like your inability to sate this hunger to your satisfaction is the cause of your problem. Please consider the possibility that you don't know what the cause is, and that your failure to answer these questions about meaning to your own satisfaction is a symptom of your depression and not its cause. I don't know you, and I don't know that this is what's going on with you, but you should be open to the possibility. If, at the times you're most depressed, your mind is filled with these questions, it might mean that these questions are relevant to your problem -- or it might mean that they're what you throw into view to avoid looking at what's really relevant to your problem.

    When I was badly depressed, I cast my depression in very philosophical terms. I believed that I was depressed because I didn't have good answers to the philosophical problems that obsessed me -- that because I didn't have those answers, or feared nihilistic answers, I also didn't know whether or not life was worth living. After long and difficult examination through therapy and introspection, I came to believe that my depression actually stemmed from other sources: fears and anxieties I had been unable to face; character flaws I'd been unable to own up to; my tendency to put myself into situations that I found emotionally distressing (because I was so used to being depressed that I was 'addicted' to it, more comfortable with it than I was with being happy). When I worked on these things, the depression started to subside. And then I started being able to pursue good answers to some of my philosophical questions. It wasn't satisfactory answers to these deep and obsessing questions that cured my depression; it was the cessation of my depression that allowed me to find those satisfactory answers.

    To be simplistic about it: if you're waring dark shades, you're not going to see the beautiful, totally saturated greens of grass and leaves on a foggy morning. Saying to yourself, "If only I could see bright green just once, this damned dark view of everything would go away!" misses the point. You have to take off the shades to see that color at all. As long as they're sitting on your face, you won't see it. And saying that if you could see the color, you could take the shades off, is backwards. It can't work that way. This is how depression felt to me after I got over it. It colored everything I saw and thought about; none of my questions and answers while I was in it could really get anywhere.

    So yeah -- introspection. And especially therapy: a really good therapist won't allow you to bypass the things that you'll naturally bypass without noticing them when working on your own. (Of course you'll bypass them! If you weren't bypassing them your problems would probably have been worked out by now!) And while I'm talking about therapists -- in my opinion, the most important thing is to find a therapist who you connect with, but who is hard on you, who doesn't just accept everything you say and never offer alternative viewpoints. If you don't have both that personal connection, and that sort of annoying pushing coming from the therapist, I'd suggest finding another therapist. There are lots of them out there. You will find the right one if you look for a while. But if you stick with a therapist who isn't right for you, you'll get nowhere.

    Another thing that might help is to make sure you're spending real time with people -- not just being around them but really engaging with them. If you're finding it really super hard to do this when you're depressed, put yourself into a situation in which you're forced to. Volunteer work that requires personal interaction with the people you're helping is a good way to do that. Tutor kids; work in a domestic violence shelter; work in a homeless shelter. Things like this help many people stay connected with other people, which can keep the depression from taking over every moment of your life.

    Finally -- it might help you to keep very, very busy. All the time. If you do this without also working seriously in some way to deal with the root of the problem (such as therapy), it will only help temporarily and you'll end up where you started. But in combination with some hard work, it can stop you from wallowing. Which is what we all do when we're depressed. Without exception.


    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    And if Zen is just superficial nonsense too, a mind game to try to keep oneself out of the abyss...
    I do not claim to know what Zen is or is not. But I believe that you aren't going to be in a position to figure out what Zen, or any other philosophy, really is as long as you're very depressed. Heavy sunglasses, etc. etc.

    I hope something in there was helpful, and I hope that you feel better soon.

    --Charles

  14. #14

    Re: Despair

    You should be sitting everyday. Focus on your practice more. When I hear someone say they don't sit everyday my eyes roll. Make time.

    G,W

  15. #15

    Re: Despair

    Hi Steph,

    none of us have walked in your shoes I'm sure many of us have visited similar places searching for answers and feeling like we're lost, uneasy and discontent.

    The thing is the grass isn't usually greener else where. As Dogen said 'why forsake your own seat for other dusty places'

    The answer is with you, other things you decide to do to be happy might be a distration for a while but ultimately you need to face things with in you, your assumptions about life and youself and be brave enough to face them with an open heart. The you will be able to be happy, accepting who you are, and acepting that this is the reality of life with all it's ups and downs an then you can fully engage in it. Life is a challenge, not dreary.

    As regards feeling that compassion will leave you chopped away to nothing, that is not compassion, more scarifice or matyrdom. If you are truely offering compassion there is compassion for yourself too. You will be doing things not from a need to do them or show compassion but because you are compassion.

    I've been chasing illusions of happiness through extreme sports, food, spiritualities, and still do to a lesser degree, had counselling, psychotherapy, taking the happy pills over the years but with zen and zazen I have come to the realisation that there is no 'something out there' that will sort it out, but there may be something out there (zen, counselling...) that can make you see that it is with in you that the answers lie.

    Wish you well.

    In gassho, Kev

  16. #16

    Re: Despair

    Hi Stephanie,

    Listen, I'm just another schmuck that doesn't know you at all, but I sense a real suffering in your post. While I can relate a bit, I have no "Zen answers" for you. Everyone here has given those ("drop this, don't expect that, blah, blah, blah"). But sometimes I think these answers stink too much of Zen.

    For whatever it's worth, it doesn't seem that your issues really have to do with Zen and/or spirituality. Forgive me, but you sound very depressed. Im not being flip here; I can relate to that. My best advice is to seek out a very good counselor, one that you can relate to and one you can trust. If you have one now, perhaps you should look for a different one. The Zen crap will take care of itself.

    Good luck!
    Keith

  17. #17

    Re: Despair

    Steph,

    If it was buried in all these messages, I agree with Keith. Go talk to a good counselor and get some assistance with this. The Zazen does not prevent that and should not get in the way of that at all. I think. Gassho, Jundo

  18. #18
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Despair

    Charles,

    Gassho and thank you for your detailed, thoughtful, empathetic post. A lot of what you wrote resonated.

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles
    When I was badly depressed, I cast my depression in very philosophical terms. I believed that I was depressed because I didn't have good answers to the philosophical problems that obsessed me -- that because I didn't have those answers, or feared nihilistic answers, I also didn't know whether or not life was worth living. After long and difficult examination through therapy and introspection, I came to believe that my depression actually stemmed from other sources: fears and anxieties I had been unable to face; character flaws I'd been unable to own up to; my tendency to put myself into situations that I found emotionally distressing (because I was so used to being depressed that I was 'addicted' to it, more comfortable with it than I was with being happy). When I worked on these things, the depression started to subside. And then I started being able to pursue good answers to some of my philosophical questions. It wasn't satisfactory answers to these deep and obsessing questions that cured my depression; it was the cessation of my depression that allowed me to find those satisfactory answers.
    Yes, I actually was pondering this very thing even before I came here to post last night. My fixation on meaning certainly persists even when I'm not in a state of despair or depression, but the consuming suffocation of being in the maw of the existential void... that tends to go hand in hand with depression, right? I also believe I would benefit greatly from therapy. I'm currently in a grad program in social work in which one tends to make a lot of self-discoveries, and I believe I've only begun to see the tip of the iceberg as to why my psyche sometimes seems so traumatized. I'm hoping to at least be able to find something this summer, if not sooner.

    That said, it seems it's been a crisis of meaning that's precipitated this descent. I know being in the abyss won't persist forever, but the background aimlessness and feeling of emptiness seems to have a much longer half-life. And that's the cycle--regardless of all the causes, I know that if I don't have a sense of hope or meaning in anything, I won't be able to do the things which will pull me out of the depression. And, again, I don't as much mind being in the depression. It's the nausea of despair that literally becomes physically painful, somatic. Even when things stop being this subjectively bleak, I know it will only be a matter of time before I'm sliding back down into it if I haven't found some sort of 'meaning-pacifier.' But since I've come to see through this habitual pattern of mine, I'm not sure I'll ever find one I can believe in again.

    Anyway, good advice too about forcing myself to socialize. I've been doing just that and it does help. It definitely draws one out of 'the suffering self' to some extent.

    It's pretty intense right now so I can still feel the knife even when I'm socializing or working or whatever, but you're dead right that it's worse when you wallow, which is what you tend to do.

    * * *

    As to all you zazen fanboys--Will and Jordan, I'm talking to you--telling me to sit more: :roll: :roll: :roll:

    You talk to me as if I haven't been sitting for years, and going through long periods of months, even over a year at one point, where I have indeed sat every day, if not more. In the past, I might have embraced your suggestions: Oh, if I sit more, that will fix it then! But I know better now. There are occasions--rare, but they nonetheless do exist--that sitting really isn't the best thing. This is one of them. I still sit as I can because of my commitment to the practice, but it doesn't help with the depression. It can actually make it worse if it gets bad enough, and I'm right at one of those "bad enough" moments. I'll sit and afterwards feel even more like just lying in the floor. And don't tell me it's because I'm "not sitting right." Go educate yourselves and get back to me. If you disbelieve my personal reports, a lot of research has been done about meditation, depression, and mental illness that shows that sitting zazen can actually temporarily increase pathology. If you've got a personal story about sitting with depression so intense it's started to become physically painful, please share it, but don't just blindly recommend "more zazen" to me because that's the party line around here.

  19. #19

    Re: Despair

    And don't tell me it's because I'm "not sitting right."
    I wasn't going to.

    I already told you I sat for 6 years with major tension and depression. And yes I've been through it all. Getting up from Zazen to sleep. A head full of gripping pain that just won't cease. Unable to feel any part of my body. Anger and frustration. Dellusion. nausea. Paranoia. Suspicion. Nervousness. Restlessness and on. Been there yo. I can only tell you from my experience. Which I did. Even if you sat every day for 20 years. I would still say sit every day yo. You'll get it. You might go through some really tough times, but you'll get it.

    Gassho

    Will

  20. #20

    Re: Despair

    I've said everything I have to say on this subject. I'm not going to offer anymore advice.

    Gassho Will

  21. #21

    Re: Despair

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    As to all you zazen fanboys--Will and Jordan, I'm talking to you--telling me to sit more: :roll: :roll: :roll:

    You talk to me as if I haven't been sitting for years, and going through long periods of months, even over a year at one point, where I have indeed sat every day, if not more. In the past, I might have embraced your suggestions: Oh, if I sit more, that will fix it then! But I know better now. There are occasions--rare, but they nonetheless do exist--that sitting really isn't the best thing. This is one of them. I still sit as I can because of my commitment to the practice, but it doesn't help with the depression. It can actually make it worse if it gets bad enough, and I'm right at one of those "bad enough" moments. I'll sit and afterwards feel even more like just lying in the floor. And don't tell me it's because I'm "not sitting right." Go educate yourselves and get back to me. If you disbelieve my personal reports, a lot of research has been done about meditation, depression, and mental illness that shows that sitting zazen can actually temporarily increase pathology. If you've got a personal story about sitting with depression so intense it's started to become physically painful, please share it, but don't just blindly recommend "more zazen" to me because that's the party line around here.
    I have another humble observation for you...

    I've read a few of your posts before....you really spill your guts in your posts....crying for help out of a real sense of despair....but then when everyone offers their own advice....each out of their own generosity and compassion....you seek out those responses you do not like and you bash those individuals on a personal level for recommending one of the very things that you should be doing....just sitting...(regardless of how often you've done it in the past).

    I just feel it's important to really bring this to your full attention.

    I sincerely hope that you find the counseling that you need to help you get through this tough period.

    - John

  22. #22

    Re: Despair

    Hey Steph!

    You are absolutely right...someone in deep depression/despair will not be helped along by platitudes and "just sits."

    I studied clinical depression for 11 years. Had two subjects commit suicide shortly after I saw them. And, they told me they were going to do it. I contracted with them before they left my lab to call me, call my supervisor, call the local free clinic. Both of them said the same thing with, eerily, the same sad smile of a parent to a child: "If I want to do it, I will. There isn't a conversation that will stop me. I've lived with these thoughts for a long, long time." So, they did.

    If it's any help, I do know a few monastics who suffer from depression and they are on medications. The Abbot did not tell them to "just sit." He sent them to get the help they really needed, in conjunction with their meditation practice. This is called "skillfull means."

    Find someone near you who can really help you, dear one. If you are a student you can get some help on campus for a decent price (often free.) There are a lot of really good medications that won't burn you out or fry your brain or create apathy. They've gotten a lot more sophisticated. They will stop the brain chatter, they will put a stop to the mood swings, short circuit the anxiety. They just provide a way to get you down a slightly different path. It might be hard because a lot of people still look down their noses at people who get into counseling, or, heaven forbid, work with a psychiatrist. Screw 'em. Don't torture yourself and those around you who love you. You might feel more alive with your pain and angst, but that ain't living.

    Be well.

    In Gassho~
    Lynn

  23. #23
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Despair

    Harry - :lol: Sometimes laughter is the best medicine And what you said earlier in the thread has a tonic effect as well.

    Will - Advice never helps anyway. But if you would be so kind, talking about your experiences of sitting with/though all that painful stuff just might.

    Longdog - You're right about compassion. I need compassion for myself right now, I know. It's just a bit hard to reach at the moment.

    Keith - Not a schmuck. I'm glad you picked up on the suffering bit, that lets me know I'm not a complete failure as a communicator And you're right that a lot of what I go through doesn't originate in practice / Zen / etc. But yet a large component of my depression seems to revolve around meaning, or its absence. Maybe Charles is right, that it's a chicken and egg thing, but nothing else has ever helped me that much through all these years. And I do need to find a good counselor, I agree.

    Sensei Jundo - I freely admit I don't know what I'm looking for, or what I "should" be looking for, if anything. Else I wouldn't have this problem, right? And I can tell you that I am not in love with my ideas. I've run out of ideas, and whatever crap is floating around in my head right now I can tell you I've got no love for. The words I'm throwing at this right now are just the best I can do to convey where I'm at.

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles
    Please consider the possibility that you don't know what the cause is, and that your failure to answer these questions about meaning to your own satisfaction is a symptom of your depression and not its cause. I don't know you, and I don't know that this is what's going on with you, but you should be open to the possibility. If, at the times you're most depressed, your mind is filled with these questions, it might mean that these questions are relevant to your problem -- or it might mean that they're what you throw into view to avoid looking at what's really relevant to your problem.

    ...

    To be simplistic about it: if you're waring dark shades, you're not going to see the beautiful, totally saturated greens of grass and leaves on a foggy morning. Saying to yourself, "If only I could see bright green just once, this damned dark view of everything would go away!" misses the point. You have to take off the shades to see that color at all. As long as they're sitting on your face, you won't see it. And saying that if you could see the color, you could take the shades off, is backwards. It can't work that way. This is how depression felt to me after I got over it. It colored everything I saw and thought about; none of my questions and answers while I was in it could really get anywhere.

    So yeah -- introspection. And especially therapy: a really good therapist won't allow you to bypass the things that you'll naturally bypass without noticing them when working on your own. (Of course you'll bypass them! If you weren't bypassing them your problems would probably have been worked out by now!) And while I'm talking about therapists -- in my opinion, the most important thing is to find a therapist who you connect with, but who is hard on you, who doesn't just accept everything you say and never offer alternative viewpoints. If you don't have both that personal connection, and that sort of annoying pushing coming from the therapist, I'd suggest finding another therapist. There are lots of them out there. You will find the right one if you look for a while. But if you stick with a therapist who isn't right for you, you'll get nowhere.

    ...

    I do not claim to know what Zen is or is not. But I believe that you aren't going to be in a position to figure out what Zen, or any other philosophy, really is as long as you're very depressed. Heavy sunglasses, etc. etc.
    Charles--this has all been extremely helpful. I was pondering it in the shower and it's really resonating deeply. I think there's stuff inside of me I've been not dealing with properly for a long time. It hasn't helped that religion, even Buddhism, and even Zen, tends to bill itself as the fix-all for all human problems. I think that religious culture has been helping keep me from looking at whatever this "black dog" of mine really is for a long time. And what you said about needing to remove the sunglasses first--brilliant. I think I need to pin that to my wall. It reminds me of Dogen's excellent advice, that we first must always turn the light of awareness inwards. Not, "Why does there seem to be no meaning?" But look to the mind that is asking that question and study it. Maybe it's not that there is "no meaning," or whatever, or that that search isn't a big component of what drives me, but that there's other stuff I need to look at / work through first.

    Everyone else to whom I have not yet responded - Not trying to ignore you; please forgive me. I appreciate all the responses and caring here. I've just got to get out the door and to work. And I won't be back until way late tonight. Which is probably--scratch that, almost certainly--for the best anyway.

    Gassho all--

  24. #24

    Re: Despair

    Quote Originally Posted by HezB
    "Freedom is nothing separate from what you're going through. There's really no escape in that sense I think. Or, if there is, I suggest you don't look for it on a Zen website full of fellow nut-jobs like us.
    Harry is spot on!!

    This reminds me of one of my all time favorite books by Pema Chodron: The Wisdom Of No Escape. Actually, two other books of hers that I've really enjoyed are: Start Where You Are, and, When Things Fall Apart. All excellent reads.

    In Gassho~
    Lynn

  25. #25
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Despair

    John--Obviously I've got problems. Please be patient. But I respectfully suggest that you may also be committing a bit of a "selective attention" error when characterizing me and my behavior here.

    Lynn--Thank you for what you wrote. The compassion shines through. I agree with the consensus that I need to go somewhere besides or in addition to "the Zen nuthouse" for help. And Pema is the best.

    Harry--The seasonal thing certainly isn't helping right now, but I've been sliding down a slippery slope for some time. It's taken me getting to the point of seeing what a mess I can become--as in, this moment of posting my insanity here :lol:--to realize I need, to use the euphemism, some "professional help."

  26. #26

    Re: Despair

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    But I respectfully suggest that you may also be committing a bit of a "selective attention" error when characterizing me and my behavior here.
    Steph,

    This is kinda exactly what I was talking about...

    In any case, I'm really just trying to help.....my advice is worth what you paid for it!

    - John

  27. #27
    Treeleaf Unsui Yugen's Avatar
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    Re: Despair

    Stephanie,
    Please be kind to yourself.

    One of the wonderful aspects of Buddhism is the recognition that in our practice we can and should avail ourselves of sources of knowledge and help from other disciplines ...

    We're all thinking of you.

    Gassho,
    Alex

  28. #28

    Re: Despair

    Two Observations:
    1. Stephanie is very brave to share so much of herself here.
    2. The number of compassionate, well-intended posts speaks volumes about what is avaliable in this community.

    One of the best pieces of advice I've ever been given:
    "Continue with regular practice."

    Two excerpts from My Life As A Depressed Practitioner
    1. While experiencing soul-crushing, life-sucking, no-hope, no-f@cking-point-whatsoever, depression, I continued to practice. At some point, the practice became a point of reliability, an anchor in the storm. The practice on any given day may have been good, bad or neither. But when I felt I couldn't count on anything, I saw that I could count on this one thing: Practice.

    2. Internal dialog while experiencing heavy, suffocating, bleak, depression:
    "I am depressed."
    "Am I depressed? How much of me is depressed? Is my left foot depressed?"
    "No, my left foot is not depressed."
    "Then some part of me is not depressed."

    Hope this helps,
    Terry

  29. #29

    Re: Despair

    Steph,

    If you're interested, I found this book to be of great help to me during a pretty intense time of depression after my father died many years ago.

    http://www.livingcompassion.org/keepits ... ssion.html

    It's written by Cheri Huber...I've actually read most of her books. They're written in a very "handwritten" type style of writing full of little cartoons and such. I can't say enough about how her books have impacted my life.

    - John

  30. #30

    Re: Despair

    Hi Steph,

    Quote Originally Posted by Lynn
    Find someone near you who can really help you, dear one. If you are a student you can get some help on campus for a decent price (often free.) There are a lot of really good medications that won't burn you out or fry your brain or create apathy. They've gotten a lot more sophisticated. They will stop the brain chatter, they will put a stop to the mood swings, short circuit the anxiety. They just provide a way to get you down a slightly different path. It might be hard because a lot of people still look down their noses at people who get into counseling, or, heaven forbid, work with a psychiatrist. Screw 'em. Don't torture yourself and those around you who love you. You might feel more alive with your pain and angst, but that ain't living.
    Lynn is so right on this. Medication can really help take the edge off the mental pain and allow you to get back on track. I thought for a long time that resorting to meds was a failure of discipline on my part. Not so. But taking them did allow me to top focusing so much on the pain and start developing some new neural pathways that seem to be less painful. I only regret that I didn't seek help sooner. Don't waste all your wonderful energy and focus on avoidable pain.

    Warm thoughts,

    Linda

  31. #31

    Re: Despair

    Dear Steph

    my twopence worth & please disregard as needed.

    I think the depth of responses you have had is truely inspiring - both from a buddhist and practical perspective. Deep despair is a pit from which it can be hard to climb. Two years ago I was diagnosed with bowel cancer and following surgery and chemotherapy was given a 50:50 chance of not being here in 5 years time - it was a tough time and I despaired for a small part of every day for 6 - 9 months, especially during the chemo. Things that helped:

    - talking to friends
    - exercise
    - eating right
    - practice; justing sitting every day helped me balance my despair and see some of the good that this experience had brought me, namely that a lot of previously big things over which I had worried, where now brought shortly into perspective. I will pass on one of the best pieces of advice given to me at the time - who knows it may help

    Be loving, kind and compassionate; focus your mind clearly in the present, hone it and hammer it until it is as dense as an anvil to develop mental equanimity; take great joy in your accomplishments and especially in those of others. Be present, be present, be present and be present
    I think that the despair is still there, but it has now been integrated - I note it (as was said earlier), and occasionally use it in my armoury to get a grip and put somethings in perspective.

    Best wishes

    Jools

  32. #32

    Re: Despair

    I agree with everyone who has said that this IS a great group. Even with the little bumps here and there, I always enjoy visiting with all of you and all of your honesty regarding your struggles have really touched me. This is practicing off the cushion, doncha think?

    in my opinion, the most important thing is to find a therapist who you connect with, but who is hard on you, who doesn't just accept everything you say and never offer alternative viewpoints. If you don't have both that personal connection, and that sort of annoying pushing coming from the therapist, I'd suggest finding another therapist. There are lots of them out there.
    I agree with everyone who mentioned going to a professional. I think the important part is what I've quoted above by Charles. I worry that some doctors may just shove an antidepressant prescription in your hand and be done with it. Go to a real therapist for sessions. My amateur opinion is that you may have an underlying disorder(s) besides just depression. If so, you need a therapist that will be very honest with you and may tell you things you don't want to hear. That's the guy I'd stick with. In addition to that, continuing to practice isn't going to hurt.

    Steph, my problem under stress is just the opposite of yours. Most my stress is work related. My husband and daughter are wonderful. Damn luck to have them. Anyway, I don't get depressed. I get angry and hard-hearted but I bottle it up inside until I explode. Just in the nick of time, I discovered Buddhism and I'm able to deal with anger a little better. Even though our responses to intense situations are nearly polar opposites, I think we both can benefit from the same wonderful aspects of Buddhism: metta-karuna. You can find this concept in all the world religions and to some extent there are practices to build up your metta muscles ( :wink: ). However, I think Buddhism is unique in that loving-kindness and compassion are so intricately linked to the Buddhist world view (impermance, emptiness, anatta) and practices are designed specifically to strengthen this philosophy. Some of you folks think Thich Nhat Hanh is a bit of a cornball. Well, his lovey-dovey stuff is just the medicine for a hardass like me. But maybe he would help you too, Steph, if you haven't read him yet. I finally got the guts to practice with a sangha in the TNH tradition. A good gang there. Between Jundo and the TNH gang, I've got a good thing going for a beginner. I hope you continue to stick with a practice

  33. #33
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Despair

    I'm off to a rock show (perfect timing, eh?), but just wanted to post real quick to say how helpful you all have been to me. Reading your responses has helped clarify so much and has encouraged me as well. I have a lot of respect and regard for the folks here. I plan to respond more in depth tomorrow, but just wanted to take a moment to share my appreciation before heading out to receive some of the best therapy there ever has been... rock 'n' roll!!!!! 8) :lol: :mrgreen:

  34. #34

    Re: Despair

    Steph!

    Rock Out!

    p.s. I prefer my rock shows with a little twang in them.

  35. #35

    Re: Despair

    Stephanie,

    I'm very glad what I said was helpful.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    It reminds me of Dogen's excellent advice, that we first must always turn the light of awareness inwards. Not, "Why does there seem to be no meaning?" But look to the mind that is asking that question and study it. Maybe it's not that there is "no meaning," or whatever, or that that search isn't a big component of what drives me, but that there's other stuff I need to look at / work through first.
    This looking at the mind that's asking the question can be really hard to do. (Actually, one thing that got me interested in Zen was the idea of a new way to examine myself, to see what's really there, what assumptions I'm making about self, etc.) While I have nothing against antidepressant medications, I agree with what Tracy said 100% -- some psychiatrists will just give you drugs and monitor you, and if they think the drugs are working, that's the end of it. You'll go in every 2-4 weeks for a quick eval and prescription renewal. That may help you to deal with things in the short term. In fact, many people need meds to deal with things in the short term, and that's fine -- if you can't deal with the short term there isn't any way to do long-term work. But, it won't force you to do that long-term work, that necessary self-examination and adjustment. That's what a good counselor/therapist is for. Not just someone to whom you can tell anything, but someone who won't let you pass over all the things that your 'self' has a vested interest in passing over: the 'deep-down' stuff you really don't want to look at, that you've got blinders for, stuff that's invisible to you.

    Therapy isn't a magic bullet. It's hard work and it takes a long time to produce big results (though it can also be supportive in the short-term too). But the involvement of that other person allows you to see things you have very little chance of seeing on your own, or at least helps you see those things way before you'd see them on your own.

    --Charles

  36. #36
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Despair

    OK, you all and an excellent rock show helped me over the 'hump.' I'm not feeling so much like crawling today. I'm in a good mood even though things still seem rather meaningless to me. And that's just it--I don't mind being sad any more than I mind being happy. Which is one reason why I'm not sure that any sort of medication is the way to go for me. Because that will only address the mood front.

    I've been thinking about it and I think I could easily get diagnosed as having some form of bipolar disorder. Looking back over my past cycles of revelation and downfall, strip the sense of meaning away from it all and it just looks like a bipolar going through the motions, really. Thing is that I'm so high functioning (relative to a lot of folks with Axis I diagnoses) that it's never before struck me as a potential problem.

    I agree wholeheartedly that I need a good therapist and it is a goal of mine to get one whenever it becomes workable. A family culture paper we recently had to do for one of my classes helped me realize that there's a lot to work through regarding my childhood. I always overlooked it because I never went through any sort of extreme trauma like physical or sexual abuse. But now, I can see how the dynamics of my family life growing up inflicted some damage that I need to work through and better understand if I'm ever going to be able to see the extent to which my "meaning quest" is informed by it.

    It all makes me wonder about this whole religion and spirituality business. But I think I've already said my piece on that.

    Thanks again for all the warmth, kindness, wisdom, compassion, and good humor you've shared with me here. This is really a wonderful place.

  37. #37

    Re: Despair

    Glad you're feeling better, sometimes going out is just the ticket.

    Try and remember how profoundly vibrant the meaningless can be - you've been at this a while, I'm sure you've tasted it. "In the domain of buddha ancestors, drinking tea and eating rice is everyday activity. This having tea and rice has been transmitted over many years and is present right now ... Each and every extraordinary activity is simply having rice."

    Skye

  38. #38
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Despair

    Quote Originally Posted by Skye
    Try and remember how profoundly vibrant the meaningless can be - you've been at this a while, I'm sure you've tasted it. "In the domain of buddha ancestors, drinking tea and eating rice is everyday activity. This having tea and rice has been transmitted over many years and is present right now ... Each and every extraordinary activity is simply having rice."

  39. #39
    Senior Member Martin's Avatar
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    Re: Despair

    Stephanie

    I'm pleased that you're feeling more cheerful. Though that too will pass! I didn't post on this thread earlier because I had nothing to say that was better than the excellent advice you've been given on this thread already.

    Today I came across some lines from the dancer, Isadora Duncan, and they reminded me of your pain at finding no meaning in life. She said "If I could say what it meant, I wouldn't be able to dance it".

    Maybe those words will strike you as really trite. But - as someone else who's spent a good deal of time looking for "meaning" - they struck a chord with me. And they reminded me of the irritation of another artist, the poet T S Eliot, when he was asked what the line in one of his poems, "Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper tree" meant. He replied "It means: Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper tree". He didn't want his poetry reduced to another's meaning or controlled by another. I think when I look for meaning in life (I do it less now!) it's because I often want to reduce it or control it which is fear driven.

    You may be very different, of course.

    Be well, and be kind to yourself.

    Gassho

    Martin

  40. #40
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Despair

    I like the Isadora Duncan quote.

    I used to be a control freak, but I had to let it go.

    Living with my inner temperature has forced me to learn how to surrender. I cannot help but repeatedly push myself to the breaking point.

    I like to surrender. It is at the moments where I am pinned and crushed down and have no choice but to let go that I find peace.

    I have no struggle with letting the immensity of life overwhelm me. If anything, life is rarely intense enough for me.

    Where does meaning come in to all this? I'm not sure. I think it is sometimes that life is... not enough for me.

    Without something to live for, a reason, a meaning, a purpose, life can feel pretty banal.

    And it is not the terror of an absurd existence that bothers me... it is the banality of it.

    And it's not that I'm a stranger to a sense of wonder at even simple things.

    But that sense of wonder is not enough to sustain my existence.

  41. #41

    Re: Despair

    You are alive and that' s about it. If your looking for an answer to a question then Zen is definitely not where that's at. So I guess we could say that Zen is learning to be alive.

    And I think it's ok to trust the thousand or so teachers that agree on this point.

    Gassho Will

  42. #42

    Re: Despair

    Hi, Stephanie.

    Please, please, please, seek some professional help. There is only so much that we here can offer, and very little of it means anything if we can't see your eyes, hear your voice, etc. I perceive a dissatisfaction with life that is fairly profound (and a bit scary). One of the primary themes of Zen is learning to accept and appreciate life as it is. Your very issue is that you are unwilling or unable to accept or appreciate ALL of your life ALL of the time. All questions beyond those, I think, require some other field of expertise. I can tell you from personal experience that zazen is effective in treating anxiety but only because I didn't care if it treated my anxiety or not. My advice: stop wanting Zen to do anything for you (provide answers, make the day any better, etc.), and see a therapist who can "talk" and "prescribe." Medicines help but are more effective with talking; talking helps but is often more effective with medication.
    If we didn't care, we wouldn't bother reading (at length) and responding (at length) to your posts, but we can only do so much and we appear to be nearly unanimous in suggesting counseling. I sincerely hope you can make progress toward a life that feels right for you. I hope you can also forgive my directness but I can only offer the wisdom (or lack thereof) I have, which may not be the wisdom you want.

    Best of luck,
    Bill

  43. #43

    Re: Despair

    But that sense of wonder is not enough to sustain my existence.
    I think she's coming around. You'll get it when you look at the feeling that the sense of wonder is not enough to sustain your existence. First ask yourself who is really wondering that. It's not you. Oh and by the way I'm pretty sure it's not a sense of wonder. When there is a sense of wonder that means that "someone is wondering" and when there is sense of banality that is a also "someone" thinking about the sense of banality.

    Listen to Suzuki Roshi. He was all about the oneness. You can't have any opinion or understanding about it because it's beyond opinions and understanding. There was an interview with him on Youtube (and don't have an opinion about Suzuki Roshi that's just the same stuff. Just listen to him) anyway when you can hear the bird without saying that it's a bird without realizing that you hear the bird, without any wonder about the bird, at that moment when the birds voice is heard by the ear there is no seperation and no opinion it just is. From this comes a sense of joy, like home was right there . HOME. But it's kind of hard to do that when you have a vice crushing your skull (like I did thank god for da Yoga eh) You can question it all you want, but that's not going to do anything. Consistency and honesty will bring you to that point. just keep at it.

    I like this, I don't like that. wah wah wah. :cry:

    A great quote (kind of): If I ask to speak to Stephanie what does that mean? If you bring me a piece of paper is that Stephanie? If you tell me about your day or what your feeling is that Stephanie? Stephanie is really a diverse collection of experiences which include a sense of wonder and a sense of doubt. Question your doubt. Look that thought or feeling right in the face. Turn it around. And pay attention to what's infront of your face. Feel your skin.

    Now I am here to tell you to look at what you say and don't take it too seriously (which I kind of feel you don't, maybe some moments) I think you just like to talk,and if not then look at what your saying and describing. If you really look at it, it will show it's self for what it is. Opinions,opinions, opinions, we have em, but sometimes we get a wee little too attached to them. Practice, practice, practice.

    Actually, it's better to just sit than to try to do anything. Anyway, don't forget to wash behind your ears, and brush your teeth before bed.

    Ok. I Stop talky. :shock:


    Have Fun

    Gassho Will

  44. #44

    Re: Despair

    Extract from Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki

    Right Attitude

    Negative & Positive

    Dogen-zenji said "When you say something to someone, he may not accept it, but do not try to make him understand it intellectually. Do not argue with him; just listen to his objections until he himself finds something wrong with them." This is very interesting. Try not to force your idea on someone, but rather think about it with them. If you feel you have won the discussion, that is also the wrong attitude. Try not to win the argument; just listen to it; but it is also wrong to behave as if you had lost. Usually when we say something, we are apt to try to sell our teaching or force our idea. But between Zen student there is no special purpose in speaking or in listening. Sometimes we listen, sometimes we talk; that is all. It is like a greeting: "Good morning!" Through this kind of communication we can develop our way.
    Stephanie

    May you be safe and protected.
    May you be peaceful and happy.
    May you be healthy and strong.
    May you have ease of well being

    Best wishes

    Jools

    ps - Like Bill says - go & get some help

  45. #45
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Despair

    I perceive a dissatisfaction with life that is fairly profound (and a bit scary).
    Couldn't the same have been said of the Buddha as well? What if the Buddha had just gone and gotten some Prozac and learned to enjoy smelling the flowers?

    I agree that I need to work through some stuff with a good counselor. I need to find out what degree of my sickness is spiritual and what is psychological. (An arbitrary distinction but I think a helpful one.) I need to figure what sort of glasses I'm looking through. But you will never see me get on medication just because my negative emotions can be as intense as my positive ones. If I were to lose my ability to function, or were to have destructive impulses, I would find medication a wonderful resource and would embrace it. But I don't think it's a problem that I don't feel good all the time and I don't need to introduce chemicals into my body to try to change that. Seriously. I think American culture has lost touch with the basic fact that there are ups and downs in life.

    When I think about many of my personal heroes, they weren't people who were happy all of the time. Some of them suffered quite intensely. But they were true to themselves, kept asking questions, and didn't give up their wrestling with existence just because it was difficult. I didn't come to Zen or to Buddhism to calm or to soothe myself or to simply learn a better method for enjoying life. Don't they call that Bompu Zen? That's not why I'm here. And I don't get the feeling it's why most of you are here, either, which is why I'm sometimes baffled by your responses.

  46. #46

    Re: Despair

    From the wanderling for anyones knowledge:
    Bompu, or "ordinary," Zen as opposed to the other four, each of which can be thought of as a special kind of Zen suitable for the particular aims of different individuals. Bompu Zen, being free from any philosophic or religious content, is for anybody and everybody. It is a Zen practiced purely in the belief that it can improve both physical and mental health. Since it can almost certainly have no ill effects, anyone can undertake it, whatever religious beliefs he happens to hold or if he holds none at all. Bompu Zen is bound to eliminate sickness of a psychosomatic nature and to improve the health generally.

    Through the practice of bompu Zen you learn to concentrate and control your mind. It never occurs to most people to try to control their minds, and unfortunately this basic training is left out of contemporary education, not being part of what is called the acquisition of knowledge. Yet without it what we learn is difficult to retain because we learn it improperly, wasting much energy in the process. Indeed, we are virtually crippled unless we know how to restrain our thoughts and concentrate our minds. Furthermore, by practicing this very excellent mode of mind training you will find yourself increasingly able to resist temptations to which you had previously succumbed, and to sever attachments which had long held you in bondage. An enrichment in personality and a strengthening of character inevitably follow since the three basic elements of mind - that is, intellect, feeling, and will - develop harmoniously. The quietist sitting practiced in Confucianism seems to have stressed mainly these effects of mind concentration. However, the fact remains that bompu Zen, although far more beneficial for the cultivation of the mind than the reading of countless books on ethics and philosophy, is unable to resolve the fundamental problem of man and his relation to the universe. Why? Because it cannot pierce the ordinary man's basic delusion of himself as distinctly other than the universe.
    In gassho,
    Jordan

  47. #47

    Re: Despair

    I didn't come to Zen or to Buddhism to calm or to soothe myself or to simply learn a better method for enjoying life. Don't they call that Bompu Zen?
    Good point. But we can't sit around only talking about it right? That would be what is referred to as "Fool's Zen" (for real. they used to call it that).

    Sometimes you just have to take it easy yo. It's all about smelling the flowers (kind of) and whatever reason brought you to Zen has nothing to do with Zen. And Zen will never give you what you want. Don't let The words "Great and Perfect Practice" fool you. I refer back to my last post on dis topic.

    Peeaace

    Good Night

    G,W

  48. #48

    Re: Despair

    Thanks for the post Jordan.

    Gassho

  49. #49
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Despair

    The way I understand the term (also spelled Bonpu) is that a Bompu Zen practitioner simply practices to improve quality of ordinary life, as opposed to striving to resolve the matter of life and death.

  50. #50

    Re: Despair

    no life or death.

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