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Thread: Asking for help.

  1. #1

    Asking for help.

    I haven't posted on here for quite some time.

    I'm having enormous difficulty deciding what to do and how to live my life.

    On the one hand I'm torn between finding happiness for myself. Not the superficial kind which is prevalent everywhere we look, but a genuine happiness which is not reliant on external situations.

    On the other hand is affilianting myself with a religion. I've read some great books on Zen and Taosim, but I always feel it gets taken out of context by many people and taken much too seriously for my liking. I don't want to be a person who gets angry when the Zen tradition is attacked, but neither do I want to be a complete nihilist because of my distrust and cynacism towards organised religion. Putting these teachings to the test and stubbornly holding on to traditions, rituals and the true way. I know Jundo has talked about various contradictions many times and I can never get my head round most of them.

    Life hasn't been going well for pretty much my whole life, I join many others there, which is what sends people looking for answers. I've been diagnosed with several anxiety disorders and clinical depression. When I am going through a particular bad phase, I don't care what the Buddha says, or what Dogen says, or any other wise master. All I have is my own experience and I'm as right or wrong as anyone else.

    I'll probably regret posting this in the morning, but I believe there are others out there that have experienced my deep frustration. I don't mean to cause any offense with what I have typed and mean it all with the uptmost respect, but the last thing I need is to have my post picked apart or giving some Zen koan. Things go much further than what I have typed here and am able to type here and express. Please try to understand that most answers are too simplistic for my current state of mind, such as, keep sitting, or just experience it. None of which has no relevence to me whatsoever, however true it may be.

    I really thank you all for reading this and letting me have a place to type my thoughts.

  2. #2

    Re: Asking for help.

    Ten,
    I am far from qualified to give you any advice about depression or anxiety disorders.

    I will say that I have had my share of issues, and still deal with them from time to time. I am of the mind to think that everyone has issues. In dealing with these issues I have been fortunate to have had good friends that I was able to make a connection with. And that the only recommendation I would make is that you seek out someone who you can sit down with face to face with and help sort out the things you are going through.

    This may be bad advice, I hope if it is I am straightened out by my friends.

  3. #3

    Re: Asking for help.

    Can't add much to Harry's excellent post.

    All I can not-say is that this video helped me to start out on my path:

    http://treeleafzen.blogspot.com/2008/01 ... s_522.html

    Gassho,
    Skye

  4. #4

    Re: Asking for help.

    Firstly Zen is nothing. So no need to worry.

    I think a lot of the time we have people sitting around on their butt trying to figure it out.

    I don't think only Zazen or Zen is enough. I think it should be balanced with exercise and proper nutrition. Sitting around doing Zazen, working on the computer, having bad eating habits is not going to help your practice.

    So what I would suggest Ten is firstly, Don't worry about it, and secondly promote a more healthy lifestyle as I stated. Put Zazen on the list, but don't make it the only thing on the list.

    Hakuin, was an intense dude from what I know. His practice was so intense that it made him ill. He decided that one should be healthy and strong in order to pursue Zen practice. However, he began the Rinzai so his style was a bit different. But the important point here is that he saw the importance of being healthy and realization.

    Intellectual Zen can be like living in a small, stuffy room. You sweat, and ache, and find it hard to breathe. Trying too hard.

    Anyway Ten, I recommend that you also try to incorporate a healthy regimen in your lifestyle as well.

    Gassho

  5. #5
    Treeleaf Unsui Shohei's Avatar
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    Re: Asking for help.

    Hi Ten
    As with everyone here i truly am sorry to hear your not feeling well

    I can say the anxiety and depression issues can seem pretty damn over whelming in my own experience.

    2 things that seemed to help me was actually getting a bit more active as Will has mentioned (just toss this out if your already there... i mean i sit on my ass @ work all day and although i eat a vegan diet... i do it pretty poorly some days -CHIPS! and garbage like that, oh and some[ALL] of my hobbies are computer related :B) Activity burns off some of the nervous energy that tends to cause SOME anxiety issues. I found sitting help immensely as sitting helped me see my self in calmer waters. I am ptsd and it was a daily thing for several years its lessened and atm i think its been as long as i have been sitting since i last had a serious attack. anywho...

    Do not worry about what you wrote here(i should heed my own advice but w/e) it was very honest and I certainly appreciated it...EVERY post here will read differently to someone else and even you after the passage of some time

    Got no really good advice that hasnt already been said *or will be said after this pile of Post, but I got an ear to lend if you need it.

    Gassho
    Dirk

  6. #6
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Rochester, NY, USA
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    4,693

    Re: Asking for help.

    Hey Ten,

    I won't give you one of those "gipper" speeches I got so often in my past because I honestly think I've been where you are (Depression: check Anxiety: check). All the other posters have given great advice, but in those down times nothing really ever used to make me feel better, but I always kept looking. Like you said, no single phrase or piece of wisdom can fix any of it.

    Perhaps you'll dismiss what I'm about to say like I used to with advice I was given, but you really are on the right path if you are questioning things around you. There will be times you'll feel completely adrift where no one understands and no one seems to look at things the way you do. I always had people around me telling me to just cheer up or change myself. In the end, I really didn't change very much because I knew who I was and wanted to be....I just never allowed myself to do it. That realization didn't change things overnight or even in a year, but it was the first step. One I always knew I had to take but for whatever reason just didn't.

    Maybe that's a bunch of BS for anyone but me or just doesn't apply to your situation. I do hope you find what you are looking for and encourage you to keep looking because it is out there. But just consider the possibility you might know exactly where you want to go and what you want to do but giving yourself permission just doesn't seem possible. I'll admit that I would have said, "What kind of crap is that?" years ago...it's campy and sounds like a bad greeting card.

    Anyway, that's my $0.02 and I wish you well.

    Gassho,
    Scott

  7. #7

    Re: Asking for help.

    Hi Ten,

    I hesitate to write because I will probably say the wrong thing, but in the small chance that I won't here goes.

    First the superficial thing - regarding zen or any other philosophy/practice. Lots of bullshit is said and written, or perhaps it is just someone else's understanding, meaningful to then but not to you. Anyway, as Maezumi Roshi told his number one student (Bernie Glassman Roshi) - just take what you find useful or meaningful, and ignore the rest.

    First, I hope (assume) that since you said, if I understand correctly, that your anxiety and depression are severe enough to have clinical identifications, I hope you are seeing a professional, and maybe those various meds they are always touting these days can do a bit to relieve the severity of your anxiety and depression. Myself I have lived with anxiety my whole life and, this may sound silly, but I found taking big vitamins helps me a lot (I think it's the vitamin B). I take "Natures Plus" "Source of Life" multivitamins, but I found I got the same effect taking Solgar "Just vitamins" (or is it "vitamins only" - I forget the exact name). It definitely takes the edge off, for me. I also found that various kinds of preservatives in foods make me edgy. And I definitely think clearer when I take my vitamins, less scattered.

    Regarding the depression, I think diet is underestimated as a contributing factor. It may only be a very small factor in someone's depression but hey, even if someone has a brain tumor, even an aspirin has it's value? Sugar and caffeine make a huge (negative) difference to me (and eating a big breakfast with lots of protein makes a big positive difference with me). Of course, it is only a very small thing but maybe it is worth something?

    as for zen, I always say "I can't say it has necessarily made me happy, but I can say it has made me sane". But I think I must amend that because it has certainly brought me a lot of clarity and a lot of peace, and those are definitely connected to happiness. (and those 16 years going to therapy certainly helped me get by, and maybe find some udnerstanding).

    As for books on zen, I frankly can't stand the modern American stuff, but the old stuff, medieval chinese, korean and japanese has been very good for me, maybe I just like the mystery of it.

    But everybody here has their/my own obsessions, delusions, biases. We all have history. But we all muddle along together as best we can, dropping in and out as we wish.

    And while you are looking for the big answers (which DO matter and ARE important), maybe don't ignore the small things, getting out, doing things. Sometimes for me just being around people who are happy and not depressed makes a huge difference (I live with someone who suffers from clinical depression and that is very wearing on my artistic, sensitive soul, but I get by Me, I am off to a huge bead show in two weeks, for an orgy of window shopping.

    please take care,
    rowan

    "Fairy tales are more than true. Not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten." G.K. Chesterton

  8. #8
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Asking for help.

    I wasn't going to post here because of the personal nature of some of the info, but here are a few of the things I can say or recommend:

    Zazen will not cure your depression. It might help with the anxiety, but zazen is a long-term practice and one does not partake of it to fix any particular problem.

    The CORRECT therapist can be a world of help. The wrong therapist can be worse than no therapist.

    Alright, now for the specifics:

    I used to have panic attacks when I was in my late teens. Quitting drugs (especially marijuana) seemed to help, but the panic attacks were debilitating. Daily meditation was helpful in eliminating the attacks.

    Could you tell us about your depression? Is it long-term, or do you have labile emotions? Is your sense of identity also labile? Have you attempted suicide or threatened it? Do you have outbursts of anger? What exactly does your depression look like?

  9. #9

    Re: Asking for help.

    Hi Ten,

    I'm sorry you're going through such a rough time. There's no easy way through times like this, and I understand your resistance to easy, 'pat' answers. When I'm doing badly, they drive me up a wall.

    Having suffered from depression and anxiety attacks in the past, I feel like I should be able to say something helpful, but it's hard. These things are so personal, so different for everyone. I guess all I can do is tell you what worked for me with anxiety issues. (I can't really say why my depression stopped; it just sort of worked itself out. I made a lot of changes in my life, but there was no 'magic bullet.')

    I went through several years of anxiety attacks, often very severe, following the deaths of some close friends, who were all in their 20s and all passed away within a short period of time. What helped me through this was years of slow, difficult talk therapy with a very talented therapist. I emphasize 'slow'. At the beginning, my therapist taught me some techniques (involving breath control and talking to myself in certain ways) that I could apply in the short term, when an attack was starting. At first, sometimes those helped, usually they didn't. As time went on, they helped more and more. But they were a coping mechanism and not something that really stopped the anxiety from happening. That took years of gradually facing the underlying causes of my anxiety and learning to feel them without being so afraid of them.

    I'll gladly second what Chet said -- the wrong therapist is worse than no therapist. I've found that it's pretty easy to tell (for me, at least) that a therapist isn't right for me. It's more difficult -- but very necessary -- to drop a therapist and immediately look for another one. For me the most important thing to look for in a therapist is, 'do I feel like I can trust this person?' If there isn't that 'connection' right up front, chances are it won't work out -- you won't be able to open up as much as you need to to get real work done.

    As for depression -- I struggled with that as a child and adolescent, some years before my anxiety issues started. As I said above, I really don't know what helped. I was on meds for six or seven years, I did a lot of therapy, I got involved in things outside the home to try to stay engaged...and eventually it sort of dissipated. In retrospect, as an adult, I think it had more to do with moving away from a difficult situation at home when I was old enough to do so.

    So how does this stuff relate to religion in general and Zen practice in particular...I really don't know. I hadn't found meditation when I was having these problems. I suspect it would have helped a lot with my anxiety (because it helps so much with anxiety I have now), but probably much less with depression. When I was depressed, my lack of motivation was so strong, even when I was on meds, that I doubt I could have sustained meditation practice. It also colored my moods in ways that would have made sitting very frustrating.

    I think if I was in your shoes right now, I'd ask myself what practices are actually adding something to my life, giving me strength...what practices feel right. I wouldn't expect anything to just 'fix' the problem, whether it's therapy or meds or a religious practice; but what adds some strength, adds some hopefulness, makes the days easier. Those are the things I'd stick with. Isn't that really the test of these things -- what works for you?

    Best wishes,

    --Charles

  10. #10

    Re: Asking for help.

    Hi Ten,

    I'm very sorry to hear that you're going through some difficult times. Whatever you choose to do, please just know that you're always welcome here to post your thoughts about whatever is on your mind. I think in the end, you will recognize what's best for you, and if we can provide a positive impluse, all the better. I wish you well.

    Gassho
    Ken

  11. #11

    Re: Asking for help.

    Hi Ten,

    I've been been depressed twice and i'm only 28, like very depressed. So,

    "this too will pass.....". It's true of everything.

    At the time I was thinking not very seriously of suicide and if it will end. I had a lot of faith developed from my practice and experiences arising from the practice. It dawned me that if you kill yourself you'd only come back with same problems, symptoms and patterns associated with the depression and would still have to deal with it no matter what, so what's the point of doing it when there is no release from pain anyway. As one female tibetan monastic put it ".......u don't get away nothing dahhhling" (karma). U only can mitigate it.

    Mettha.

  12. #12
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Asking for help.

    My best to you, Ten. My mind can get pretty righteously nasty too and I know, from having been there, that so much of what people throw at you when you're asking for help can just seem so useless, so irrelevant to your condition, even infuriating and insulting because it's so far from the mark. But--I find--the fact that people are throwing something at you, are listening to you and responding to you with kindness, always means something, even if the content of their words isn't that helpful. My best advice to you would be to stick around here. I've had real trouble finding a sangha and I can tell you by far this is the sanest bunch of folks I've ever found gathering in the name of Buddhism. I only wish we could encounter one another here in the flesh.

    For all of the bad teachers and deluded practitioners out there, you need other people. I don't mean you as in you and only you, but you as in everybody. Just being able to engage in dialogue, to have multiple minds working at a problem, to have other perspectives on your life situations, and just to be able to listen and share--it's important. So while you continue to look for a religion or sangha in 3-Dspace, I would say, continue to come here. John Daido Loori says that if you're intent upon being a bodhisattva whose work is to save the world, you have to be equally ready to be saved by it. There really aren't going to be any answers anyone can give you that will give you what you're looking for. But the action of asking them, of being willing to open yourself to others and to search and to ask, that what begins to change you, to save you.

  13. #13

    Re: Asking for help.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    My best to you, Ten. My mind can get pretty righteously nasty too and I know, from having been there, that so much of what people throw at you when you're asking for help can just seem so useless, so irrelevant to your condition, even infuriating and insulting because it's so far from the mark. But--I find--the fact that people are throwing something at you, are listening to you and responding to you with kindness, always means something, even if the content of their words isn't that helpful. My best advice to you would be to stick around here. I've had real trouble finding a sangha and I can tell you by far this is the sanest bunch of folks I've ever found gathering in the name of Buddhism. I only wish we could encounter one another here in the flesh.

    For all of the bad teachers and deluded practitioners out there, you need other people. I don't mean you as in you and only you, but you as in everybody. Just being able to engage in dialogue, to have multiple minds working at a problem, to have other perspectives on your life situations, and just to be able to listen and share--it's important. So while you continue to look for a religion or sangha in 3-Dspace, I would say, continue to come here. John Daido Loori says that if you're intent upon being a bodhisattva whose work is to save the world, you have to be equally ready to be saved by it. There really aren't going to be any answers anyone can give you that will give you what you're looking for. But the action of asking them, of being willing to open yourself to others and to search and to ask, that what begins to change you, to save you.
    Shit, what an absolutely superb post!!!!!!

    much gratitude,
    rowan
    still a fox, still looking for her ox

  14. #14

    Re: Asking for help.

    Hi Ten
    I hope you can obtain the best medical attention available. When you feel well again you can pick up all this buddhist malarkey again.
    Looking forward to hearing from you again
    Kindest regards
    Jools

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