He's may just be having a bad day, maybe set off by what I wrote on the "Saying Less" thread. I know you won't take what he said personally.
It must be the summer heat, gettin' to folks.
I understand your frustration, Harry, but behind the self-righteous lecturing is a human being who doesn't have any more of a clue than the rest of us... that goes for all of us. None of us knows what the hell we're talking about... ain't it grand? :lol:
Because many people are confused, or you feel confused, don't assume that everyone must be confused.
As well, anyone can be swept up in confusion and unbalance sometimes, but some folks like to stay there. I would not think that a good way to live.
Just a piece of advice.
Instead of self righteous this or that stuck in what and where, read the d*mn thing.
I didn't write it. So I guess it would be Shunryu Suzuki who was the self righteous one.
Hands palm to palm
I didn't say people were confused... I said people don't know what the hell they're talking about. I haven't met a single person yet who did. Some people seem to, at first, but if you hang around them long enough, you find out that they don't... :!:
As for your slightly veiled snipe at my struggles, at least I'm being honest. I'm not trying to pretend I have it all together. If people take something away from my posts, it's with the knowledge of my condition in mind. I like that. No holiness here.
And I can't figure how anyone who spends hours of their time typing on the Internet about Buddhism is "balanced."
Easy answer. Because it is. And the more you practice, the more it is. Like it or not.And I can't figure how anyone who spends hours of their time typing on the Internet about Buddhism is "balanced."
When I read your posts, I am not filled with the sense that this is a person in whose footsteps I'd want to follow. Sometimes I think you're further off the deep end than me. Maybe your life is better than I imagine it is, but I think this is a case of the blind leading the blind here.
Why do you think you're so far off the deep end?Originally Posted by Stephanie
i think its time to sit, no?
i'll meet any of y'all in the zen hall, say at 2pm est?
Is "balanced" the new "enlightened"? As in, "I'm more balanced / enlightened than you!" Lordy... :lol:
Have at it while you whack at each other with your sticks of balanced Zen enlightenment, I'll just be over here in the corner, laughing an enjoyably unbalanced laugh...
dm--the actual day-to-day content of my life is pretty normal. But my interior state of mind is pretty dark. I don't come to Zen practice to enhance an already happy life, but crawling, in desperation, out of a last-ditch attempt at finding some sort of redemption... for myself, for the world... to convince myself that there's a point to all my useless spiritual gyrations of the past several years. I increasingly lose hope that this will happen, because I just don't believe it's true, that there is some sort of transcendent reason we're stuck in this mess. Hanging around "spiritual people" has just increasingly convinced me of this, as the bullshit is so redolent in these circles you don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to sniff it out.
My mind is sort of... a black hole of despair, quite often. No one would wish to be in this state of mind. But I've arrived here out of a stubborn dedication to the truth. I just can't make myself go along with something that seems, feels, false to me. Over and over again, the spiritual answers that people offer... they just fall apart. So in a Zen context, I'm supposed to be left with an enhanced appreciation for the cup of tea and the tangerine. But I don't give a damn about tangerines or tea. Sorry. Maybe there's just some internal switch that's flipped off; while it's not that I can't enjoy life's "simple pleasures," I find them wanting. Leaving the options of finding some spiritual "way out" or getting so deep in the mud that it starts to feel good. There's a wolf in me, a beast... and I've tried to fight her, to placate her, with all of this spiritual stuff, but it's stopped working. And it's left me at a very strange place. A crossroads. I haven't taken a road yet.
Sometimes the only saving grace is that I find it all so damned funny. Not that I don't find it poignant, too, or I wouldn't be in social work. But there's a sort of sinister nonchalance that's there, a kind of nihilism born out of heartbroken idealism. I want someone to convince me that I'm just a lost soul who needs to see the light. Like Fox Mulder, I want to believe. But I can't. The people I try to enlist to convince me only end up bearing out my suspicions sooner or later. I do have some thoughts that are... sort of comforting, I suppose... that even if the "light" is something we make up, the fact that we can make it up is significant... but it's a hard job to try to make up some light for yourself when you know it's all a big phony sham just to keep you from falling into the abyss.
Maybe I'm not off the deep end. Maybe my ferocious dedication to truth has brought me to confront some things most people don't want to, but are there nonetheless. Or maybe I'm just a lost girl who needs to find the right treatment and get better. I sincerely don't know.
well, i think i was solo -- forgot that half the world is asleep -- literally, that is
i think there are better ways to share the dharma, zazen is one -- a silent walk together another, etc.
but really, i got here looking for sangha, primarily to sit with -- great sitting with jundo, but really would like to be sitting with others(hi, ron, nice to sit this morning) -- otherwise, i wind up back where i was( i know, where else is there?), which is me sitting by myself for about 30 years -- it really is great when someone else shows up in the zen hall, and since we don't have a physical one, this is all we've got, technical glitches and all
for me, the buddhist philosophy is just a side-effect -- "you have to say something" - unfortunately
steph, i hope this practice is of some help -- i know that when i was in really bad shape, it was the only thing that helped -- and even then, i felt like shit -- but i do think its reasonable to expect some benefit from an ongoing practice, or maybe its not for everyone
i remember talking with the teacher at rochester zen -- how did you get into zen? -- he said, "are you kidding? - i didn't have any choice -- i tried everything else, i was desperate"
maybe its not that way with everyone, maybe some arrive here with great ease -- but i don't think so
Gassho,Originally Posted by Stephanie
First I want to mention that for someone in so much confusion and distress, you write wonderful things (my having read several of your recent posts).
I wish to suggest something rather un-soto, but you have this big question. First try to simplify your question/desire, what is your most basic question, and then sit with that question for all you're worth, with every ounce of energy. Carry that clarified question with you during your day. Just keep asking it and I promise you, you will get an answer. But don't ask anyone else as you will only receive someone else's answer (which might or might not be helpful but most probably won't be YOUR answer). Every book on zen (at least the old stuff) says that everyone has to find their own answer. And there is an answer waiting for you. I promise. But don't buy some second hand answer from someone else
Also, take care of your health, all those silly things like cut down on caffeine and sugar, eat healthy, take good vitamins, because bad health can confuse the situation by causing exhaution and unhappy feelings. And this confusion can become overwhelming (at least it has been for me, on some occasions).
thank you for your time,
(Yes, I post a lot).
I wish to say that I have been quite shocked by reading the posts here. A continuous stream of judgments, assumptions, insults, disrespect, etc. Perhaps there is a playful and affectionate tone that I am missing in SOME of the posts, perhaps there is some inside joke that I am missing? but reading them "straight", I am appalled. But I really hope I am wrong (maybe it's just the Diet Coke...)
thank you for your time,
Robertson Davies wrote (I must paraphrase here):
(A little boy runs away and joins a carnival. He notices that there are long lines at the fortune teller's tent and asks her about it).
"how come you are so successful? Are you really psychic?"
The fortune teller replies "No, not at all! it is just that most people are starved for a kind word".
roky and rowan,
Thank you so much for your empathy and wisdom. I find light in your words (but no phoniness).
roky--Trust me, I have benefited from Zen practice, enormously so. There's been many a dark time where zazen has been my only refuge, where sitting and being able to let go has been a shelter in the storm, a feeling of homecoming. Of all the things I greet with skepticism, zazen isn't one of them. Whatever the nature of its graces, they are there, undoubtedly. But there's a sort of chicken and egg question here--is it that zazen has carried me through times of despair, or brought me to them?
It was zazen that really "introduced me to my mind" and where I started to see all the lies, all the deceptions, in which I was entangled. But as much of a haven and respite as zazen has been, it has also assured the collapse of any comforting mental structure, leaving me at a signless place at times where nothing in this world seems substantial. Liberating, yes, but more than anything I find this experience destructive, because it leaves me questioning the value of doing anything, completely disoriented and in a state of inertia I struggle to break out of.
rowan--I think that is an excellent suggestion you have made. I have done things similar to that at times, but perhaps instead of just drifting back to these doubts and questions whenever the darkness hits, I should keep my focus on them. No doubt this could bring a measure of clarity, given it would force me to look at these questions from more than one state of mind. Also yes on the health thing. I get grumpy when I don't eat or don't sleep and sometimes I forget how much simple things like that contribute to an underlying sense of distress.
Hello Bob - Nice to sit with you as well. I'm going to try sitting around that time most mornings - key word is most
Stephanie - Anything I could say to you has already been said in a better way by someone else. Just keep laughing That seems pretty healthy to me. Of course, I don't know what I'm talking about either. :lol:
Rowan - Seems to me people have been a little cranky the last couple of days. Maybe it's the onset of fall.
What is this thread about anyway?
I find echoes of my own journey in what Stephanie says - I'd imagine a lot of us do.
One thing I've noticed is that you (stephanie) seem to have a lot invested in the idea that the world needs to or should be different than it is. Well, that's WAR and it will devastate you and leave you feeling like nothing could ever be right again. In wishing the world to be different than it is, you're not just going to war, your going to a 100% guaranteed loss of a war.
So my first piece of advice would be to stop going to war to change anything. Instead, use that energy to probe into whether your beliefs that things SHOULD be changed hold up to greater scrutiny. Reality itself is what 'should' be happening - everything else is a delusion. How do you know reality should be happening the way it is? It's happening! It doesn't need your approval.
I know this is new-agey stuff - but the 'inquiry' process of Byron Katie can strip away a LOT of these SHOULD/MUSTs.
hee heeOriginally Posted by rculver
Damned if I know.
I appreciate what you say, Chet, and I think you're quite on-target with a lot of things. But (I'm not trying to be difficult, just trying to be as clear as possible) it's not so much that I don't like the world, or don't think it's how it should be. I mean, there are a lot of things that I think could be better done by us humans, but that's not the source of my despair. It's actually a rare source of hope. That we can recognize when things aren't so great, and then do what we can to make it better.Originally Posted by disastermouse
I think I'd have the same problems if it was a My Little Pony world with only giggles and rainbows and puppies. Whatever kind of world it is--good world, bad world--I just can't seem to find any reason to be here. That even if we can do a lot of nice things, what does it matter? Why bother? But I am well aware that this may derive from some sort of issue within myself, not some disheartening ultimate truth about the meaninglessness of it all. Maybe something in me is broken. But there are things that get through--witnessing the joy and suffering of others, beautiful music, good wine. Maybe I need to focus on these things more, instead of focusing on the dark side so much.
That's sort of the conclusion I've been coming to lately--that while I need to continue to practice, to continue to sit, that perhaps I need to step back and step away from all of this spiritual stuff and turn back toward the world a bit. I was sitting on my couch last night reading a book on Patti Smith's album Horses and was absolutely inspired by this story of someone who turned her back on religion and found her religion instead in art, poetry, and rock and roll. She took the same sort of sensibility I have, this intense doubt and disgust and anger and fire, but instead of succumbing to despair, found life instead... found celebration. And created something that has probably helped more people through those dark nights than any Dharma book ever could.
I'm not a musician and never will be, but I think I could stand to be a bit more creative, to express the rage and despair in some form that is not so rational. Why not take more joy in the feeling of being on the outside, knowing that I can fearlessly embrace the perverse as well as the holy?
I don't know, it's all a jumble right now and I'm sure Jundo won't approve of all of this mental blather, but there is something going on other than despair right now.
You come and go from here every few months, and I am always glad to see you. You are a good and caring person. But I will always say the same things to you no matter how many times you come, and I will until you truly hear:
All the words you pour out in your writings, all those ideas in your head (many so dark), all your judgments and assumptions about how things "are" and "must be" for you and the world ...
It is only you making all that, only you who keeps all that junk and jumble floating around in your head.
The one thing I rarely hear you say, Steph:
"I have these thoughts, but I know they are just the silly story I write for myself, the dream I choose to dream. I know it does not have to be that way, and the world can be experienced from countless different perspectives. I can change how I think, I can drop so many of those ideas as self-created fantasies."
Instead, you insist that your ideas and judgments are real!
You could drop so many of those ideas and judgments, drop them completely away. And you could replace other ideas (which you now think irreplaceable) with very different perspectives. You choose not to, or you are afraid to let go of these thoughts ... as if they provide you safety (like a life preserver you cling to). But it is these thoughts that are what are drowning you, dragging you under the sea.
So SIT! Drop your judgements, ideas of how the world "is" or "is not" or "should be". SIT in a way you may have never sat before, all during life. (it sounds to me like you are sitting on your Zafu, but do you truly know how to drop thoughts and emotions ALL THROUGH YOUR DAY, ALL THROUGH LIFE?)
Usually you say: Folks don't know me, folks don't know what I need, folks just throw Zen-isms at me. Why don't they just listen as I wallow in the mudhole I make for myself. Steph, those are not "Zen-isms", but the cure for suffering. LISTEN, TRULY LISTEN, and put it into practice without excuse.
I think this sound advice. The only thing I always add is that this need not be passivity or resignation. The last time you were here, Steph, I wrote this to you. It is still true: Non-Zen folks might think you have to be X or Y, but we are XY (or non-XY) at once! No problem! So, our Buddhist Practice is just not some simple minded passivity or blind acceptance of life. We move forward, and make choices ... even as we know there is no place to go, and nothing in need of selection. Thus, it is a very unusual way to life ... "acceptance without acceptance" or "dropping likes & dislikes while simultaneously having likes & dislikes" ... seeking "change" while always perfectly still.Originally Posted by disastermouse
We can allow and accept for the world garden to be a complex place filled with beauty and ugliness, we embrace and permit that our lives can be a tangle of flowers and weeds, even as ... simultaneously,hand-in-hand without the least break ... we set to pulling weeds where we can, untangling brambles where we can.
These are not "Zen cliches", but medicine for most human suffering. Noble Truths. Try them for real. Open the hand of thought (another cliche).
Who needs to find a reason? Why?Originally Posted by Stephanie
Hey Bob. My camera is broken recently. When, I get a new one I'll be there.Bob
but really, i got here looking for sangha, primarily to sit with -- great sitting with jundo, but really would like to be sitting with others
Yes, who makes these thoughts but you?Originally Posted by Stephanie
Here is another "Zen Cliche":
Do you do much hiking in the mountains? Fresh air, green leaves (and the odd soda can or plastic bag scattered about)?
Do you need a "reason" for the hike? Is it a matter of where you are trying to go? Do you keep moving forward, even as it is step by step by step?
Is that not a perfectly fine way to walk through the woods, and live all of life?
Do you need to judge the trees "good tree" and "bad tree"? Do you need to judge the leaves the same way, as somehow fulfilling or deficient in their "leaf-ness"? Does a small rock think of itself "there is something wrong with me compared to the giant boulders"?
Can you even learn to see the soda cans and plastic garbage in the same way (even, hopefully, as you pick some of it up!)
Can you learn to see yourself without judgment, as just walking this walk?
Might you (dream of all dreams) see the trees, leaves, you, the plastic and pop cans too ... as just the "walking", nature naturing and pop cans popping?
GET REAL! TAKE A HIKE IN THE WOODS! This is why Zen poets have always learned from the mountains.
I honestly don't know why I need a reason. Or feel like I need one. Why do I find life so lacking? I just don't know.
No mountains nearby, but I do enjoy a nice midnight hike across the Brooklyn Bridge. Perhaps I should do that more often.
And I agree, that my thoughts often cause me problems. Sometimes they bring me joy. Sometimes they get me in trouble.
You're right too that I can be too quick to dismiss what others offer. But the malaise is deeper than thought. Sometimes, the more I sit, the more I let go, the deeper and stronger the despair hits. It hits in the pit of the stomach, like when you lurch to a stop in a car. I drown the thoughts out sometimes with music, but the bleak feeling persists. I let them go sometimes, on the train, on a park bench, in moments of silence, and the result isn't peace, but terror or melancholy. Sometimes the thoughts are the only companions in the darkness. Sometimes they are like black clouds in front of the sun, but sometimes they are like little silver fish, flashing through the murky depths of the ocean.
Underneath it all, I am frightened and alone, no matter what I'm thinking or who I'm with. I'm not doing myself any favors by exposing myself repeatedly to other people's traumas, but this is where fate has brought me.
It's not that I think you don't understand at all, or don't offer any good advice. It's just that it's not as easy as you make it sound. Sometimes sitting makes it worse. Sometimes the terror is silent.
Is this mental illness? Maybe. I need to sort that out.
Sorry, Steph. I just have more cliches ... and you are right that cliches only go so far.Originally Posted by Stephanie
I will tell you to drop all thought of "lack" or "fulfill", and thereby, all is Fulfilled (big "F") from the start, nothing lacking. I will tell you to stop pushing the despair away, and just accept that too ... as-it-is. I will tell you to drop all thought of "alone" and separation ... and of a "self" that thinks it can ever be alone.
But you are 1000% right that, unless you really feel these things in your gut, and come to truly believe them there, they are just words. Useless baloney.
As we have spoken about before, Steph, our Practice is sometimes not enough ... it does not cure every human ill. It will not cure your acne, fix a flat tire, cure cancer or even every psychological trauma and condition (it will sometimes only change how we experience all those things ... we can "be one" with our flat tire, cancer ... even depression). Sometimes anti-depressants, for example, or counseling are needed to get at something that will not budge. Some junk in our heads needs a little help to get pushed into the trash. Please pursue all available roads, neglect none.
But at the same time, please have TOTAL TRUST in what I am telling you about the root cause of suffering, about how you write much of the script mentally for the bit of theatre that you make your life, about how it is your judgements and ideas. Folks think, for example, "life is pointless, life is bleak" as opposed to "My 'self' is temporarily experiencing mentally dreamed feelings of 'pointless' and 'bleak' that are not how reality truly need be experienced". It is not "life stinks". Life is life, and we put the stink on!
Have faith in that, even if you cannot get it down into your "gut" yet.
Sorry I can't be more help, and sorry if Zen practice can only help to a point.
You do help, Jundo. It's just that you can't fix my mess for me. I don't expect you to. Don't take my arguing with you as a denial or dismissal of you or what you have to say.
Your kindness helps, your patience helps, your suggestions help. Having dialogue and arguing with you helps. So it is too with all of the other folks in the sangha.
It's just that I've got a big ol' demon on my back and I'm coming to you and the sangha with something a little more potent than a mild curiosity about spiritual matters. I could give you the full background of my psychic drama but I talk too much about my crap here as it is.
I'm recognizing that to have demons is not necessarily an undesirable thing. You can work with that condition, and that's what I'm trying to learn. I don't want the same things as a lot of other people, but that's okay. I don't have to fight it, I don't have to force an "answer." That is the balance I personally am looking for, not to fight the fire in me and try to put it out, but not to let it destroy me either.
Ha, that's pretty funny Steph . . . maybe balanced is jut the new black. It might be a bit of a stretch to call it the new enlightenment. Who the hell knows what that it?Is "balanced" the new "enlightened"? - Stephanie
Enlightenment - by Van Morrison
Chop that wood
What's the sound of one hand clapping
Enlightenment, don't know what it is
Every second, every minute
It keeps changing to something different
Enlightenment, don't know what it is
Enlightenment, don't know what it is
It says it's non attachment
Non attachment. non attachment
I'm in the here and now, and I'm meditating
And still I'm suffering but that's my problem
Enlightenment, don't know what it is
Enlightenment says the world is nothing
Nothing but a dream, everything's an illusion
And nothing is real
Good or bad baby
You can change it anyway you want
You can rearrange it
Enlightenment, don't know what it is
Chop that wood
And carry water
What's the sound of one hand clapping
Enlightenment, don't know what it is
All around baby. you can see
You're making your own reality. everyday because
Enlightenment, don't know what it is.
It's okay that you have demons, Stephanie. In fact, instead of trying to get rid of them, invite them to the dinner table and listen to what they are saying. For me, half the job has just been listening to what my 'demons' are saying.
If you find life lacking, I again paraphrase Lin Chi: "What at this very moment is missing?" The whole universe is right 'here'. Nothing's missing. Nothing COULD be missing. If you have a deep and direct experience of that, it will go a long way toward shattering your suffering.
In my experience, therapy helped me a whole lot in sorting out my borderline stuff. 'Love' is a very painful endeavor for a Borderline, yet I just came out of a long relationship with only a relatively 'mild' state of emptiness. I don't have the words 'No one will ever love you' on auto-repeat in my head, I haven't been reduced to suicide threats or rocking, sobbing incoherence and unmoveable shame. These are things I thought I'd always live with, and yet, they are no longer with me. I attribute this to therapy and the great deal of work this last relationship prompted me to undertake.
Have you ever had a good therapist? They are typically expensive (mine reduced his rates for me), but often worth it. Zen and therapy are not the same, but your unflinching honesty gained on the cushion can only help you on the couch.
A Blessing for One Who is Exhausted
by John O'Donohue
When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like an endless, increasing weight,
The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become laborsome events of will.
Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.
The ride you never valued has gone out.
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life.
You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken for the race of days.
At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.
You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.
Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.
Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.
Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.
Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.
Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.
Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.
john o'donohue, anam cara, right? -- love the book
will see you, will --
steph, you sound stuck in the middle place, maybe? -- not the beginner's mind -- my daughter is there sometimes -- she is very sensitive, fortunately, and intelligent, surely like you in that way -- but having enough practice to experience emptiness, and to not be able to fall back on the bullshit coping mechanisms(can't fake it), but not a strong enough practice to get beyond the emptiness -- i hear what you say, but i still think, practice mucho -- and help others, as you already do -- oh, and though its not zen, try metta -- i assume you know how, if not, let me know, easy exercise, cause if you feel this bad, you are not loving you -- due to the tremendous conditioning we get, depending on our past, i don't see anything wrong with a little metta to jumpstart the process -- even doing the metta exercise once will help "diagnose" what's up -- for example, "may ( )be well, may ( )live happily" , starting with someone you love, to someone neutral, to someone you hate( like hitler) -- and somewhere in there, you -- often helps to imagine them as a child(had to do that for my abusive mom) -- and if like me, you can't do it for you, that's a dead giveaway of the core of the problem, no? -- the key here is that this is actually all you, in your many forms, and any one you're rejecting, is like rejecting your little toe, or whatever
i know this sounds hokey, but i'm not into hokey, and this does work -- and then, at the appropriate point, you let the exercise go -- but at this point, i think you could afford to indulge yourself
I agree with Chet, Steph. It is easier to befriend your demons than to fight them. Speaking for myself, the more I fought my demons the tighter we held on to each other. I have learned that can't beat my demons. At most, I can sometimes hold them down. But once I learned how to identify them and then get to truly know them on an intimate* level, then give them love/metta (or whatever they need), then they finally settle down and leave me alone, at least for the most part - as I am certainly not demon-free (who is?). There are techniques to befriending demons, but in the end all the techniques are really doing is the same as in zazen, helping you to Let Them Go. Easy to do this? Not at all. Worth the effort? Up to you to decide.
*You already know what the thoughts are like, but what do your demons look, feel, taste, sound, and smell like?
It's from "To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings"Originally Posted by roky
john, do you know his book, "anam cara-- a book of celtic wisdom"? -- a beautiful book, from a great writer
You guys rock. And I'm not just saying that to be nice. A lot of useful things you've posted here.
Chet--you're dead on the money with the therapy recommendation. I've been wanting to see a therapist for months now, and hopefully will be able to make it happen within the next few months. I know I need it. To sort some things out and clarify some things, at the very least. It was partly what I discovered in the social work program I'm in and partly the encouragement of folks here at Treeleaf that convinced me that this is something I need to do.
And believe it or not, I've had the very experience you describe, and multiple times at that. But somehow it doesn't seem to stick. That wonderfully liberating feeling of fullness, of totality, that nothing more is needed, eventually gives way to the dead opposite, a kind of shadow of that experience, of bone-crushing emptiness (and I don't mean the word in the "Zen sense," but the "black hole" sort of sense). Has anyone here read any Emil Cioran? He absolutely does the best job of nailing down that experience in writing of any writer I know. Anyway... I read what I write now and I see that subtext of "bipolar" there. My whole spiritual life has been like that--really high highs and really low lows, ad nauseum.
And yes, I think the best tool practice has given me, at least of late, is the ability to have moments where I'm recognizing that I'm adding something extra by fighting or resisting whatever is going on. When I can stop doing that, when I can listen to the demons instead of fight them, most of the psychic distress of the experience actually drains away. It becomes interesting, instead of terrible. And then the humor can come in too.
John--thank you for that beautiful poem. Very apt.
Bob--thank you for that eloquent distillation of the inner geography of my current location. It's encouraging to think of it as the "middle place." I think part of my difficulty has been adding onto the dark moods with the depressive attitude that this is it, this is the ultimate, this is how it really is and is always going to be. When I know from my past experience how many times I've thought such things and haven't had the faintest clue how far from "it" I actually was.
You're dead on with the pointer that all this rejection points to a rejection of myself on some level. The self-loathing thing can run really deep, and when I can catch it, when I can see that one of the fundamental things is an inability to let myself enjoy what I enjoy, and that this is coming from within me rather than being some cosmic truth, it's a huge relief. Metta certainly helps.
Alan--more excellent advice. In the moment, it's so easy to forget that fighting isn't the only option. Your way is much more expansive and interesting.
How fast does the 'flipping' happen? Do you feel intrinsically 'empty'? Like you have no center? Do you/have you cut yourself? Threatened suicide? Do you sometimes feel like you were 'put together wrong' or that you're intrinsically deficient or missing some special 'part' that everyone else has? Do you dread beginning relationship or friendships because you know that your behavior will drive people away?
i dont know what was your original posting but take care in there. Trust with your heart fully on practice, Metta!
this is nothing new in here but..
As all things are buddha-dharma, there is delusion and realization, practice, and birth and death, and there are buddhas and sentient beings.
As the myriad things are without an abiding self, there is no delusion, no realization, no buddha, no sentient being, no birth and death.
The buddha way is, basically, leaping clear of the many and the one; thus there are birth and death, delusion and realization, sentient beings and buddhas.
Yet in attachment blossoms fall, and in aversion weeds spread.
Yes Bob, I ordered the book after I came back from retreat last week, after hearing a talk in which one of his poems were mentioned, one that I liked very much. John O'Donoghue died earlier this year, unfortunately. http://www.jodonohue.com/Originally Posted by roky
You might find this strange, but I would have found it very difficult to read poetry written by a Catholic priest until recently. My Protestant Belfast upbringing left me with an antipathy to anything Celtic that has taken a few years to overcome. Practising meditation in a Catholic retreat centre with Catholics has helped to remove most of my Protestant bigotry, though,
No cutting, suicidal threats or attempts, not really even any mildly self-destructive behavior (I told you I was too boring to be borderline). It's not a rapid shift but a slow descent and it's only when I'm in the dark place that I realize it's happened. People who don't know me well might not even know it's going on. One relative told me she knows when I'm in a darker mood because I simply "disappear" for a while. Don't call as much, if at all. I seek out solitude to the extent I can. Not because I feel there's something bad in me I must keep away from other people, but because I don't want to bother with people and their drama and bullshit and need, I want them to leave me alone.Originally Posted by disastermouse
There's a feeling of emptiness but I don't experience it as me being "empty" relative to others, but as everything being empty, a pointless farce. My life, but also everyone else's. I imagine that everyone knows they're faking it because they can't possibly see there being a point either, unless they are just stupid, in which case, good for them, I pray they maintain their innocence. Everyone else is living in bad faith. The song "It's A Wonderful World" wrecks me because I hear it as coming from this desperate hope that all these little things really are wonderful, that they somehow redeem the absurdity of our condition. But they don't.
I still feel compassion for people who are suffering--I can still feel some things--but I know that ultimately there's nothing beyond human sentiment that gives meaning to their suffering. God doesn't care about them, and even if I do, there is only so much I can do for them, if anything. My suffering is like this too. Except I take pains not to let people see it (everywhere but here, that is), as I know that so many people who try to reach out to you are doing it in an ego-centered way in which they're doing it to try to illustrate some point to you or to themselves. I find this nasty and it provokes a sadistic response in me.
I don't do things to provoke a rescuing response in others. For me to do so would be cruel because I do not believe I, or anyone else, can be "rescued" from certain things. Sure, you can be rescued from a knife-wielding attacker, or certain messes you get yourself into. But you can't be rescued from the absurd. I find gestures of kindness endearing, but there is also a tragedy to them in that they are swallowed up by the nothingness of the universe. Someone being nice to me makes me smile, but it doesn't alleviate the despair. Sometimes it intensifies it.
I certainly have self-loathing issues but I do not find them to be the cause or main concern of the despair. At times, I may not feel that I am very good, but then most people aren't either. My main issue is that life seems not to be very good. Not in the sense of "not good" relative to some imaginable "good" life could be if only x, y, and z. But in the sense that it's just a whole lot of "sound and fury, signifying nothing."
But I take pains to tell you that seeing this futility of life does not make me feel suicidal. The act of suicide would be as absurd as the act of living.
I've had similar thoughts...particularly after putting all my energy and committment into something, then realizing that even if accomplished it will mean nothing in the long run...everything just gone and forgotten. Imagine some people in science...spending fifty years working on a theory, only to have it undone overnight by some up-and-coming grad student. Or reading cosmology...the thought of rocks and space matter and non-sentient processes, all just happening without any reason or ultimate origin, and once we're gone no one to observe it. Frightening!Originally Posted by Stephanie
Consciousness itself is a form of "bad faith" in a sense, a huge consensual illusion playing out in our brains. But then again, what's bad about that? It's just the way we've evolved; values (good, bad) are part of meaning systems generated by us, so therefore a part of the same farce we are attempting to critique. For better or worse, humans rely on fictions of sorts -- religious, poetic, ideological -- for needs that cannot be addressed through logic and reason. Sometimes I think that the Shin Buddhists are the smartest -- they acknowledge, basicially, that their whole narrative is just an "expedient". In the end, what isn't?
When I get drawn into existential angst I think a little bit about how the rest of the globe gets through the day...people who work terrible grueling jobs for a living, who barely have time for a cigarette break, let alone time to worry about the Big Picture. Am I wiser than them? Nah. Just more privileged.
What you described sounds like it's probably chemical....just based on the way that you describe it. Do you get tired during these times as well?Originally Posted by Stephanie
*I'm not a psychologist or psychiatrist*
No doubt that some, if not much, of this is coming from psychological issues. Now whether it is from pure neurobiology, purely a "chemical" thing, or whether it comes out of my childhood conditioning (emotionally unreliable / unavailable parents = an internal "object world" devoid of reliable objects; me being the emotional caretaker instead of caretakee = difficulty believing others can or will meet my needs, etc.), I don't know. But as people advised me here a while back, I certainly believe at the very least I need to see a therapist and hash this out, sort out how deeply rooted my spiritual / philosophical questions are rooted in personal psych issues.
But yes, as to the chemical / physical side: things that run in my family include depression, bipolar, eccentric and socially non-normative behavior, suicide, alcoholism, and violence. Superficially I come across as a pretty cheery person--people find me warm and approachable on average--but even when I'm feeling cheerful, there's always some sort of darkness there. I grew up in a house where depressive and angry behavior was common and tend to be more on the depressive side--low energy, etc. It's just how my mind is, and I don't mind. I don't need to be "fitter happier" etc., but I do feel this need to have a meaning for what I'm doing that transcends what I make up as I go along. Is this a displaced psychological need, or something "more"? Going to a therapist will certainly help me sort that out.
I appreciate your helping me think through this.
Steph,Originally Posted by Stephanie
I can only speak as someone who had depression for many years in my teens and twenties ... don't put seeing the therapist off. Do it this week. Why wait? There are always a million reasons and excuses to not do so. And if it does have a chemical or other physical component, as your family history seems to point to, be open to some anti-depressants or the like if the doctor advices (make sure it is a therapist who also offers that option in addition to talk therapy and the like). Pharmaceuticals are over-prescribed in this country, but on the other hand, very often they are truly helpful.
My depression lifted about 22 years ago. Same world, now seen in very different ways from the (it seemed at the time) hopeless, black hole I was in. Now its not rose colored glasses for sure, but neither is it seeing the world through shattered glass. More now like seeing the world just through good eye glasses.
Your Zazen and Zen practice can only help with all this, I think. But if there is a physiological or bio-chemical element in your family, that needs to be looked at too. Don't wait. Give it a try.
Ditto what Jundo says, but let me emphasize that prescriptions alone are NOT the answer. What's going on with you MAY be chemical in your brain, but it is also Outside your brain. Let me emphasize that the best way to go is BOTH prescriptions (if an expert says to take some) and talk therapy. I repeat, DO NOT do drugs without talk. And by all means, find a therapist you can talk to honestly and completely. It's sort of like Jundo describes zazen, if that person don't feel right, then he/she ain't right. This is not to say it won't be uncomfortable, because it will be. That's part of the process. But it needs to be a person you can share that discomfort with.
Good effort to you!!!
With all due respect for therapists (which tend to have a statistically significant presence in zen gatherings), I can make a humble suggestion: start with a board certified psychiatrist, preferably one with recommendations. A good old Serotonin reuptake inhibitor (or some other modern pharmaceutical) and some exercise have no parallel in improving depression and anxiety associated to depression. Not an opinion: scientific fact. Another scientific fact is that antidepressants don't work for everyone, but the sad stories of one or two or ten persons do not contradict the fact that most people do benefit. Furthermore, if one medicine fails, a different one or a different dose of the same may help.
Therapy may help, but it is not the first line of defense against depression. Again, my respects for the professionals that provide this line of treatment.
Now, beyond the hard scientific facts, and with a lot of fear of sounding sentencious or zennish, let me point something you know
I point at your need for meaning and transcendence like I tell somebody : "Hey dude, you're smoking". Useless attempt to help from a nosy guy, but please consider that my intentions are the best.I do feel this need to have a meaning for what I'm doing that transcends what I make up as I go along. Is this a displaced psychological need, or something "more"? Going to a therapist will certainly help me sort that out.
Hi Stephanie - I am sorry to hear about your continued struggle.
My two cents - I think Alberto's advice is sound. A psychiatrist will also check out to see if there are some other medical disorders which may becausing you dip in mood. A couple of years ago, just before I was diagnosed with cancer, I went through an extremely dark period in my life - I attribute that to my anaemia caused by the bleeding tumor (my heamaglobin was 7 on admission, and it should have been 14 - 16). So you might want a full blood work out just to rule out any other conditions
ps - thanks for the advice you gave Stephanie Jundo - I also found it equally pertinent
Shit! You guys are deep. Real too. (haha, with zen being the nature of reality and all that).
A deep gassho to u all.
My experience with psychiatrists is vastly different. Misdiagnosis and attempts at medicating the problem were the order of the day. For Sidd's sake, it was OBVIOUS I was cutting myself (teenage years) and one of them STILL tried to diagnose me with a subset of Bipolar Disorder (cyclothymia, I believe). Kudos to the one P-doc (my ADHD specialist) who recommended me to a psychologist - but even then, she recommended me to a behavioral shrink. She (psychologist, not P-doc) made the Borderline diagnosis but didn't want to tell me about it (WTF??).Originally Posted by Alberto
Years later, it was an old-fashioned Jungian talker who helped the most. As a matter of fact, if you're in the LA area, I can't recommend him highly enough.
In short, if you have childhood trauma, a psychiatrist will probably only help in tandem with a psychologist.
Also, I probably don't have to say this, but Stephanie - keep your attitude of skepticism if you dip into the world of psychiatrists and psychologists. I've seen several (about 6) and exactly 3 have actually been helpful at all and only 1 (one) has been truly worthwhile. Them's pretty sketchy numbers.
Psychiatrists are medical doctors, and thus typically not all that great with talk therapy. They can be great for psychotropic medication management, however. So, in tandem with a psychologist or licensed counselor would be my recommendation. And also exercise, which brings me to my next comment...
True, medication and exercise do work wonders, and there is no substitute for them. But sometimes they may just be masking deeper issues that need resolving. As such, there is also no substitute for some good old fashioned talk therapy for the stuff that exercise and psychotropics can't reach.