Monthly Archives: June 2008

a buddhist carnival – june 2008, part 2

temple of forgiveness at burning manhere, friends, is the second part of this month’s buddhist carnival. the first part is here. enjoy!

forgiveness
andrew, on his blog rants of a gay lunatic (i have to confess that such a title immediately makes me perk up my ears) does not directly mention buddhism in his article why we must forgive president george w. bush but i’d say it is exactly in line with buddhist thinking:

we are trying to change the world and re-create a great country. i have said that george w. bush has failed as president, and i have said that i forgive him. i will take that a step further and say, “thank you for trying.” i am convinced he did a better job than i could have done. i appreciate his ambition and bravery in accepting – indeed, pursuing – such a responsible position. i don’t envy that responsibility and i don’t envy bush’s lack of popularity. but i do appreciate his attempt, and i wish him well in his retirement.i hope that we will all be able to forgive president bush. not everyone can be a great president – or a great anything for that matter. but in order to create and re-create and continue to create a great and a good nation, we must move past our anger and move on to love, acceptance, and forgiveness.

self-expression, self-less expression
wayne always has something interesting to say, although one of these days i have to get around to asking him why his zen blog has become so insanely busy visually lately (or i guess i’m doing this right now). one of wayne’s interests is how we live in our bodies. this article, self-less expression, is part of that series:

the goal is not to figure out we have a body, only to “give it up,” and become all spiritual. it’s about accepting ourselves exactly and precisely as we are. and then, finding a way, or multiple ways, to be the totality of who we are.

simplicity
and here, from the tao of simplicity:

ever since i became interested in simplicity, minimalism, and the present moment, i have become more sensitive.

the most powerful number is zero! excess information causes paralysis and represses you!

i see that people (including me) have a tendency to take too many notes, hold onto too many emails and paperwork.

***

what else do we have? “glowing face man” wants to awaken the badass within (a worthy goal, wouldn’t you say?) and says “pause and look at the world around you: it will end in a moment.” the daily mind proposes that we meditate at work:

we spend most of our lives at work. some of us will have the same job we have now til the day we die and we will be there from nine til five every single day. if we do not use our work time carefully we will waste a significant portion of our existences doing something that we resent. the way to change that is with meditation.

and our friend anmol, who has also been seen here numerous times, shares his experience with raising enlightened children:

the one thing that children need, is your simple, unadulterated egoless presence and attention. it is the most important thing for them to have, and is the key to providing them the right atmosphere to grow freely and fully. here are some important highlights of what this translates into.

other submissions included

and that’s it for now. the next edition will come out on july 15, 2008. remember, if you have an article about buddhism you would like to see featured here, please use this submission form. also, if you’d like to host a buddhist carnival, talk to me!

(image of temple of forgiveness at burning man by almost jaded)

quickie: inspiration

to my fellow bloggers who like to write about inspiration: one of my blogging buddies, damien at postcards from the funny farm, has a group writing/writing contest project called amazing visions.

it closes on july 1 (extended deadline) and here is what it’s about

can you think of someone you admire? maybe it’s for their brain? their personality? maybe they are as big as walt disney or as ordinary as your dad. i love reading stories of people who use their common brain and inspiration to do amazing things. i’m holding a contest for your articles on that type of person. i think the posts are going to be revolutionary and inspiring to all who read them. here’s the details:

publish a 200-400 word post on your blog. if you like you can get some ideas what i am thinking of in my archived series: “amazing visions.” but please, be as different from me as you can be. in the post you need to link back to this permalink, or this blog’s root url. there will be 2 big winners and 3 honorable mentions. the 2 will get box ads to their blogs for a month free of charge along with optional custom-made 125×125 glass buttons courtesy of our design company, create and innovate designs. each will also receive a thoughtful writeup about their blog linked back from here in a post.

since i think this is a great project, i want to invite you all to participate. to prime the pump a bit, i’m specifically inviting

  1. alexander
  2. be playful
  3. cheerful monk
  4. elizabeth potts-weinstein
  5. fight for justice
  6. hootin’ annie
  7. vivien at inspirationbit
  8. jeff
  9. ken nubo
  10. lives less ordinary
  11. middlezone musings
  12. nicaragua picture of the day
  13. nickie
  14. reiki digest
  15. shy one
  16. the lives and times
  17. weightloss dude

creativity: a way out of depression?

john over at storied mind writing and depressionhas taken up the thread of the discussion on creativity that i started a while ago with Psyblog and, creative person that he is, is talking about it in connection with depression. let me add a bit to that discussion.

first of all, i’d like to say that if someone put a gun to my head and forced me to label myself, i would say “artist”. if i don’t get to play with language and ideas, if i don’t get to dance once in a while and gorge my eyes on beautiful images – well, i don’t know what would happen because i never let it get to that point.

my work as a counsellor, too, is in my eyes an act of creativity. together, my client and i collaborate on seeing their lives as a work of art and on creating experiences, actions, attitudes and thoughts that help them live better lives and through that, ultimately help others around them create more goodness as well.

also, i have experienced depression from a number of different angles, including myself. just establishing my “authority” here : )

in reading over john’s article, what i was thinking was that at least in some situations, creativity doesn’t so much chase depression away but can help us experience it in a different light.

years ago, when i was doing a lot of work in the area of chronic pain, a friend asked me, “so – are you including depression in your research, too?” he saw depression as chronic emotional pain.

i think there is a lot of truth in this. and just as we can experience pain in many different ways, perhaps we can experience depression in different ways.

for me personally, the worst part of depression is a significant change in e-motion – in my inner movement, as well as in the actions that are influenced by that movement. when in a depression, the decision of whether to wear black or white socks is overwhelming because my decision-making apparatus has slowed down to a tired old snail’s pace. leaving the house, if i manage it, can take two hours because putting on a coat and finding my keys present almost impossible-to-overcome obstacles. fright or flight don’t work anymore – there’s only freeze.

the urge to create can be one of the few e-motions, or motivating drives, to get me moving again. that’s where depression can become qualitatively different. the pain is still there but its place inside of me and its colour and texture change. if i follow the creative urge and find words to describe the depression, things start to move, and a bit of momentum builds up. it may not last long, but the depth of the creative experience helps me remember that there was movement, not just way back when, when i wasn’t in that black cloud, but just a few hours ago. that helps me put the depression in perspective, can remind me that depression is an experience, it’s not me, it’s not my master, it’s “just”pain, and i know i am not pain.

in those moments, i can sometimes be grateful for the depression for giving me creative impetus.

john asks,

there is something about creating … that draws out a force within me that dissolves depression. what is that? can i package some and pull it off the shelf when i need it?

in my experience, creating does not dissolve depression, it changes it for the better, it changes it for the different. what creating helps me “pull off the shelf” is the realization that depression is not my master.

(image by nicasaurusrex)

a review-me post: health insurance

swimming in money
as you’ve seen, i’ve started experimenting with monetizing this blog. (it’s all fellow vancouverite john chow’s fault). part of this experimentation is with “review me” paid reviews. so let me disclose up front that i’m getting paid a whopping $10 to write this (it’s my first review; it might take me a month or 40 to get up to john chow’s $500 per post!). that’s two lattes at starbucks, or, if you live in africa, a mosquito net or two, which can save your life.

talking about which – this review is about eHealthHelp.com and affordable health insurance. this is how they introduce themselves:

eHealthHelp was created to assist you in understanding how your health care plan works. we are committed to helping you get the most effective and efficient use of your health care coverage. we have worked for over 25 years with insurance, managed care, and provider organizations in addition to working with consumers of health care services.

EHH does not recommend any one particular healthcare provider, broker, or supplier. the purpose of this site is to provide the consumer with basic knowledge and some useful organizational aids.

EHH answers questions such as

* who regulates health care plans in california?
* i’m a member of a managed care plan and my doctor said i need a referral. it’s been two or three weeks and “nobody has approved it” yet? what do i do??
* what does it mean if my health plan has been accredited by NCQA? why is accreditation or certification important?
* i have heard many of the following terms and wonder what they mean: clinical criteria, practice guidelines, treatment protocols, clinical practice guidelines, and utilization management (um) review criteria?
* what are member rights and responsibilities?
* what do i do in an emergency?
* how do i know if it is an emergency that will be covered by my health care coverage?
* as a self employed small business owner, how can i get healthcare coverage?

generally, this seems like an interesting site; if i were living in the US (i’m in canada), i’d probably want to know about these things and would appreciate all the other information they provide (e.g. they have a list of articles, quite a few of them about obama vs. mccain regarding health insurance). however, i wonder, who’s behind this site? i couldn’t find anything about that. so maybe they could improve their “about” page. whose interests are being served? the three insurance companies on their landing page? it would also be nice if there was a search function on the site.

and of course, as a mental health professional, i’d like to know how helpful this site can be for people with mental health issues, particularly for people with mood disorders such as depression or bipolar disorder, people with eating disorders such as anorexia, and people with chronic pain. i sent an email to the address in the “contact me” area but unfortunately it came back as undeliverable.

(image by lanuiop)

a buddhist carnival on father’s day

laughing, imperfect buddhahello friends, and thanks for visiting this month’s buddhist carnival!

before we start, i want to say:

happy father’s day!

and i want to tell you a bit about my father, who passed away 12 years ago. it was my father who awakened my interest in buddhism. buddhism was a philosophy that suited my father well. when i think of him, the first emotional images that arise are of a calm but passionate man, who was intimately aware of the nature of illusion, and who was infinitely compassionate yet unentangled with other people’s suffering. he also had an all-encompassing sense of humour that often seemed to hold the whole world’s vast absurdity in his loving, warm hands. yes, he talked about buddhism here and there, but more than that, he was an example of it. i don’t think i ever heard him use a phrase like “living in the moment” but even in his darkest days (and there were many!) there was always a sense of presence about him; perhaps he often did not live in the moment but he was frequently aware of it, and it showed.

it is interesting that this immediate recall i have of him is always much louder and more intense than the other stuff: like many “gurus” (a very charismatic man, he was a strong influence on those around him, most of them fellow artists), he was fallible in countless ways. he was manipulative and had that impossible sense of entitlement so typical of the european aristocracy that had survived the upheavals of history anything but intact. this man was also addicted to just about anything that caught his fancy, and struggling, for his life many times, with bipolar disorder.

and yet, as i paint this all-round picture, these all-too-apparent shortcomings serve nothing but to enrich the image of my father that i carry in my heart.

i am deeply grateful that i can say “yes” to all that my father was. that, too, comes from him: this fierce doctrine of inclusion and acceptance.

thank you, father. or let me talk to him directly, in german:

pappi, danke fuer all die geschenke, mit denen du mich ueberhaeuft hast. danke, dass du mir den buddha geschenkt has.

***
and now: let’s move on to the carnival:

the essence of the sutra is a poem
i really like opening this carnival with a poem. in this post, the sutra on knowing the better way to live alone – thich nhat hanh we hear

the essence of the sutra is a poem. the buddha wrote poems, but the poems of the buddha were more designed to show us how to practice. the gatha which talks about the art of living alone is called the bhaddekaratta gatha, bhaddekaratta means “the best way to live alone.” many people have mistranslated this title: one master translated it as “practicing for one night.” there’s also another master who translated this title as “being present.” the correct translation is to say “the better way to practice living alone.” this poem says:

do not pursue the past.
do not lose yourself in the future.
the past no longer is.
the future has not yet come.
looking deeply at life as it is
in the very here and now,
the practitioner dwells
in stability and freedom.

all of the essence of the buddha’s teachings lies in these words.

loss
next, a post on loss by our friend chris, the martial artist, who has been a welcome guest here on this carnival quite a few times already. he talks about a topic that i have been thinking about lately, so i was happy to hear more about it. it is called investing in loss, investing in ego

the hero’s journey starts with self-reinforcement, passes through acceptance and internal quietude, to arrive at listening, learning and perhaps, ultimately, transcendence. this is the common path of spirituality and martial arts. to win, one must first be sincerely willing to lose more than just their footing.

as often, i am presenting this carnival in two parts. i find it contradictory to praise the simplicity of buddhism and then at the same time flood you with even more words than i usually do.

the second part will come out in the next few days, some time before june 20.

in the meantime, if you have an article about buddhism you would like to see featured here, please use this submission form.

and don’t forget

do not pursue the past.
do not lose yourself in the future.

in gassho,

isabella

(image by T a k

mental health, cancer and art

this is my first peopleized interview. peopleized is a site where you can find people to interview, offer yourself for interviews, and post interviews, which are then available for anyone to use. neat concept. [update on september 2009: that site doesn’t seem to alive anymore]

it’s friday, so of course this is a frozen pea friday post – a post about cancer. got a few pennies to share? why don’t you donate them to the frozen pea fund, here, where you can also find out what the dickens frozen peas have to do with breast cancer.

today we have an interview with addy, who, he says, is a little crazy, a little kinky, and suffers from bipolar type 1, depression and self harm. “they are illnesses i suffer from and are not a reflection of my personality. i’m tired of the stigma surrounding mental health, it’s time we gave it a damn good spanking.”

moritherapy: addy, i just spent a little time on your blog and saw that we have a few interests in common: fighting mental illness stigma, making depression visible, art, talking about cancer, and generally being a bit, how should i say – eccentric. tell me, for you, are there any connections between these topics?

addy:: eccentric, wow! i don’t think anyone has ever called me eccentric before. i’ve been called pretty much everything under the sun, but eccentric. i feel quite honoured.

is there a connection? who knows, i’ve never actually thought about any connections between all the things which make me who i am. i do however think that there are a lot of connections between who we are and what we’ve been through.

i have seen some very dark places in my life, more darker than i would wish on anyone i care about, and i think it’s having the strength to fight through those dark caves and chasms which has made me into the person i am.

moritherapy: how did/do you deal with the impacts of cancer on your mental/emotional health?

addy:: with a huge amount of difficulty.

i had spent a lot of time and energy over the months leading up to this diagnosis in trying to control and overcome my mental health problems that i actually truly felt i had them beat. at the time i was also suffering from glandular fever so my physical energy, as well as mental and emotional state, was at an all time low.

then being dealt the blow that i had cancer absolutely 100% knocked me for six. my initial reaction was disbelief, denial, confusion, and that whole other gauntlet of emotions which comes from such a shock. i didn’t know what to do, who to tell, how to deal with it at all.

i made the decision to tell my then girlfriend who just wouldn’t listen, and as i’ve explained on the blog, being broken up with by her so soon after this shock – and whilst i was having various tests and biopsies performed – had a cataclysmic effect on my mental health.

(the breakdown i suffered i am still dealing with today.)

in terms of how i deal with the impact in an ongoing sense, i just don’t think about it. simple as that. i don’t even really talk about it to anyone; because of what happened when i discovered i had cancer i find myself unable to talk to or ask for help from anyone in regards to this, or any, part of my life.

i have tests, feel like shit, go in/out of doctor’s surgeries and hospitals, hide bits and pieces of information.

i know this will most likely kill me, but because i’ve been dealing with it – and everything – by myself for so long, the only way i’ve been able to cope with it is to go it alone.

i guess i’ve learned from my experiences in life that ultimately this is what we have to do.

moritherapy: … and conversely, how does/did your emotional and mental health state relate to having cancer?

addy:: pre-breakdown i actually felt i was dealing with the cancer pretty well, in fact i’d be willing to say few people suspected there was anything so serious wrong with me.

post-breakdown i just haven’t been coping. with everything that is happening i just haven’t been able to focus any strength or energy on this part of my life, which creates a myriad of problems in fighting and dealing with the physical ramifications of such an illness.

the emotional/mental state i have been in since the breakdown has made it hard for me to fight the physical aspects of my life, as i just can’t summon the energy. it’s just a huge drain on my energy both physically and mentally.

moritherapy: : what place do art and creativity have in your life? does this place have anything to do with cancer or mental health?

addy:: art and creativity have, since a young age, played a huge huge huge part in my life.

ever since i was a bouncing baby i remember drawing and craving new colourful pens and pencils.

i remember sitting in front of the tv writing stories, new indiana jones adventures and long rambling stories about all sorts of things.

this is what i love, this is what i’m most passionate about. my creativity, my ability to manufacture whole words, languages, people, cities with my writing. or my ability to capture still, peaceful resonant beauty with my photography.

this is all intricately linked to my mental and physical health problems. i struggle when i’m emotionally wrecked to write anything, a factor which ultimately led to the loss of my college course (as it came at a time when i was struggling with the huge emotional whack of cancer, loss of important relationship, glandular fever and mental health collapse).

depression stifles my creativity, and yet things like self-harm help bring it out. whereas if i’m manic or brimming with hypermanic energy i can’t stop writing, drawing, scribbling and creating.

i still haven’t quite figured it all out, but like i mentioned earlier, everything is connected. so there is definitely a link between my creativity and cancer/mental health problems.

then of course there is the obvious “escape hatch” theory; when dealing with so much don’t we all just want to run away into a fantasy world where everything is perfect?

moritherapy: do you find people with cancer are generally seen or treated differently than people who are dealing with mental health issues? if so, how?

addy:: see, now having both, this is interesting because i’ve experienced both the obvious differences and obvious similarities with how people treat me.

the obvious similarity is that regarding both health issues few people ever – and i mean ever – ask any questions about them. they know of them, but i’m very rarely asked any direct questions about either the cancer or mental health issues. they just hang in the air never being raised or discussed. as if people are scared of them.

the difference comes with the reaction. when people find out you have cancer it’s all sympathay and words of support and ‘is there anything we can do to help?’…but with mental health issues, with the depression, self harm, bipolar and suicidal issues it’s all ‘your own fault’ or ‘you’re just weak’ or ‘sorry, can’t have anything to do with you because those illnesses are contagious’ and you never see or her from those people again.

it’s funny, the stigmas surrounding cancer and all those myths from the 70s and 80s are now surrounding mental health issues. just cause i suffer from depression, self harm, bipolar etc doesn’t mean you’re going to get them – they’re not contagious – and it’s this stigma which annoys the hell out of me.

there’s a lot wrong with me both physically and mentally; and that’s all people see. they see the depression or the bipolar or the cancer. they never see me for who i am, and i like to think i’m more than that.

moritherapy: would you like to add anything?

addy:: i think i’ve rambled a bit too much, don’t you. then again there’s so much that should be spoken about more openly both with cancer and mental health issues that i urge people to think more about their health; both physically and mentally. think about their friends and family. think what you can do to help. although i say i go it alone i wouldn’t reccommend this to anyone else because loneliness is a huge strain. find help, find support, find love and care. this is a hugely undervalued form of medication…and hey, feel free to drop by the blog to get to know me – the me beyond the mental and physical illnesses. this is the best therapy of all, because we are all, above whatever we go through, people with thoughts, feelings and emotions.