Monthly Archives: February 2009

february buddhist carnival – on mental health

a laughing buddhist nunfor this month’s buddhist carnival, i’d like to focus on buddhist approaches to mental health issues. this is partly in preparation for coping digitally, a panel discussion about mental illness and social media that i’ll be part of at this year’s northern voice blogging conference here in vancouver this coming friday and saturday (february 20 and 21). airdrie came up with this fabulous idea; the other person who will participate is tod maffin. i’ll be talking more about this conference tomorrow.

we always start this carnival with a poem. today i’ll open it with one of my haiku:

feeling rising when
i see the kitchen: messy.
oh, hello anger!

and here are the blog entries. i’ll present them in two parts; overwhelming people with information is not the buddhist way …

meditation and medication

the buddhist blog talks about the need for both meditation and medication.

as many of you know i have been living with schizoaffective disorder for most of my life and have found great refuge, relief of symptoms and calm from buddhism and meditation in particular … i notice that the more i meditate the easier it is to deal with my condition. yet meditation alone isn’t enough in my situation because despite meditating i still am debilitated by disabling symptoms such as paranoia, hallucinations, delusions (psychiatric delusions such as being convinced that you are the most horrible person on earth), mood swings and chronic depression. thus i have found medications help fill the void and basically keep me alive because my depressive episodes easily lead to suicidal thoughts.

buddhism and borderline disorder

the american buddhist muses on how buddhist approaches may be helpful for people with borderline personality disorder. he goes through the dsm-iv criteria for this condition and suggests the use of specific buddhist concepts for each of them. it’s a bit simplistic – as a counsellor, i certainly wouldn’t suggest to a person battling with a fear of abandonment to meditate on impermanence right off the bat – but the ideas are nevertheless interesting. for example

the problem of splitting, or seeing others in the extremes of idealization and devaluation (as “all-good” or “all bad”), is a matter of delusion, failing to see the enormous grey area that we all inhabit. perhaps a meditation on the qualities of a candle can help. begin by seeing the positive qualities: light, warmth, dance. but acknowledge also that it may burn us, that it will not last forever, and that it is certainly limited in its power to please us. through this we learn a gentle acceptance, even appreciation, of the candle. people are the same. they may be the light of our life, or they may badly burn us – or both at different times.

will buddhism drive you crazy?

kyle takes up the fear by some people that delving into buddhism can drive you to the brink of insanity, and right over it.

i have heard so many different misguided opinions about how buddhism is ‘dangerous’ and can cause ‘psychosis’ and even ‘permanent mental illness’. i have heard leaders and the priestly class of other religions say this, i have heard psychiatrists say this and even some historians. they claim that the kamikaze pilots in world war two shows how twisted buddhism can make one become. some psychiatrists will point to patients having psychotic breaks sometimes needing hospitalization and even having permanent mental issues caused by practicing some form of buddhist meditation.

kyle’s conclusion is that it’s important to have a teacher. generally, i’d agree with it, except that the teacher has to know what she or he is doing. i’ve had a few experiences with another approach – kundalini yoga – where the teacher actually denied that anything out of the ordinary could happen, which was contrary to my own experience. that felt pretty crazy-making for a while!

go on to part 2.

image by poorfish

valentine’s day, yes and no

man and woman embracingcontrary to some ideas that have been floating around that valentine’s day is an invention of hallmark’s, valentine’s day has been around for a long time.  valentine’s day is a day of fertility, of the first stirrings of spring rising up, the seeds waking up, ready to sprout with the first warmth of the sun. it’s fertility for humans, too – and what is that all about? this fertility and love get lumped together – and why? is that what love is all about? in my (sometimes) wise old age i can’t say anymore that love is about romantic love, or at least the official version of romantic love: alex meets chris, they spark, their bodies and hearts yearn for each other, and the cumulation of it is a french kiss under the moonlight.

(sidebar: there is a theory that romantic love is an invention of the western medieval world. i am not a social historian but i find that difficult to believe. perhaps the way the stories of romantic love are told is a relatively new invention but it seems ludicrous to me to assert that the stirring of hormones did not produce romance, or something like it, among couples the world over since time immemorial. just look at the bible, the gilgamesh epic or the bhagavad gita.)

so if we look beyond that, what do we find? one thing that valentine’s day as a fertility rite makes me think of is the attraction of opposites that brings forth new life.

there is the obvious of man and woman coming together to create a child.

what else is there?

a pair of opposites i’ve been musing about lately is “yes” and “no”. if we use traditional symbology, we could see “yes” as the female principle and “no” as the male.

what happens when yes and no come together?

for one thing, they balance each other out. “yes” only is without boundaries: the mother – all-loving but also devouring; all-allowing but also surrendering to the point of obliteration.

“no” only is hard, small and single-minded: the father – guiding but also all-demanding; all-protecting but also exclusively jealous. (and yes, i am aware how limited these descriptions are; there are many more layers.)

what else happens when “yes” and “no” come together? what child might they bring forth? the nodding, embracing, resplendently smiling “yes” coupling with the boundary setting, individuating, protecting “no”, embracing, entwining …

contemplating this, i see movement, the movement of the “yes”, bounded by the “no”. “yes” wants to expand forever, “no” says, wait a sec, let’s not go into the dangerous jungle, let’s stay on the road.

and then these ideas arise: indecision, doubt, uncertainty; the words “maybe” (which garfield suggested) and “perhaps”. are they the children of the union of “yes” and “no”?

if so, this young child has so many possibilities, as every child does. indecision could mean wishy-washiness, or it could mean the wisdom of not rushing into rash decisions. doubt could mean mistrust but it could also mean healthy, awake scepticism. uncertainty could mean unsteadiness and it could also mean a comfortable awareness of the fact that nothing in life is ever certain, that life is in, and is a constant flux.

my personal hope is that this is a child of love, that “yes” and “no” find each other with their eyes open and embrace each other not only in the heat of spring passion, but also by – saying “yes” to each other, by seeing, calling forth and enhancing the goodness that each offers.

what would you wish for this child?

what polar opposites would you like to come together?

image by nick thompson

chinese love poetry, again

sand imagevalentine’s day week … more love … and like every year, a chinese love poem. this time it’s contemporary, by eddie tay

cold wind

there is a cold wind
rising at 3 a.m.,
and here i am
on this furtive pavement of men,
haunting the night for you.

for months, the wine
spilled upon your thigh
was sweet against my tongue,
and i am now shaking
and shaking to learn
more of you.

i think i saw your feet
yesterday morning by the curb;
i know the curve of your heels,
but the sun was rising,
and i was a cold creature
shuffling by the road,
hiding among litters of leaves.

i was afraid
you would forget me,
like the words you forget
when you read,
or the clock you forget
when you glance at it
to check the time.

your face contains for me
an entire dream,
full of secrets of the sea
i long to drink.

among this assembly of crickets,
i think of the centuries
i’ve spent waiting for you
in the tropics, in bodies
of captains, sailors, pirates.

(here are last years’ chinese love poems: chinese love poetry, more chinese love poetry, chinese love peas)

image by jef_safi

love and timelessness

tojosan and his wife, dancing in lovesome notes on love from deepak chopra’s ageless body, timeless mind:

  • passion and commitment, love and dedication, self-worth and fulfillment – all are born in Being; they are qualities of the essential self that blossoms when you are free from narrow attachments
  • moments of nonattachment are characterized by perceiving the inner world as an open space with no boundaries; self-acceptance flows out into the environment. things “out there” seem intimate, an extension of self
  • this experience of unity is a good working definition of love
  • mostly, love appears as a feeling but the essence of love is not feeling – it is a state of being you need to find an outlet for your love. the more openly you experience love, the closer you will come to finding its essence
  • follow your bliss! bliss is the tingling rush of love in action
  • do not confuse immediate pleasure with love; love brings pleasure but in a profound way
  • love has depth after depth
  • love is the surest way back to Being
  • the force of love changes reality by changing the perceiver
  • harvard psychologist david mclelland looked at the physiology of love. physiologically measured love (rather than the thought of being “in love”) reveals “themes of dialogue, commitment, and harmony” rather than themes of “getting” something through love
  • when two people use their love for each other as a doorway into timeless love, the death of the loved one does not close the door to or deprive the other of the flow of love
  • use love as your mirror of the timeless; let it nurture your certainty that you are beyond change, beyond the memory of yesterday and the dream of tomorrow
  • come out of the circle of time and find yourself in the circle of love

image by my friend tojosan

happy birthday bob marley!

bob marley

today is bob marley’s birthday. listen to him and chances are you won’t need therapy. listen to his sweetness and be comforted; to his rebel music and be roused; to his odes to jah and be lifted to a place that belongs to everyone.

for valentine’s day that’s coming up soon, one of his love songs:

i wanna love you and treat you right;
i wanna love you every day and every night:
we’ll be together with a roof right over our heads;
we’ll share the shelter of my single bed;
we’ll share the same room, yeah! – for jah provide the bread.
is this love – is this love – is this love –
is this love that i’m feelin’?
is this love – is this love – is this love –
is this love that i’m feelin’?
i wanna know – wanna know – wanna know now!
i got to know – got to know – got to know now!

i’m willing and able,
so i throw my cards on your table!
i wanna love you – i wanna love and treat – love and treat you right;
i wanna love you every day and every night:
we’ll be together, yeah! – with a roof right over our heads;
we’ll share the shelter, yeah, oh now! – of my single bed;
we’ll share the same room, yeah! – for jah provide the bread.

25 things

a bunch of people tagged me on facebook with the “25 things about you” meme. i’m going to try and do this a) really quick and b) restrict my answers to the kinds of things discussed here on this blog, namely psychology, creativity/art, spirituality, books and lefty stuff (you know, social justice, peace – bleeding heart kind of things). here we go:

  1. i still remember the feeling of my heart beating when i first read about ron melzack’s neuromatrix theory of pain which states that pain (and sensations in general) can be related to neurological “images” of ourselves, not necessarily to the physical reality of our bodies. neatly explains phantom limb pain and neurological “pain loops”
  2. i love children’s books and think that if adult books were presented like children’s books we’d all be better off
  3. watching the films “sacco and vanzetti” and “Z” when i was a teenager made a big impression on me and is one of the reasons why i’m a bleeding heart
  4. year and years ago, someone once said to a dear relative of mine that women pour all their creativity into having children and are therefore not good artists. my blood still boils
  5. i used to say the lord’s prayer when i woke up from scary dreams. hard to imagine now
  6. i once fell crazy in love with the works of torquato tasso, an italian renaissance poet who wrote libretti for monteverdi
  7. please don’t make me listen to classical italian or french opera
  8. i call the typical first two psychology courses “canadian tire catalogue” type of learning. you learn nothing but one fact after the other. yuk
  9. i once hunted down a book by abraham maslow (the “inventor” of the famous “hierarchy of needs”) at the library, only to detect later on that i already owned the book
  10. the first book i ever ordered was a beautiful book about roses by a descendant of the king of sweden who lives in a beautiful castle on a magical island in southern germany
  11. when i told my ex husband that i was thinking of becoming a social worker he said he’d leave me if i did that
  12. i am fascinated by biological psychology and utterly incapable of memorizing even the most important and most often repeated facts in it
  13. i am often baffled by how much intuitive sense buddhist ideas make to me
  14. i think i would make an awful marriage counsellor. way too opinionated
  15. a good-hearted right-winger will always win me over a mean-spirited left-winger
  16. my respect for adult learning started very early, when an uncle of mine received a PhD in theology at age 60, something almost unheard-of in 1960s germany
  17. i never had a romantic relationship with anyone who was not an artist or at least strongly interested in the arts
  18. i was one of the first people to do psychological research on the web
  19. one of my heroes in christian mysticism is julian of norwich, who lived in 14th century england and who was also the first woman in the western world to write a book
  20. i would love to be a corporate philosopher/psychologist, wondering through a company having fruitful conversations
  21. watching a bob marley concert in berlin, shortly before he died, was one of the most intensely spiritual experiences i ever had
  22. i think freud is underrated and that without him we would be nowhere today in psychology
  23. when i lived in paraguay, i had a great friendship with a pastor. we drank lots of brandy and smoked cigars; only when it came to talking about spiritual things, he got all bashful. but he was a great preacher
  24. i love singing the types of hymns they sing in evangelical churches but often feel like a fraud when i do that because i don’t subscribe to many of their doctrines
  25. i try to write a ritual poem (“words of power”) for every moon phase

i’ll tag a few people here, and a bunch more over on facebook.

alexander
catatonickid
laura
giggle on
angel
kilroy
mellow yellow
nourish
lola
damien
roxie
sojourner
evan