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

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