Tag Archives: insight

october 2008 buddhist carnival, part 2

here is part 2 of the october 2008 buddhist carnival. you can find the first part here, where we focused exclusively on posts that discuss poverty in a buddhist context.

vipassana no. 1: this, too

i’ve been “enjoying my breath” on the regular four times a week for almost a year. i say hello to my in-breath, and say good-bye to the out. when thoughts arise in my big brain, i note them, label them and release; as is the practice in vipassana or “insight” style meditation. and when a pesky thought appears, there is no need to push it away. following the advice of my imaginary best friends tara brach and jack kornfield i simply bow to that thought saying, “this too.” please, my apartment is not huge, but my heart is! tara and jack told me so! so it goes a little something like this…

in, out, in, out, chocolate cake-thought!, in, out, in, chocolate cake-thought, out, in, out, in, there’s a murderer in my apartment-ahhh fear, out, in, out, in, out, i want to go to australia -planning, in, out, in, out, in, out, ohhh, this is nice-pleasure, in, out, in, out, paula abdul-weird, in, out, in, out….

more of this at sarah jackson’s end of summer metta sale.

vipassana no.2: clear perception
if insight or vipassana meditation is something you’ve been thinking about trying, and if you’d also like to explore its more serious angle, you might find this article useful. it goes into some detail, for example here, where it explains where the word comes from:

insight meditation or vipassana comes directly from the sitipatthana sutra, a discourse attributed to the buddha himself. the pali term for insight meditation is vipassana bhavana. bhavana stems from the root ‘bhu’ meaning to grow or become. therefore bhavana means to cultivate and when used in reference to the mind it means mental cultivation. vipassana is derived from ‘passana’ meaning perceiving and ‘vi’ which means ‘in a special way’ and possesses connotations of both ‘into’ and ‘through’. thus the whole meaning of vipassana is: looking into a thing with clarity and precision, seeing each component as distinct and separate and piercing all the way through so as to perceive the most fundamental reality of that thing.

read more at meditation – method, effects and purpose within buddhism.

past, future, present
the buddha said

do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.

phil picks this saying apart and makes it work for him. i heartily applaud him for doing so – we need to make these sacred texts our own, get our own individual learning from them. (i wrote a whole post about that tailored type of study a while ago over at alex’s blog). i don’t quite agree with phil’s interpretation – but in a way, that’s the point. it needs to work for phil, not for me.

read here what phil has to say about past, present and future.

goddess in my heart
ybonesy has a lovely long post describing her visit to vietnam, and particularly the buddhist temple at cai be, where she found the image of a goddess – a buddha mother – that made a lasting and loving impression on her heart.

people who love others, truly love, will give up anything if it means their loved ones will survive. there are people all across this world and in my country and my life who know that kind of love. they are greater than all the bad, and though i lose this truth when i most need it, it lives even when i forget or stop believing.

i was very touched by this: there are truths that live on, regardless of whether we remember or believe. the buddha did not teach many certainties but the truth of love and compassion – elusive, yes, slippery and fluid and at the same time rock solid – that truth is unquestionable.

please visit ybonesy at her blog, red ravine, and accompany her on her journey. the image for this blog is also her art work.  (mother mudra, doodle © 2008 by ybonesy. all rights reserved.)


comfort zone

finally, a little something at the tao of simplicity. i’m always intrigued by these short little posts. this one, stretch out of your comfort zone, relates to buddhist concepts in the sense that the buddha certainly encourages us not to cling to comfort. too much comfort lulls, and the more we have of it, the more we tend to crave it.

you need to stretch just enough to be uncomfortable. then, rest and let your comfort zone expand naturally. then, stretch again.

hm, interesting. that sounds a bit like yoga.

this, people, is all we have for the october buddhist carnival. if you know of any posts that should appear in next month’s carnival (november 15), please send them to me here, or, if you have a hard time connecting to blog carnival, drop me a line.

two views of depression

the other day, marc challenged me with this idea: can depression, or any other challenge such as alcoholism or bipolar disorder, be an entity of its own, with its own agenda and will to survive?

i’ve been familiar with this concept for quite a while but it’s never really grabbed me. that’s why i’m grateful for marc’s challenge – i always welcome a chance to expand my mind, think differently about things.

let’s use depression as an example and compare two theories:

one: depression is an entity of its own. let’s call that the 12-step perspective. in AA, for example, alcoholism is seen as a “cunning, baffling and powerful disease”.

two: depression is a poorly executed coping mechanism. that is a systems view, advocated, among others, by psychologist virginia satir; for the sake of argument, let’s call it the “systems” view.

what would be advantage of adopting the 12-step perspective? contrary to what is the received wisdom, there is research that shows that people who attribute their misfortune to outside sources tend to be happier. viewed from a certain perspective, that makes intuitive sense, too: the opposite of attributing misfortune to an outside source is often a guilt-infused attribution (“it’s all my fault”).

in therapy, we often spend lots of time helping people dig themselves out of guilt. if i say depression is my fault because i’m too lazy, unmotivated, or passive, or because i’m not smart, attractive or all-around “good enough”, i can feel totally helpless. if, on the other hand, i believe that depression is a disease “out there”, then the enemy does not come from within. at least i’m whole at my core. personally, i remember very well the first time i realized that my depressive episodes were at least partly rooted in my body chemistry. i felt so relieved. there wasn’t something wrong with who i felt to be “me”; it was just some chemistry gone awry.

now let’s look at the advantages of taking the systems view. depression there can be taken to be a coping mechanism, an activity that one unconsciously feels driven to carry out in order to deal with frightening feelings such as fear, anger, loneliness or helplessness. it is almost a form of self medication. one “chooses” depression; of course it is not a conscious decision; it is a choice almost in the way a tortured man makes the choice to lie to his oppressors in order to save his life.

the advantage of this approach is that if the depressed person can see depression at least as partly as a choice and if she can do so without feeling guilty, then she can feel a tremendous sense of control: “i got myself into this, i can get myself out of this.” not long ago, i had a client for whom this worked very well; once he realized that depression was something he had “chosen” (the quotation marks are important!0, he decided that it was a difficult but important place of rest for him. he chose to explore depression as a space within himself that needed to be respected and integrated. when he got out of it he was much wiser and more whole.

of course, as always, these thoughts are really just thumbnail sketches; there’s much more to them. we also need to remember that there are definitely more than two ways to look at depression! having said that, here are two things that come to mind:

first, the two approaches don’t necessarily contradict each other. depression – and any other mental illness – is multifaceted. one could easily say, okay, this part seems to be an “outside force” and that part is something that on some level i’ve chosen.

secondly, the systems view can provide deep and long-lasting insight. however, not everyone is ready for that; for that matter, not everyone is interested in it.  it’s also a useful approach for someone who benefits from feeling that he or she is in full control of her or his life.

ah, control.  now there’s another topic …