Tag Archives: PTSD

may 2010 buddhist carnival

callirgraphy: zen art

it’s a day late but here it is: my monthly buddhist carnival, serving up interesting little tidbits from the buddhist blogosphere.

we always start with a poem.

how bitter, how blue is the anger!
at the bottom of the light in april’s atmospheric strata,
spitting, gnashing, pacing back and forth,
i am asura incarnate

this is the lament – or perhaps just observation? – of kenji, one of japan’s most celebrated poet. he was a staunch follower of nichiren buddhism who has been accused by some of seriously fanning the flame of japanese imperialism during world war ii. this article by hiroaki sato at the asia-pacific journal provides an interesting insight into japanese culture and history and its connection with buddhism. a great article, and also one that dispels the idea that all buddhists are gentle and ever peace-loving. in addition, this essay is also a thoughtful reflection on the difficulty of translating japanese poetry into english.

buddhism and mental health: PTSD

since this month is mental health month, i’d also like to refer to at least two posts that talk about buddhism and mental health. at wildmind, we find this:

in northern india, the tibetan government in exile has been taking care of monks and nuns who have been brutally tortured by the chinese before they managed to escape to safety in india … there is no ability to provide the years of psychotherapy that might be necessary. the only hope for these people was to create a program of relaxation and meditation that could be taught in a group setting.

… the tibetan program was so impressive to researchers that a group from columbus, ohio, decided to try it out with women who had experienced domestic violence and other similar traumas. the group worked with the institute of buddhist dialectics and devised a program of short lectures and twice daily meditation. the results? significant reduction in overall PTSD symptoms, increase in positive emotions and reduction in fear, shame and sadness. many of the women continued to experience an overall benefit 365 days after the program ended and also experienced improved overall functioning.

(i’ve abbreviated some of this, hope that’s ok, wildmind people)

buddhism and mental health: the pros and cons of meditation
here is a mental health blog from singapore. it’s always nice to find blogs from non-western countries! he offers three different points of view on the usefulness of meditation when dealing with mental health challenges: meditation is definitely useful; meditation retreats can be harmful to some participants’ mental health; and meditation is useful, as long as it is undertaken with the help of a mental health professional.

the neurology of dualism

from mental health to neurology, not too much of a jump. travis eneix makes a very good point about accepting the concept of dualism for what it is:

the neurological structures of the brain are specifically evolved to give us the sense of being separate from our environment. it is an actual felt experience that what you feel as you is separate from things beyond the sensate barrier of touch, and therefore not-you.

with this simple knowledge, hard won by dedicated and caring scientists over the years as knowledge itself evolves, we can immediately take that feeling of separation into account not as a mistake, but as a useful tool for navigating our lived experience. instead of trying vainly to be rid of that sense, which if you listen to the non-dual teachers none of them are, you can view the sense as simply that, a sensation.

open source buddhism

something that travis and i have exchanged a few messages about is open source. the idea of open source has fascinated me for quite a while (actually, i’m surprised i haven’t written much about it. a little bit is here) so i was interested to find this site on open source buddhism. here they explain what it is:

a key component of open source is peer production. this is a form of joint collaboration by groups of
individuals. it relies on self-organizing communities of individuals who come together to produce a shared outcome, result, or product.

this same style of organization, as well as the philosophy behind it, can be applied to buddhism as well. we are living in an era where we have access to extant forms of buddhism and the records and documents of many forms that do not survive in a living form today. for those of us who are converts to buddhism, we do not have a vested national or cultural reason to embrace a specific form of buddhism over another. if one is thai, for example, it would make sense that the thai form of theravadan buddhism would be embraced and followed as a practitioner. …

as a european american, it does not necessarily make sense to embrace a very culturally entrenched form of buddhism. people do this and, for example, take tibetan names, where tibetan clothes, and generally embrace a culturally specific form of buddhism. this is definitely one possible path. an alternative to this is to look at the various forms of buddhism, evaluate the teachings and practices of them, and to work with those aspects that make the most sense within a non-buddhist culture without the history and relationship to buddhism that other nations and peoples already have. …

this is not a call to abandon traditional forms of buddhism but is, rather, a decision to not necessarily be limited by boundaries or practices simply because the form of buddhism practiced in a specific region or period had these limitations.

more about buddhism and open source here.

how important is enlightenment?

all of us who have spent some time hanging out with the ideas and practice of buddhism have thought about the place of enlightenment in our lives. here’s how one buddhist teacher, amaro bikkhu, talks about it

we developed a tradition of having a winter retreat during the cold, dark months of january and february. about three weeks into one of these early retreats, i was working very diligently and was extremely focused on the meditation. i wasn’t talking to anyone or looking at anything. every lunar quarter we would have an all-night meditation vigil. this was the full moon in january. i was really charged up and was convinced, “okay, tonight’s the night.”

want to know the rest? go here.

the importance of immediate response

from inexhaustible things:

someone said, “if you give a man a fish, you’ve fed him for the rest of the day. if you teach a man to fish, you’ve fed him for the rest of his life.” whose idea is this? does it match your own circumstances right now? is this piece of wisdom the rule for every instance? how would you behave if it was?

regardless, i responded: if you see someone who needs to be taught to fish, teach him to fish. if you see someone is hungry, feed him.

life can be this simple.

i don’t know what to add.

zen and calligraphy

having started with a poem, let’s end this edition of the buddhist carnival with another view at a creative endeavour: calligraphy.

on sunday chozen-roshi, co-abbot of great vow, gave a wonderful talk pointing out the variety of lessons we can learn from brushwork. the main point that stood out to me was how a skilful calligrapher is attention to each brushstroke, finishing each cleanly and starting each freshly. there isn’t regret, “oh, that stroke was all wrong. i should just give up.” in a similar way a student of zen is attentive to each moment. she also pointed out in calligraphy the delicate nature of various pressures. at times only the thin delicate tip of the brush makes a mark. at other times one presses the whole brush on the paper. in a similar way to live our lives skilfully we learn when to press harder and when to let up.

concussions and PTSD

this week seems to be guest blogging week.  first hubby yesterday on the mindset of a poker player, and today i’m the guest blogger – over on GNIF brainblogger you can find me writing about some interesting new findings on the connection between concussions and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  enjoy!

interview with laurie r. king: madness and mystery

i am very pleased to present you today with an interview with bestselling mystery author laurie r. king. as you may know, i am quite the mystery fan so i was delighted when i was approached with the idea of being a stop on laurie’s virtual book tour.

IM: your book to play the fool attracted me immediately because the notion of the fool has fascinated me all my life, perhaps beginning in the 60s with the beatles’ beautiful ballad, the fool on the hill. then there is dostoevsky’s idiot, one of my favourite books. in the tarot, the fool is the archetype i feel closest to. it looks like one of the “fools” you’ve chosen as inspiration was st. francis of assissi.

one of the reasons why the fool is so fascinating is because in him (or her) we find a mysterious combination of spirituality, creativity and what we might call “madness”, “otherness” or some sort of illness or even mental illness (for example, dostoevsky’s idiot suffered from epilepsy).

so, laurie – to start off: could you please give our readers a very short introduction to the book?

LRK: to play the fool is a police story that also explores what would happen if a holy fool were to appear in modern-day san francisco.

IM: and what would you say about the combination of spirituality, creativity and madness? does that play a part in your book?

LRK: brother erasmus appears mad on the surface, but in fact his foolishness is a carefully constructed means of preserving his sanity–and of serving his fellow man. in a similar vein, he speaks only in quotes, but using the words of others is a creative means of communication, one that requires others to pay close attention to what he is saying.

in the world of shamans and mystics, there is a line drawn between there is a line drawn between mental illness and the embracing of lunacy or madness for a purpose. one could argue that all creative people are to some degree mad.

not me, of course.

IM: laurie, you mention mental illness. that’s a topic that runs through other books you’ve written, isn’t it? what’s your interest in it?

LRK: i loved one of the NYT reviews that said how laurie king is such a friend of the damaged and peripheral, or something of the sort. seems to me life in california is so full of quirky individuals, any novel with a breath of realism has to include homeless people, ex-soldiers with PTSD, devotees of alternative religions, bipolar individuals, gays and lesbians–you name it, most of us can be categorized in some niche or another.

and of course, writing crime fiction is all about what crime does to people, the ripple effects it has on all the lives around it. to deny those effects would be to create a two-dimensional whodunnit, interesting as an intellectual puzzle, but not perhaps evocative of real life.

IM: so the “damaged and the peripheral” interest you, and it’s important for your books to be about real life.

i’m curious about those “ripple effects” of crime. are you saying that crime can result in mental illness? if so, how do you portray that in your books?

LRK: what i meant was that the effects of a major crime spread out to touch not only the victim but the victim’s family, friends, acquaintances. however, yes, it can also have a long-lasting, even permanent mental effect. trauma reshapes lives, it leaves a bump in the road every time those involved pass over similar ground.

perhaps this explains why the mystery genre is so popular, that by presenting traumatic events fictionally, it enables the reader to grapple with them, and–this being fiction–to conquer them successfully, through the protagonist, every time.

even if the crime novel is not always a paradigm for personal change, at the very least it entertains and distracts. there are times when a person desperately craves escape–temporary, fictional, but valuable. sometimes a good novel is a place to crawl into and rest, and we all know that rest heals.

(this post can be found in the carnival of mental illness)