A Recovery Blog

This blog is about my continuing recovery from severe mental illness. I celebrate this recovery by continuing to write, by sharing my music and artwork and by exploring Buddhist ideas and concepts. I claim that the yin/yang symbol is representative of all of us because I have found that even in the midst of acute psychosis there is still sense, method and even a kind of balance. We are more resilient than we think. We can cross beyond the edge of the sane world and return to tell the tale. A deeper kind of balance takes hold when we get honest, when we reach out for help, when we tell our stories.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Miscellaneous


This past fall I bought an iPod to reward myself for having quit smoking. Due to several computer problems I have only just been able to use it. It’s already changing my life: I have exercised for an hour a day for seven days straight and I’ve begun cleaning my house. I’m listening to music, poetry, Pema Chodron, Krishnamurti (I just got two CDs), Berlitz Spanish (I seriously want to learn how to speak the language) and comedy. I’ve even been able to transfer a couple of my songs and hope to make up a CD’s worth of them. I still don’t have high speed internet access, but I’m hoping that I’ll have it soon. And Spring looks like it’s at least trying to approach. Perhaps my months of hibernation are coming to an end. I have been more detached from people this year than I can remember and yet I am not particularly depressed. The iPod is bringing people back into my life via recordings and I am finally starting to listen more carefully.

I ordered three CDs of Krishnamurti and received two a few days ago and I took out a couple of his books from the library. At the same time I’ve been studying a book by Pema Chodron called Start Where You Are which explores the “lojong” slogans and the tonglen meditation practice. I have found that there is an obvious conflict between Krishnamurti’s ideas and Pema Chodron’s teaching on some Tibetan Buddhist practices. Krishnamurti did not believe in any form of religion, he saw them all as divisive. The recent Tibetan uprising against Chinese occupation certainly proves that even Buddhism, with its emphasis on compassion and nonviolence, has not brought about peaceful relations between the two cultures.

Krishnamurti also did not believe in following systems to gain self-knowledge. In fact, he thought that following a teacher/guru/savior was counterproductive to understanding the self:

“Authority prevents the understanding of oneself, does it not? Under the shelter of an authority, a guide, you may have temporarily a sense of security, a sense of well-being, but that is not the understanding of the total process of oneself. Authority in its very nature prevents the full awareness of oneself and therefore ultimately destroys freedom.”--Krishnamurti, The First & Last Freedom, p.47

I think Krishnamurti would have said that studying the lojong slogans was a waste of precious time. I can’t quite agree with him, yet he has planted the seed of doubt in me. The truth is that I have only just skimmed the surface of this Tibetan Buddhist practice, but I feel a strong pull to explore it. At the same time I feel a strong pull to understand Krishnamurti’s ideas.

Pema Chodron is a Buddhist nun, tied to a long tradition and committed to certain points of view. When I listen to her audio recordings, I find her honesty and humor charming and I want to conform to the belief structure that she is teaching on. I want to learn from her how to become more compassionate. I’ve even wondered what it would be like to be a Buddhist nun living the communal life, free of most personal belongings, meditating for hours each day, listening to dharma talks, helping people.

Krishnamurti was a free agent, not a part of any religion or organization. I listened to the two CDs I got and found him to be very different from Pema Chodron. The first thing that struck me was his great and earnest seriousness. There is some humor there, but nothing like Pema Chodron who at times fully interacts with her audience, mainly through self-revealing humor. Whereas Ms. Chodron keeps stressing the importance of a “No Big Deal” philosophy of lightening up, Krishnamurti stresses how important it is to be serious, especially about understanding oneself.

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Over two weeks quiet here...Once again I started and stopped four times. I envy people who can write daily entries in their blogs. I don’t have a talent for it.

Spring has been in this part of the country for a week now and the flowers are starting to show their heads. I hope it lasts. I’ve been out three times this week with my brother. We went shopping, saw two films and listened to a singer songwriter. I even had a beer with my brother at a local bar. The singer songwriter was named Chris Pureka and I thought she was very talented, but I found myself wishing that she would take more chances. If I had her skill, I know I would. I would be in heaven. I’m only just realizing that I have a bit of the punk ethic of rock and roll in me. I like some attitude and some rough playing as long as it’s honest. Songs can be too polished and lose that refreshing edge. But then this is coming from someone who doesn’t know how to play her instrument and is only just starting to approach singing after years away from it.

That night, after hearing Ms. Pureka, I came home to my guitar and croaked out a couple of songs. Yes, I thought, I envy all the time and hard work that she has put into her music, yet I still value myself and the little I’ve done. And I still want to keep trying to improve, to express myself. My best songs are from ten years ago, just before I got sick. So much has happened since then. I’m starting from a new, older, wiser? place. Today I sang a variation on Amazing Grace. Ani Difranco does an excellent version of it on her double album Living In Clip (which is a great collection of her work). My version was obviously more modest, but I was able to get into it. So much seems to depend on suspending critical judgement and putting some heart and soul into it. I listen to the iPod every day and I sing with the songs and believe me that counts as practice. That’s how I learned to sing in the first place when I was a teenager and young adult.



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