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.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Pain Can Be A Great Teacher

Today there seems to be a lightening of the depression.  I don’t take this for granted; I know it can return anytime.  So I’m writing to make good use of my time.  Maybe someone will read what I write and it will be helpful in some way.

This bout with depression seems particularly striking to me as I have been living a relatively happy life for a few years now and so the contrast acts to highlight each way of being.  I see that there is something worthwhile in feeling spiritually oppressed and incapacitated.  It helps me to evaluate the depth or shallowness of my endurance and faith.  I can see this time that I have learned more about the path of acceptance.  It is a very hard lesson to learn when I am buffeted by the restlessness of experiencing pain.  Sometimes all you can do, all you need to do, is hold on and wait.  Life is change and going with the flow of it can lead you like water down into the cracks of the earth where it is dark and seemingly lifeless.  But down is only one part of the path.  The valleys are defined by the mountains and visa versa.  We all go down and up, that it the nature of flow - it moves all around.

The holy spirit within each of us is like a muscle; it needs to be exercised in order to stay strong.  If I had continued on in my happy state my feeling would eventually become shallow because I would lose touch with the great suffering of the people in this world.  I have been taught by mostly Buddhist teachers that compassion and wisdom are one.  Being compassionate towards myself and others is allowing myself to feel the pain while consciously cradling it within the empathy of love.  Pain is the spirit’s call for love.  Love is the healing balm.  Love is the Higher Power.  Pain is this internal sense of being separate from what is higher and greater than ourselves.  It is the expression of spiritual despair; it is helplessness.  Pain is a great teacher because it sends out a simple message:  something is wrong and must be attended to.  It says look, see, understand the nature of the illness.  It also says look beyond the pain to find the healing.  That is the hardest part of the lesson because the intensity of the pain draws our attention to the blackness of it till all we seem to see is darkness and no hope of light.  But if we really stay open, we know that there is a bigger picture and that the light continues to surround the pain.

Yesterday the pain within me was great and I escaped into sleep several times, but when I awoke and lay on the couch near the open windows I could feel the gentle breeze and see the expanse of the sky and the solemn beauty of the trees.  I could scan the accepting, quiet space of my living room and reach for the comfort of touching and talking to one of my cats.  And I held on as the despair tried to claim me.  And I waited.  Waiting is something that needs to be re-learned in our instant gratification culture.  Waiting cultivates the non aggression of patience and trains us to trust that when the time is right the answers will come.

Pain does come to all of us and it is enough; it can guide us.  But many people do not have the patience to sit with their pain and listen to it the way one might listen to a stream in the woods.  Instead we act out by essentially running away into misguided fantasies or worse into taking the initial pain and feeding it till it blazes out of control into acts of violence towards self and others.  We fail ourselves.  We do not listen and so we have no chance of learning.  And so we create more pain and spread it around.  We project it and see its reflection all around us.  This is the hell of being addicted to pain which is generated by self rejection, self-hate.  Instead of using pain to teach us to strengthen our spirit, we use pain to attack our spirit.

Consumed by the darkness of amplified pain, there is no where else to look but out into space and open enough to reach out to the unknown.  The universe and nature on this planet still have so much to teach us if we would just allow ourselves to look, see and understand it.
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