I've had the urge to write repeatedly over the last month, but my output is minimal. In the last few days the urge has been laced with an irritating depression. Whichever direction I begin to go in, be it flipping through books on writing or books on Buddhism or taking a stab at writing in my journal, turns into a dead-end. I either fidget or I go to sleep. Strangely enough, when I sit down to write a blog, usually spontaneously and without notes, I wind up writing something halfway worthwhile. It's just getting myself to sit down and do it that is the problem. Anne Lamott, who wrote a popular book on the practice of writing called Bird by Bird, says of writing: "It is a matter of persistence and faith and hard work. So you might as well just go ahead and get started."
Persistence, faith and hard work...I guess that's the recipe for life itself. I am also a strong believer in the immense value of being creative, especially for people who suffer from chronic mental illnesses. Lately I've been committing to my Buddhist practice, but neglecting writing, songwriting and painting. My Buddhist practice of meditation, listening to audiobooks and reading, taking notes and studying is my foundation and so I won't stop with that. When I meditate each evening, despite my restless thoughts and the discomfort in my back, I begin to focus and steady myself. By the end of the meditation, I'm usually refreshed and ready to listen to a dharma talk and then to do some reading and note taking. All this takes place in the evening and night. It's the day time where I get lost.
Why do I resist the fact that just being alive is good enough? Whatever I do with my days, as long as it is not harming myself or others, is okay. I get writer's block because I am judging myself and pushing myself and not going with the flow of life. It's back to having ambition instead of patience and humility. The truth is that my life is a simple life. Another truth is that I think I want it to stay that way. In order to keep things simple I need to let go of ambitious ideas. Maybe I will write a book, but not unless I learn to write a good essay. I have a friend who told me that one of the things that got her out of her depression was the expression, "little by little". Baby steps...persistence, faith and hard work.
My life is mysterious to me. I don't know why I'm here; I'm just here. And I know now that while I'm here, every moment I'm here, I'm changing and my circumstances are changing. I know this is true for all of us. I witness the change when I listen back to my audio journal from a few days in the past. It helps me to acknowledge that I can hold onto nothing. And it keeps me honest. Writing here does the same thing. I've been writing in this blog since about November of 2006. Very slowly I am printing up my blog so that I have a hard copy to review, maybe edit and re-work. I think it is important that I do this so that I can follow the flow of my life and see what lessons I am learning or re-learning. Every now and then I need to review my journals and take stock of where I've been and where I seem to be heading.
My audio journal is a good therapeutic tool, but sometimes I neglect my writing because I'm busy pouring out my thoughts and ideas on tape. It's easier for me to talk to myself than to write, but writing also holds the key to self-understanding and to sharing my experiences with others. The more I study Buddhism, the more I want to be helpful to others. The challenge is to not lose confidence. That's a big challenge.
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.