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.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Spiritual Practice Inside And Out

Winter begins early around here, usually around Thanksgiving.  We've gotten a lot of snow and temperatures have been low and I've been inside my house for over three days.  I managed to detach from the Jesus delusion.  It's been a particularly stubborn delusion and whenever I come out of it I dip into some depression.  I've heard this is a typical reaction for people who suffer from psychotic disorders which makes sense.  You go up too high and then you swing down low once you realize that your position is really (and always has been) humble.  But truly humble is a good place to be because that is the reality for all of us here on earth.  It's so easy to lose sight of the fact that we are merely animals on one of many habitable planets.  Especially hard for those of us who either swing towards delusions of grandeur or who are in positions of power over other human animals.

So Winter is here and I'm moving inward and staying home more often.  It's a time of greater reflection.  On some levels I'm quite content.  I have food, shelter, heat, water, cats for company, a functioning car, a healthy spine and the ability to move, my five senses and a lot more.  I feel blessed.  And the discomfort I feel off and on throughout the day is a blessing, too.  It spurs me to seek out the truth, especially about myself.  Discomfort in necessary for spiritual development.  There would be no reason to change for the better without it.

Lately I've been realizing that I don't know what a truly healthy way of living would be.  I have done a lot of studying about mental illness (and I include the study of addiction in this), but not a lot of study about definitions of health.  I do have some sense of it.  Learning new ways to reduce stress in life is very important.  Stress is a big factor in mental illness.  It seems as if we are guided in this culture to take on more and more responsibilities - serious relationships, children, education (and debts), career, owning a home, etc....  It is mind boggling to me what people choose to do with their lives before they've even dealt with and resolved the issues generated from their childhood and youth with their families and communities.

There is a trend happening here with people choosing to be single, choosing to spend more time with themselves and not tangled up in relationships.  I think this is a good thing because it guides individuals towards self reflection and taking care of themselves.  They keep the focus on themselves instead of on codependency with others.  This is especially important with those of us who suffer from addictions.  The solutions to our problems are not out there somewhere, but inside of us.  Connections to others, healthy friends, healthy support groups, therapists and counselors, supportive family members are all very important, but the first step starts inside.  Individuals facing themselves nakedly and honestly.

Too many people who are very involved in codependent relationships with each other and their children are very afraid to be alone.  They don't believe that they can find happiness within themselves.  They are always looking outside of themselves to family, friends, lovers, work and their children.  It's clear to me that that approach does not work and leaves our personal unhappiness intact.    What's needed is privacy, a room of one's own, a pad and pen or a computer and word processing program.  There are two questions to ask:  What's right in my life?  What's wrong in my life?  It's important to start with what's right and if you really look at it there is a lot right in you and around you, but you have to focus on it and value it.  We tend to overlook the obvious such as our ability to breath and move, to feel and think, to have food, water and shelter.  All these things put us in a very precious position.  It is a position of freedom, the freedom to grow emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

Make a practice of not overlooking the obvious.  Don't take your life and your abilities for granted.  When you value all the elements of your life from good health to a good cup of coffee or tea to a good night's sleep, you change your viewpoint from a sense of deprivation to a sense of abundance.  Placing value on your experiences is a practice of gratitude regardless of whether you believe in some kind of Higher Power or not.  Once you have established this spiritual practice, you can then go to work on the question - What's wrong with my life?  After you've written a gratitude list, make a grievance list.  Once you've got the list, take each item separately on a new page and dig deeper.  Ask questions such as, when have I felt like this before?  You will find that many of your grievances stem back to childhood and adolescence.

We all get to the point where our youth ends and adulthood begins, no matter how hard you resist it.  When this happens our memories of childhood and youth submerge into our unconscious or subconscious.  We forget our beginnings and that is where we begin to go astray.  Unresolved relationships with family and friends still get played out in present day relationships.  The cycle of illness continues without any conscious choice.  Self awareness is the only thing that will begin to get us to detach from our patterns.  Sitting down with yourself in a room of your own, in privacy, and making simple lists is how to regain awareness of where you started and what happened and where you are now.  No matter how disjointed life can seem, life is continuous.  There is a logic to how you got to this place in time and inside the logic there is a lot of personal meaning.

Discovering meaning in your life through becoming aware of the patterns in your life is very satisfying.  That's the hook into health.  But again, it requires the daily practice of you facing yourself and getting honest.  The problems you face now are being faced by countless other people who have lived inside dysfunctional families and have encountered and been ensnared by addictions of all sorts.  You are not alone.  Help is more available now than it was in the past with computers, therapy and self help groups.  The telephone alone is a godsend.  Reaching out is a key to health, but so is reaching inward and doing the work every day.  Both practices, reaching inward and reaching outward, are spiritual practices, the spiritual practice and necessity of taking care of ourselves.

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