Let it fall.

October 6, 2015

This song is part of a final assignment I wrote, performed, and submitted for my Buddhism Psychology class.

Mindfulness and a mirror.

Like a Chinese finger cuff, the more we try to escape or run away from something that brings unpleasantness, the tighter our grip becomes and we end up holding on to it. The finger cuff is made of bamboo strips woven together into a tube, with openings on either end that are big enough to fit the tip of a finger. It is held by inserting the tips of both pointer fingers in each end by a person who is then challenged with removing their fingers, but the more they try to pull their fingers apart, the tighter the finger cuff gets around both fingers. I like to use this metaphor to describe the human tendency to grasp onto what feels uncomfortable, be it feelings, thoughts, or physical sensations. Of course, this grip we hold usually occurs on a subconscious level, which makes it difficult to stop and take the time to ‘loosen up’ and relax so that we can see and begin to work through the unpleasantness.

Much like intimacy or the human connection, the way to escape the finger cuff is to move the fingers inward and toward one another. This allows the finger cuff to ease and expand, allowing the wearer’s fingers to be free. In the same way, creating a human connection, which brings two people closer and allows one to tap into one’s inner world, frees one to identify and observe one’s feelings, emotions, or physical sensations. As writer Gregory Bateson (as cited in Epstein, 1998) pointed out, “It takes two to know one” (p. 102). I love the depth yet simplicity of this sentence. Gaining a mindfulness and appreciation of our inner experience requires the presence of another. Therapists serve as this presence for people. We remain present in people’s presence.

For a while now, I have been thinking of alternate words to describe therapy or counseling, as a way to explain the core purpose and benefit of therapy and alleviate the stigma around it. I have been wondering what other word or explanation to use to sidestep the common association people make between participating in therapy and there being something “wrong” with them. Perhaps this is a word? Presence. As therapists, we are present with our clients, and in a way that the modern world has driven us to forget. Per Epstein (2011), “mindfulness…requires the careful noting of everything that occurs in the mind-body spectrum as it unfolds” (p. 67). As therapists, we help people to “unfold”. As therapists, we assist people to be mindful during this unfolding process. We hold the space with clients in a way that allows them to hone in on their thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations as they unfold. We allow people to be who they are. We reflect back who they are.

Modern society incessantly tries to tell us who we are, what we like, what we should or shouldn’t feel, who we should our shouldn’t associate with. The practice of mindfulness in Buddhism and the mindfulness practice inherent in psychotherapy help us to cut through the barrage of bullshit being shoved down our throats. In the documentary, “The Dhamma Brothers,” inmates in a maximum security prison in Alabama participate in a ten-day silent Vipassanna retreat held on prison grounds. One of the men who completed the retreat commented, “We’re not allowed to practice freedom,” when referring to cultural oppression. Societal and systemic oppression have a strong grip that fools and deludes us into unplugging from ourselves. Therapy and the therapeutic relationship counter this oppression and allows us to discover and be who we are.

Moods and meds.

 

“…it is the perspective of the sufferer that determines whether a given experience perpetuates suffering or is a vehicle for awakening.”

– Mark Epstein, MD, Thoughts without a thinker: psychotherapy from a Buddhist perspective

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:: Freewrite ::

 

The shaky weeks – two up, two down – do not a sustainable life make. I’ve given the Zoloft time to settle in. Upped the dosage. But my body spits out the working ones every couple of weeks. Emotional bulimia at the hand of invisible chemicals; at least stomach pumps by my fingers are in my control. I bend and kneel in front of the toilet. Knees callused by linoleum. Fingers callused by teeth. Rubbing and robbing. It’s regular now. I do it mindlessly. So why do I cry? Is it the stomach acid watering my eyes? Like chopping onions for stir-fry or soup? Tears triggered by objective somethings outside my corporeal abode.

But back to documenting my moods and meds. After increasing the dosage of Zoloft, and finding that I haven’t found the magic prescriptive mix to level my life, I’ve tapered off the Zoloft and am trying a serotonin reuptake-inhibitor from a different family – Effexor. It’s day 4. My doctor says to give it 4-8 weeks. It could be up to 8 weeks for my body to regulate and decide if it’s an elixir fixer.

I admit. I get impatient. I feel disheartened and angry when I find myself in a dark room again. I mean that literally – laid up in bed; light switches collecting dust in the “off” position, and figuratively – in my mind. A dark mind with sardonic silverfish fiercely feeding on what allows me to feel OK.

And so I wait without waiting. Carry hope even when not feeling hopeful. It’s carefully zipped in my fanny pack, taut around my waist. This is not a knock-on-wood situation. It requires proactivity despite disorderly set backs; especially in times of disorderly set backs. Each mood must be owned to successfully wade through the sludge of the shitty ones. Hug them, all of them, invite them in for tea and cookies. Tossing them away will boomerang them back with great force and potentially erode the hope you hold and lighten the fanny pack that’s been strapped to your self; the heft and squeeze around your waist that’s helped to remind you to carry it on. To remind you that hope is there for you to hold and get to know again. Any any time.

 

Written Tuesday, January 31st, 2012.