Friday, October 29
My body seems to be adjusting to the Effexor nicely now, and I'm able to get a reasonable amount of sleep.
Sakula opined that my meditation is going so pleasantly because the Effexor is removing the chemical imbalance that had been hobbling me... So when you take the hobbles off... She also shared that she knows monks who are on antidepressants, which really made me feel better. :-)
In my practice, she recommends using the serene, concentrated mind to investigate, and gave me some advice on how to do that. I'm about to start applying that.
"If you're born in this world you're given a ticket to the freak show. If you're born in America you're given a front-row seat."
Thursday, October 28
Military Analyst: On War
William S. Lind's column, "On War," gives his analysis of the war in Iraq, and of what he calls "Fourth Generation War" (aka "the war on terror"). Lind is a military analyst who literally wrote the book on modern "maneuver" warfare, and there's a certain perverse enjoyment in reading a critique of the Bush Administration's blunders from someone who has expertise in this area.
This link is from William Gibson's blog.
Tuesday, October 26
The Effexor Issue
I can tell already, the issue with Effexor is going to be insomnia. Two nights in a row I've had trouble getting to sleep, even though I felt sleepy when I went to bed.
The Effexor is treating the depression very effectively, so I really want to stick with it. Somehow, a way to deal with the insomnia issue will have to be figured out.
Sleepy time tea? Clonazepam? More exercise during the day (so long as it doesn't wreck my back)? Sharp blow to the head with a ball peen hammer?
(The last item on that list is the least appealing, because the Effexor has done a stellar job of removing any desire to self-harm. So hey, no worries about actually getting hammered.)
Sunday, October 24
Hello Piti, My Old Friend
This morning's meditation included a very nice period of piti (rapture, delightful sensation). It seems like it's been a very long time since that's arisen (in anything but a dream). Super nice.
It occurs to me that if the SSRI I've started taking really does its job and keeps my brain chemistry more or less normal, it could have very beneficial effects on my meditation practice. The jhanas could arise more frequently and more easily from a mind that is stable and happy. After all, a happy mind is predisposed to samadhi, to unification, to being un-scattered.
Post Script: A note on method. It was very effective to use the method I learned at this summer's retreat from Rodney Smith: to breathe metta into the heart and out of the heart. The two-way motion seemed to be a significant component of the experience. Especially the inhalation: that really expanded the piti. Breathing the metta in felt great, and then breathing it out... it broke down the barrer of "whose" metta it was. It wasn't mine, or Gini's, it was just metta. And because it was impersonal, like tapping into a seemingly unlimited supply that was always available. Again I say: super nice.
Thursday, October 21
Getting Out The Gonzo Vote
It's oddly comforting to know that Dr. Hunter S. Thompson can still crank up a goodly bit of rantage. Kind of like seeing an old rock star whose music you used to really love, and despite the passage of time, they still sound pretty great, actually.
"As your attorney, I approve this message."
Sometimes my mind is able to come to rest in the midst of the pain, and abide peacefully. But at other times, it burns in a hell realm of rage and frustration. My eyes and heart feel heavy with despair tonight.
I can't go on.
I must go on.
The war in this body and mind.
Pain pain pain pain pain.
I can't stand it anymore.
On Back Pain
From a patient's testimonial on Back.com:
"I was in constant pain. And it was very frustrating. I fell into a deep depression and was very angry a lot."
Exactly. Couldn't have said it better myself. That's exactly what's been going on with me for the past month-and-a-half.
The Astrocenter forecast today is eerily in synch with my recent mental states: minor incidents triggering negative thinking about my life.
You could have an emotional day today, Brian, just when you thought things were going to be peaceful! Your temper could be triggered by some minor incident, and then you could cycle into some negative thinking about your life. Try not to let the stress of the moment send you on a spiral downward. Your nerves might just be on edge, and you could use some relaxing activity like a workout or a hot bath.
Or maybe a relaxing activity like a massage?
Friday, October 15
Let's just say there's a reason I've never made it through "Swann's Way" before.
Thursday, October 14
The Sky Above The Port Is Still The Color Of Television Tuned To A Dead Channel
Cool: William Gibson is blogging again.
"A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu" Again
Tonight I decided to try reading Proust again, with the ebook of Swann's Way, courtesy of Project Gutenberg. In the past, I've never made it past the Overture, but this time I'm really enjoying it. I've got it in my head to make this my new thing: to make it all the way through. I'm feeling determined!
If I make it through Swann's Way, they do have some -- but not all -- of the volumes available at Amazon as Adobe ebooks, quite cheaply priced.
We'll see what happens with volume one.
One book at a time.
Tuesday, October 12
A Vivid Dream
Last night -- early this morning -- I dreamed that I was at BCBS, at next year's Leigh Brasington retreat. It was the first night and we were all sitting in a circle on the floor for the "introduce yourself" portion. I was sitting near Leigh, with a couple of people in between. I introduced myself saying that this was my third retreat with Leigh; last year I had to cancel because my wife had just had an appendectomy. It turned weird then, because some guy on the other side of the circle somehow interpreted this as meaning that she had also been pregnant and in labor, and much discussion ensued. I thought, wow, this is not quiet group. I apologized to Leigh, and he said "Not your fault." I could tell he was tired from traveling and wanted to go to bed. As other people to my right were finally starting to introduce themselves, I closed my eyes and started sending out metta to the people to my left and to my right. Very quickly there was an intense feeling of rapture -- which I physically felt in the dream -- starting from the base of my spine and filling the body, and especially flowing outward out both side of my lower back. Then I felt my body becoming lighter, and it was as if strong hands had lifted me, and I began to levitate up into the air. In the dream I opened my eyes when I reached the ceiling of the hall, then closed them again as I drifted back down... After that, I remember asking the people who had seen this not to tell anyone about it...
Monday, October 11
SN XXII.1 Nakulapita Sutta
Nakulapita, a self-described feeble old man, asks the Buddha for instruction. The Buddha replies that one should train onself, "Even though the body is afflicted, the mind will be unafflicted."
Later Ven. Sariputta explains in detail.
"And how is one afflicted in body but unafflicted in mind? There is the case where a well-instructed disciple of the noble ones -- who has regard for noble ones, is well-versed & disciplined in their Dhamma; who has regard for men of integrity, is well-versed & disciplined in their Dhamma -- does not assume form to be the self, or the self as possessing form, or form as in the self, or the self as in form. He is not seized with the idea that 'I am form' or 'Form is mine.' As he is not seized with these ideas, his form changes & alters, but he does not fall into sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, or despair over its change & alteration.
"He does not assume feeling to be the self...
...and so on with perceptions, volitional formations & consciousness, all 5 aggegrates.
Friday, October 8
For this morning's meditation, I used the golden light metta visualization taught by Leigh and Ayya Khema. In contrast to the standard method which uses the phrases, the visualization led fairly quickly to a comparatively quiet mind. I think it was access concentration, with some piti and sukha.
For the next several days I would like to experiment with this mehtod exclusively for my sittings. It seems like a great way to bypass the usual antics of the monkey-mind.
I'm left with a really nice afterglow today.
(Too bad I had to stop to pee, or who knows where it would have gone.)
Thursday, October 7
I AM 29% GEEK!
You probably work in computers, or a history deptartment at a college. You never really fit in with the "normal" crowd. But you have friends, and this is a good thing.
Wednesday, October 6
Five Subjects for Frequent Recollection
AN V.57 Upajjhatthana Sutta, Subjects for Contemplation
"There are these five facts that one should reflect on often, whether one is a woman or a man, lay or ordained. Which five?
"'I am subject to aging, have not gone beyond aging.' This is the first fact that one should reflect on often, whether one is a woman or a man, lay or ordained.
"'I am subject to illness, have not gone beyond illness.'...
"'I am subject to death, have not gone beyond death.'...
"'I will grow different, separate from all that is dear and appealing to me.'...
"'I am the owner of my actions (kamma), heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions, and have my actions as my arbitrator. Whatever I do, for good or for evil, to that will I fall heir.'...
This morning's meditation focused on karuna (compassion) for a change of pace. Karuna seems to be a refinement of metta -- metta tuned to a deeper pitch. It's a rich and resonant contemplation -- I see suffering everywhere, in everyone, and karuna is a natural response.
There was a realization in the midst of all this. Recently I've been plagued with self-loathing thoughts along the nature of what a failure I am, what a waste this life has been, and so on. How I haven't accomplished anything. But in this meditation it was clear that this is what truly matters, this is my life's work. Following the path is what gives my life meaning, and not some foolish notions of worldly accomplishment (that I internalized from my dad...).
Friday, October 1
Well, it's official: because of my stupid back, we had to cancel the Brahmaviharas retreat with DaeJa Napier at BCBS.
'Tis sad, Oh well. Bear it mindfully.