Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Spirituality’ Category

Something New

I am old
This life is old
These bones are old
These thoughts, old
These fears, old
These hopes are old
These dreams are old
From where might come something new?

I have searched the horizon
For a sign of hope, from anywhere
My ship to come
A rescue plane to pick me up
From this desert isle
“This is Radio Majo
Come in, come in – is there anybody out there?”

I’m giving up
There’s nothing out there
But the ghosts of my life past
The phantasms of my wandering
In this landscape of broken dreams
Giving up…
Giving up…

But what is this?
When I give up
Something rises…
When I give up
Something rises…
When I give up
Something rises…

I have become so empty
Empty of hope
Empty of the will to try
Empty of sails on that so-empty sea
Empty of a dream of what might come
Empty of what I thought was me

I have become so hollow
So transparent
So lacking in mass
That my empty has turned to light
My empty has turned to light

This gentle breeze
Stirring beneath my hollow limbs
Lifts me – oh so slightly
Up
The golden sun, which shines on
Nothing that I want
Begins to shine
Through me

I have become
So empty
So hollow
So transparent
That the breeze lifts me up
And the light fills me up
My being in this world
So exhausted
So used up
So empty
That I am become
A being of light

Like no one I remember
But one I recognize
Was hidden, covered
So encased in doing
‘Til I could do no more

I will continue to give up
Life will show me how
It is one more thing that I will not do
In this empty, used up

Hollow, radiant now

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

I woke up today ruminating right out of the chute.  Even before I was out of bed, I was criticizing myself for sleeping in too late.  In one objective term, I had not slept in too late – I had slept in to my usual rising time, but I had been awake two hours earlier and now I was telling myself that I should have gotten up then, that I have so much writing to accomplish that I would have been way ahead of the game.  There was a good objective reason for not getting up then: I have had stomach cramps for four days and had gotten to bed kind of late – the rest would do me good.  

For my first few minutes after rising, I was immersed in an argument between these two voices.  And I caught myself – I realized how completely fruitless this argument is, and how similar it is to how I spend so much of my time.  And I decided to turn it over.  The third step of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and Overeaters Anonymous (OA) is “Made a decision to turn over my life and my will to God’s care, as I understand God.”  I don’t understand God – don’t understand Higher Power.  I’m wrestling with the whole notion.  I’m sure there’s something there – something that does, in some mysterious way, care for me.  I don’t know what it is – and I want more conscious contact with it. I don’t know if it’s out there somewhere – I’m more inclined to think that it’s in me.  

I don't know what I'm turning it over to, but I know that I am powerless over my emotions - that I can't do this myself.

I don’t know what I’m turning it over to, but I know that I am powerless over my emotions – that I can’t do this myself.

But I made a decision to turn all this ruminating, all this internal argument over to that Higher Power.  And when I turned it over, what was left was the here and now.  If I’m not ruminating about what time I got up – if I’m not ruminating about anything – it leaves me free to be in the here and now.  Free to focus on making my bed, focus on the sensations of the pillows in my hand, focus on walking down the stairs, focus on the blender in my hands.  Then another rumination pops up: should I be having a protein shake for breakfast?  What a useless conversation.  It helps me realize that this is, as Lorrie my Buddhist counselor says, practice – it just takes lots of practice.  

Lorrie encourages me to surrender to life – to focus my attention elsewhere.  The 12 Steps encourage me to turn it over to Higher Power.  My buddy Monty encourages me to pull it out of my head and take it into my body.  Alayah, the extremely wise woman with whom I have been sitting in satsang (spiritual dialogue), encourages me to trust my deeper self – to take it there.  It could be seen as me having too many outside influences coaching me, but for me there is a wonderful synergy in where they are all going.  They each fill in different pieces of the puzzle.  

So here I am, walking the dog in the woods, taping about all of this.  I’ve not shaken the rumination.  It’s going to be a process for a while yet, maybe all day and maybe on and off in many of my future days.  But in the here and now, I’m inhabiting a wonderful complex healing state – where rumination is attempting to run me, but I’ve got some leverage.  I’m practicing turning it over – imperfectly and only somewhat successfully, but I’m on the road. I’ve got a new practice.  And I’m writing – I’m sharing it with people.  It’s too early in the day to make outreach calls to my OA friends about this, which I will definitely do later on.  But I’m making an outreach call to you, my readers, and that helps.  

 

Read Full Post »

Today Is my birthday.  I have been spending some significant time elaborating a vision for myself for the next year – itself a very positive act on a day on which, in spite of it being my birthday, I am relatively depressed.  I actually started out today more like a manic depression 9 (very contracted), but this visioning activity – and going to a very good Overeaters Anonymous meeting – have moved me to my current 8 rating (definite physical contraction).  And I again today sit in a complex healing state – with that definite physical contraction cohabiting with some positive internal elements. Very significant parts of that vision for my next year have to do with my recovery from bipolar disorder and my vision for this blog.  I’ll write about my personal healing today and about my vision for the blog in a later post.

A friend of mine is making me a gluten-free, sugar-free (agave) flourless chocolate cake for my birthday - and I know it will be scrumptious.

A friend of mine is making me a gluten-free, sugar-free (agave) flourless chocolate cake for my birthday – and I know it will be scrumptious.

First, my recovery.  My vision includes:

  • I don’t have a vision of complete recovery from bipolar disorder.  This could disappoint or upset some of my colleagues who write and teach about bipolar disorder.  Unless some new medication comes down the pike that controls the oscillation of my states from manic to depressed, my vision of healing includes that i heal through bipolar disorder rather than from it – that it is the walk I need to walk, a disease I need to manage, even if I some day get off of all meds.
  • I spend more time in what I’m calling complex healing states – states where elements of up and down coexist together, where the polarization of my manic and depressed states gets a chance to heal because the two parts of myself get a chance to know and influence each other.
  • My prevailing state shifts gradually more towards the peaceful state (md 6) on my manic depression scale.  I spend less time on the more extreme levels – further from the balanced 6 – and more time right on it.  This is supported and facilitated by all the elements that support my healing – from psychotherapy to Overeaters Anonymous, the 12 Steps and wrestling with the concept of a higher power to ecstatic dancing and all kinds of other relationships and resources that are detailed elsewhere in this blog.
Balance - the elusive state that for me is the Grail for people with bipolar disorder.

Balance – the elusive state that for me is the Grail for people with bipolar disorder.

  • Because of this healing, I am able to negotiate with my psychiatrist and to manage successfully a gradual decrease in my psychotropic meds.  I hold out the possibility that eventually I will be off them altogether, but I don’t see anything like that happening in the next year.  I don’t think it’s in the cards for everybody with bipolar disorder to get off of or even reduce their meds, but it is part of my personal vision.
  • Last night I attended my first meeting of Magnetic Minds (http://magneticminds.weebly.com/), the Asheville chapter of the national group Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (http://www.dbsalliance.org).  I liked it and intend to go back.  I visualize that this group will support my own healing, that I will be able to offer helpful support, inspiration and information to other members (partly by offering them this blog), and that the group will deepen my understanding of bipolar disorder and the impact it has on those who deal with it.
  • Writing (this blog and my memoir) supports my in my own healing through bipolar disorder.
  • This year – partly based on this blog and my memoir – I begin to do some public speaking and teaching on the topic -some volunteer through NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) and progressively more for pay.  This supports me in my own healing.
  • I will continue my own reading on bipolar disorder, especially books and blogs by others with the disease, but also including scholarly and professional writing.  This will both give me more to share on the blog and support my own healing.

Read Full Post »

On two Wednesday evenings a month, I sit in satsang (spiritual dialogue) with a very wise and loving woman named Alayah.  I always receive some comfort or inspiration or both – and last night was no exception.

The primary activity of these satsangs is “inquiry”: people will present some issue or problem they are having in their lives and Alayah will help them to inquire, to look at it more deeply.  A central subtext is always “Who are you?” – to help people probe beneath the surface appearance of the separate self to a deeper layer of oneness with all life.

Alayah is a householder - a wife and mother - who also happens to be fully awake.

Alayah is a householder – a wife and mother – who also happens to be fully awake.

A woman had just been exploring some emotional pain she had been experiencing and Alayah was encouraging her to follow the pain deeply within.  “Where is it in your body?”  Alayah was telling her that if she followed it deeply enough within, it would all dissolve into Spirit.  “When you go into your deepest self, that is where you will find God – God is nothing but who you really are.”

The woman asked Alayah, ” But what about giving my pain over to Spirit or Life?”  Alayah said, “There is a place for that, but we’re going directly to the source – the straightest path to real truth.  When you go deeply enough within, you realize that there is nothing out there that is separate from you.”

This woman had reached a point of peace with her work and Alayah surveyed the room.  “Anybody else have questions or issues?”  I was sitting right next to this woman and caught Alayah’s eye.  “I have a confusion.”  “OK, bring it on.”  “I have been involved in a 12 Step program and have been wrestling with the idea of Higher Power.  Specifically, I have been trying to practice the 3rd Step – turning over my life and my will to God’s care as I understand God.  That’s all new to me, but it feels like I have been having some success with it.”  (see yesterday’s post)

Alayah said, “That’s a totally valid way to go, but if you keep coming back to these meetings, the concept of turning things over to something or somebody outside of you will fall away.  The surest path to God is to go deep into the heart of who you really are.”  This spoke deeply to me and to the real sticking point for me with the Higher Power concept in Overeaters Anonymous (my 12 Step program).  I deeply believe that I am not in any way separate from God or Life (my preferred term).  I want to experience more sense of connection with this mysterious force that I call Life – but not as something different from me.

When I first saw this picture of this t-shirt, I knew it didn't sit right with me, but I didn't know why.

When I first saw this picture of this t-shirt, I knew it didn’t sit right with me, but I didn’t know why.

I said to Alayah, “My best buddy Monty and I have had numerous conversations over the years about the depressive emotional pain I experience.  His wish for me is to drop beneath my mind, my thinking about the pain and to go into my body.  Where do I feel the pain in my body?  And to ‘be with’ that.” Alayah smiled broadly and said, “I like the way Monty thinks.”

And at this point things really came together for me.  I sat there beaming at Alayah, drinking deeply from the pool of love in her eyes.  After some deliciously long moments, Alayah asked, “We’re sitting here looking at each other – what’s going on for you?”  I said, “I’ve gotten exactly what I needed.  I’m just sitting here with it – I don’t need any more words.”

And I had gotten exactly what I needed.  Afterwards, as I was sitting in the car waiting for my friend Lisa, who had stopped to chat with someone else, I wrote down my new current revision of the 2nd Step, changing the words “power higher than my own”: “Came to believe that a power deeper than my ego….”  With this revision – and putting my own spin on “God” in the 3rd Step the first three Steps now fully work for me.

  1. Step 1 – Admitted that I was powerless over food (or my emotions), that my life had become unmanageable.
  2. Step 2 – Came to believe that a power deeper than my ego could restore my life to sanity.
  3. Step 3 – Made a decision to turn my life and my will over to the care of God, as I understand God.

Read Full Post »

In my four weeks of involvement with Overeaters Anonymous, I have struggled with the whole concept of Higher Power.  My friend Cynthia, who recruited me (or more accurately, I was knocked out by what a great place she was in and wanted what she had) had told me her accommodation to this concept: “All I’m asking of myself is that I be wrestling with the idea of a Higher Power.”  I have for a long time now said that I am non-theistic – that the concept of a God outside of me seemed to blow apart the notion of life all being one.  Whatever God might be, I had to be totally one with it.

But I have really wanted this whole 12 Step thing to work for me, and Higher Power is central to it.

  1. Step 1 – Admitted that I was powerless over food, that my life had become unmanageable.
  2. Step 2 – Came to believe that a power higher than my own could restore my life to sanity.
  3. Step 3 – Made a decision to turn my life and my will over to the care of God, as I understand God.

So I, like Cynthia, have been wrestling with it.  I mostly substituted Life for God and this has pretty much worked for me.  I have talked about this a lot, recruiting from others (especially those whom I suspect are kind of like-minded) what their concept of God is.  What I have been saying for me is “I don’t have a concept of a personal God – some being outside of me that takes care of me.  I believe that Life is in some way intelligent – I think there are all sorts of evidence of this.  And, in some even more mysterious way, I believe that Life is benevolent – has our own best interests at heart, keeps sending us exactly the experiences we most need for our own development.  Like I say, I believe this.  Sometimes I even, in my guts, experience it to be true.  But mostly, day-to-day, it stays a concept for me.  I tend more to live from a place of isolation – me against the world.”

I don't know what this Higher Power is, but I want to wrestle with it.

I don’t know what this Higher Power is, but I want to wrestle with it.

So, with the encouragement of the 3rd Step – “God as I understand God” – I have embraced wrestling with the concept of this God or Higher Power.  Whatever this mysterious force I call Life is, I want more felt sense of connection with it.  I want, day-to-day, to feel more fully connected to Life, more cared about, more loved – even if it is loved by some mysterious force that unites all of creation.

Sunday morning, as I was preparing to do my piece of stand-up comedy at church (see “A piece of manic comedy”, September 15 post) – and was depressed and angry – I finally, out of desperation, attempted to “turn it over”.  “Life, I don’t seem able to do anything about all this anger and depression I am feeling.  Nothing I do gets rid of it or even reduces it.  I’m turning it over to you – you take it from me.”  This is all very new stuff for me – I’m used to struggling through stuff all by myself.  But the concept of surrender to Spirit is very attractive to me and I have been looking for chances to practice.  This seemed like a great opportunity – and, like I said, I was desperate.

I'm even getting less tense around the God word.

I’m even getting less tense around the God word.

And it worked!  During my short drive to church, I kept running my mantra: “Life, please take this depression and anger from me – or at least take over this performance, so it can go OK even with me depressed and angry.” As I was walking up to church, I saw a friend of mine up ahead of me.  And something clicked: “There are so many people here that I love and that love me.  I want to give them a gift here, something that will make their day, or maybe even their week, go better.”  And that turned the tide.  I started to relax, to actually “turn it over”.  And I surrendered to my two performances, had a great time, and was totally fed by the extraordinarily positive response.  It was clear that people had, actually, gotten what they needed – that all the laughter had lightened their load.

And that something even a little deeper had gone on.  The theme for the day’s service was “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.”  My manic piece of comedy was called, “It’s never too late to have a screwed-up childhood.” (see post by this name, September 15).  And somehow getting people laughing about the idea of having a screwed-up childhood had helped some people relax around the screwed-upness of their own childhood – had in some way been genuinely healing for them.  It was all tremendously satisfying.

Based on this, later in the day I rewrote the first three Steps for myself, changing only one word: I substituted the word emotions for alcohol or food.  This revision has really worked for me and has stayed very much with me over the last couple of days.

  1. Step 1 – Admitted that I was powerless over my emotions, that my life had become unmanageable.
  2. Step 2 – Came to believe that a power higher than my own could restore my life to sanity
  3. Step 3 – Made a decision to turn my life and my will over to the care of God, as I understand God.

Read Full Post »

Here’s what i did while swimming laps on Wednesday that allowed my mood to continue to lift after my magical visit with my friend (yesterday’s post).  It’s especially fresh, because I did essentially this same thing swimming a couple of hours ago.  I started this day at a mania-depression 8 (definite physical contraction, with significant discouragement and negative self-talk), lifted to a 7 (slightly depressed) during and after a good Overeaters Anonymous meeting, then got to a 6 (balanced – yay!) during and after swimming.  So far this has held.  Since my mood frequently is better in the afternoon and evening, I’m hopeful that I’ll get through the rest of this day in this wonderful state of balance.  And I’m going ecstatic dancing tonight (see page at the top of the blog), which tends – if I’m even close to not depressed – to be a lot of fun.  (If I’m really depressed it can be awful.)

Lap swimming, like ecstatic dancing, is one of my key tools for staying balanced.  I’m a lousy swimmer, have never learned to put my face in the water and do a reasonable crawl and instead do lots of side stroke and back stroke, but still 45 minutes of it is great exercise, leaves me more relaxed – and on a good day can be soothing to my mind.  Oftentimes I will try to count my breaths (1 on the inbreath and again on the outbreath, then 2 – up to 10 and start again) as one way to calm my mind while I’m swimming.  Other times my mind may not get quite this quiet, but I can do some soothingly peaceful thinking about things in my life.  When I’m really depressed, as the last couple of weeks, the contents of my mind may stay pretty gnarly through almost the whole 45 minutes – maybe easing up a little as the time goes along.

No goggles for me - I don't stick my face in the water, which makes me a very clumsy swimmer.

No goggles for me – I don’t stick my face in the water, which makes me a very clumsy swimmer.

All this 12 Step stuff – after just 2 1/2 weeks of exploring it (see my post on August 28) – is mostly still also swimming in my head, but I have just started trying to get my hands around the first three steps.  These last two times swimming, I have been occupying my mind with phrases from these three steps

  1. “We admitted that we were powerless over food – that our lives had become unmanageable.”

    Just thinking the word “admitted” has been soothing to me – I can feel the resistance, the tension, the inner struggle softening as I just acknowledge to myself that I have a serious problem with food.

  2. “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

    “Came to believe”.  I don’t believe in a personal God. I consider myself to be non-theistic, which is very different from atheistic – I don’t oppose the idea of a God.  I actually think that when people use the word God, they are trying to point towards the same reality I do believe in.  I also think of myself as more spiritual than agnostic, which is simply saying “I don’t know what is true.”  I do believe there is something going on deeper than material reality.  I believe that life (I sometimes use a capital L) is in some mysterious way intelligent and benevolent – keeps sending us exactly the experiences we most need for our healing and growth.

    My rational mind sure doesn’t know how to get its hands around all this, but I still believe it’s true – and sometimes even experience it as true.  But most of the time it is not experientially/psychologically/emotionally true for me: I don’t live from this place.  I don’t most of the time emotionally feel supported by Life or any Higher Power.  But I want to – I want to translate this principle from a cognitive belief to a living, breathing experience.  And from just these couple of weeks of sitting in OA meetings where people are making reference to their Higher Power (two meetings in my first twelve days, then four in the last five days!) and having now four support calls with people who come from this orientation, I feel something starting to get loosened up in me.

    I sense the possibility of all this getting more real for me.  So using “Came to believe” as a mantra while I swim has been very powerful for me.  It’s soothing, encouraging – makes me feel like something new and positive may be starting to stir within me.  I even feel like I might be on the verge of a kind of conversion – not to a personal God, but to a more personal, supportive relationship with Life, whatever that is.

    “Could restore us to sanity.”  That “admitted” word from the first step has me really acknowledging not only that I am powerless over food, and that my eating life has become unmanageable – but I’m looking at a whole variety of ways that my life is pretty crazy, many of which relate directly to bipolar disorder.  At the heart of all this is the crazy illusion that I am a separate self in an uncaring universe.  The idea that I could be restored to sanity feels really good.

There’s more that I want to share about the good stuff happening while I’m swimming, but that’s already a pretty hefty post for today.  Let’s put up the rest of it tomorrow.

Read Full Post »

(Could it be that I am actually at a very rare 6 – balance – on my manic depression scale?  Or am I, after a couple of weeks of depression, expanding into a 7 – slightly expanded – and having it grounded by being slightly sick.  Oh, well, I’m not gonna agonize about it – going to celebrate it as me being relatively in balance, and see what comes next.)

Here’s some writing I generated at Art Church (ashevilleartchurch.com) yesterday.  The prompt was

What is magic to me?

Radiating energy in all directions (see drawing).

The instruction was to draw with our non-dominant hand something to represent "What is magic to me?"  I'm even less of an artist than usual with my non-dominant hand.

The instruction was to draw with our non-dominant hand something to represent “What is magic to me?” I’m even less of an artist than usual with my non-dominant hand.

It comes from me, but is totally influenced and guided by being fully integrated in all the life around me.  Totally fascinated with the people, mesmerized by the natural world, astonished by the magic all around me.  My magic is possible because I participate in the magic all around me.  I am interesting because I am interested.  It’s what I am missing when I am depressed: in that state I am totally self-preoccupied, I lose my connection, my hookup with the people and animals and flowers and things and forces – the magic – around me.

Read Full Post »