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Buddhadharma : Summer 2005
summer 2005| 86 |buddhadharma tion practice for developing love, com- passion, bodhichitta – tonglen. Tish Shute New York, N.Y. I ExPERIENCE DEPRESSIoN in phases. Phase 1 starts with a dull listlessness that settles like a mist. My voice becomes gray and a heaviness and weariness sits lumplike in some vague place inside me. I still manage to sit twice a day but it becomes a struggle, dull and lifeless. I become more and more critical of the quality of my practice and it deteriorates accordingly, providing yet more fuel for the criticism. A creeping sense of uselessness overtakes me. In phase 2, I wake up and I’m para- lyzed. on occasion, I’ve managed a jour- nal entry: “Bone-crushingly depressed. Can’t write.” My voice turns to sludge. An inner darkness churns and heaves and aches. Ignoring it is impossible. Doing anything about it is impossible. A wasteland surrounds me, blows through me. I am unable to remember ever hav- ing felt different. I see with awful cer- tainty that I will always feel like this, that I always have felt like this. My life was never worth living and never will be. Everything I do will fail, everything I’ve ever done has failed. I am powerless, just as an alcoholic is powerless over alcohol. Despair. In phase 3, something drags me to my meditation stool and I sit, a lump of mud, engulfed in gloom. Thoughts of how I should sit, how useless I am, who I hate – all this goes quiet. I haven’t the energy to criti- cize. The final clunking cylinder grinds to a halt. I give up the struggle. Misery sits in misery, and something moves. The edi- fice of the depression is still in place, but something is different. A few more sittings, a couple of more days, and the depression slowly starts to dissolve. It leaves a lurking trace for a while, but new life flows, and the wasteland takes on a wild beauty. Does sitting help? I know that not sit- ting doesn’t. Dave Fox Bangalore, India MEDITATIoN IS NoT my cure for de- pression. It helps. It shows me the way, the path toward acceptance and equanim- ity, but it’s not “the cure.” And I think it’s probably just as well. As I’ve learned over and over in my practice: the larger the problem of my misery looms, the larger the solution that is needed to “cure” it. IfIcan rest with my mind asitis–tumul- tuous, jumpy, inconsistent, full of fear or exhilaration, rage or sadness – I can then equally see, feel, and accept the rest: peace, clarity, and the equanimity of seeing all of this together. And even if occasionally I should miss a morning’s sit, I miss it, with a longing, an unsettling that brings me back to my chair by the end of that same day. When I wake with the daily demons of indecision, blame, despair, revulsion in all its guises, I sit. I sit with them, through them, and in a certain sense in spite of them. I don’t sit because of the pain or sadness, I sit because it’s the only effective way I know to learn how to move on, to take the next step, to live and thrive by surviving the dark blackness that sits so comfortably close. My practice is my companion that I can count on for comfort, for clarity, for pa- tience, and, most of all, for acceptance and open-heartedness. While meditation is not, and cannot be, my cure, it does hold my hand as I move forward, letting go of the weight that has held me for so long. David Williams Boston, Mass. THIRTEEN YEARS Ago, I was diag- nosed with bipolar disorder and have been struggling to learn how to live in balance ever since. Western medicine, which mainly consists of innumerable psychiatric medications, many of which have awful side effects, has been of lim- ited value to me. last year, I took a mindfulness-based stress reduction class. I was hypomanic when I decided to sign up for the class (feeling speeded up and great), but in clinical depression when the class started (feeling extremely flat and slowed down). At first I wasn’t sure if I was even going to be able to drive the thirty minutes on the freeway required to get to the class, let alone sit still and pay attention for three hours. To my great surprise, the relaxation tools we used in the class helped me far more than I had expected. By doing the body scan, at times I was able to reach a sense of deep relaxation that I was not accustomed to feeling in depression. But the most helpful tool was meditation and I have since used meditation to start my day. I have found it has enabled me to not have my repeti- tive negative thoughts upon waking. I still take medication, but my experience has been that meditation in combination with medication has been far more use- ful and effective for me than medication alone. Wendy Cheit Kensington, Calif. uPcoMIng toPIcS & deadlIneS for readerS’ exchange: across the generations: Is there a generational divide in the Buddhist world? Within your community, are younger (or older) practitioners equally invited to participate? Does a baby-boomer flavor make your community less welcoming to younger practitioners? Do younger and older practitioners have different needs, and are those needs being met? Do you have children – or parents – who practice, and what's your experience of that? Have you reflected on the demographic composition of your sangha to draw any conclusions about the future of Western Buddhism? Deadline: June 1, 2005 The death of a teacher: A teacher’s death is a difficult experience, but also an opportunity for profound realization and progress, as the practitioner must come face-to-face with the reality of change and the mortality of all beings. How has the death of your teacher affected you and your practice? Does the teacher-student relationship carry on, even after the teacher’s death? Have you felt conflicted about seeking other teachers? How has your community coped with the death of its teacher? How has it dealt with any problems that arose as a result of the teacher’s death? Deadline: September 1, 2005 Include your name and city with your submission. Please indicate if you would like your name withheld from publication. Send your submission (150 to 500 words) by mail or to: email@example.com