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Buddhadharma : Summer 2009
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly summer 20 0 9 8 letters As someone who has been in therapy for the better part of 25 years, who has been on antidepressant medication for at least the last seven years, and who has been practicing meditation for about ten years, your article on medication and meditation (Spring 2009 issue) really spoke to me. I went through much soul-searching before starting on antidepres- sants, thinking that I might become artificially “happy” and that I would miss out on the opportunity to confront my demons. I see now that this makes about as much sense as saying that someone who has diabetes should forgo taking insulin because they might miss out on the opportunity to confront their need for sugar. I agree with your authors’ conclusion that the combination of medication, therapy, and spiritual practice, combined with a nutri- tious diet and exercise, is the best remedy for chronic depression. If you remove one of those legs of the stool, it falls. My experience is that it is almost impossible to meditate reg- ularly when I’m going through a depressive episode. The medication is an indispensable part of my treatment. Clinical depression is not some kind of emo- tional test. It is a progressive and extremely debilitating neurological disease. With all that we know now about this disease, it’s time to stop romanticizing it as a “dark night of the soul” or some mysterious source of creativity. Once treated, like any other chronic disease, with medication, therapy, diet and exercise, it becomes possible to get on the cushion and get to work. Jim Millar Ringwood, New Jersey I agree with the authors of the “Medicate or Meditate” article that vipassana meditation and cognitive behavioral psychotherapy, either alone or combined, are no match for extreme emotional states such as severe depression. However antidepressant medication is not the only solution available to Western Buddhist practitioners today. The authors’ research ignores the fact that there are body-based approaches to both psychotherapy and meditation practice that are available to practitioners right now. For example, Integrative Body Psychotherapy (IBP) offers clients the ability to consciously rebalance their neural chemistry using very effective body-based psychotherapy tools and practices. Western Buddhist teacher Reggie Ray offers students opportunities for intensive work consciously integrat- ing the body with meditation prac- tice. And for those who are unable to avail themselves of these body-based approaches, there is also Tibetan medicine, which treats psychological imbalances as well as physical imbalances—without side-effects. If we are in the business of trying to wake up, then why not exhaust all the conscious ways of working with extreme emotional states be- fore resorting to unconscious pill popping? Chris Thatcher Boulder, Colorado The “Ask the Teacher” feature is a reliably good read, and the Spring issue’s topic regarding how to deal with an abusive re- lationship was a particularly poignant one. Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche is a marvel- ous teacher with remarkable wisdom, and I always look forward to reading his advice. However, I have to admit that I winced a bit when his first suggestion was for her to ask herself how she might be contributing to the situation. Those of us who have worked with survivors of violence can attest to the fact that the people who are harmed in abusive relation- ships will often take the blame on themselves, feeling that they must have done something to cause the abuser to mistreat them. Mercifully, people sometimes come to the realization that while they are not faultless in the relationship, they are actually not to blame for someone else’s aggression. That being said, the general clients the ability to consciously rebalance their neural chemistry using very effective body-based psychotherapy tools and practices. Western Buddhist teacher Reggie Ray offers students opportunities for intensive work consciously integrat- ing the body with meditation prac- tice. And for those who are unable to avail themselves of these body-based WE WELCoME yoUR CoMMENTS AT: LETTERS@THEBUDDHADHARMA.CoM