Posting at my newest blog, “Big Bang Taiji”

Why I do not believe that ADHD exists.

http://bigbangtaiji.wordpress.com/2013/05/16/why-i-do-not-believe-adhd-exists/

 

Relaxing Into Your Being, a review

Relaxing Into Your Being is an introduction to the Water Method of Taoist taught by lineage holder and Taoist master Bruce Frantzis. Subjects covered by this instructive book include:

A comparison of Fire and Water schools of Taoism.
Breathing techniques, from the beginner to advanced
The Eight Bodies of Being and their relationship to one’s self and spirituality
The Sixteen-Part nei gung system
The primary and secondary energy channels of the body
The inner dissolving practice
Encountering and working with the mindstream
How to sit comfortably and correct your own posture internally

It teaches the all-important who, what, how, where and why in terms of how meditation works, how to identify internal blocks, where you apply your intent, how to determine whether or not what you are doing is actually working, what to do with problems you may encounter, how to make the most of your practice time, and much much more.

Life changing inner work

This book, along with it’s companion “The Great Stillness: The Water Method of Taoist Meditation Series, Vol. 2″ were invaluable to me during my twenties in dealing with my mental health problems. Prior to starting Taoist Water Method meditation in 1996 I suffered from recurring suicidal depression, bipolar mania, severe anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder resulting from growing up and being repeatedly traumatized and abused both at home and at school, and later in institutions. By the time I was an adult, I was pretty messed up and not very happy.

Therapy and counseling had little effect on me and psychiatric drugs made my life even worse and didn’t help me in any meaningful way. I did not come from a privileged family, so I did not have any kind of support network, or health insurance. As someone with severe and treatment resistant mental illness, the outcome of my life did not look good. In the midst of all this suffering, I found Bruce Frantzis’ Inner and Outer dissolving practice.

I had considerable meditation training before I encountered Bruce’s Taoist dissolving practices. But most of the techniques I had learned had little to do with healing the heart and stilling the mind and were instead more like training for the psychic Olympics, a path which Bruce describes in this book as a trap. Indeed, I was one of those spiritual power junkies who trained meditation to increase my psychic abilities because of my weaknesses and fear and unresolved PTSD and a deep insecure desire to have a scary and unseen advantage over other people.

When I learned Vipassana and Zen, I learned how to listen to my inner world, as well as how to concentrate, but neither Zen or Vipassana came with the tools to literally rid myself of the stuff that was coming up in practice. This is the major difference between Taoist Water Tradition versus other traditions. The dissolving techniques described herein are a way of using intent and awareness to liberate your consciousness of the turmoil that manifests when doing deep breathing or other energy work that brings the unprocessed and destabilizing content of your inner world to your everyday waking awareness.

I made practicing Taoist meditation my personal religion and discipline. I practiced morning and night, every day, for years. Slowly but surely the chaos and noise of my inner world and all my pain began to abate, a little bit at a time, month after month, year after year.

Within the first two years of dedicated practice I found my depression had been cured. Within five years, I had, using the dissolving process and the nei gung system described in “Relaxing”, completely healed myself of the neurological conditioning of PTSD. Gone were the nightmares, flashbacks and triggers that had haunted my life previously. Also gone were manic episodes and racing thoughts and anxiety attacks and I gained an inner confidence and self-esteem that I had previously never known.

This work made me stronger, mentally, physically and energetically. I can say that without dissolving the first four Bodies of Being, I’d probably still be suffering to this day. But thanks to the practice of Taoist Water Method meditation, I have not been depressed in fifteen years. While I’m hardly Enlightened, I am very happy with myself and my life, which is something that was missing when I started this. I cannot praise ‘Relaxing Into Your Being’ enough. The practice of the material within its pages totally changed my life around and gave me a reason to live.

Posted in meditation, mental health | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals

Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals by Christopher Payne, is not a book of words as much as it is a book of images. A photo-essay, others have called it. And the pictures definitely tell a story.

Asylum contains haunting and classical views of 19th century Kirkbride-plan mental hospitals. The old asylums were closed-off worlds complete with greenhouses, sewing rooms, craft shops, small theaters, even bowling alleys, to occupy and entertain the patient-residents. The hospitals were completely staffed and stocked for nearly every medical contingency. They had the all the facilities and devices of 20th century psychiatric care including straitjackets, ice showers, immersion tanks, ECT units, and one would imagine, lobotomies, for the ‘treatment resistant’.

Entire communities and cultures existed inside those red brick buildings, with their white painted trim around doors and windows, and everything inside painted institutional green. In the old days, thousands of patients lived out their adult lives in these State asylums, with diagnoses like: ‘undifferentiated depression’ and ‘dementia praecox’, and were even buried on the premises after they had expired.

A wistful trip down memory lane.

This book really brought back some old memories. I once lived as a teenager in a residential treatment facility on the grounds of Concord Hospital (originally called: “New Hampshire State Asylum for the Insane”) which is depicted a few times in the book (p45, 47, 143). Looking at the photos of the different institutions in this book, I saw my old room, my old bed, the basement tunnels, the bathrooms we showered in, the chairs we sat in during group, the windows I used to look out of…

On page 201 is a photo taken of a melancholic but poignant poem written by an unknown and unattributed patient on a basement wall of Augusta State Hospital in Augusta, Maine, a portion of which reads:

“I wish that some of these people, who write the books and make the rules, could spend just a few years walking in our shoes.”

Low on written content but high on visual and emotional impact, Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals by Christopher Payne is a dreary, lovely and reverent look inside the dimly-lit underworld of State Mental Hospitals.

The Kirkbride Plan was based on ‘moral treatment’

When I was living in residential lockdown, I was not so lucky to live in a Kirkbride Plan building. Because NHH is almost two hundred years old, individual buildings on the grounds show structural differences stemming from differing ideas of how to institutionalize people over the years. At least one of the buildings there, the Bancroft Building, was Kirkbride Plan inspired. For more information on Kirkbride Plan asylums which were designed during the ‘moral treatment’ era in psychiatry, check out these sites.

Kirkbride Buildings *

Kirkbride Plan at wiki *

Bankcroft Building at New Hampshire Hospital *

New Hampshire Hospital Historical Society *

Posted in psychiatry | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

An Unquiet Mind, a review.

***Spoiler Warning in case there is anyone left in the bipolar community that has not yet read Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison***

It’s hard to review a memoir. It’s not the same as reviewing a how-to or history book. I try to remember (and don’t always succeed) that you should attack a person’s ideas, not the person themselves. Why would I want to attack this author (or her ideas)? Bear with me, and I’ll tell you.

An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison is perhaps one of the most widely promoted memoirs of bipolar disorder in existence. I am not drawing that from any statistic, but it is my experience when I am haunting reviews of mental illness lit on Amazon plus my time spent lurking on bipolar support forums. Time and time again I see someone say, “Well X book is okay and all, but the best book is AUM.” And someone will reply to that with “Totally agree. This is THE book on bipolar everyone must read.” So, to figure out why that was, I bought and read, ‘An Unquiet Mind’ by Kay Redfield Jamison.

I have to tell you, I do not at all agree that this is THE must-read book or the best book that I’ve read about a person dealing with mental illness. An Unquiet Mind is one of the few books (along with Prozac Nation) that I have thrown across a room due to sheer outrage while I was reading it.

Everyone says the book is really well-written. I’ll grant that it is. With her education and the people she had help edit her book, I would hope so. But is a well-written book my only criteria for enjoying or evaluating an author’s work? Certainly not.

This woman enjoys a level of privilege I find hard to fully grasp. How many people do you personally know who could afford to buy and care for a horse while they are in graduate school? I can’t help but think of the thrift and poverty I was living in around the same time she was gallivanting about Scotland. I don’t recognize or empathize with her world and the stratosphere she lives in due to the protective qualities of being from a moneyed family. But that is not something a person has control over when they are born. I am not blaming her for it, but I am noting it, because privilege makes a huge difference in quality of life whether you have mental illness or not in terms of the care you can afford, as well the distractions you can buy.

She talks about her purchase of a horse as a ‘bipolar shopping spree’ induced by mania. You can look at something like that and say, ‘Wow, bipolar made you buy a horse! Yikes. How horrible! Break out the meds right away and control that episode!” But now try saying that your bipolar mania induced you to buy a double-shot latte, and most folks would have trouble declaring that a sign of unmanaged mental illness. But apparently buying a horse was not just an impulse to soothe her inner child’s desire, but actually the result of a chemical imbalance in her brain. Sorry Kay, I just don’t buy it.

In the beginning of the book, Jamison is a career-driven woman, determined to be a tenured professor. She flows seemingly from highschool to college without any time-off period to find herself, presumably, because the allure of doctorhood is her overriding passion at the time. But it is during this time, when her world is all about education and learning and teaching and practicing, that she has her first major bipolar disorder breakdown.

From then on her story is one of a person trying to reconcile taking lithium, when it clearly makes her feel like crap, even as she sings the praises of how it ‘gentles’ her. The path of accepting her diagnosis involves learning to pathologize and medicalize all her past behaviors by looking at them through her nifty-new bipolar goggles.

On page 97 she recites her “Rules for the Gracious Acceptance of Lithium Into Your Life” and I think it was there that I flicked the book like a Frisbee across the living room in total disgust. Or it may have been on page 102 when Kay wrote: “I had, and have, no tolerance for those individuals, especially psychiatrists and psychologists—who oppose medications for mental illness…I also believe that, with rare exceptions, it is malpractice to treat it without medication.”

Well, I have something to say to you Kay Redfield Jamison author of Unquiet Mind and steadfast promeds advocate. I consider the unasked-for treatment of my bipolar symptoms with psychiatric medication to be medical malpractice. The treatments you espouse so enthusiastically did nothing but poison me. When I first read your opinion in your book I wondered for a few seconds if it wasn’t possible to sue you somehow for influencing my psychiatrist and caregivers to ‘treat’ me with your horrible lithium.

I also find that you wimped out of the full scope of bipolar treatment. You took the lithium but you never took the brain damaging antipsychotics even though you admit you were ‘floridly manic’. You are missing out on the full ‘bipolar treatment experience’, doc. You don’t know what it’s like to be that patient whom you told,  “You’ve been given a shot of Haldol. Everything is going to be alright.” It didn’t turn out to be all right did it?

Further in, she has the gall to blame the man’s mania on his lack of lithium. I am not joking. Page 107 “Neither the resident nor I needed to see the results of the lithium blood level that had been drawn during his admission to the emergency room. There would be no lithium in his blood. The result had been mania.”

I mean give me a break, ‘doctor’. How you can be so unscientific as to posit this man’s psychotic episode as the result of a lack of lithium,  (and not some other kind of trigger, like, I don’t know, maybe… stress?)  This is kind of like how a headache is the result of not having aspirin in your blood, right? Sure. Makes perfect, logical, scientific sense Kay. No. Not really.

I don’t consider you an authority on bipolar or mental illness or it’s treatments. You are certainly not an expert on my suffering nor the treatments I used to cure it. You’ve spent your whole post graduate life informing others of what mental illness is and how it’s supposed to be treated. Blissfully unaware that your preferred treatment drove me to within an inch of taking my own life. Yes, you read that correctly. Lithium made me want to kill myself—because of how awful it was.

You’ve made claims that are (still) not substantiated by current science (Page 190 “The fact that manic-depressive illness is a genetic disease…”) For all that time spent in academia, spouting about mental illness, you have done nothing, absolutely nothing to advance the real understanding of its causes or possible cures. A whole career spent in an ivory tower fixated with this unshakable belief in manic depression as a genetic disorder and nothing at all to show for it. As a former bipolar sufferer, you do not speak for me and you never shall. If I ever get the chance to tell you this to your face, I will.

Another thing that offends me comes from the back of her book, on the cover, where she is described as having the dual perspective of the “healer and the healed”. In her own book, in her own words, she states that to this day she suffers, even though she is on the ‘proper’ drugs for the condition. And nowhere in her book does she claim to have healed anyone else, much less herself.

At every turn in her illness and career there is a family member or someone with a Dr. before his name to attend to her. How she praises psychotherapy and her support network. Must be nice Doc.

When Kay feels like hurting herself, she gets babysat in her home by a ‘colleague’ instead of doing time at the local psych ward. It’s like she floats over the heads of people who really (I mean really) suffer from bipolar disorder. When she finally does try to off herself, she’s already in a safety contract with friends and relatives and she ODs and leaves the phone right in the next room.

Of course you can probably guess at what happens then. Someone calls, and she is all slurred-voiced and nodding out, and naturally 911 is called promptly and she is saved from herself. For most of us getting admitted to an ER for an OD it’s a guaranteed stay at the psych ward for assessment. But she gets to recover from her attempt in the comfort of home, surrounded by concerned experts, as opposed to acute patients.  She didn’t have to socialize with the sick proles as befits everyone else that goes inpatient for a suicide attempt. She got special treatment—because she is Dr. Jamison.

In her Acknowledgments section, she gives thanks to no less than twenty-eight M.D.s or PhDs. Unfortunately, the medical and psychiatric profession does not know how to heal from mental illness and despite being surrounded by all those highly educated people, Dr. Jamison clearly does not know what I know about how the mind works and how it can be truly healed. It’s almost as if she is too close to the tree to gaze upon the forest that I see when it comes to mental illness and the nature of the mind.

If my tone sounds a little annoyed, it’s because of how many people keep saying how truly wonderful and amazing her book is. While I do not begrudge the woman her remarkable academic achievements (which are many), and I do agree that she can turn a phrase, I can’t see why this book is so highly acclaimed. Maybe someone will explain to me the appeal.

In the final analysis, I find myself in that small bracket of people who do not think that Unquiet Mind is an omg amazing five star must-read book on bipolar. It’s an okay book. Definitely worth a read. But other than at one time experiencing the symptoms of the disorder, I find that I have very little common ground with the author.

Posted in mental health, mental illness, psychiatry, psychology | Tagged , , , | 15 Comments

My book about spiritual recovery

You know how sometimes you are telling somebody about your life and they tell you earnestly, “You should write a book. I’d buy it.”? Well, that’s happened to me a lot since my twenties and I finally wrote a book and I am pleased to announce the official release and publication of Possessing Me: A Memoir of Healing

The book is the story of my life—from age six, to age twenty six. It chronicles my struggle and seventeen year battle with mental illness and my eventual spiritual healing.

Fair warning, it’s not easy or light reading. Mental illness caused me a lot of problems as a young adult, including homelessness and joblessness and drug dependency. The issues I discuss range from repeated trauma and abuse at home, to being violated and dehumanized when I tried to get help and treatment for my problems, as well as suicide attempts and a near-death experience I had during my last OD back in ’95.

How I recovered from all that confusion and suffering might be of interest to some of you. Namely, that in ’96 I started studying chi/nei gung, nei jia and Water Method meditation from lineage holder and Taoist master Bruce Frantzis. In my early twenties I diligently practiced the material he teaches, in solitude mostly.

During that time, I resolved pretty much everything that was bothering me at a physical, mental, emotional and energetic level. Five years later, I had a wonderful meditation experience which opened my heart and infused me with something I had been missing all my life: self-love, and I have been free of sadness and spiritual pain ever since.

This is my story of how I cured myself of suicidal depression, the mania of bipolar disorder, the voices and delusions of schizophrenia, and the triggers, flashbacks and nightmares of post traumatic stress disorder. My book is now on sale at Amazon.com. You can find out more information and the status of future events by checking out my website, www.PossessingMe.com.

As an aside, I don’t know if there is going to be a book tour. I did not get a juicy book advance from Big Publishing in order to promote my book. I created my own publishing company: Wise Boar Media, to distribute this and future works, so all my promotional efforts are being done on something of a budget.

Possessing Me: A Memoir of Healing

by Jane Alexander

369 pages

Wise Boar Media

ISBN13: 978-0983070900

Posted in meditation, mental health, mental illness, mind and body, psychiatry, psychology, science, spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Supplement free and feeling great!

As many of you know, I am a big fan of personal health experiments. In my book I wrote about several which I conducted in my twenties that had some major positive effects on my mental and physical health. Over the years I’ve tried a good many supplements and I try to be careful of the expectation effect, confirmation bias, the placebo effect as well maintaining an awareness that correlation does not necessarily prove causation.

But I’ve also maintained that we humans, most of us anyway, are probably not meant to take dozens of supplements, year after year after year. That processing all these supplements is actually an additional burden on the body’s digestive system.

Supplementing and the reasons we do it seem to be largely a human concern. I’ve thought about animals like the fussy koala which has a fairly limited diet consisting of mainly eucalyptus leaves. You might think, “Wow there is no way those animals are getting a balanced diet plus everything I get from supplements.” But your average koala seems quite unaware if not unaffected by its limited diet. So how did we humans get to the point where we choke down multi-vitamins, broad spectrum minerals, amino acids, and everything from spirulina extract and melatonin to co-enzyme Q-10 to fish oil?

What were you thinking just now? You were wondering if I had seen the movie Food Inc and if I totally understood just how bad a shape our country’s food system and diet is. Yes, in fact I have.

But for some years now, I’ve tried to maintain an appropriate balance of diet and nutrition and because I do not, by and large, eat junk food or processed food, nor do I have any food sensitives, allergies, or nutrient absorption deficiencies, I can’t really rationalize taking handfuls of supplements. I exercise daily. I manage my stress. I have a balanced and varied diet. I don’t work graveyards or twelve hour shifts. I don’t have any imbalances in my life that might warrant supplements so, I decided to simply stop taking them, and see what happens.

It’s been over four months since I stopped taking my multi’s and fish oil and the like, and you know what? I feel fine. I sleep well. My body feels okay. I am mentally stable. I am not experiencing any malfunctions or diminished state of being or energy and so I am not worrying about it.

When you first get into learning about nutrition there is a lot of stuff to learn about it. There is also a lot of hype and pseudoscience that is touted as fact in nutritional circles and it takes awhile of analyzing things until you can figure out for yourself what you may or may not need or what ‘deficiencies’ you think you are likely to have because of your lifestyle.

It’s easy to forget that our bodies are natural detoxing machines which have evolved over thousands of years to effectively process out of food what it needs to keep it running. You excrete whatever your body doesn’t need within a day or so of consuming it. So, how much money do we throw away in terms of taking supplements that we really don’t need?

If money is not a problem for you, then great. But if money is a consideration, then the supplements you do take should be tailored to your lifestyle needs. As for myself, I have found at various times certain supplements to make a noticeable difference. But that was during a different time in my life when I had a faster paced more demanding and sometimes, (okay, often) out-of-balance lifestyle. Such as when I was smoking one to two packs of cigarettes a day, pounding sixty ounces of sugared and caffeinated beverages through my system and doing a lot of drugs.

Things in my life have been stable long enough that I figured, what do I have to lose? I haven’t lost my physical or mental health since I stopped taking supplements, so I am not hurting myself. It also makes going to bed a lot simpler in terms of remembering if I took my herbs and caps and whatnot each night.

Posted in mind and body, psychology | Tagged , , , ,

Psychological benefits from meditation linked to cellular health

Psych Central picked up that UC Davis has reported the findings of a recent study of meditation and it’s effects on cellular health.

We have found that meditation promotes positive psychological changes, and that meditators showing the greatest improvement on various psychological measures had the highest levels of telomerase,” said Clifford Saron, associate research scientist at the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain.

The take-home message from this work is not that meditation directly increases telomerase activity and therefore a person’s health and longevity,” Saron said. “Rather, meditation may improve a person’s psychological well-being and in turn these changes are related to telomerase activity in immune cells, which has the potential to promote longevity in those cells. Activities that increase a person’s sense of well-being may have a profound effect on the most fundamental aspects of their physiology.”

What the heck are Telomeres? From the same paper:

Telomeres are sequences of DNA at the end of chromosomes that tend to get shorter every time a cell divides. When telomeres drop below a critical length, the cell can no longer divide properly and eventually dies. Telomerase is an enzyme that can rebuild and lengthen telomeres. Other studies suggest that telomerase activity may be a link between psychological stress and physical health.

Slowly but surely science is empirically proving what spiritual seekers have known for millennium. Meditation not only makes you happier, it makes you healthier, because you are happier. It creates a positive feedback loop. Happiness and contentedness leads to positive physical health and mental wellbeing. A sound mind in a sound body. Read the rest here.

Posted in meditation, mental health, mind and body, psychology | Tagged , , ,

FedEx Virus delivered to your inbox.

Today we are going to talk about the stupidest virus attack attempt that you’ve ever seen. This morning, I got a mail (supposedly) from FedEx Global Services.

Dear Client

Your package has been returned to the FedEx office.

The reason of the return is – “Error in the delivery address”

Attached to the letter mailing label contains the details of the package delivery. You have to print mailing label and come in the FedEx office in order to receive the packages.

Thank you for attention.

FedEx Customer

They sent an attachment, 25kb in size called ‘FedEx_mailing_label_ID.S5786.zip’.

<—This is an image of the email itself.

There are so many red flags in this email that there is no reason for anyone to get caught by this virus if you are vigilant and pay attention to details.

The first alarm bell? The email was sent carbon copy to any number of combinations of my name, @ various providers, only one of which I use. This is an alarm because FedEx won’t shotgun an email intended for you personally, to ten other email addresses. You see that and you know there is something wrong.

Then the attachment itself. I did a little VB scripting in my 20s. Not much, but enough to know that this is probably a scrip kiddie virus. The size is what gives it away. 25Kb means it’s most likely just a couple of .exe’s.

What not to do. You have to activate it to make it work. Do not download this attachment unless you are an uber IT geek and you intend on studying it. If you do accidentally download it, do not under any circumstances, double click it. Calmly move/drag it into a New Folder and manually delete that folder, then flush your recycle bin.

Now I want to pick on the wording of this email I got. If you read it carefully, there is no reason to fall prey to this.

Dear Client FedEx probably won’t address you as ‘Client’

Your package has been returned to the FedEx office. ‘the’ FedEx office? Seriously? Do you know how many FedEx offices we have just in SF alone? How about telling me which office guys? Red flag.

The reason of the return is – English fail. It should be ‘The reason for the return is -’

“Error in the delivery address” Fake error message is fake, but it gets funnier!

Attached to the letter mailing label contains the details of the package delivery. Pretty nebulous information. Why not just give me a tracking number?

You have to print mailing label and come in the FedEx office in order to receive the packages.

Really. The clerk at the real FedEx offices will print out a proper mailing label. That is what he or she gets paid for. Again we have a reference to ‘the FedEx office’, without telling me the most useful information I need to go with that: which office? Now I have more than one package? You started by telling me about ‘Your package” and now you are telling me I have several? That is what it means to put an ‘s’ after package. It means ‘more than one’.

Thank you for attention. How about: ‘Thank you for your attention’. I am not an English prof, but even I can see/hear the pidgin English speaking behind that sentence.

FedEx Customer FedEx customer? FedEx customer? You mean I am not dealing with FedEx itself, but just another customer?

Other red flags. There is no FedEx banners or business headers anywhere in the email! You would think a communication from Federal Express would come with its trademark purple and orange or purple and grey stripe logo.

Links. There are no links in the email. No tracking number links. No website links. No customer support links. No 1-800 phone numbers. Nothing. The email is completely barren of any and all professional design. If FedEx sent you a label to print, it would be an inline attachment that you could read in the email and not some secret 25kb download that you would need to open. It’s a trap!

Let me say, that FedEx is not in the business of mailing you viruses. I had never seen or heard of a Fake FedEx email virus until this morning. As it turns out, I was expecting something from FedEx, so I was hyper attentive to the email and it just jumped out at me as being wrong in so many ways. I didn’t download it. But someone might. Fair warning, that if you didn’t know before, you do now. If any of this information is inaccurate please let me know and I will edit it to reflect that and thank you for it.

| Tagged ,

On being Enlightened. Or not.

In my early meditation training days I was very fortunate to study with a Taoist meditation master. One of the first things I remember him telling us was that the Taoists do not really believe in being enlightened with a capital E. He told us with some disdain in his voice, that the very idea of there being some final ‘Ah Ha’ moment or a attaining The Brass Ring through meditation ‘levels’ was silly. You should keep having ‘Ah Ha’ experiences the longer you maintain practice. There is no master list for them.

In my book I break with a certain viewpoint among some meditators that you shouldn’t talk about your spiritual experiences. I’ve heard a lot of good supporting ideas as to why you might not want to do that. One of the biggest is: bias. You don’t want to bias new students in meditation into thinking what spiritual experiences should or should not be like. You don’t want to give them expectations because they may either try to mentally manufacture the experience artificially (and incompletely) or feel frustrated that they themselves have not had a similar experience.

Another reason why a person might not want to talk about spiritual events is due to interpretation. Once you talk about it or print it out or define it in words and allow others to read those words, then you open yourself up to their criticism and analysis. I’ve seen this in certain online forums when someone talks about an experience of divinity attained through prayer, everyone and their mother wants to weigh in on it, dissect it, label it or define it ‘properly’ to put it in its place. Everyone seems to have an opinion as to what it ‘means’ and I think it dirties the experience a little when other people walk all over it with their feet like that.

In writing about my own spiritual experiences, I set myself for interpretation and dissection from others. The only official take on it of course, is mine. I know that I can’t stop people from projecting their own bias onto my experience.

I don’t want people getting the wrong impression so, I am saying it now. I am not enlightened and I have not mastered my ego. In fact, between you and me, I think most people have no idea what they are talking about when they say “You still need to work on your ego,” or “Your ego is this that and the other thing,” but let’s leave that for a discussion another time.

If that is what you are looking for, I hear there is a pretty popular European guy who knows something about egos, bliss, and Enlightenment, and has written a few books about it. But understand that I do not know anything about those things. I am not a Buddha of compassion or a Taoist sage.

I don’t radiate compassion for all humanity. I try not to be politically correct if I can avoid it. I am not a saint. I say insensitive things sometimes. I get pissed off at people who are deliberately being offensive. My vibes aren’t so holy that flowers spring up in my footprints and birds alight on my shoulders. I am not like that.

Meditation did not turn me into a peacenik or a hippy. I don’t have sacred reverence for all forms of life. I will kill a mosquito or eat a salmon steak without hesitation and I won’t feel bad about it. I can be fiercely protective of people who are not naturally dominant or ‘switched on’ as the saying goes. Meditation did not make me perfect and I won’t pretend for a second that I am virtuous.

When it comes to anger, I am a passionate and temperamental person. I have a quick temper sometimes, to be sure.  But consider that I have not been arrested for assault in years. In the past, I have punched holes in walls in at least a half dozen places I lived at. I haven’t punched anything out of anger or rage in at least fifteen years.

My anger was once so out of control that going two weeks without smashing something into pieces was major progress in self-restraint. I still have scars on my hands from that kind of anger and the resulting damage I caused to myself by striking all manner of objects.

So can I get angry? Sure I can and I do. But it’s human anger now, not a demonic, unquenchable, frightening anger that once unleashed I can’t put back in it’s bottle for hours and days and weeks. Do I have remaining anger still? Yes, I do. I have some anger towards the system that brainwashes parents into forcing or coercing their children into taking psych meds that are known to cause brain and CNS damage. I have ‘activist anger’ or righteous anger or money changer anger or whatever you want to call it. If I didn’t nurture a little bit of activist anger, I would not be able to write powerfully, passionately and persuasively about my concerns.

Please, if you read my book and you are digesting my meditation experiences, do not project attributes to me that I do not possess. When I talk about inner peace, I am talking about something that is qualitative and relative–not absolute. I make no claims other than this: I beat depression and mania too. I don’t have thought broadcasting delusions or paranoia or anxiety any longer. I don’t have PTSD anymore. I have been a pretty happy person in general for the last fifteen years. I am not claiming any more than that.

I am not a mother Theresa reincarnate, I don’t channel love and empathy. I am not always a nice and agreeable person. I know it and I am happy with where I am. I did some good work curing myself of three mental disorders, I am in no hurry to attain ‘higher states’ or better vibrations or new attunements or any of that stuff. I am not working on my ego or anything else.

When the book comes out and you are wondering what it means that I had some meditation experiences, ultimately it’s going to mean what you project onto it that it means. But you have it here in my own words that you should not take it as indicative of some vaunted level of actualization. It was what it was and if I didn’t write about them now, I was going to forget certain details as time caused the incidents to fade in my memory.


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Commentary on the Tao Te Ching, verse 48

Today I am going to try my hand at commenting on the Tao Te Ching, specifically verse 48. To be totally frank right away–I do not consider myself a Tao scholar. I am way behind on the traditional Taoist Canon. I wouldn’t begin to comment on I Ching. I don’t pretend to be able to comment on the entirety of the Tao Te Ching.

I don’t study it for purposes of inspiration or revelation—as such. I just browse it periodically and realize the chapters are talking about the stuff I find comes up in practice. So my thoughts are from a sit-and-meditate point of view, not philosophical or ideological. Thus, to my perspective, verse 48 is a kind of codified set of instructions and observations.

–Learning consist of daily accumulating–

Every day we go through life sensing, seeing, hearing, smelling and learning trivia. We read books and articles. We gain experiences. We socialize and learn new things and think about them.

These thoughts on these transient things adds to the volume of ‘stuff’ and ‘noise’ in your mind that is essentially pure thought and contemplation. It is the firing of your frontal lobe neurons as you cogitate the meaning of life and what you absorb. In this way, you are always, always accumulating unless you do something very very deliberate about it.

–The practice of the Tao consist of daily diminishing–

If we do not allow ourselves to be distracted by the dialogue and data-stream in our minds–if we do not allow the mind to jump incessantly from one chain of associations to another–we can begin to simply stop (or at least slow down) the additive process of constant ‘thinking’ and ‘knowing’ about more and more things.

In terms of practice, it can simply mean doing some meditation instead of watching the news. Going for a Zen walk instead of blogging or reading Fark or zoning out on your Wii.

–Decreasing and decreasing, until doing nothing–

This simply is the next logical step. You literally put the brakes on your life, suspend ‘trying to have a life’ and replacing it with simply ‘being’. It specifically means doing prolonged sitting meditation and reaching the event horizon in your mind where, you’ve stopped adding to what you ‘know’ and are simply seeing what ‘is’ floating around inside you.

–When nothing is done, nothing is left undone–

This simply means that when the mind is still, it has no desire to jump around. It simply is. It also can refer to being on vacation, literally from life. Being a bum. Having no responsibilities, no commitments, no politics, no socializing, just being content being by yourself in the woods communing with the energy of the sky and trees and the earth.

In means sidestepping the rat race of consumerism and seeing that it IS a rat race that keeps people from self-actualization.

–True mastery can be gained–

True mastery is what obviously? Self-mastery. It’s repeated again and again in TTC. Know thyself and know the ways of the world. It means  mastery of our inner world. A respite from unrelenting mental dialogue, personal demons, and emotional, moral, or existential conflicts

–By letting things go their own way–

It means stop being a control freak, relax, let go, and be. It is a direct reference to doing some sitting time in the woods or on a mountaintop and letting the Emperors and Masters of the Universe do their thing, while you remain unattached. In the tradition that I practice that also means dissolving through the first four Bodies of Being.

–It cannot be gained by interfering–

Stop trying to make sense of life. Stop relying on selective thinking. Stop trying to control life. Stop trying to find meaning in life. Stop endlessly analyzing everything that happens around you. Relax, surrender, allow–and it will unfold on its own. Whether it is inner peace or spiritual realizations or the events of life itself.

Interference means also, that if you are projecting thoughts and cogitating, you are getting in your own way and you are not meditating or on the path to stillness, because stillness is what happens when you stop making and start allowing. It blossoms. It grows like a bacterial culture and reaches a flash point and starts transforming your inner landscape.

Anyway, those are some thoughts I had about certain elements of verse 48 of the Tao Te Ching and the reader is  certainly free to absorb or discard the comments as they see fit. There was no attempt on my part to come across as definite or authoritative, these were just my opinions–take them in the spirit that they are written.

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