Crabs in the Bucket, a message for the naysayers

I remember talking to a friend of mine who encouraged me to write a book about my journey from fear, anger, and depression, to happiness after I had a fairly rough start to my life.

He said, “That’s a great idea. But who will read it? Nobody knows you,”

He was right, of course, and there was Youtube!

I opened an account, primarily to discuss problems in Social Work, Group Homes, Mental Hospitals, Public Education, and psychiatry in general. As well as to talk about meditation, alternative healing, tai chi chuan (taiji), child abuse advocacy, and other topics.

I built up a subscriber base, until I had one thousand subscribers. Then I started to write my book.

During the process of writing my book, and making videos discussing using meditation to deal with symptoms of all kinds of mental disorders such as, ADHD, Bipolar, PTSD, and schizophrenia. I received feedback.

More than a few people who commented were not very happy to hear me rail in anger and disgust about how horrible and anti-healing lithium and antipsychotics were for me, and how happy I was “maintaining” (to use pdoc-speak) using tai chi chuan.

Few could even grasp, that I wasn’t “maintaining” anything. I was changed. I did spiritual alchemy, and I became a person who was immune to depression, because I had a little light explode softly inside me, that illuminated my being from within.

A light of love. Acceptance. Surrender.

When I would tell people, over and over, on bipolar forums or amazon discussions, or youtube conversations, how many years I had been free of depression and mania, I would consistently get someone who, sooner or later, made comments like this,

“Well. You may feel fine now. But. Once bipolar, always bipolar. So, sooner or later, you are going to have a relapse. And it isn’t going to be pretty, because you refused to take your meds.”

This is called, The Bitter and Clueless Crabs in the Bucket mentality.

A fisherman places a bucket of caught crabs on the boat wharf. One or two crabs start to stand on the others and reach up and out of the bucket. Grasping the edge, they start to haul themselves out. Then, the crab underneath them, reaches up a claw, and grabs the escaping grab by one leg.

That is what so-called “bipolar people” think when they hear my story. Some of them anyway.

They think that way, because they have internalized biological psychiatry. Which is most unfortunate. For them.

I cured myself of depression by the time I was twenty-five. But I had been feeling better and better, and totally depression-free, within the first year of practicing either meditation, yoga, or tai chi chuan, daily. I didn’t self-diagnose myself “cured” until I had had three years of stability.

That was back between 1997-2000.

It is now 2015.

I have never relapsed. I remain depression free. I don’t get “mania”, and even if I somehow magically got either depression, or mania, I could,

A: Fake sanity. Fake not being depressed or manic, using mind-over-body training.

B: Heal myself, for real. All. Over. Again. Using the exact same methodology that worked the first time. Solitude. Relaxation. Zero stress. Followed by meditation, yoga, and tai chi chuan.

Within a few weeks, or months, I would stabilize. Again. And within a year, I would be largely okay.

The only reason that “bipolars” reached out to me, to tell me, I was doomed for a bipolar crash sooner or later for not taking my meds or for believing in the diagnosis of manic depression, is that they are utterly incapable of doing what I did, and they are bitter, jealous, and a little afraid. Afraid they are as doomed as my psychiatrist said I was, the summer of 1989.

It turned out, she was wrong. And so were all those bipolar crabs on the forums in the comments.

I can’t feel bad about that, at all.

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Posted in advocacy, meditation, mental health, mental illness, mind and body, psychiatry, psychology, science, tai chi chuan | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Test yourself

Lock yourself into your bedroom or a bathroom and turn off all the lights. Turn off your cell phone. Look at your self in the mirror. Try not to think of anything. If you think anything at all. Ask, why? Why did I have that? Something underneath my normal state of mind offered up a thought, and I thought it.

Imagine never having a single distressing thought in your mind. Day after day after day. That is what can happen, if you get to a place where, when you sit in the dark all by yourself with nothing to do or to read or listen to, you can be peaceful inside your mind and body. Be completely comfortable doing or thinking and even feeling on an emotional level, nothing at all.

Now you live in a state where your physical body is un-stressing. Your mind is un-stressing. Your emotions are settling. All emotions. What is left is a kind of intermix of listening-feeling-attention, and sensations. Kind of like being a blind octopus in the abyssal depths. Occasionally a small light will flash in your mind. Like a tiny bioluminescent life form. Other than that, there is nothing going on inside you at all. Save for maybe a sense of interest. Or hunger.

How do you navigate a black world you can feel, hear, kind-of, but definitely not, see?

You reach out into the dark with your feeling-attention-sensory tentacles. You feel outward and all around you by delicately stretching out and feeling, touching, or tapping everything, like a blind woman and a walking stick. You grow a feeling-sensory-perception far beyond your body after awhile. A sense that all of you have, but is a complete mystery to just about everyone. If you take even one psychiatric medication, you are adding to the difficulty level of gaining this inner listening ability, actually.

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A Caveat About Training in Meditation

In my second-to-last post, I announced the opening of a private school of meditation based on a new tradition that I created out of thin air. I call it simply, “The Wind Method”.

Be that as it may, there are some basic requirements in order to train in person in the Wind Method.

You may not be on any form of psychiatric medicine. Period.

You must not identify yourself as “being bipolar”, “being schizophrenic”, or “being ADHD”.

If you think to yourself, “I am bipolar”,  you are suffering from misidentification of the self, and there is little to no chance meditation is going to “cure” you. The reason this is so, is the story you accepted when you started to think of yourself as “a bipolar person”.

To internalize that identity, that label, you ate the whole story, hook, line, and sinker. The story about how your genes, your mother’s artistic temperament and her crazy mood swings, or your father’s genius, combined with his womanizing and angry depression means you are genetically and chemically “bipolar”.

If you tell yourself that story, and accept that label, there is little hope for you and teaching you anything about meditation would be a complete waste of both our times.

If you come to me for meditation instruction, you must absolutely be prepared to take full responsibility for every thought, feeling, energy state, or mood swing.

You must absolutely not be taking any form of psychiatric drugs, no exceptions.

The drugs prevent you from becoming enlightened on any level, by scrambling your nervous system and your brain neurons.

Accepting the label means you are have identified yourself as a “mentally ill person” out of the DSM, and it is time for you to become a peer support specialist, and get into a good group therapy, join a bunch of online bipolar support groups to talk about all the meds you are on, as well as to continue to pathologize your internal states as “chemical imbalances”.

Also, don’t forget to take your meds.

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New Blog

Just a fun project on the side, I have created a blog called, “Black Cat Photography”. Really, it’s just a place to dump my cellphone images I’ve collected from all over San Francisco and the Bay Area in the past nine months.

https://blackcatphotographs.wordpress.com/

Feel free to check in from time to time and see what I’ve posted. For a humble cellphone, mine takes surprisingly detailed images. I just don’t have the time or a studio to pursue my black and white sketches, and if I could actually paint in colors, I might paint landscapes like Ocean Beach, the Golden Gate Park, Coit Tower, the Golden Gate Bridge, etc.

The camera takes almost all skill out of imaging landscapes. Except these are real. You can still dream or imagine up fantasy ones that only exist in your mind until you give life to it by creating using your preferred medium.

To be fair, learning to use the camera and taking nice shots with it, is another skill entirely different from painting or drawing.

The Nature of My Meditation Instruction

I will teach meditation to anyone that desire instruction.

However, I promise you that this training will not be easy.

If you are looking for an easy ride and to feel a little better or more relaxed, find another teacher.

What I teach is for serious players only. You come to me because you are absolutely dead serious about learning to do what I talked about in my book, which is hard work, to put it plainly.

Take a good look at your favorite meditation teachers. There is a good chance their eyes do not look like mine. And for good reason. Take a good look at scowl lines or frown lines in the eyes and foreheads of your favorite teachers and ask yourself, why, if they are masters of meditation, are they so serious or stern looking.

The answer is, they stopped practicing before they got to the point where all tension drops out of the muscles in your face.

I made my meditation system up, quite frankly, out of thin air.

We would start with water. You would learn to dissolve.

Then we move to fire. You would learn to excite.

Then we move to air. You will learn to turn your entire chi-field into a living Ba Gua spiral that spins and twists from your core channels, out into the air and space around you.

Sound like fun?

It is mentally exhausting is what it is, and my guess is, most people just don’t have the time.

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New School of Meditation, opening

I have founded a new form of meditation, out of very old trainings and teachings.

It is called simply, “The Wind Method”, or, “The Wind Technique”.

The best of water, fire, and aethir, made up entirely by me.

Prospective students may expect mind-exhausting sessions of meditation.

Previous background not necessary, if you truly want to get it. But I may charge you, for my time.

That is all.

Posted in astronomy, Golden Gate Park, meditation, mental health, mind and body, Ocean Beach, science, spirituality, Taoism | Tagged , , , , ,

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

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.

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