Simply breathing properly can help you during an anxiety attack or depressive episodeRead more ›
Simply breathing properly can help you during an anxiety attack or depressive episodeRead more ›
I spent a fair bit of time writing a blog a few weeks ago, which I was quite proud of, it had interesting links and was generally witty. It is gone now. I’m not sure how it happened (most likely because I am an absolute wizz with technology). I felt frustrated for a day and then remembered that nothing is worth holding an attachment to, because everything is temporary. The moment I saw it as a lesson in non-attachment I instantly felt better.
Everything is temporary, which is why I feel perplexed at humanity’s constant battle to hold onto everything. We try to build structures that can’t be destroyed, which is pure craziness because everything is temporary. Obviously, it is an attempt to avoid our own mortality, like all of the the other costly endeavours undertaken by humans.
Whenever I take my car out onto the road (daily) I find myself considering how preposterous it is that we have built roads out of asphalt in an attempt to defy nature with smooth surfaces on which to travel to our various appointments. Having grown up with this being the norm, possibly it is strange that I think about this every time I drive out of my driveway. The thought is often followed by a sense of entrapment, as I can’t seem to find a viable alternative considering where I live and the fact that I have two small children that I must transport. I could easily digress into a conversation about how I yearn for a time where we were content to be surrounded by our loved ones in family communities and didn’t feel the need to travel around the world on jet planes to be fulfilled… but I won’t.
I look at the buildings on every curb now and wonder how long they are expected to remain. Are they someone’s legacy? Is that what it’s all about? Somebody seeking immortality through their creation of a thing? Gaining control over the population is easier with globalisation, however at the bottom of it all is people’s desire to not die – to be immortal through legacy. Well, even the strongest material will eventually degrade into something unrecognisable; another piece of garbage to clog up the waterways.
Everything in this world must eventually end so there is no point trying to hold onto anything. Nothing. You could seriously list any item that is special to me and I would understand that if it were to be taken away from me that I would have to accept it. I have annoyed people close to me throughout my life because of my lack of attachment to things. I lose a lot of stuff, or accidentally break it, or just give it away – because things don’t mean anything to me. I have some items that represent something I care deeply about but I am not attached to those things, because… they are simply things. It makes no sense to me that a person would put value on a material item that can be broken, lost or stolen. Whatever that item represents is what is important to them, not the lump of seemingly solid particles of mass.
By trying to build structures and other items that are supposed to be in existence for eternity, we are somehow fulfilling this notion that we can become immortal; which is obviously total nonsense, but it seems to be the way humans are choosing to deal with their mortal coil. Other species don’t contemplate their own death, which is why there was no plastic until modern humans developed. People’s narcissism created the perfect environment for the invention of a material that will never be totally distinguished from the Earth; their legacy, although ultimately negative, lives on and they are known forever.
I wonder if it’s possible to de-globalise a little, to teach ourselves to be content within our local communities again, and to band together to help one another with raising our families. We must consider the way the Okinawan people live because they are the longest living people on Earth. They hold a deep respect for their elders and include them as an integral part of the community, which is much more conducive to longevity than drugs and botox. Communities like this understand that death is a part of life, which only contributes positively to the people appreciating their lives!
Understanding that everything is temporary is the underlying value of any truly happy person. They practice non-attachment in every aspect of their lives, which allows them to move with fluidity both physically and emotionally; making them available to experience all that life has without ever getting caught up in drama.
Most people cling to their past in some way, which only hinders their ability to enjoy the present. This is expressed nicely in a book called, The Journeys of Socrates by Dan Millman, “Your past does not have to determine your future – yet you carry your history like a bag of stones slung over your shoulders.” And it’s true, most of us do. We become slouched over with the weight of our perceived failures and a desire to have our youth back. If we could only grasp the reality that everything is temporary, then we would have the capacity to give our full attention to the moment that is happening right now! So, this explains why humankind has spent so much time, effort and money on trying to construct structures that will last for eternity (whatever that means); it is an attempt to avoid their own human transience.
During my meditation training, my teacher repeated the word anicca many times in a lesson because it is the underlying force that allows a person to remain seated in silence for long enough to gain an understanding of the benefits of presence. My favourite saying and one that has helped me through all my challenges is, “this too shall pass”, and there is cute story about a king’s search for happiness that is told by many Buddhist teachers to help highlight its importance. All matter, in its essence, is impermanent so there is no point in striving to defy that law at the expense of your peace now.
We need to practice mindfulness so that we may acquire a deep understanding of why non-attachment is necessary in every situation in our lives. As we sit without reacting to any sensation that arises, we begin to see that even the pleasant sensations do not last, leaving us open to experience the next sensation and so on. This principle is valid in every aspect of our lives; the bad times end and so do the good times, so there is no point in being attached to either.
Now, this doesn’t mean that we don’t feel emotions during those times. In fact, it is important to allow all emotions to arise, but we feel them without identifying with them, which is difficult. It is especially challenging to allow awareness during a time of strong emotional sensation. However with regular practice, being able to recognise the state your mind during a situation such as this, your body can learn habits so that it can take over when your mind is freaking out.
It really can happen, with practice!
For more information about discovering the techniques that have helped us overcome mental health related suffering, please contact Jasmine on 0481 149 104 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are like me and live with mental illness, you will know that it never disappears completely, that it’s something that needs to be managed. I actually edited the last sentence to say ‘live with’ instead of ‘suffer from’ because identifying one’s self with being a victim is just another way of perpetuating the positive loop mechanism for a negative feeling. We are entering an age where mental illness is becoming more understood and treatments options are broadening; the way in which you choose to manage it is the most important decision you will make on your journey to living a functioning life.
Yesterday and today have been difficult days for me with respect to my mind state, a lot of which is due to my undulating hormones levels. I have been experiencing both anxiety and depression simultaneously – it’s been a riot. The reason people living with mental illness might seem ‘crazy’ is because there is a genuine struggle to connect the logical mind to the reality of the moment, which is never as catastrophic as we might feel it is in the moment. The ability to process this is impaired and no amount of telling us to calm down will change how we feel during an attack, which is why it is IMPERATIVE that we do the work when we are able to so that we allow our body to step in while our brain is is having it’s melt-down.
During these episodes it is not uncommon to say things or behave in ways that don’t align with our values. I have learned from many years of making these same mistakes that it is necessary to follow this up with an apology. We need to let people know that we are trying our best and need forgiveness and compassion. By no means is this a green light for making excuses, nor is it okay to continue the same behaviours every time we find ourselves in the midst of an episode. We need to let people know that we are doing what we can to keep ourselves on the middle road, yet this needs to backed up with actual work; popping a pill each day and not doing anything else to access the root cause isn’t doing the work. Personally I have chosen not to take medication for several years now because that’s what is best for me. If you are taking medication, you still need to practice self-care to manage your symptoms sufficiently – no excuses!
Asking people to choose compassion and empathy when trying to help us during an attack is important, as it can be incredibly difficult for a person to understand what’s going on if they do not have experiential knowledge. For those of you reading this with a loved one that experiences mental illness, please understand that trying to explain that the way they are acting is ridiculous will only make the situation worse. It is not the time for that kind of intervention. Simply let them know you are there, you are not judging them, and you love them just as they are. If they are open to physical contact then a hug or a back rub can be the most helpful thing you can do; however, never force it upon someone that says no. Personally I love a tight hug when I have a freak out, but many do not!
I mentioned earlier that we can train our bodies to step in when our brains stop functioning properly and I have developed a method that works well for me, but it takes a little while practicing it regularly before it becomes an automatic reflex. When ever I am practicing yoga or seated meditation I always take a deep inhalation when I become aware that my focus has wandered (many times in a session!), which encourages my mind to associate an inhalation with present moment awareness. I have noticed over the last year that when I am off in lala land, my body will autonomously take a deep inhale, my mind then returns, and I realise that I wasn’t paying attention to the moment at hand. This even happens when I am in a state where I need to cry as a release; my inhalation becomes deeper and I am aware of what I am doing. This is a huge deal for me because it allows me then listen to someone if they are trying to help me and also to calm myself down rather than hyperventilating. It even occurs when I am not in a panic but have allowed my focus to be somewhere other than on what I am doing – like driving a car – so, you can see how important it can be.
I highly recommend taking as little as five minutes twice a day to practice this method, longer if you can; before you get out of bed and before you fall asleep is perfect. I guarantee you will see improvements in your life with this simply practice.