Thursday, April 30, 2009

Cultivating Irises

My session yesterday was productive. I must say, I am proud of myself for asking for what I need: a toolkit to help me with the daily struggles of depression. Of course, that is what the therapy is for-- DUH -- but I feel like the therapy is more of a long-term investment/solution. A process to really get to the root of whatever it is that leads me to depression in the first place. (Or, as I think of it, what layer of behavior depression is loaded up on top of the biological depression ans start unpacking all that stuff.) I explained that I would like some tools of a more immediate sort to help me deal with the funks while we work together on the long-term Depression.

This may seem obvious, but it finally became clear to me that what a lot of this is about is control. When I am in a funk and don't know it and feel helpless it is because I don't have control. My emotions have control over me. So, first things first*: I need to pay closer attention to my emotions, to how I am feeling when I am not in a funk, when one is coming on, and when I am in the grips of one. I need to become, oh, a tad more self-aware. The goal is to quit allowing the depression and anxiety to control me.

I have to know what it is that is controlling me before I can exert my own power of it.


I have started up my yoga practice again and have incorporated a deliberate meditation segment into my practice. I must say, I am already getting so much more out of the yoga just because I can focus and concentrate. My body and mind are getting more out of the poses, and I am finally (That is one thing that signals to me I am entering a funk - I can't concentrate for shit.) I am so much more able to focus on my breathing and make that a central part of the practice. It is exhilarating. (Am I annoying? I don't want to be one of those smug sons'-of-guns who swear yoga can cure cancer, save the owls, protect puppies and prevent war. Though,I do think it just might be able to prevent war. Anywhoooo...) Regardless, I am getting so much more out of it this time around.

I am just beginning to learn the Metta Bhavana meditative practice. It is a Buddhist tradition that teaches Lovingkindness. Lovingkindness toward myself and others. Imagine that!

A major component of this practice is learning to cultivate emotions. To become aware of my own emotions and to learn to cultivate them. To nurture and grow and direct them. Cultivate. What a wonderful word.

I am hoping to discover and find that space, that space of contemplation and reflection to recognize my emotions. That space will give me the room to greet my emotions and decide how to engage with them. Rather than immediately reacting to my emotions, I will learn to discern them and choose my response. I will learn to have power over my emotions. I will learn how to manipulate those emotions in a kind way, rather than letting the emotions manipulate me in a cruel way.

I have no disillusions that this will be a long, sometimes frustrating, journey. What isn't, nowadays? But I really, really think it will be worthwhile.

Do any of you meditate? Have you tried to develop a practice? What surprised you about it? What hurdles did you encounter?


  1. Brett keeps telling me about how helpful meditation is in curing many an ailment, but I have such trouble getting myself to just sit down and be quiet. The few times I've done it, my mind just races and I get anxious about my inability to shut it off. However, I would like to get better at it. It is a "practice" afterall right?

  2. Flib - I had much the response. Now I can concentrate for about five seconds. Baby steps are steps indeed!

  3. I haven't really tried meditating but it seems like it can really have a lot of value. This post makes me want to try!

  4. Oh, yes...control. I am all about boundaries and I've been really working on this over the past few years. One tactic I've tried to employ is remembering when I was at my best, and then thinking about what was going on my life at the time. That gives me some concrete things to do.

    For me, there's nothing like a nice long walk to create space for meditating. Being outdoors and simply breathing deeply.

    Flib, you're right. It is a practice. That's an excellent thing to remember.

  5. I think the closest I've gotten to meditation would be full body relaxation exercises because you can concentrate on something specific (tighten your toes and release, tighten your feet and release, etc.etc. moving up the body) I always did want to giggle when I had to clench my butt though, so I don't think I was too successful.

    And don't feel silly about yoga. Sometimes yoga makes me cry it's so powerful. Now THAT'S silly

  6. OOooo boy. Meditation just kicks my ass and pushes my buttons all at once.

    I have struggled with that part of a yoga practice for YEARS (It is the whole entire reason I became a Pilates instructor rather than a yoga teacher. I actually personally do more yoga than Pilates but couldn't hang with the intense meditation that a teacher training program would require. Not to mention the hypocritical nature of teaching the power of meditation when I SUCK AT IT.)

    I am not a physically still person. I think this is a big part of why seated meditation is so miserable and hard for me.

    What HAS worked wonders for me is walking meditation. I try to go somewhere lovely and walk SLOWLY (this is hard for me, I'm an annoyingly fast walker. Or so I've been told.) concentrating on my breath going in and out. In and out. Every time something else comes into my brain (every 3 seconds!) I go back to "in and out".

  7. Like most things in life, I think meditation can be best summed up by a scene from The Simpson's:

    There is this episode where Lisa is exploring religion; she goes in a Buddhist temple where Lenny and Carl are meditating. Lenny sarcastically says something to the effect of: "thanks for interrupting, I was just about to achieve enlightenment."

    To me the point of that scene is that enlightenment can only be caught for fleeting moments. I never felt good at meditation even when I did it a lot, but some of the meditators I've read said that even after years of practice they could hardly keep their minds focused for more than a minute or two. I take that as a lesson. There is no being good or bad at meditating, only practicing it.

    I got away from it for a while, and in the last year have started becoming more regular again. What is working well for me right now is setting an egg timer, so I have an end point to concentrate on. If I am somewhere sans timer, I will count 10 or 20 breaths. If I find my mind wanders I do not resist, I simply observe the wander, then go back to focusing on either my breathing, or imagine a point of light in complete darkness. I always picture the point of issuing from the pituitary gland, centered in my brain.

    I could go on and on about this, and apparently I have, so I will stop now.

  8. Will you become a buddhist with me?


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