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Posted by on in Drug Addiction

A friend writes to say he is feeling blue. He is not in recovery so his blues are not as dire as mine, but they are just as painful. When I ask what is wrong, he replies, “life.” Life – the whole befuddling catastrophe; he and I share a tragic worldview. I have written previously about the German word for such an existential crisis: weltschmertz – worldpain.

Eager to help, I dash off a breezy response about all we need to be grateful for that seems as brittle and unsubstantial as the falling leaves outside. The Buddha tells us that pain has four sources: Death, disease, old-age and poverty. These are what Siddhartha saw from his palace window that compelled his quest for the relief of suffering. Note that the first three are inevitable; the fourth, poverty, seems reparable, but I suspect the Buddha means despair a spiritual poverty that accompanies grinding want.

I have never been impoverished myself but am intimately acquainted with despair. When you have a true depression it is never far away, lurking on the periphery out of sight but never out of mind. Think of Prufrock’s yellow smoke rubbing its muzzle on the windowpane. Prufrock notes it in a lovesong, for surely wanting another invites suffering. How many others have I dreamed of, pursued, cherished briefly and lost? Smoke evaporates but leaves a scent behind. It is the lingering smell of longing that causes suffering or as the Buddha describes it . . . our attachments.

Last year I attached myself to a man, one who lives 1000 miles away and was clearly out of my league. He seemed interested, I fantasized, wondering if this was a person who could really know, who would finally see me for me. The secret places of the heart long for such recognition, to be seen as the self sees itself without blemish or flaw. Of course such a disembodied love is impossible; bodies meet where souls never do. Hence the lovesong, a paean not to one person but to the ineffable shadow that lives in our imaginations.

He went back to his perfect life. I hear that he has a new lover of over a year. His facebook page is studded with smiling selfies on exotic backgrounds. “In the room the women come and go talking of Michelangelo.”


Posted by on in Drug Addiction

The Retreat: Not Just for Weekends Anymore, by Daniel D. Maurer



b2ap3_thumbnail_retreat_bullshit.jpgWhen I first got married, my wife and I moved to a tiny hamlet in eastern Montana. It was her hometown and she had a job at a local community college teaching public speaking. My job was at a rinky-dink bank playing customer service rep and twiddling my thumbs in the back room pretending to work with the computers. It wasn’t bad, but definitely not a dream job. At least I had plenty of time after work to drink when wifey was off teaching in the evenings.

We belonged to a church where my wife had been baptized as a baby and where the two of us were married. I had aspirations to one day become a pastor in the denomination we belonged to, so I endeavored to act as if any and all church-related activities were compulsory.


Posted by on in Drug Addiction

Buddhist Singing BowlSitting in meditation last night, I had a rather pleasant sit. Sitting with a facilitator leading the sit, I followed from concentration into open awareness. As usual, my mind wandered. I was able to gently bring my mind back and avoid the judgement that I often have. In the traditional open awareness practice, we were instructed to note where our attention was. The facilitator included the examples of breath, physical sensation, thought, and sound. All was quite pleasant until the facilitator said, "For these last few minutes before the bell rings, put extra effort forth to focus."

As soon as this was said, anxiety took over. Although I was in the midst of a pleasant sit, the thought of ending the sit brought about great emotion. I had been able to bring my mind back and settle throughout the sit, but I began to struggle with the anxiety. It was slightly stronger than anything else I had experienced during my meditation, and my mind followed it for a bit. Bringing it back, I had an interesting insight.

I tried noting that my focus had turned to a feeling. However, it was rather abstract for me to see this anxiety as a feeling. I put effort forth to truly be presently aware, and found that the "feeling" rested greatly in my body. My heart rate had increased, which I could feel in my chest and my arms and my shoulders and neck became tense. Noticing the physical sensation, it truly was where the anxiety rested.

My mind also had a part in the anxiety, but it was far less obvious that it was in my body. When I heard that the sit was almost over, my mind habitually activated, and the anxiety manifested in my body. My conclusion with this experience was that the anxiety rested mostly in my body.

It is not always easy to identify where a feeling rests, or how it is present with us. I know when I have pleasant and unpleasant emotions, but can not often pinpoint where they rest. Physical pain is simple to locate, as are thoughts. Emotions have somewhat evaded my understanding. With this experience, I see how emotions are an interaction between my mind and body, and affect more than one part of me. Emotions are spread out throughout my human experience and thus harder to locate, but seeing how heavily they rest in the body, I hope to use this in my daily life dealing with emotions.


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