Repaying A Debt… a poem by Nick Brooks
The acupuncturist Bian Que once saved King Jizhao
from a heart attack
prescribing Three Mineral Wine.
Another time he saved the life of King Miaochuan’s favorite concubine
with a birth inducing alcohol mixture.
In the historical encyclopedia of the Han
wine is hot
reaches every part of the body
harmonizes blood and qi
opens the meridians
is warming and blood vitalizing
has uses for almost every major disease.
Yet, still in love with the sun
drying out after the Yellow Wine of Wudang
plus a little more – and, ah!
Li Po reaches for the depths.
the drying out
still stubbornly staring
over the curative abyss of language
we two, strangers
repay a debt
retrieve the moon from the sea
Meditation and depression
I have thought a lot about what I was going to write for this column. The subject of meditation
and depression has been giving me cause. As someone who has managed his own mood
swings for many years using meditation, I felt there were a few things that should be said.
There is some research that says that certain types of meditation may be beneficial in the
treatment of depression. There is, it seems, also a meta analysis that says that the benefits
of meditation are over stated.
Meditation is not a treatment for depression. It is a way of working with the mind, derived
from contemplative spiritual practice. It is not good for everyone. Where someone is
stressed, tired and in a negative place, then, like cognitive behavioural therapy, NLP, and
relaxation, some forms of meditation may help. However, anyone feeling low and non
functional should see their G.P..
If you become concerned about a friend or acquaintance, then attempt to engage with them.
It is not necessarily easy to tell if someone is depressed. Some people feel there is shame in
admitting to it. The idea of talking about it to anyone, or even worse, then taking the
medicine, is something they would rather not do. The shame to me is in the unnecessary
And it's not just the shame associated with mental illness. Shame, guilt and feelings of
unworthiness are part of the depressed state. This is where meditation can help. By giving
you the experience of knowing that you are not your thoughts, you are not your feelings.
They are things you experience , mental states can become easier to recognise.
Two years ago my life changed markedly and I had to make a considerable number of
changes. I did what was required. To begin with all went well, then I noticed a change in my
thinking. I was meditating, I was getting things done, but It was dark and unpleasant. It was a
few months before I realised what had happened. Having been there before it surprised me
that I missed it.
A visit to the doctor and a small dose of the medication later and the darkness lifted.
There is no shame in this and it is far better to be functional than not.
In the absence of references for this piece I will give a few opinions.
The mind is like a river, if you just go along with the flow, you are controlled by it. If you try
and dam it, dams silt up and can burst. Learning to watch the river flow, that's another thing
Meditation is a spoke in a wheel of spiritual practice, in the same way that tai chi hand form
is a spoke in a martial wheel. If you try to make a wheel of a spoke you are liable to end up
with a hoola hoop.
Us and Them
In Alice, the caterpillar asks, who are you, who are you; which is a very good question, especially when put by a caterpillar. Bit of a Zen Koan, bit of a Taoist mystery, who are you? Who am I?
In groups with identity the question becomes who are we in relation to them.
Empathy is the word used to describe how we relate to what others are feeling.
So they experience pain, we suffer sympathetically with them and in the brain our pain receptors spark up.
According to an article I read recently this reaction can lead to us(humanity) doing terrible things to people who are not us. This is because we empathise most with those we regard as us and dehumanise those out-with our group.
As we suffer sympathetic pain, so we can also feel sympathetic joy. We feel when our side wins, when our friends do well.
Metta bhavana is a Buddhist meditation method used to overcome the idea of the us and the them, the you and the me, the inner and the outer. It starts with the self and is shared with the other. The method aims to create sympathetic joy in the self, that can be shared with all others.
The article titled, Empathy: Over rated? was written by Spencer Kornhaber who writes for the The Atlantic.com
There has been a fair bit written recently about the corporate packaging of mindfulness, both within businesses and as a business. The idea being, that by being mindful and reflective, we can become positive, functionally effective people and thus more productive.
What the packages seem to miss is the aspect of coming face to face with yourself through the practice of mindfulness. This meeting can be shocking and for some this shock is damaging.
The discussion turned in this direction recently on a tai chi Facebook page. There were two others, I can't remember who now. Both, reflecting on some point relative to the thread, mentioned this kind of scary/freaky experience. It's nice to think nice things about yourself, but coming face to face with your own roiling uncalled thoughts can shake you up. Some people just can't deal with that. They are the thoughts, what else could they be. I remember in the beginning it made me feel quite ill. Of course the thing about mindfulness is that over time the thoughts become fewer and as you allow them to go on their way without you, they lose their power over you.
Physical work, done with mental focus, seems to bypass this problem. Almost any activity will do. The more immersive the better; if it's the dishes, it's the dishes, if it's a hand form, it's the hand form.
Where are you when you practice.
How present am I when I practice.
These movements are our meditation
These principles, our tools
To fully appreciate something, a person has to be present.
To fully appreciate a person, you have to be there with them, in body and in spirit.