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On zen practice and schizophrenia

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Apotheosis

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Source - http://theicarusproject.net/spirit-mysticism/on-zen-practice-and-schizophrenia

ON ZEN PRACTICE AND SCHIZOPHRENIA
Meghan Jisho Caughey


When I was fifteen years old I discovered the teachings of the Buddha. For me it was a time of clarity and peace in the middle of the otherwise turbulent adolescent years.

When I was nineteen years old I discovered the land of schizophrenia with its characteristic visual and auditory hallucinations. Suddenly, my sensory perceptions were overloaded with threatening voices, distorted visual and kinesthetic forms and it was as if my very eyes, ears---ay, my brain could not be trusted.

This would be my life for the next thirty or so years and my Zen practice would weave its way through the hospitalizations, the suicide attempts, the shock treatments, with persistence like a silver thread woven through a length of indigo cloth.

So this is what I have found during the hours on the cushion. First of all, let me say, Zen practice, for me, is hardly ever relaxing. I don’t do it because it feels good. Just in the last few years, due to a better medication, it does occasionally feel somewhat peaceful. But much of the time, it is simply uncomfortable to sit there, and stay on the cushion.
I sit, and the internal voices often get louder. It‘s challenging.
I want to stop; I want to pay attention to the voices. They are seductive.
I try to count my breaths, if I can count to four, it is unusual.
I switch to listening to sounds meditation. External sounds---the bird in the tree outside, a car, the wind in a tree, my dog’s snoring. This actually works quite well fairly often when I am hearing voices because it competes with the voice; it changes the focus if I can do it for a little while.

Sometimes the voices or a body distortion will be really stubborn. I am just stuck with it.
There I am, on the cushion, no escape.
So what I have learned to do is just to be there.
I learned this in sesshin.
Just to be there. Moment by moment. With all the Stuff. Whatever.
I found out that it wasn’t going to kill me.
And then I found out that I could choose my attitude toward the Stuff.
Chose the feeling –tone.

So now, the practice goes something like this:
I’m sitting doing zazen and the scary perceptual stuff comes up,
And I recognize it, and I say to it, “Oh, so it’s you again!”
And I lovingly tell it,” Well, I’m putting the welcome mat out for you, just come right on in!”
And the scary stuff gets kind of smaller and not so scary, and sort of shuffles off into a corner, not so bad, after all.
Still, there are times when I just have to sit and it is like I am sitting in a snowstorm, or a war, except the energy is inside.

So, one might ask, why do I sit—if it is not peaceful—and there are not more moments of bliss?
Sometimes I ask myself this question, and what I get in touch with is that by sitting that I somehow connect with my True Nature. For me this is especially meaningful, because for years I thought that my True Nature was my disease, schizophrenia. But deep down, I could hear something else: Buddha Nature.

When I was in my early forties—I am now fifty-one—I took the Precepts and Refuge in the ceremony called Jukai. I was given two Dharma names by my teacher. One name, Jisho, means compassion for all life. My teacher made a point to say that I must have compassion for myself. The other name is Ahimsa: nonharming. This meant to me that I could no longer act out self destructively, regardless of what the voices told me to do. I had to change my life.

I owe my life to this practice. My gratitude is beyond words.

To sum it up, I would say that my practice with schizophrenia is just moment by moment, stay on the cushion with whatever comes up, and it is all workable, if you just stick it out.
 
keepsafe

keepsafe

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I understand that concept - I just need to unlearn and relearn things.
Thanks for that post it gives me a little bit of hope, really it does.

KS
:hug:
 
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Apotheosis

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*Sapphire*

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Sesshin sounds a bit like Mindfulness which is what i've been taught. Just observing your thoughts but not going along with them, having a 'Teflon' mind where you let them come and go like the tide, but not get caught up with them. Interesting, thanks
 
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schizolanza

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The great secret,or is it not so great secret? I mean how enlightened is this guy?Doesn't exactly inspire me to take up meditation.
I was a christian in my early adult life.I had some spiritual experiences both on my own and also in a group situation.
Later on I used entheogens and learned a lot.I had some frightening and enjoyable experiences.
Now I just smoke weed.I cant seem to get very high like I used to.I think the olanzapine is an issue.It definately ruins the mushroom experience so I dont bother anymore.My pevious mushroom experiences were very intense resulting in a kind of ego death that doesn't happen anymore with the olanzapine.
 
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schizolanza

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You've never been enlightened by a mushroom trip?
They are drugs I suppose but they are entheogens.
 
A

Apotheosis

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You've never been enlightened by a mushroom trip?
No - In a word - nor by LSD, Ketamine, or any other hallucinogen - & I did a lot of them. I concluded that they are an illusionary short cut - an impassable dead end.
 
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schizolanza

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The thing about mushrooms is the dosage.People have fun on low doses enjoying the visual distortion and giggling etc.I opt for a high dose because the experience is completely different not recreational at all.
 
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Apotheosis

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Believe me or not Olanza - I have consumed very large amounts of hallucinogens - I am not naive to this area of explorations. A good book on the subject is 'The Cosmic Serpent' by Jeremy Narby.

We will have to agree to disagree - I have been down that road - it isn't a road a want to go down again - it was a total dead end.

If you have found a solution in drug use - then well done - enjoy yourself; it isn't one I found; I found Hell. Thankfully I am now out of it.
 
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