Day Eleven: Healing

I’m now on my fourth day of waking up at 5:00AM. I didn’t count my vacation days because I was in a different time zone and stayed up late Friday night to play with The Earps, but I didn’t sleep after 7 or 8AM on any of those days.

I am aiming for this morning ritual:

neil peart.jpg
Neil Peart, drummer of Rush, on his motorcycle trip he made to heal from the loss of his wife and daughter. 
  1. Wake up.
  2. Coffee, tea, or water.
  3. Shower and dress.
  4. Journaling or blogging.
  5. Short Reading.
  6. Meditation.
  7. Simple breakfast.
  8. Leave for work and arrive ten minutes early.

As I said in a previous post, mornings have mostly been pushing Snooze several times, waking up for a rushed bathroom  routine, and speeding off to work, for most of my adult life.

Right now, I just have to wake up at 5AM, and do whatever I want before I leave for work, for 7 consecutive days. Then, the following week, I’ll wake up at 5AM, and take a 10 minute walk every morning for 7 consecutive days. Things will be changed and added every week as I work through the Self Mastery book.

Why New Years Resolutions, and self improvement in general, are so difficult to pull off: 

I am basically a paid slave, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as I have cultivated some self discipline from showing up every day at a job for over 20 years. I’ve been in leaner times the last couple of years, losing jobs and my part-time music gigging income. I make $12 an hour loading trucks and packing boxes. After I pay daycare, phone, car insurance (mine is especially expensive after two minor wrecks in the last two years), medical bills, groceries, gas, there is little left for dining, entertainment, etc. and if I want to pay off my debt too, I need to work any overtime that is offered. So that’s 10 hours per day, at least 4-5 days per week. Weekends are spent with my kids.

Most of my time is sold to someone else.

I would say this is true for most other people.

My secret weapon will be my weekday off. Wednesdays.

Today, I will log how I spend my day and post the log tomorrow.

Chapter 11 of 365 Tao: Daily Meditations

Key points: 

  • No matter how extreme a situation is, it will change.
  • Fires will burn out, turbulent seas will become calm.
  • Nature balances itself by having its events seek its opposite. This is the process of healing.
  • This process takes time. Days, years, even lifetimes.
  • In an extreme situation, the wise are patient.
  • All life is destruction and healing, over and over again.

It might be irresponsible of me to criticize psychiatric medicine, but having tried that route before, the medicines administered to me did not bring healing. That said, I think the medication may have been useful during my freakouts. The problem is there was no plan of taking me off the medications, which caused unpleasant side effects. I stopped taking the medications on my own and chose not to adopt the label of “mentally ill person”. The doctor advised that I must keep taking Risperidal or I would end up back in the psych ward. There was an assumption made that I might no longer work and would draw disability.

There was no real diagnosis. They simply didn’t know what was wrong with me, with no prior history of serious mental health issues. I was marked as “Schizophrenia/Other”.  There were other opinions too. One hypothesis was that I suffered head trauma from my fall in November 2015. Add extreme rage and depression, sleep deprivation, stress factors such as job losses and changes.

After being referred to Communicare, I decided they were pill pushers and the counseling wasn’t helpful and I couldn’t understand how a 20 year old female psychiatry student as a counselor could relate to the issues of a 40 year old man who went through the meat grinder of divorce with kids and the loss of just about every thing he loved in a swift blow of the midlife destruction hammer. How could she relate?

I simply stopped going there.

Instead, I started hiking on a regular basis, going to group meditation, studying Buddhism, reading Thomas Merton and self help books.

If money were no object, I could take some time off, and I had no dependents who rely on me, I would have taken the Camino De Santiago pilgrimage or hiked the Appalachian Trail. Instead I take my pilgrimage, 6 miles at a time, every Tuesday night after work.

Joe at Loose Leaf Hollow told me, “Grief is not in your head. You can’t think your way through it, because it’s in your body. There is something about movement.”

This seems to be true. The drummer from Rush, Neil Peart, took a very long motorcycle trip following the death of his wife and daughter in a short time period. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirsig, Wild by Cheryl Strayed. And so on.

The Buddha said that all life is suffering and the third noble truth says there is an end to suffering (which I wanted) if you follow the Eightfold Path.

I don’t want to take pills. I’m putting all my faith in ancient wisdom, and that is why I’m here and what this blog is about.

Meanwhile, the Stoics say something different. 

“Epictetus is reminding you that serenity and stability are results of your choices and judgment, not your environment. If you seek to avoid all disruptions to tranquility—other people, external events, stress—you will never be successful. Your problems will follow you wherever you run and hide. But if you seek to avoid the harmful and disruptive judgments that cause those problems, then you will be stable and steady wherever you happen to be.”
-Ryan Holiday, If You Want to Be Unsteady, The Daily Stoic


Thomas Merton said something similar:

“If you go into the desert merely to get away from people you dislike, you will find neither peace nor solitude; you will only isolate yourself with a tribe of devils.”

Photo I took at Thomas Merton’s grave on September 8, 2016.

Same place, tomorrow. 

B.G.

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