medication

Aspiring to Deeper Practice

By Cliff Heegel I cannot find a better way to spend my life than practicing the path of understanding and love. I have practiced forgetfulness for much of my life, and experienced, both personally and professionally, the consequences of a self-centered life of ignorance. There is such suffering. To help relieve suffering, I must be present. To do what needs to be done, I need the support of an understanding and loving Sangha.

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Aspiring to the Order is a commitment to my own care. The structure that the Order provides will help me water the seeds of love and harmony in myself and in others. My practice will deepen. That is what I want.

Both my parents suffered from addiction and depression. These are my roots. My own addictions were also a mask for depression. I suffered from spiritual pride for many years, struggling with the notion that psychiatric medication and meditation were incompatible. I thought depression was a sign of my inherent weakness and indicated my practice wasn't good enough. For years, I felt guilty because I wasn't. happy even though I practiced. After I quit drinking and USIng drugs, I had to accept my biological condition of depression. There was no longer anything to mask it. Finally, I swallowed my pride and got medication that helped.

Now, I do not have to take medication all the time. Still, I periodically crash into a low-grade depression. It is biological and has very little to do with practice or lifestyle. I can be living well and practicing well and still descend into a blue funk. I simply accept this as a biological illness and take my medication when I have to. This acceptance has helped me realize the non-duality of depression and non-depression.

I cannot help teaching what works to whoever I know. In my case, that means my local Sangha as well as psychotherapy clients. I teach mindfulness whenever it seems appropriate. I am getting great results, too. In one case, I taught mindful breathing and walking to a client who had been in therapy for many years with many therapists. For the fIrst time, she could talk about traumatic memories without going into a catatonic state. This woman suffered severe abuse as a child, has been a drug addict, and is bulimic and suicidal. I have several boxes of razor blades that she used to cut herself when she was in pain. Now, she simply breathes and sometimes, smiles. Of course, the best teaching is the one that I give with my presence.

Order aspirant Cliff Heegel, Determination of the Source, practices with the Memphis, Tennessee Sangha.

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Voices of Pain

By Sarah O’Brien mb39-Voices1

Breathing in, I have arrived. Breathing out, I am home. While around me the feelings, unbelievable and large, saunter. Heavy elephants.

The voice tells me things you don’t want to know I am thinking. You don’t want to know, because you will realize that I am crouching in a wretched place full of shame and dirty waters and elephants of so many colors and tales that all becomes confusing.

The voice whispers to me that I do not belong here, that I am breathing too loudly, that I am undeserving of love, that I am unable to speak truthfully, that I am a rapist inside and a murderer. The voice believes itself, and it is loud.

Breathing in, I have arrived. Breathing out, I am home. Around me the sitters are sitting, silently breathing. I emerge from the pool gasping for breath. Tears are silently flowing down my cheek. Thank god in this practice in this room we don’t look and measure one another. I face the wall, and draw from the silence around me, from the still sitters not judging, only breathing.

Breathing in, I have arrived. Breathing out, I am home. The sound of the bell emanates through the room. I bow, and I know I am in the present moment. Still, that voice tells me I am not welcome in the here and now. Breathing in, I have arrived. Breathing out, I am home.

I ask the voice, what do you want from me? Love, she an­swers. Only love.

How to love her? How to cherish her? I know I cannot do it alone. I need the support of Sangha. Sitting in the midst of those who meditate, a light grows as if from a seed inside of me. Hope arises like a small purple flame at the center of a candle, the kind that may stay lit and turn to a royal orange, or that may dampen and desist when untended.

I hear the sound of the bell and the flame is evoked; the voice is quiet. I wonder: is she listening? Breathing in, I have arrived. Breathing out, I am home.

At home I am overcome with the image of a downtrodden black boy, seven years old and angry. His name is Jerome. His arms are crossed, and his hands are creased with many lines.

I wonder to myself, is this she? Is this the voice I have been waiting to love?

A watercolor painting of Jerome shows his angry lines, his dejected pouting lips. I sit on the purple cushion to meditate and light a candle in front of the image. Breathing in, I have arrived. Breathing out, I am home. I soak in all of the aspects of Jerome, and create a space for love in my heart.

The voice is silent. I listen to the sound of my breathing. I see the candle flame, I see Jerome.

Angry voice arises, and the elephants come trampling in. They trample me. Breathing in, I have arrived. Breathing out, I am home.

I am still alive, and the tears come again. This time the tears are not for me, they are for Jerome. They are for that small child inside of me that is so angry and unknown.

How many other suffering children are there? Which voices in my life do they come forth to represent? An angry father? A suffering relative? A buried ancestor coming back through my genetic structure to relay the message of pain?

How many times will I cry these tears? I don’t know. Some­times I can’t see their faces––I only hear the voice.

It is when I hear the voice that I know how much compassion and breath I need, and how much I need the Sangha, Buddha, and Dharma. They have brought me to a time and place where I can meet myself with love. They supplement the medications and therapy in which I invest for healing. They are my refuge and place of stillness. To sit with the Sangha is like drinking a balm of honey, lemon, and water. It is simplicity that spins around me like a cocoon.

Breathing in, I have arrived. Breathing out, I am home. During Dharma discussion someone holds my hand. People raise voices to the question: Can you speak to the matter of holiness, practice, and depression?

This so that during individual practice Jerome and I become so much one that he and I both dissipate, and the voice comes and goes until all that is left is breath.

mb39-Voices2Sarah O’Brien practices with the Washington Mindfulness Community in Washington, DC. She is a program coordinator for NAMI, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, of Montgomery County, Maryland, and enjoys playing Native American flute.

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