A Brief History of Brody and a short story

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Artwork by Kyle Stewart (http://www.kylestewart.ca/)

It looks like I haven’t posted since April and there’s good reason for that (which I’ll get into). I don’t usually talk too much about my personal life on this blog, but I recently had a talk with a friend about transparency in your life and how it brings out authenticity. So, I’ll give you a run down on what’s been going on.

In November, I went through what I call a “meltdown”. I sum it up as being an accumulation of stressors that haven’t been handled with. It seems hypocritical of me to have a blog about the different mental tools to avoid such things, but in truth, I lost all of these mental tools as a result of losing everything around me. I had lost my house, my wife and the life I had been working towards in a matter of days. The shock sent me catapulting downwards as I wasn’t able to adapt to the single life quickly enough (probably from the loss of my mental tools). There were a few other key stressors that followed and several personal revelations, but the point is that I wasn’t able to cope anymore even though I had spent most of my years developing these coping tools for such an instance. That’s why I initially started this blog. It was to document and also to share the coping tools that I’ve lost during this trauma period. Slowly, one by one, they started coming back to me, but it wasn’t easy. It was like being thrown back into pre-adolescence and trying to figure everything out all over again. Me, you, the world. Because all of my pre-conceived notions of the world tumbled down, I was able to see myself (and therefore life) a bit clearer. In Zen, they say that the beginners mind is a masters mind and though I didn’t have much say in the events that happened to me, the result was the same (not saying I’m a master here, just that my brain’s emptier :P). I’m still always learning and so I value any input you might have.

I stopped writing in April because I was going through a series of insomnia attacks followed by a drawn out physical depression (my mind was fine, but my body wouldn’t work). This I believe was a direct cause of the “meltdown”. I had to move back to my parents house during this period and have gone to the point where I couldn’t work either. It seemed like I tried everything at that time. All medications from pharmaceuticals to natural remedies. Nothing worked. That’s when I got really desperate and did a lot of research. Apparently, I’ve been doing a “half assed” version of meditation before then and I was barely skimming the “deeper” levels. I started doing Zazen (properly this time) twice a day for twenty minutes each time. After a week, I started to feel normal again and after 2 weeks I was able to start working. After all this, I don’t think that I’ll ever be able to function the way that I used to and will be relying entirely on meditation. Since then, I’ve managed to live in my own apartment and I’m working on my career. So, all things considered, I’m doing pretty good for myself and I’m now in a place where I can start writing again.

In an attempt to be more authentic as a person, I want to alter the blog a little bit. I used to try to keep my articles as short and zen-like as possible, but I need to be honest with myself, I’m not a zen master from the 14th century and I like being able to fully explain a concept so that it can be better understood (which means longer articles). I’ll aim for bi-weekly articles, but I make no promises (I do this for fun after all :P).

I’ll keep writing if you keep reading.

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Artwork by Kyle Stewart (http://www.kylestewart.ca/)

I have a friend who wrote me a short story about what it would be like if I were to step into her mind. I wrote her a response, basically on what it would be like for her to travel in my mind. I figure since this is one of my more unusual blogs, I may as well end it by posting the short story that I wrote. Here it is:

She came in with a thud. The space that encapsulated her was dark and ephemeral as though the air was made of charcoal which constantly moved, shifting from side to side. The chamber she landed in had no distinct walls or surfaces, but if she tilted her head a certain way, she could see that she was inside a giant sphere. She could see this because of the light of stars shinning through. Nebula, galaxies and millions of stars were all barely visible, but could be detected the same way as a fish might be able to detect the reflection of the moon. Fear set over her because of the unfamiliarity of the place, but soon she was able to calm herself and that’s when she noticed that the charcoal air would form pockets or bubbles of clearing. Her curiosity grew as she drew closer to the pockets and she would begin to ask herself questions about her situation and what was happening around her. Suddenly, her mind began to wander and she remembered. Floods of memories passed through her like rushing water without any boundaries or restraints. As soon as this happened, a glimmer of light began to shine in the center of the pocket which was then followed by a projection of the memories being played by her own mind.

This startled her but she could not run because the fascination that grew inside her, paralyzed her. The opalescent pocket grew as she stared into it more and more till it took up a large section of the dome. The stars beyond the dome could be clearly seen now and the periphery became visible. The dome chamber had become completely engulfed in her memories and this brought up a wave of sadness as she viewed the events that influenced her life. She collapsed into a fit of tears and the sobs of her own voice brought her no comfort, but the sadness within herself was soothing since it was a familiar emotion that made her feel safe and at home. Her vision was blurred as she finally looked up and a specter or shadow could be seen walking closer to her. Although the idea of a strange specter walking nearer would normally terrify her, she didn’t feel afraid. As the stranger approached, he transformed from a giant shadowy stick figure to what looked to be a scratchy drawing of a human figure. Jagged lines rolled around him to create the illusion of a body and slowly a face had started to emerge. Eventually, the lines became smoother and more fluid and the specter became a hyper-realistic drawing of a man.

He asked “How did you get here? I didn’t think anyone would come”. She was surprised, but kept calm, responding “I don’t know, but were you expecting someone?”
“I wasn’t expecting, just hoping. This place is hard and sometimes cruel, but it’s also beautiful in how complex it is. I was hoping someone would come to take the edge off from living in this place”

As soon as he said this, bright green grass began to form around his feet and ankles. He raised his hands up and small blue flowers started growing in patches around where his hands were. He looked at her with a dreary stare and said “I’m the master here. I have complete control over everything that happens.” He looked downward and the greenery around him unraveled and disintegrated till it all disappeared. “So, how did you get here?” he demanded. “I told you, I don’t know”. He tilted his head to the side in a manner that suggested he was contemplating something deeply. “There are other domes around here. You can only see them if you know how and I know they’re there because I can feel them. I think we’re all connected together and so every once in a while when a connection is strong enough, they meet. It’s been a long time since someone was here with me”. A look of shock overcame him as he stumbled over his words “c-could I…umm…offer you some tea?”. She smiled at the drawing of a man

“I’d love a cup”.

Alternative Approaches for Dealing with Anxiety

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Artwork by James Lee (http://leeshit.tumblr.com/)

Usually depression and anxiety are linked together pretty well because depression causes anxiety and anxiety causes depression. But, that’s not always the case. You can be depressed without feeling anxious and your anxiety can be situational. As I’ve said in the previous article, anxiety is the inability to cope. So, I’ll explain to you what I’ve done in the past to cope.

Personally, my anxiety has stemmed from a circle of negative thoughts (keep in mind that I say positive and negative in the sense of what causes harm). Every emotion has an opposite and that opposite can be found in the similarities in bodily responses. This is why you’re able to go from laughing to crying in an instant. Happiness to anger and so on (I’ll explain this further in future articles). If you look at what your body is doing when you’re anxious, it’s actually very close to what it does when you’re excited. A sudden surge of energy, a shakiness almost like nervousness. Whenever I would feel anxiety, I would then think about something that would make me excited. You do this a number of times and your brain makes that link so that it’s no longer anxiety that you feel. Sometimes, finding that thing that makes you excited is hard to do, so, it may just be beneficial to you (in more ways than one) to make future plans that do excite you.

It also helps to deliberately put yourself in a situation that you do get excited about and then think about what’s causing the anxiety. This is not so that your brain makes a link, but more for understanding what the anxiety really is. Understanding the truth of your situation allows you to let go of whatever it is that’s causing you harm.

Anxiety can also stem from past trauma where an event plays over and over again causing fear of that situation to become overwhelming and in turn creating a bodily response. There is a documentary on an alternative method for dealing with this sort of anxiety, but despite my best efforts, could not find it on the web (If you know which one, please let me know in the comments). Essentially, it was about how you can stop the repetition of the traumatic event playing in your mind, by simply, writing it down every time it comes to you and also allowing yourself to see it. It’s like your brain skips over the event like a broken record. But, this analogy fails because a brain can fix itself. I suppose the idea is that your brain comes to acceptance after you confront it through your own intended repetition. However, I don’t know how valid a method this is because I haven’t used it personally, but I thought it was worth a mention since it coincides with much of my other mental tools such as dealing with physical pain. This type of anxiety is often associated with post traumatic stress disorder (P.T.S.D.)

My motivation for learning how to do this has always been that I see cycles as enduring things. They can last a lifetime and so I’ve always put the fixing of deadly cycles as the most important thing. In truth, the deadly cycles are really just you, doing bad things to you. It’s simple and yet the hardest thing to change.