I Am. I Can. I Shall.

images (1)A friend of mine recently introduced me to a weekly Buddhist meditation group.  The attendees get together, and we have two silent twenty-minute sitting meditation sessions with a ten-minute walking meditation between them.  After the second sitting meditation, we recite some Buddhist philosophies and have an open discussion.

Meditation isn’t something that is natural to me.  I’m a high-strung, hot-headed, anxiety-carrying, self-doubting dude.  My brain never stops obsessing over minutiae of all the things in my life, over possible outcomes of different scenarios, over money and bills, over the wrongs of the world, over all the things I need to do.  I also constantly berate myself inwardly for not living up to the high standards, especially moral ones, that I have placed for myself.  Attempting to be “quiet” inside is a challenge.

I’ve been told that you can’t control having thoughts during meditation, but that when you catch yourself thinking about something in particular, you acknowledge to yourself that you had the thought, but not entertain that thought.  You must let it go.  It has been described to me as watching a train come to a stop in front of you.  You know it’s there, but you don’t have to board. 

Last Sunday night, one such thought came to me during the first meditation session.  The thought was six simple words:  “I am.  I can.  I shall.”  While I was supposed to be thinking of nothing, I was writing this blog post in my head.  But I will gladly accept inspiration whenever and wherever it comes, so I don’t mind having boarded this train. 

As I mentioned above, I’m an individual plagued by serious self-doubt, and self-affirming statements are an uncommon occurrence.  But there it was.  I am.  I can.  I shall. 

I wrote a poem in 2009, which was a bit of wishful thinking in rhyming form, and even as I was writing it, I wondered whether it was something I could actually enact myself, actually make real.

                              At Peace  

                   Peace from all the voices,

                   Peace from crushing noise,

                   Peace from inner rumbling

                   That mania employs- 

                   I seek way through the river,

                   I’ve turbulence inside.

                   I yield too much to chaos;

                   Within, my thoughts collide.

                   I pray to God and Buddha,

                   To divinities that may be,

                   To help me find the hidden path

                   To a peaceful reverie,

                   To be placid as still water,

                   To rest when things seem grim,

                   To endure as does the oak

                   Despite the weather’s whim.

                   As a rock amidst the rapids,

                   Though buffeted, still prevailing;

                   It’s time I learned to simply live

                   With all that Life’s entailing.

                   Too long at war inside my mind

                   (Often war begets no peace),

                    I become as stone and waters pass

                    ‘Til the voices simply cease….

Lines from this poem also ran through my head while meditating. 

There was a time after my separation from my wife when I would constantly wallow in depression, and I would try to pull myself out of it by repeating the word “endure” to myself.  It was like a lifeline that I threw to myself.  I’m not in the state I was at that period of my life anymore.  So perhaps it’s time I had a new mantra, not one to help me simply survive, but one to help me grow.

Will I ever find a greater level of inner peace, be in a better mental place with reduced anxiety and fear and greater self-assurance?  Will I be the better person I strive to be?

I suppose my meditating mind already answered that.

I am.  I can.  I shall.

images (2)

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You’ve Gotta Fight

NFLparody-bannerI must confess to being overly emotional of late.  My father has cancer, and it’s pretty bad.  He’s successfully beaten cancer before; in fact he had two types at once and beat both.  But this latest case is going to be very invasive and, I imagine, turbulent.

But there are other factors impacting my mood as well.  It’s football season, and of course that means seeing all the mike vick t-shirts and jerseys and eagles logos in general since I live in the killadelphia area.  Never an inspiration for positive thoughts where I’m concerned.

But the National Football League is now alleged by Peta to have spent $10 million on researching injuries by inflicting catastrophic damage upon dogs’ knees and driving pneumatic pistons into rats’ skulls and spines.  The animals that survive the testing are still euthanized (and who knows how humanely) because they’re messed up, and ‘no longer of service’.  When I put Peta’s petition to the NFL to stop this testing on my anti-vick Facebook page, someone gave the perfect response.  They said, “What do expect from an organization that welcomed vick back with open arms and open checkbooks?”

The NFL responded to Peta’s claim with a legalese-riddled reply that speaks of “board-approved methods” and “acceptable parameters”.

Bleacher Report, an online sports news medium, reached out to the NFL for comment and received a statement that:

“Grant recipients must follow existing industry ethical standards for medical research established by the scientific community. All grant requests have to be approved in advance by the institutional review board of the participating institution.  In addition, we require any proposal to have been submitted for approvals by the institution’s animal care and use committee prior to applying for funds.”

 

It is in NO way a denial.  To me, it essentially says, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”.  Incidentally, dripping corrosive substances into rabbits’ eyes and attaching funnels to a bunch of Beagles’ heads through which cigarette smoke is blown until they get lung cancer are also “board-approved methods” that are “within acceptable parameters”.

So, in addition to the fear of losing my father (he’s 73, and there will be several major steps at which anything can happen during the removal surgery, reconstructive surgery, and radiation follow-up), I am  considering no longer watching football again.  I love this sport, and giving up watching it is seriously depressing.  Arguably, I should have done this when they first readmitted vicky into the league.  I’m tired of losing things I love because it’s the right thing to do.  But taking the stands that I do is more important to me than being a fan of something.

I’ve made so many changes, excised so many types of things from my daily life.  Giving up meat and dairy has made eating unenjoyable.  Again, I know it’s the right thing to do, but eating, once a fun thing, almost a celebration, is no longer so.  I put it off as long as I can sometimes because I dread it.  Additionally, all the vegetable-based things wreck my insides a lot of the time.  And then there are all of the cleaning products and hygienic products I’ve been getting rid of because Proctor and Gamble also tests on animals.  It’s a constant fight to do what’s right.

But giving up everything leads me back to my opening sentence of getting overly emotional about things.  I’m worked up over many things right now (including some other personal issues I haven’t mentioned here), but I’m wondering if it all matters in the end.  Animal testing and consumption is going to continue long after I’m gone.  Wars are still going to be fought over religious or political differences.  In fact there are wars going on within political bodies such as Congress just because one party doesn’t like the other and wants to block any potential progress because it’s on the other party’s agenda.  Innocent animals are still going to be beaten, burned, abandoned, and neglected, and judges and legislators still won’t consider these important enough to institute harsher penalties.  People will still rape, murder and steal from each other well after I’m dust and my name is remembered by none.  People are still going to contract awful disease, and even if we find cures, new maladies or strains are always popping up.

So I’m wondering what the point of constantly fighting for change is when the odds seem insurmountable.  Some would say that faith is what gets them through and that I need to have some of my own to escape this spiral.  But that’s not my way.  I’m too much of a scientific mind to cross over into the realm of spirituality.

But I can’t stop the fight.  I want to give up but can’t.  Maybe that means being unhappy and struggling through all the things I must give up.  There’s a saying that once you’ve seen the bad things, you can look the other way, but you can never again say that you didn’t know.  I DO know, and learn more all the time.  Can’t turn back now.

And as much as I doubt my father’s chances against all of the medical trauma to come, I have to fight to stay strong and positive for him, too.

 

Peta’s petition:

Tell the NFL to Stop Funding Sports-Injury Experiments on Animals secure.peta.orgThe National Football League Foundation is funding horrific and deadly sports injuryrelated experiments on animals. Ask them to stop!

 

For those that care to check out my anti-vick page:

Vick-timized: Giving Voice to the Voiceless OnesCommunity · 595 like this

 

(Photo used is from the Peta petition.)

Love and The Loss of the Lost

Some of you that have been around my blog for awhile will recall my involvement on Facebook with sharing profiles of pets in shelters to spare them from euthanasia.  This happens by either having any of my page subscribers be a potential foster/adopter or be able link any given animal with a rescue that may be willing to pick up that animal.  The people with whom I network in this process are all over the world, and we have many different group pages on which we share information.

It is about a woman in this network around which today’s post is centered.  She and I hadn’t officially become “friends” on there, but I had crossed her path many times over the last 3 years, and I’m sure we must have conversed on several occasions.  I was very familiar with her name and the icon she had been using for that entire time.  Many people change their profile pic all the time, but hers was constant, and instantly recognizable.

A few weeks ago, we got the news that she had taken her life.  I went numb when I read that.  I feel guilty that I never did “befriend” her on there.  She even lived within 2 hours from me.  But the fact that I didn’t “know” her has not diminished the sense of loss and amount of sadness I feel.  I’ve heard bits and pieces about what led her to this decision, but in the end these don’t matter.  This was a caring, giving, loving person who sacrificed so much to help others.  She rescued several animals herself, and was an incredibly respected woman.

But we never know what someone’s limit will be.  We never know what burdens another may have that might finally crush a person.  Depression is so often not a sign of weakness, but a sign that someone has had to be too strong, through too much, for too long.  Some will (and have) been outspoken about what they feel is a completely selfish and irresponsible act on the part of individuals that have come to making the choice she did.  I choose to see (and encourage you to as well) that a person must be in an incredible amount of pain to come to that decision.

I understand quite a bit about depression and what it can do to a person.  I have suffered from it myself through many stretches of my life.  I have had so many people close to me suffer from it as well.  In fact, some of those that are closest to me at present are so because we’ve bonded together over our experiences, sharing them, and supporting each other through them.

I will even volunteer here that I tried to end my own life once myself, in 1995.  I’m not going to discuss the details of that here, but I know how low a person can get.  Everyone has a breaking point.

I  had a CD playing in my car which has 2 songs which remind me of this woman’s loss, one of those songs possibly describing the thoughts that may have gone through her head in the days preceding her death.  The other one speaks to me of the story of those that loved her having to let her go.  It was just coincidence that this disc was playing in my car at the time of her death, and I suppose I hadn’t really thought of the lyrics in question in this way before.  But I was driving, the songs played, and as I listened to the words, the correlation hit me.  I continued to drive, crying all the way to my destination.  I’ve included links to videos of these songs which include the lyrics.

What I want to close this post with is just to say that please don’t judge those dealing with depression.  Please be observant of your loved ones, and try to be aware of the warning signs.  Even if you see a coworker to whom you’re not especially close that seems in distress, or a stranger that seems upset, does it cost you that much to say, “Excuse me. Are you okay?”

I worked with a guy once that said to me, “All we ever have is each other.”  I asked him if he was talking specifically about me and him, dealing with a boss that was not fun to work for, to say the least.  Or was he talking about something broader, more universal, between people in this world.  He said, “Both”.  And he’s right.  In this chaotic universe, dealing with tragedies anywhere from personal to global, all we ever have is each other.

And those people that you love?  Please let them know it.  You never know when you will have spoken for the last time.

images

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=LeRB14kt3II

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=Yipca8hYce0

(This photo was found on the site http://www.dawnoftheunicorn.co.uk)

Hospitals

Hospitals. What a horrific word. When one thinks of hospitals, he or she probably thinks of the sick, the broken, the dying, the dead. Some may actually think of them in a positive light, as a place of healing the infirm, aiding the impaired, curing the ill.

Hospitals aren’t always for the physical, however.

In my own life, I’ve had loved ones, the most important people in the whole world to me, suffer from trauma and other wounds on the INSIDE. THAT’S what I think of initially. Inpatient facilities, outpatient step-down programs, psycho-therapeutic drugs, depression, shock therapy. The complete cessation of a once-normal life.

I’ve watched these loved ones become unable to go to work or school, sometimes unable to get out of bed. I’ve had loved ones unable to be at home for their own safety, as well as others’.

This is what the word “hospitals” conjures up for me.

I know I could look at them, in these cases, as the places of healing, and don’t get me wrong; I do. I am so very grateful for all of the programs out there that you never knew existed until they were needed. I’m thankful to every single soul who chooses the profession of helping the people in need. Thank God above (or whatever entity or force may exist) for all of this.

For the foreseeable future, though, horrific is how I’ll describe them.

I’ve logged so many miles driving more than an hour to visit my loved ones in these facilities, sometimes leaving from one place to visit someone else in another. Afterward, I’d go home, sleep, go to work, and do it all over again.

I’ve logged so many miles on the NJ Turnpike that, if you check out the details of the many included in my New Jersey tattoo, there is an outline of the Turnpike (the green strip going diagonally up from left to right). This was, in fact the impetus for the design. I’ve earned that detail, like a badge. A medal in fact, since there were times, as the last one of my family “on the outside” I called myself The Last Man Standing. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Thank God (or whatever entity or force may exist) the hospitals are there, but I pray to God (ditto) you and yours will never need them.