Self, Mind, Brain, and Drugs

2018/04/07

As some of my readers may know my health has been…questionable for most of my life.  I was born dead and out for about fifteen minutes before resuscitation.  I spent the first month of my life, save Christmas day, in an incubator.  The only reason I’m alive is thanks to the fact I was born in a country with universal healthcare.  My parents would not have been able to afford me and all my complications and I wouldn’t have made it past the first week if I had been born in the States.  I drowned when I was four, resuscitated.  I spent much of adolescence in pain and discomfort in and out of hospitals, I spent a lot of my preteen and teen years as a frequent guest of the Hospital for Sick Children, the best pediatric hospital in the world.

 

It is not surprising considering these issues, and several other issues, that I don’t exactly identify with my body.  I always think of myself as a consciousness driving a meat suit, like a kid in a robot in an anime.  It’s not me, I’m the consciousness.  The body is broken, it’s decaying and falling apart the moment it’s born, that is not me.  My mind, my consciousness that is pure, that is disconnected from my body and its corruption.  That’s how I viewed myself for a long time.  Something above and beyond my body.

 

Then more recently I was diagnosed with depression.  Now I shouldn’t have to say this, but depression is a physiological problem in the brain.  It is not about “feeling sad” and can’t be fixed with happy thinking, any more than anemia is fixed with thoughts about iron.  The brain has problems processing and creating specific neurochemicals.  When I was diagnosed with depression it really hit me that I am not above and beyond my body, because depression is a problem in the brain, but it affected me, even though I thought of myself as beyond it.  My consciousness, at very least, gets translated through the physical brain.  As “pure” as my consciousness might be it gets distorted by the interface with my brain.

 

It was actually hard for me to admit that a problem with my body was affecting my mind, and that my mind wasn’t separate.  It seems like nothing major, but to someone who was more in their head than their body it is upsetting to see how it can be distorted and influenced.  Then when I started taking anti-depressants I again had to admit how the brain affects me, as my moods and clarity improved again.

 

I got to “trigger” more of this discomfort to force me to deal with it.  I began to experiment a year ago with cannabis.  Yes at 33 I’ve probably been high less than the average 18 year old.  The first experience knocked me out of the meat suit, it was a very potent edible.  I got what some call body heaviness, but it was to the point where I didn’t feel like I was interfacing with my body, and actually had mild spasms as I couldn’t completely control my  body. I was still piloting a meatsuit, but all the controls were sluggish or crosswired. I was just my conscious sitting in my head.  My ability to focus goes out the window, and that’s again what made me have to deal with this brain interface.  It wasn’t just moods, my brain could actually interrupt my ability to think.

 

When you think of yourself as a non-physical consciousness, it’s actually a troubling thought to see how chemicals can affect you, that your consciousness isn’t as inviolate as you think.

 

My purpose in writing and sharing this is twofold. Firstly it is allowing me to process some of my humility around this, coming to terms with the fact that however “pure” my consciousness might be beyond the body, as long as I’m in the body the physical brain can and will influence me. In fact we’re learning more and more about how much of our personality is physically rooted in the brain, which then makes me wonder about who “I” am? How much of the personality I identify with is “me” in the sense of my consciousness beyond flesh, and how much is based upon my genes, my neurochemicals, and events that shape the way the brain function. My one lama used to refer to this is our biology and biography, but I feel there is one more piece, that Beyond the flesh consciousness. Secondly I write this because sadly I see a trend in the various magick communities to ignore or look down on mental health issues. Pretending, thinking as I did, that the brain/body couldn’t influence the consciousness. Sadly this plays out with people not seeking professional help for mental health issues, or assume that medications aren’t the route to follow.

My Rinpoche fled Tibet during the Chinese invasion. As a child he fled through the mountains of Tibet, being chased occasionally by Chinese military, losing people on the way, living a horrible story. That was over sixty years ago, but he still has PTSD and can’t watch military movies. That was a reassuring conversation for me, here is a Rinpoche, a great teacher who has spent his life meditating, but he admits there is a wall where he cannot control the damage that was done. If a reincarnate lama in his 70s can still deal with mental health issues, it’s not a failing when you can’t magick it away. As a subculture we don’t imply someone is a failure because they can’t magick away anemia or allergies or whatever, but we treat mental health problems as personal and magickal failures, and that’s bullshit. As competent sorcerers we have to be willing to engage reality as it is, not how we want it to be, and use any resource we can to make our journey better, more productive, and more functional, and for some of us, part of that is realizing we are more of the body and brain than we think, and that’s okay.

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SAD, Depression, and Woogity Support

2017/01/03

Clinical depression is one of the most common mental health conditions. Close in numbers would be Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and of course there is some overlap. (If you’re unfamiliar SAD is essentially a temporary form of depression brought on by reduced sunlight in winter months)

Before I go farther I’d like to make two things clear. Depression is a mental health condition, it is an umbrella for a variety of neurological conditions where the brain cannot produce or process certain neurotransmitters most commonly associated with happy moods and motivation. Depression isn’t feeling bad or sad, it’s not just an emotional funk to snap out of, it’s a literal physical condition in the brain. You can no more cure depression with thinking happy thoughts than you can cure anemia by thinking iron-laden thoughts. Secondly what I will be discussing is not, in any way, meant to supplant medical treatment. What I discuss can help manage depression in some cases, deal with the edge of it, but it will not cure it, and shouldn’t be assumed to be a replacement for proper medical treatment. Like any medical condition you can do magickal workings to help support it and the medical treatment, but a serious condition will not be cured by magick alone.

I’m part of this statistical group. I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, and have for almost 20 years. I deal with it better now than I did even a decade ago due to three things: light therapy, medication, and woogity. I want to share what techniques I’ve found work the best for me, and while these are more specifically how I manage SAD, I believe they may be of some relevance to people with depression.

First and foremost the best technique for managing depression I have is my meditation practice. Specifically anapana/vipassana meditation. While part of a bigger rant, let me say that all meditations are not equal, and not useful, and in this situation anapana has what we’re looking for. Anapana has a variety of benefits not found in more generic meditations but this is overlooked by pop-science articles that claim colouring books are just as good, as they they measure things like heartrate and brain waves, ignoring the point of the meditation. Relevant to SAD/Depression anapana helps you identify thoughts, chains of thoughts, and where they come from. This is very important because sometimes when in a depressive episode it’s hard to know where a thought comes from, do you really not want to go to that party cause you won’t have fun, or are you thinking that cause you’re depressed? Anapana can help you see where that thought comes from. Anapana also teaches you to catch distractions and thoughts as they form and redirect your focus. Again this is useful for a depressive episode because it is common to get caught in depressive loops, and not necessarily realize it or be able to break it. This helps you learn to catch the mind, and redirect, if only for a little bit. There are a lot of great resources to learn about anapana, I’ve written about it before and there are of course youtube tutorials.

The second technique I use is Pore Breathing and Compacting. This goes to the cause of SAD, a lack of sunlight. Sit comfortably somewhere you can see sunlight, if you can sit in the sun that’s best, and in a pinch you can do this with artificial lights and connect to the Sun energetically, but doesn’t seem to be nearly as potent. Perceive your body as empty and hollow, it’s like a clear crystal vase, no muscles, skeletons, or organs inside, no channels or energy centres, just a clear crystal surface in the shape of your body. Now as you breathe in, draw the light into your body, it travels in with the breath but also through the surface, it remains inside on the outbreath held in by the crystal and your will. Repeat this, increasing the intensity of the light until after several minutes you are as radiant as the sun yourself. For you first few times, I recommend stopping here, just breathe normally for a bit, and open your eyes and go about your day.

For a more advanced version once you’re radiant it is time to compact that light. On each in breath the light contracts, pulling into the centre of your chest a little, staying there, slightly smaller, as you breathe out. Each breath pulls it a little bit more into the heart centre, and a few minutes you should have a radiant brilliant pearl in your heart centre. Leave it there, and over the day it will dissipate slowly letting solar energy into your body.

A small warning with this technique though, Solar Energy can make it a bit hard to sleep, at least until you get used to it. So you’re better off doing this in the morning or early afternoon.

As said, these are in no way replacements for proper medical treatments, but I’ve found these very useful to supplement my medical work around my health, and perhaps they can be beneficial to some of you.

If you have any recommended supplementary techniques that have worked for you, I would love to hear them, and I’m sure they might benefit other readers.


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