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How I Came To The Practice: Part 5 – Running Away From The Darkness September 24, 2012

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(This is part 5 of a series on the full story of how I came to meditation practice. Click on the links for part 1 – My Christian Roots, part 2 – Why Meditation Came Naturally To Me, part 3 – Asian Exoticism and Zen for Dummies, and part 4 – Religious Studies and Meditation Instruction).

A few months after my first meditation instruction, I worked for a summer at two jobs, fell into a deep depression, then started a new university semester and broke off my first ever committed romantic relationship. I spent hours at a time crying in bed, I couldn’t get out of bed in the mornings, and had to go through some suicidal thoughts. This scared me into spending a few sessions with a counsellor who helped me get out of my depression using a primarily cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) approach (a technique which I later learned is promoted by insurance companies by its “quick and easy” results). The CBT approach primarily focuses on uncovering negative thoughts and distorted thinking patterns (cognitivethat lead to negative behaviours (behavioural). I began a journey of self-healing that included grieving a loss, taking a break from mood altering drugs (alcohol) and the hard work of facing the tidal waves of negative, self-pitying thoughts in which I had indulged.

I tried my best to work on being more positive. I was very strongly motivated to change my negative habits I had taken for granted so often. I was doing it to avoid another episode of depression. The episode of suicidal thoughts had a very deep impact on me, and I had felt a deep sense of terror–the terror of self-destruction. The experience is still with me today. I later realized that I was strongly motivated to save my own life and I was willing to do whatever it took.

I made little room, time, or space in my life for practicing meditation. Other commitments got in the way of travelling to any regular sitting groups. What little sitting practice I was able to do seemed to have some effect. I enjoyed the emphasis of letting go of thoughts while sitting. I was starting to feel empowered over my compulsive anxiety. What a relief to be trapped in a never-ending tangled web of thoughts, to notice it, and consciously and effortfully let them go. Aaaah, relief…  It was a lot of work and at times uncomfortable, but I could see some potential.

The busiest semester of my undergraduate career ended and summer approached. Memories of a painful previous summer made me motivated not to repeat history. There were a number of factors (working a new job with new coworkers, new training, lots of overtime) I could foresee as possible risks to leading to another depressive episode, and I was motivated not to let it happen.

At the time, I was surrounded by friends and peers that seemed to be endlessly complaining in a self-centered fashion about their final exams and reports: “I have three exams in two days,” “I won’t be done until the end of the month,” “I have to write organic chemistry,” on and on and on. My life is so awful, this life of scholastic and financial and social class privelege… (Ooops, sarcasm…not right speech!) This was not the environment I wanted to be in if I wanted to avoid falling into old negative thought patterns and attitudes.

On TV late one night I happened to come across a news episode on A Complaint-Free World. Someone had made a vow not to utter a single complain for a span of 30 consecutive days, eventually achieved their goal after several months, and found it so personally rewarding they were spreading the message to others. Sign me up! I ordered a free rubber bracelet online and wore it proudly for a long period of time, happy to share the message of positivity to anyone who asked.

I’m happy to report that I didn’t experience a depressive episode that summer (despite many 70 hour work weeks), nor anytime since. My past experience with professional counselling showed me the usefulness and effectiveness of therapy and psychology. Yet I was still aware that there was a whole other realm of experience that psychology missed, and I was still seeking some answer or place that would show me the way.

 

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1. How I Came To The Practice: Part 6 – Seeking Spirit « Living Abundance - October 22, 2012

[…] (This is part 6 of a series on the full story of how I came to meditation practice. Click on the links for part 1 – My Christian Roots, part 2 – Why Meditation Came Naturally To Me, part 3 – Asian Exoticism and Zen for Dummies, part 4 – Religious Studies and Meditation Instruction, and part 5 – Running From The Darkness). […]

2. How I Came to the Practice: Part 7 – Finding Sangha « Living Abundance - November 21, 2012

[…] – Asian Exoticism and Zen for Dummies, part 4 – Religious Studies and Meditation Instruction, part 5 – Running From The Darkness, and part 6 – Seeking […]


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