The Middle Way

Zen Spot #132 — Mindfulness, meditation and a culture of vicious, interdependent contrarian balance February 22, 2018 00:05

Failure to upset the herd

Over the course of my life, I’ve observed a spirit-crushing phenomenon that can’t be mine to experience alone. It’s toxic, awful and a description follows. Built on the idea that no individual should get too far in front of the herd, nor too far behind, a social mechanism is put in place that, by my observation, helps no one. 

More than once I’ve been a part of communities where, through sarcasm, cynicism, derogatory language and ephithets, a person within a group is made to feel awful about themselves. By itself, this phenomenon is sick. That said, I’ve observed, in the same groups, a corrective behavior where, if the person to whom the intimidation was directed makes a self-deprecating remark mirroring the comments of the original offenders, the exact same offenders will remark that the observation is incorrect:

Sample

Offender: “You’re dumb as a brick.” 

The offender may find such statements benign. Few offenders will be accountable in the rare event that the comment was clearly designed to control and hurt. Moreover, they may deny they said it or meant it or that the recipient was being too sensitive. Given the prevalence of bullying, there is nothing uncommon about this behavior and, were it to end there, it would still be awful. In almost all circumstances, the recipient eventually tries to find a palatable but crappy solution.

Palatable but crappy solution

Target: “Sometimes I can be a little slow on the uptake.”

Designed to defuse a toxic situation (while preparing for a better long term solution), when this kind of self-deprecating remark is offered, the original offender will be the first to offer an observation of your competence, talent and winning personality.

I’ve experienced this culture many times in my life and it is absolutely devastating. For those of us searching for order, calm, quiet and justice, the phenomenon can eventually make participating in the group unbearable. To be sure, I’ve never wanted to be part of the herd and with my lack of desire comes a natural conflict with almost any group’s entropy. Too, I’m a bit of a flake. Like many of the people who will read this essay, I exist, at times, on a slightly different plain, with different priorities. What motivates the average person often doesn’t motivate me — and there are tens of millions of people just like me.

I know I’m not alone.

Experiences like the one described have made me choose a life of semi-solitude because the alternative is just too confusing and painful. It should be noted that I am a 6'4" 270 lb. male who, in the past, could physically intimidate most people at will. It should further be noted that I have fought back verbally in the past and, when I did, it never worked out. I was always viewed as the offender because of my gender and my size.

The goal of a mindful, ordered, calm, quiet and just life isn’t easy. I hope sharing this makes those with similar experiences feel less alone.

About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?

 

 


Zen Spot #62 — Mindfulness, meditation and the violence of depression February 3, 2018 00:05

The blackness

There is a monster living inside me that, when it rears its head, seems to eat my soul. The violence with which it acts is a police baton jammed into my solar plexus. At the same time, an anvil eases gently onto my chest like a frog slowly boiled in a pot of water. Sleep is the only reprieve. Awakening to the fact that death has not collected me prompts thoughts on how to hand myself over with as little pain as possible.

America

I hold the belief that capitalism, and the relentless pursuit of profit, has created a culture that can break one’s spirit. Long ago, in my opinion, we passed the point where the human mind can continue to function effectively when bombarded relentlessly. And it's not just me. Millions return home broken after a full day of work. That millions of others are unaffected means nothing.

Like the explosion of a car engine driven with the gas pedal pushed all the way to the floor for fifty miles, some people implode. Cogs are chewed and spit. Cheek bones lie on the sidewalk, as if they've just lost a street fight, with grit embedded in flesh, and invisible blood flowing, as the remainder of  their flesh is cooked in the beast of sunlight. 

Research

There is a biological tipping point of darkness that, when reached, becomes virtually impossible to recover from without medication. Clinical research has proven this point. That which looks like a character defect or laziness or self pity is actually a pathology that requires medical intervention. 

This is our time. These are our choices. Despite the science.

Buddhism and the science of the mind

I discovered the path in part because of the violence. My mind has been severely compromised at times when the monster found its way out. The blackness is deep. Mindfulness, truth be told, is not enough. It is one tool in a toolbox. 

Study helps. Making time to practice is critical. Endorphins, created by exercise, work wonders. Improved choices contribute to peace. I avail myself of all science.

Zen spot

Wherever you find yourself, if the depression comes — or returns — take the medication. As you improve, and you will improve, take time to study. Exercise. Make choices in your best interest. Be kind to yourself and others.

And believe.

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About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?