Sometimes Valium works better than meditation.

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Tom Smith, modified 1 Month ago.

Sometimes Valium works better than meditation.

Posts: 130 Join Date: 2/17/10 Recent Posts
I'm 71 years old.  I'm scheduled for open heart surgery next Monday.
They will cut open my chest, hook me up to a machine that pumps
blood, stop my heart, make major repairs to 3 valves, fix an
ascending aortic aneurysm, start my heart back up (hopefully), and
seal my chest up.  When I pressed the doc he told me that there  is 
probably about a 5% chance of death, and another 5% chance of
something bad happening, like a stroke or kidney failure.  So a 90%
probability that I come through just fine.  Pretty good odds
considering there is a higher probability I die in the next year if
I do nothing, but this all makes me very nervous.

I got interested in meditation when I was about 18.  I tried lots of
different things and then settled into vipassana about 35 years ago.
For about  20 years I did lots of retreats.  Now I don't do
retreats, but when I retired 10 years ago I got into a good daily
practice.  I started going to a local temple every day, which made
the discipline easier.  In the last 10 years I have probably
meditated 29 days out of every 30, for about 1-3 hours.  I'm telling
you all this to make the point that I have some experience
meditating.  

I've had problems with anxiety since I was a little kid and have
been diagnosed with GAD.  Meditation has done some wonderful things.
It probably has helped with my anxiety, but it sure hasn't cured it.

I've used valium very occasionally for several years.  I have a
bottle here at home.  Mostly it just sits here unused, but when I do
have bad anxiety and take a valium I feel a little guilty, or I feel like
I'm a failure as a mediator, but the fact is that the valium sure works 
well when I am having intense anxiety.

For the 2 last months, since the bad heart diagnosis, I've spent more
time in meditation, and more time living in the present moment,
cultivating the realization that the past and future are mental
formations that exist only in the present moment, that these mental 
formations  can create a lot of suffering, and that these mental 
formations can be seen through and let go of.

It was working pretty well.  I was actually happier since I got the 
bad heart diagnosis because it had motivated me to dwell more in the 
present and see through the illusion of the imaginary future.

It was working pretty well until a few days ago.  I won't go into
details because this post is getting longer than I had intended. 
I'll just say that some things happened that flipped me into a high
anxiety state.  I was sitting at the temple watching my breath,
watching the anxiety, watching my reaction to the anxiety and watching my
thoughts.  One of the thoughts was: "if I just sit through this fear
it will eventually go away.  The more I can sit through fear, the
easier it will become".  Then another thought came: "You have been
sitting through fear for 30 years and at this moment you are
miserable.  You may only have a few weeks left to live.  What makes
you think that sitting through the fear today is going to make any
difference?"

I went home and made some phone calls to some close friends. 
Everyone encouraged me to take some Valium.  I took some Valium. 
Half an hour later I felt much better.  Sometimes Valium works
better than meditation.

I don't have any particular point to make with this post.  I just
want to report the truth about my experience, and perhaps start a
discussion.
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Tom Smith, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Sometimes Valium works better than meditation.

Posts: 130 Join Date: 2/17/10 Recent Posts
I am aware of how addictive valium and all the other benzos are.  I am aware of how awful the withdrawel can be.  This is for short term use only.
A. Dietrich Ringle, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Sometimes Valium works better than meditation.

Posts: 882 Join Date: 12/4/11 Recent Posts
I think sometimes when we take medication there is a tendency to say "what if I have to take this for the rest of my life!?" That is just a trick of the mind, similar to the fact that we can try to create heaven on a psychological level. Both are illusions that the dark night can help us through.
A. Dietrich Ringle, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Sometimes Valium works better than meditation.

Posts: 882 Join Date: 12/4/11 Recent Posts
Or a therapist..

Edit: I should say me in this context for sure. I don't want to imprint on anybody.
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Angel Roberto Puente, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Sometimes Valium works better than meditation.

Posts: 281 Join Date: 5/5/19 Recent Posts
     Hi Tom, I'm only a year younger than you so maybe it's adequate that I should share my experience with you. The first thing I would have to say is that meditation is not a cure-all. Medical conditions and mental health should be taken care of by whatever means necessary. So if Valium is what you need at the moment that's fine. I would never stop taking my insulin in the hope that meditation will take care of my blood sugar. Although it has been proposed that it can.     Let me tell you what I have learned. I see meditation as training of attention. You first learn to concentrate it and then to expand it so that no single object can absorb it if you don't want it to. When this is done in an atmosphere of cultivating ethics, of being honest about the content of our minds, and accepting of our virtues and shortcomings, wisdom arises. Wisdom tells us that the content of our minds is not something we should identify with. Identifying with the awareness that holds everything that arises is much better. I'm pretty sure that someone who has meditated as much as you have has encountered this kind of broad limitless awareness. Your mention of fear is a hint.      There may be other opinions about this but in my experience sometimes there is a sort of trepidation, a basic fear of losing control when you are about to dissolve into contentless awareness. Sometimes it makes people pull back. If you “jump” then you see that life and death are two sides of a coin. Death is awareness without objects and Life is awareness with objects they are both beautiful and nothing to fear.
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Chris Marti, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Sometimes Valium works better than meditation.

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+1
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Sometimes Valium works better than meditation.

Posts: 5891 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
Beautifully put!
George S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Sometimes Valium works better than meditation.

Posts: 2020 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
I'm 47 and haven't experienced any serious near-death experiences, but I found "charnel ground meditations" helpful in reducing anxiety around death. Basically meditating on photos/videos of the process of dying and bodily decay in its various forms, reducing the fear of the unknown. It's a key part of mindfulness of the body (Satipatthana Sutta) recommended by the Buddha.
Eudoxos ., modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Sometimes Valium works better than meditation.

Posts: 80 Join Date: 4/6/14 Recent Posts
Thank you for sharing all this, for the humble style and openness.

Reading it is a valuable impulse towards seeing more of what being "mortal mammal" means, and especially seeing how the mind uses meditation (and other things) to look away. A phrase I often recall from MCTB: "the healing will continue along with the injuries, and eventually the injuries win and we die".

May you be free from anxiety. Good luck for the surgery. _/\_
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Sometimes Valium works better than meditation.

Posts: 5891 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
It's great that you take care of yourself and respect your needs. Mindfullness applies to knowing our limits too. 
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Jim Smith, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Sometimes Valium works better than meditation.

Posts: 1004 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
Tom Smith
...

I've had problems with anxiety since I was a little kid and have
been diagnosed with GAD.  Meditation has done some wonderful things.
It probably has helped with my anxiety, but it sure hasn't cured it.

I've used valium very occasionally for several years.  I have a
bottle here at home.  Mostly it just sits here unused, but when I do
have bad anxiety and take a valium I feel a little guilty, or I feel like
I'm a failure as a mediator, but the fact is that the valium sure works 
well when I am having intense anxiety.

...

I don't expect meditation to cure biological illneses.

However meditation can change your attitude to them.

Feelings of guilt and failure are things meditation can often help with.

Observe how those feelings arise in your mind and body, and watch how they fade.  Observe the observer. Notice thoughts, emotions, impulses, and sensations arise from unconscious processes, they are not you or yours The same is true of the sense of there being an observer.
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2021/07/a-path-part-ii.html
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Sometimes Valium works better than meditation.

Posts: 2129 Join Date: 3/1/20 Recent Posts
Best wishes to you Tom! 
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Tom Smith, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Sometimes Valium works better than meditation.

Posts: 130 Join Date: 2/17/10 Recent Posts
Sometimes swimming works better than valium.

I was meditating at the temple.  My mind would not settle down.  Racing thoughts about the upcoming surgery.  I decided to go home and take a Valium.  But first I swam some laps.  Not all that far or all that fast because I am not in good shape, but enough to feel comfortably worn out.

Mind is easy now.  No interest in valium.
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Sometimes Valium works better than meditation.

Posts: 2129 Join Date: 3/1/20 Recent Posts
It's Monday today and I wish you the best Tom! 
Philip Kupka, modified 12 Days ago.

RE: Sometimes Valium works better than meditation.

Posts: 2 Join Date: 9/12/21 Recent Posts
Hey Tom,

just made an account to ask if you are doing OK?
You talked about "only" having a 90% chance that everything will be going fine in your last post and have not posted since....
I hope you are doing well.

Best wishes!
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Tom Smith, modified 12 Days ago.

RE: Sometimes Valium works better than meditation.

Posts: 130 Join Date: 2/17/10 Recent Posts
I survived the surgery.  The time in the hospital after the surgery was one of the roughest things I have ever gone through.  I am gradually recovering.  It is a very slow recovery.  I will be taking lots of heart medicine the rest of my life.  Going to more doctors.

Sometimes I am very happy, living in the moment.  This has put me in touch with the truth of old age and death.  At times that can be very liberating.

I don't like doctors offices or the medical establishment, and I will be spending more time there.  That is dificult for me to accept cheerfully. 
Philip Alan, modified 12 Days ago.

RE: Sometimes Valium works better than meditation.

Posts: 2 Join Date: 9/12/21 Recent Posts
Yeah that makes sense. I am not looking forward to that myself. But I think I understand how fascinating it can be in a scary way, if you know what I mean. It must have been really rough.
In any case, I wish you the best recovery!
And glad to hear that you are here with us.
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Jim Smith, modified 12 Days ago.

RE: Sometimes Valium works better than meditation.

Posts: 1004 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
This is useful not just with anger but with any emotion such as fear of death:

http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2020/09/when-you-cant-find-tranquility.html
One technique I like to use — when anger is present and you're in a situation where you don't immediately have to react to people — is simply to ask yourself in a good-natured way, "Okay, why are you angry?" Listen to what the mind has to say. Then pursue the matter: "But why are you angry at that? " "Of course, I'm angry. After all..." "Well, why are you angry at that?" If you keep this up, the mind will eventually admit to something stupid, like the assumption that people shouldn't be that way — even though they blatantly are that way — or that people should act in line with your standards, or whatever the mind is so embarrassed about that it tries to hide from you. But finally, if you keep probing, it'll fess up. You gain a lot of understanding of the anger that way, and this can really weaken its power over you.
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Tom Smith, modified 11 Days ago.

RE: Sometimes Valium works better than meditation.

Posts: 130 Join Date: 2/17/10 Recent Posts
I like the anger technique.  Part of what I feel in doctors offices, especially when I have to wait a long time, is anger.  I will ask "Okay, why are you angry?" next time that comes up, and also "Okay, why are you afraid?"
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Siavash ', modified 11 Days ago.

RE: Sometimes Valium works better than meditation.

Posts: 1382 Join Date: 5/5/19 Recent Posts
Hey Tom,
I've been waiting to hear from you, glad that you survived.

Now you have the heart to look at life and death and laugh at it emoticon .
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 11 Days ago.

RE: Sometimes Valium works better than meditation.

Posts: 2129 Join Date: 3/1/20 Recent Posts
Good to see you doing well Tom! 

Those doctors and nurses are fighting to save lives daily and are considered to be Bodhisatvas by Thit Nach Hahn and some others. I was close to dying when I was 14 years of age and one doctor saved my life. Thanks to his good work am I able to now practice dhamma and chat with you fine people of DhO emoticon 

​​​​​​​Best wishes to you and to those fighting to save lives!
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Jim Smith, modified 11 Days ago.

RE: Sometimes Valium works better than meditation.

Posts: 1004 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
Certain forms of meditation are better at easing anxiety than others. They are more relaxing. In fact what are called relaxation exercises are could also be considered types of meditation, they require attention and focus and involve looking inward.

If you practice relaxation exercise meditation (in formal practice and in daily life) with the same persistence and rigor that is applied to mediation, or weight lifting, or learning a musical instrument, you might get different results than if you just do ordinary meditation and compare it to valium.

http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2020/08/preparing-for-meditation-with.html
Ben Sulsky, modified 6 Days ago.

RE: Sometimes Valium works better than meditation.

Posts: 126 Join Date: 11/5/19 Recent Posts
I think denying ourselves what we know will help us because meditation is supposed to solve everything is macho bullshit.  I'm trying to stop gaslighting myself.
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Tom Smith, modified 5 Days ago.

RE: Sometimes Valium works better than meditation.

Posts: 130 Join Date: 2/17/10 Recent Posts
"I think denying ourselves what we know will help us because meditation is supposed to solve everything is macho bullshit. "

Great response.   You summed it up in one sentence.
Derek2, modified 4 Days ago.

RE: Sometimes Valium works better than meditation.

Posts: 191 Join Date: 9/21/16 Recent Posts
I would qualify that and say, "I think denying ourselves what we know will help us because meditation has sometimes solved everything for some people in the past is unrealistic."

My personal guess is that those old-time meditators in the Pali Canon were reaching phenomenal levels of samadhi -- and maintaining them for hours and hours each day.

What's unrealistic is thinking we can achieve the same effects from 45 minutes of mindfulness morning and evening.

In most people's life situation, a little chemical assistance in binding GABA to GABA receptors can be a sensible expedient.
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Tom Smith, modified 2 Days ago.

RE: Sometimes Valium works better than meditation.

Posts: 130 Join Date: 2/17/10 Recent Posts
This has been a great discussion.  When I first started this with the  title "Sometimes Valium works better than meditation" I thought it might be controversial, or that I might even be attacked.  Instead I have gotten a bunch of good common sense replies.  Thanks.