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Trying to practice after tragedy... any advice?

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I recently experienced the suicide of my closest friend, significant other. I had been struggling with depression beforehand, but this has completely blown everything out of the water in terms of sheer pain felt. I have been seeing a psychologist, but I get the impression that seeing psychologists is not very effective for me personally. I'm doing what I can to maintain daily balance as far as food and sleep and keeping engaged in my schoolwork, but I still struggle there. Some days I feel complete and utter disregard for my own well-being, but I try to keep it in check.

I am utterly grateful for the fact that I've done a fair bit of work in concentration practice and insight practice. With the absolute storm of thoughts and emotions going on right now, I have the ability to watch from a distance and not let myself fixate on them. I understand that the point of practice isn't to dispatch thoughts and emotions, and it isn't my intention to practice to obliviate them. But I do sense that I really need to deepen my practice. It is more viable an option than drinking, smoking, dissociating, and burying the suffering beneath diversions, which admittedly does happen.

I'm just apprehensive to throw myself into the progress of insight deeply again, since I know that the 3rd VJ can lead to instability, of which I have plenty at the moment. But on another level, I see that tragedy is never going to stop, painful experiences are never going to stop, and my attempts to fashion a stable conventional life can only take me so far in being happy and content.

So I'm looking for some advice on how to practice in spite of a very high level of pain, fairly miserable life experiences, etc... On one hand, I think that it might be better to wait until I'm on more level ground. But on the other hand, I seem to be dealt shitty cards quite frequently, and I get the sense that there may be no better time to deepen my insight practice than right now. I have been trying to do concentration practice, but I feel disabled by how hard this terrible tragedy has hit me. It's hard to get into jhanas at this point. I also have noticed that my concentration practice is always limited by my progress in insight practice. So maybe it's best to hit the ground running towards path. If anyone can offer advice in regards to practicing when life is unstable/mind is unstable, please let me know. Wherever I go from here, here is not where I want to be, in terms of suffering.

RE: Trying to practice after tragedy... any advice?
Answer
3/27/14 5:44 PM as a reply to Mind over easy.
Hey Mind over easy,

I'm really sorry to hear about this. Thank you for stirring up the energy to share and ask for advice, as I think it benefits everyone. I don't have any sage practice advice -- maybe someone else will -- my only suggestion would be to see if you can find some time to practice with others. Maybe at a local Zen center. Or if you are interested in sitting together over google hangouts I'd be up for it.

C

RE: Trying to practice after tragedy... any advice?
Answer
3/27/14 7:30 PM as a reply to Mind over easy.
Metta for you and your friend. What an intensely acute reminder of our impermanence and vulnerability as humans. I understand your hesitancy to practice due to the potential for instability and I imagine there is wisdom in that and it will guide you. You are finding balance in a time of pain, and ultimately, we are all with you in finding this balance, although you are certainly experiencing a rawness right now. This experience, and any trauma, are not dissimilar from the Dark Night. It brings with it intense dukkha, sadness, and aversion. Perhaps the balance you will find in your practice will be learning when to intentionally work on insight practices and/or when to back off and work on nurturance practices (e.g. concentration, loving kindness, Brahma Viharas, exercise, psychotherapy, talking with friends and family, walking in the park, eating good food, gratitude practice, and distraction when needing a break from the intensity etc..) It sounds to me like you are on this path of balance already and are finding what works best for you. As you are aware, this will pass and is not you, and maybe has some important, although intense insight lessons in it. Be gentle with yourself during this time, as it sounds like you are. Regarding your friend, thoughts of him/her and the emotions that come with these thoughts are valuable opportunities. I have lost close friends and relatives and continue to have thoughts of them which brings sensations and emotions as if the "self" I thought they once possessed had never left which also brought interesting consideration of how I perceive other's "self" and the implications of this. May you find peace, balance, happiness, and liberation.

Metta,

Drew

RE: Trying to practice after tragedy... any advice?
Answer
3/27/14 8:03 PM as a reply to Mind over easy.
ironic that you would mention that, as yesterday someone in my small college committed suicide, on the same day i learned that another acquaintance had recently attempted the same but failed, resulting in significant brain damage. for me the practice in this situation is to draw as close to the sadness as i can (neither blocking it out nor being dominated by it, both options being causes for separation from it). it is obvious that I am very separated from the sadness, and it seems nothing wholesome can happen without getting closer to it. mostly the attitude I have towards it is listening, but steadily enough that I am not driven by it.

RE: Trying to practice after tragedy... any advice?
Answer
3/28/14 10:02 AM as a reply to Mind over easy.
Dear Mind over easy

it's sad to hear this. I wish you well. Good that you're getting real-life support, a web forum is utterly inadequate for this.

I'd like to second the suggestion to spend time with real people. They don't have to be into meditation, buddhism, or anything of that kind for their presence to be beneficial.

Take care,
Florian

RE: Trying to practice after tragedy... any advice?
Answer
3/28/14 2:19 PM as a reply to Mind over easy.
Dear MOE,
i too am very very sorry to hear of this terrible experience. for what its worth my thoughts and deepest metta are with you now. i can't relate to the depth of what you are going through now and second Florian's thoughts on bringing in real world people into your circle of support.

my problems are indeed small. please do your utmost to take care of yourself now.

peace

tom

RE: Trying to practice after tragedy... any advice?
Answer
3/28/14 2:49 PM as a reply to Mind over easy.
So sorry to hear this. I lost a friend a few years ago to suicide.

The best advice I have was given to me by a psychologist. Set aside fifteen to twenty minutes each day to cry, scream into a pillow, whatever you feel you need to do in order to express your grief. Then, put yourself back together and carry on as best as you can. Don't be afraid to let the grieving process unfold.

Metta to you.

E

RE: Trying to practice after tragedy... any advice?
Answer
3/28/14 6:08 PM as a reply to Mind over easy.
For what it's worth, I don't think it's a good idea to force your mind and heart into anything at the moment. What I'd suggest is, as well as what other people have already suggested, let your mind and heart rest, like you'd rest a broken leg, and wait for a bit of organic strength to return first. Then, resume practice, gently, maybe with a better understanding of why you're doing it and maybe with a clearer understanding of what needs to be done. In the meantime, just outwardly go through the motions as best you can (which you're already doing).

My only basis for offering this suggestion is having lived twice as long as you... which takes no skill or wisdom at all... but you can't help learning a thing or two from experience. What I've learned from the hardest times is: sometimes you just need to lay low and lick your wounds, until some modicum of health and strength returns naturally -- as it will, if you let it. And with that comes a renewed sense of clarity and purpose. Until then, forcing things probably only delays healing.

I wish I had something better to offer you, but that's it. From reading your earlier posts you sounds like a really lovely, thoughtful, caring person. I just hope that, in the long run, something good can come of this, and that your friend's pain, and your own, hasn't been for nothing. And to the extent that that's in your control... may it turn out that way.

RE: Trying to practice after tragedy... any advice?
Answer
3/28/14 7:49 PM as a reply to Mind over easy.
I think letting all your emotions out (in some place private) will help like with most people. Repressing things doesn't work.

Somethings that help most people:

Talking to the person in your mind and telling them what you want to say.

Crying releases endorphin which is healthy.

Keep having goals and pursuing them. Even small accomplishments can fight off depression. Serotonin (pride) is important if done in a healthy way.

Remember the good times you had with your friend.

Let time sort things out. Pain reduces with time.

What helps me is saying a quick "Metta" to people around me as I go throughout my day (including people I usually don't like). Everybody is carrying some pain and this can improve my mood.

Do Metta for yourself. You need it!

RE: Trying to practice after tragedy... any advice?
Answer
3/29/14 1:47 AM as a reply to Mind over easy.
I do wish you well in this.

Lots of good advice above, but time and gentleness are my two best reiterations.

Go easy on your mammalian self. I wouldn't recommend hard-pushing practice, but gentle settling in if it feels ok, and plenty of skillful distraction when needed.

Daniel