various nervous buildups | essays & thoughts
A nervous buildup is the opposite of a nervous breakdown, A nervous breakdown is a horrible experience. A nervous buildup is the opposite – an often ecstatic moment of discovery or awakening – but these are not the vast sea changes that radically changed how he saw the world (like the Nutritional Mystery or Kingdom of Heaven), but the details of how to swim post tsunami.
We’ll start with the most recent:
Training the Wind August 2021
(That title is a typo! But the typo is better than the original)
I dislike the word meditate. Not sure why. Maybe it feels a little self important or pretentious. I’ve always felt embarrassed to say I meditate. So nowadays, I say I ‘sit’ – as Zen Buddhists call it. It’s more neutral, less Starbucks, more Dunkin Donuts.
I haven’t told many that I sit because it can create friction with friends due to loaded concepts, but I’m old enough now to know that those loaded concepts diminish us – limit our horizon. Sitting is all about expanding our horizons.
After fifty plus years of ‘sitting’ I now think it’s more like training a dog – or, on bad days, a spooked bear or crystal meth gorilla.
I’ve secretly ‘sat’ since 1968, but only on an as needed basis – like if I happened to be losing my mind in dangerous party mode, tightrope anxiety or panic attacks. – but not often enough to make change. Sitting is like learning an instrument – you have to do it every day for the angels to emerge. And it’s like a relationship – you have to give alot to get alot out of it.
It wasn’t until we moved to Portland, Oregon that I got serious about it. Around 1994, the pressure from moving and reinventing myself spun out of control. I slipped into deep panic mode and had to do something – my mind was like a Stephen King novel by that point. I knew from past experience that sitting could get me out of serious mental binds, so I began doing it regularly every morning. At that time, Sitting’ was probably 5% sitting in silence and 95% ‘horror movie’ mind watching. I didn’t have a lot of choice – I was quite fearful and paranoid. So I watched the horror movie of my mind a lot at first. (Buddhists call this “Vipassana”). When you’re that wound up, learning to sit involves really basic stuff, like learning to stop squinting and grimacing like a gargoyle.
I think what happened was, over time I began to detach from the drama – as we do when binging on terrifying cliff hanger TV for hours and days on end. Over time, I started to see through myself, like a character in a cheesy horror movie. The process felt like a toned down, slow motion crucifixion – of my ego. Gradually the drama lost its grip on my mind – and peace emerged like a spirit walking out of a firestorm.
When that first happened for me, I fell out of time and sat for hours, thinking I was doing my usual half hour or so. When we fell out of time, we fall into eternity.
Around 2005 Bhagavan Das gave me the book, “The Diamond Cutter.” Most of it was self promo, but in it he talked about counting your breaths while you sit. That replaced mantras for me and set me on the path to the silent, Big Starry Meadow – what some Buddhists call ‘the mind you had before you were born.’ The mind before words, before fear and desire ruined the fun. Ancient poets called it The Garden of Eden.
Around 2020 I started the quest to eliminate words while I sat. Not easy! Words are a big part of our identity, our personality, our ego. It can be very difficult at first, but in 2021 I realized I was training my mind! Discipline. I don’t think we’re supposed to sit to become more groovy, or peaceful, or compassionate etc. It’s to train the mind so we’re not at the mercy of our feelings, emotions, desires, fears, resentments and terror (the subconsious). When they turn on, if we want, we can turn them off.
Can you imagine how wonderful the world could be if we could control our fear (and desires) when needed? Violence, in all forms, is the product of fear and greed (desire).
Turning off the ‘chatterbox’ takes a while, but once I got the hang of it, it became a refuge, an oasis even in the darkest of times. Some mornings are easier than others – but some mornings it’s like coasting through the stars.
“He leads me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul.” I believe these are the still waters the great poet of Psalms was talking about.
I think it’s why we’re here – it’s Creator’s big interactive riddle, or game we’re supposed to solve. It’s what the Vedas, The Bible, the Tao Te Ching and all the holy books grew out of. The whole game of life is learning to become sane.
Training the mind is the only way most of us can ever dream of getting there.