Thursday, August 21, 2008

Great Book for those who suffer from trauma, PTSD, etc.

Are you a trauma survivor? Do you suffer from PTSD? I think you might be able to benefit from this book by Claude Thomas, a Vietnam vet who became a Zen monk. Claude has suffered greatly in his life. He was abused as a child, went to Vietnam and entered combat at 17, and lived a long life of anger, fear, violence, drugs, and mistrust. This book tells his story.

More importantly, Claude is really wise. He has a simple but very deep way of talking about the transformation of suffering.
On almost every page I see sentences that are zingers- great pieces of wisdom.

I hope you are not scared away from this book because Claude is a Zen monk. There isn't a lot of Buddhist jargon in the book although there are a lot of references to how Claude uses his spiritual practices to deal with his own personal PTSD and other issues.

Check it out, buy it, whatever. Just read it. Claude's Book

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Real hope for real freedom from suffering

If you cannot see your mind in operation, you are subject to the vagaries of the causes and conditions of your life and mind. This means that you are operating in a reactive state. Our reactions are created by our past experiences.

If you are stuck in a reactive state, you are not choosing your actions in the present moment. Instead, your past is ‘choosing’ your behaviors—you are acting in reaction to your training or conditioning.

Now, if you are not happy, if your life is filled with suffering, there is a high probability that there are some patterns which were created in your past that are now causing suffering in your present life. Your actions are not creating happiness, they are creating suffering.

Reactions are mindless knee-jerk responses. Reactions are mental, emotional, and physical. We cannot help having our reactions, especially our thoughts—our mental reactions (thoughts) arise naturally when the conditions in the present moment interact with history, which is carried by us in our mind, body, and emotions.

So, if we cannot help having our reactions and our reactions are creating suffering in our lives, what can we do to escape this trap? Is there anything that really helps?

The only thing we can do that has any real hope is to wake up to the nature of our mind, to wake up to the nature of our reactions. We can learn how to act differently despite our reactions.

The key to freedom from the conditioning from your past is to wake up, see clearly how you are reacting, and choose to act differently and hopefully wisely in the present moment.

This means that if you find yourself mired in reactivity, you should first of all, just stop. Sylvia Boorstein phrased it as "Don't Just Do Something, Sit There"

Easier said than done, but it can be done.

After you stop, look calmly at your reactivity—how are the mind, body, and emotions reacting in the present moment? And, how are those reactions influencing your actions?

All of us have moments in which our initial reaction is just not that helpful. We have to calm ourselves and choose a different action than the one which our reaction was leading us toward.

For example, I might encounter someone who seems rude or condescending to me. My initial reaction might be to be rude to them in return. However, I have a lot of life experience which has demonstrated to me that being mean and rude to others is rarely the path to happiness. I would calm myself and make an effort to say something that wasn’t rude or mean. If the relationship was important to me, I might try to go deeper into the other person’s inner world to try to understand where they were coming from. On the other hand, if it was an unimportant relationship to me, like perhaps a rude stranger at a grocery store, I might simply disengage. No need to go to war over something that has no real importance.

No matter what I chose to do, I am probably much better off if I can mindfully choose my actions rather than just blindly reacting.

Practice mindfulness in all of you activities, in every moment. As soon as you notice that you are in a reactive state, stop, calm yourself, and look clearly at your reactivity. Then choose how to handle the moment according to your highest ideals and values.