Welcome Om*

Our family will be escaping shortly to spend Christmas in a small village about a three hour drive from our city. This post is a bit of a seasonal wrap-up of family events and some observations on my part.

I picked up our youngest son, Taylor, at the airport on Sunday after depositing my husband, Ian, in time to catch his flight. Taylor was exhausted after his transatlantic flight and slept the rest of the day. Then, all three “boys” played video games till midnight. Taylor’s got one semester left of university before he takes on the challenges of a job and independent living. Alex, our middle son, is taking time off over Christmas from his current job. He, too, needs the rest. I managed to snag him into replacement ushering (for Ian) at our church but I had to resort to laying some heavy guilt on him. “You live at home, your rent is minuscule, you can offer to help out occasionally,” says Mom. Alex doesn’t do guilt. Never has. I admire him for that quality. Still, it took some pestering on my part to get him to don at least a sports jacket for the occasion.

On the other hand, we have Chris, who does do guilt, but is getting much better at questioning why he feels he has to take on the burdens of the world. To boost his resiliency in this area and others, Ian and I bought him a pre-Christmas gift – 36 hours of DVD lectures on Why Evil Exists, and 36 hours of lectures on Christian theology. I felt he needed a rush job, to have all his questions answered (LOL) before his first Saturn return 28th birthday in January. If all goes well, according to the Evil description, these 36 lectures offer you the unique chance to approach the subject of evil through numerous lenses and to refine your view of this central question of human life, giving you a broad and deep resource for your own thought and action. (Don’t tell Chris, but I also got him The Portable Nietzsche as a gift.) Chris’s problem/opportunity is that he thinks too much.)

Despite the guilt feelings, Chris is gaining lots of confidence in his voice. He turned in a strong performance as a soloist during the Nine Lessons and Carols service on Saturday evening.

“I am finding that I like the attention, Mom.”
“Great,” says Mom. “Keep doing more of what you like.”

The first Saturn return period (ages 28 to 30 or so) is a encouraging time for young men who may have been having mental health difficulties up until now. I was heartened to read how well Randye Kaye’s son is doing. In her post Randye does a superb job of describing how to support an individual through psychosis with humor.

At its best, humor creates partnership. At its worst, it is ridicule and bullying. The difference is often a matter of simple courtesy, but also a decision based on your sharpest instincts when it comes to those close to you. Tread carefully – but if results are encouraging, then proceed with joy. The results can be amazing.

What Randye describes is the humor variant of concept of Low Expressed Emotion. Although treating a person with respect appears obvious to getting positive results with someone else, in practice, many of us give into our darker impulses and we tear the person down by our looks and comments. In practice, it takes quite a while to learn how to get it right. I like what she writes “if results are encouraging, then proceed with joy.” Eventually, continuous respectful treatment becomes second nature to us.

Chris, on his own initiative, is beginning a Transcendental Meditation course. I had been gently suggesting for years that he may find peace in meditation, but, he wasn’t emotionally ready to take that step until now. Learning to meditate seems a fitting way to for him to end the year and to enjoy the mysteries of the years to come. I was delighted to read this Beyond Meds post from Will Meecham about meditation and building mental health resiliency:

Ever since starting this blog, I’ve sung the praises of meditation and right attitude as tools for building mental health. Not that many years ago I felt horribly familiar all the adjectives that open this post. I had tried many types of therapy and many different pharmaceuticals without much improvement. Eventually, I turned attention inward and began to work with my thoughts and feelings directly.

By clearing out misconceptions and misperceptions, I found clarity and readiness to accept whatever happens in life. I am not immune to grief and disappointment, but I am much more resistant to despair. Meditation succeeded where medication failed.

“The goal which all the Vedas declare, which all austerities aim at, and which men desire when they lead the life of continence … is Om. This syllable Om is indeed Brahman. Whosoever knows this syllable obtains all that he desires. This is the best support; this is the highest support. Whosoever knows this support is adored in the world of Brahma.”
~ Katha Upanishad I

Meditate instead of medicate

Chris got another “you’ve got to up your game” talk from me a couple of nights ago. This time, I strongly suggested yoga and meditation. My pushing yoga and meditation will come as no surprise to anybody reading my past two posts.

I’m getting a little tired suggesting things my twenty-seven year old son should already have thought about for himself, but there you are. I’m used to pushing and prodding, after all, I’m a wife. Lucky for me, Chris is usually appreciative of my motherly suggestions. Left to his own devices, he’d continue to read Marcel Pagnol in the original French, take voice lessons, cook our dinner, and be a generally fabulous and conscientious guy.  But, he has yet to earn a paycheck nor is he pursuing full time or part time studies. He’s going to have to up his game.

To move him to the next level, to get the next breakthrough experience, (he’s had several, all of which have upped his game in some way) I think introducing him to yoga and meditation is what is needed. We may not have to journey to Outer Mongolia for healing by shamans, we can take a mind and body journey right at home. Some of you might be offended that I would equate yoga and meditation to upping one’s game, but what is underlying this is the wish that Chris’s resilience continue to increase.

I gave Chris an assignment: Find three yoga courses that he might want to enroll in and check back with me by COB today. I told him I would take care of finding the meditation. On Sunday I went to a most interesting talk about a certain kind of meditation that made me realize that this may be what we are looking for. I’m going to a meditation tonight, and will see how it goes.

Sara Weber, party pooper*

I just reread the meditation article I posted yesterday. An extract appears below. I’m always suspicious, when I read things like meditation is good for everybody except the mentally unstable, that the people pushing this opinion are trying to keep schizophrenia under the paid protection of psychiatry. Before I wised up, I used to ask the opinion of Chris’s psychiatrists as to different ideas that I would like to try with him, e.g. sound therapy, assemblage point shifts, or even vitamins for crying out loud, and what do you know, they were not in favor of him attempting these things. These things, after all, are not under their control. These kind of weird things, after all, might destabilize him. Well, Chris has tried these weird things, and they have had the opposite effect — they have integrated him.

But Sara Weber, the chairwoman of the Contemplative Studies Project of New York University’s postdoctoral program in psychotherapy and psychoanalysis, expressed some skepticism.

“Believe me, it’s a great relaxation and everyone needs to relax, and probably relaxing makes everyone feel better and promotes some of those things,” Dr. Weber said. “And some people can deal with what arises just by calming down. But other people who have been through trauma disassociate and go into a deadened space where they don’t feel. So what happens if that breaks down in the middle of one of those bliss sessions?”

In her experience, Dr. Weber said, the technique could even have adverse side effects. “Some people report falling apart,” she said. “They can have very intense and bad emotional experiences.

You might also like a real life example of this attitude.

I’m getting sensitive about being “a square.” Tell me that the word “party pooper” isn’t hopelessly out-of-date. Please? I’ve never heard of Russell Brand, the comedian snuggling up to David Lynch in yesterday’s photo. I have heard of David Lynch, though. He’s more my age. The other night I asked my middle son Alex not to drive the car all over “Hell’s half acre.” He broke up laughing.


I have yet to write about yoga on this blog, and I realized driving home today that this was going to change. Practicing yoga should be part of everybody’s holistic lifestyle.

When Ian and I were in the depths of our despair over Chris a few years ago, we signed up for a yoga class one night a week after work. This is the first hobby (can yoga be considered a hobby?) we have actually done together in all our years of marriage. I like going to flea markets on Saturdays, Ian prefers to have a massage. Ian likes working on week-ends. I find other ways to amuse myself. We used to take our sons camping when they were little, but that doesn’t count because it was a family activity, like going to church.

So, here we were in our mid fifties, starting out in yoga. It seemed that everybody else in the class had been doing yoga for years. But we persevered and grew to love it. It’s been three years.

At the same time as the yoga, we began to dabble in meditation, just a night here and there with a group. Occasionally during both the yoga and the meditation classes, silent tears would stream down my cheeks. I was letting the sadness and the tension go.

I haven’t cried for a long time in either of these classes. Something happened. I felt stronger, more at peace and I grew to understand that there was really no need to cry because what both Chris and I were going through was a spiritual transformation. The tears were important for me in letting go of old habits and attitudes.

Yoga and med

When “the crisis” unfolded several years ago, I went to my family doctor and asked him to give me something to help me get through this. I got Paxil. At first I was grateful for it making my mind less like a stuck record, endlessly obsessing about how awful life must be for Chris. I gained a lot of weight, but I also gained a certain distance from my own thoughts. I could maintain a stoicism that I didn’t feel I otherwise posessed. In the interim, I needed this crutch.

When I then tried to get off the Paxil, the haunting fears came rushing back. I thought I was going to be a “lifer” on an antidepressant because I obviously couldn’t handle life as it was. To make a long story short, I found a homeopath, took some natural products and weaned myself off the Paxil very slowly. (The weight loss was more stubborn.) I also took up yoga and meditation. That was three years ago. Yoga is the first “hobby” that Ian and I have done together in our close to thirty years of marriage. Ian and I are no spring chickens, we were both overweight and I couldn’t move one arm above my head for some mysterious reason.

The yoga was both wonderful and difficult. We knew it was the answer to our stress, so we perservered. Doing yoga is like letting the air out of our psychic balloon. Sometimes tears would roll down my face, not from the exercise, but from the spiritual release. The music in combination with the poses got to me in ways that organized religion up to that point had not been able to, regular church goer that I am. Ian and I also dabbled a bit in meditation, althogh not as consistently as the yoga. Today, I feel I can handle whatever it was that I couldn’t manage before. I understand spirituality better because I feel I have lived it. I am at peace.