World Peace Through Inner Peace

1480631_10154570029310230_2357686507537653468_nI arrive at the festival about 6 hours early. We have a sound check, sound check is cancelled. The band is in fine form – everyone happy in the park. I feel so lucky because my family is with me. My cousin and nephew. How unbelievably amazing that I am so lucky to have a family that likes each other so much that we want to hang out voluntarily outside of Christmas dinner and funerals.

We notice that the place is filled with extraordinary musicians from all over. No one knows us – we are the new kids on the block. I have a chance to talk to many people as the day unravels and one sound check is put off after another until we realize that there will be no sound check and we are just meant to enjoy the day.

As it went on, I had a chance to meet two people who gave me a great lesson I’d like to share.  The first was a man who, right away upon meeting me candidly admitted:

“I have been trying to be an artist my whole life and I don’t know what I am good at. I can’t paint, I can’t sing, I can’t play an instrument, I can’t write…I am lost”.

 

I don’t know – maybe its my hippie look but people like to get down to brass tacks right away with me and I really like that. They can tell I’m not much of a “talk-about-the-weather” kinda of gal.

So, I said to the man’

“Cool!  You’re a seeker”, I said smiling. He looked in my eyes and I could see he saw familiar recognition of someone else who had been in enough pain to do the hard work.   He told me more of his story – falling in love with a women, moving to Egypt, caught in the political uprising, converts to Islam, freaks out, comes back home.  Now shaken and still trying to find his answers in another person.

It’s all part of the trip we’ve all done it.  But at some point you realize that what you are seeking can’t be found outside yourself.

The man’s eyes fly open…”Yes!” he says. “Of course you understand – you’re an artist”.

Yes I am, and so are you.

Everyone is an artist and is seeking.  In fact it is our most important job in life to help others get their feet under them and do what it is they are meant to do. The best way to do that is to walk your talk and follow your heart.

Because the issue of depression has been top headlines lately, we have been talking allot about how to be responsible for our emotional state, which has led me to really see that people who “follow their hearts” may have troubles, may have “hard times”, may have challenges abounding – but they are happy. You have to wring every last drop of life out of this life – and we who are relegated to the classifications of “crazy artist, depressive, bi-polar” whatever – are the souls brave enough to step outside of the box and choose the unworn path.

I marvel when I meet someone who says to me that they are “not creative”.

What does this mean?  Did you stop breathing?

Everyone creates…all day all the time. When you got up this morning you made a choice…you got out of bed. This is where your “creativity” began. Every thought and choice you make after – is a separate creation. What you choose to do with it is entirely up to you.

We can create art, music, writing, food, wood working, architecture – those are obvious acts of creation.

We can create relationships, environments, situations, and futures. Having depression means being responsible for the emotions we bring into our lives. I don’t mean controlling the uncontrollable, but being aware when life is pulling your attention here and there is the key to a serene and amazing existence. In order be really responsible for our selves and our emotional health – it is important to know that every thought we have creates SOMETHING.

The ying and yang of it…

… resentment will CREATE heartache

…anger will CREATE turmoil

…violence will CREATE retribution

…Obsession with material gain will CREATE anxiety

…self absorption will CREATE loneliness

 

Everything you do say think and believe is an act of creation.

 

An act of Compassion will CREATE peace

…of Love will CREATE fellowship

…of faith will CREATE miracles

…of generosity will CREATE abundance

…selflessness will CREATE personal fulfillment

 

After I met the man who told me he could not find his “inner artist” I met a young boy only nine years old who had been blind since birth and was discovered by his camp councillors playing guitar on his lap. They videotaped him and put his song on Youtube and within a few days the video had gotten over 50,000 hits. So they invited him to play at the end of the set of the big headline act of the day.

Ego is all that holds back creativity.  The bad ego – the one that tells you everything is about YOU you you you you.

Imagine meeting an egoless being?  It is very rare.

But that’s what the little boy was in essence.  He child was the opposite of the creatively constipated man I had met earlier. He existed simply as unhinged creativity – music on legs…

No ego. No self – only music.

The magic began when he first arrived and he emerged from his limo that the festival had gotten for him to ride in, all beautiful and smiling. And immediately looking for something to play, body swaying rhythmically. I noticed he was holding a machine to his ear – music emerge from it as he rocked happily back and forth. He approached the table in front of the artists entrance, just a regular white plastic patio table. He couldn’t see the emerging crowd of curious spectators and artists were watching, now quiet, no one quite sure what to say or do. All these “big blues stars” – rendered momentarily mute and caught in rapt attention. The boy begins to bang on a plastic table finding a rhythm – rap tap tap bang rap tap tap bang …. The surrounding musicians couldn’t hold themselves back and soon one guy is singing beside him, another (my own drummer) is tapping out a complimenting double beat smiling widely beside the boy – looking like he might have at the same age. My owns hands found a big blue recycling bin and soon the best show was taking place outside the tent where the big bands were playing. Rollin and Tumblin, garbage cans, tapping feet, singing voices – and a boy smiling as wide as a crescent moon. He found his happy place – and brought us all along with him! This was transferred enlightened music – a real miracle.

 

I dubbed him little Blues Buddha.

 

I also realize that the man who had not yet found his creation – was also Buddha – a teacher. We need to be in both places to find where we want to stand.

 

I feel so lucky to have a chance in this life to completely be myself in all my creative weirdness. People think I am a great singer when they see us perform, but really what it is is I have been blessed with being surrounded by people who let me know clearly that I can do absolutely ANYTHING, and they will support me.   I think saying Im grateful is abit of an understatement.

 

Instead I will use gratitude as a verb and keep trying and doing and creating and moving forward. And if I am lucky, I will always keep in my mind the face of the Little Buddha who was all soul – as I trudge my own creative path.

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When we all find our creative space like this boy did – when people individually find peace inside themselves and a place to express through some form of creation (“making something new that has not been made before”) only THEN will the world experience global peace. One person and one life at a time – this is our responsibility and joyful obligation towards ourselves first – and each other.

Peace

 

 

 

 

 

Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired? H.A.L.T.!

301549_10150375411088656_541083655_8281137_1256522812_nFor those of us who live with depression, whether we can are on meds, off meds – the bottom line is that living with (sometimes unpredictable) emotional fluctuations can make it really hard to plan the  future..or sometime just an hour from now even.   Something that helps allot of people keep focus on balance in the day is also one of my family’s favourite – H.A.L.T. I’d like to share it in case its new to you and can help for next time the blues comes knockin’…

What it means seems obvious – when your mind starts twisting out and you feel your mood plummet…just STOP.

Stop everything if you can and check your basics. Are you hungry, angry lonely or tired?  This focus can help you to regain balance and avert deep depression when you begin to feel out of whack.  It’s also part of being emotionally responsible for yourself.  Over time it becomes easier to remember.

H.A.L.T:

Hungry ;

can mean you need food. Let’s stick to basics. Admit it, when we are emotionally overwrought we re not often inclined to be putting our physical well-being at the top of the to do list. We are more likely thinking …and drowning in thinking. All of ours, and the world’s problems at once.   Our thoughts have run away with a “mind of their own” (did I really just say that?) and we quickly lose body needs awareness. We forget to eat, or we eat crap. Carb;s usually – just for a moment of a little dopamine.

Seriously – Not having the proper minerals and vitamins when you are a clinically depressed person, can be life threatening.   The food we intake directly affects the way in which our brain produces dopamine and serotonin. I don’t know how you can do that in your diet.  I’m sure there are a million line resources. I believe that  many doctors obviously need to be more multidimensional in their approach to patient knowledge.  They need to be more like health partners and less like people that think they know more about your insides than you do. They have to really be thinking about the whole person and the situation.

So, that’s where you come in,  Someone with depression has to be very responsible for this most basic requirement.  When you feel that you are quickly spinning into the abyss, take a second, ok well maybe take 30 and check out what your body needs.

1- Drink water – in fact start your day with it. You wake dehydrated.  I don’t know much about the brain but I can imagine that`s not a great start for it.

2- Lay off caffeine – stop wrecking the start of your day by giving yourself a hyper dose of anxiety. Drink tea – you`ll live

3- Refined sugar is bad. Period.  It sparks mood swings, physical energy crashes etc… We are trying to avoid ANY crashes here.

4- Meat takes alot of energy for the body to consume. Plus it`s gross. I don’t eat it.

5- Eat whenever I`m hungry.  Small amounts.

6- Indulge your food fantasies sometimes. What the hell. One life.  But don`t do it when you`re sad.  Again, sugar never helps depression.

ANGRY:

Self explanatory. If you`re angry, stop, don`t RE-act (Def: Acting outwardly the angry you are feeling – creating a negative action twice).

Especially if you are in position to react to what someone else is saying to you it is always best to find some space and come back to it if you need to once you have checked your other indicators.

One of my grandmother`s favourite sayings was

“Don’t ever say something to someone you’ll have to apologize for. Especially if you don`t like them.”

LONELY: One of the hardest things to do in depression is reaching out to express yourself, but it is vitally important and healing.

There is an ocean’s difference between peaceful solitude and abject loneliness.  In mid-depression (if there is such a place) often people feel and see only themselves, and not in the best light either. Surrounding yourself with friends who understand you and are empathetic to your experience is really important.  It’s also part of what can be in your control.   Making relationship choices is empowering.

TIRED:

Most basic for all of us  but especially people with depression: you must sleep regularly and well.   One of the symptoms of a prolonged depression is insomnia. At this point a person is really so disconnected form the body that they have messed up their circadian rhythms and can’t return to a normal routine of sleep.  Thoughts race and we all know you cant run from yourself.

There is a reason why sleep deprivation has been used as a  favoured technique for torture throughout our war torn histories.  People make bad decisions when they are exhausted. For people with depression, exhaustion can lead to suicidal ideation difficult emotions like hopelessness and despair.  No one wants to live like that on purpose.

Fake it till you make it doesn’t mean you’re lying or being fake…not really.  But it helps to act as if you already feel good…to feel good this doesn’t mean lying but more like acting out positivity.  When someone asks you how you are, don’t go into a forty minute diabtribe about your woes, try staring by saying something positive, or grateful.  This can have a huge effect on the whole energy of the interaction.

 

You know how sometimes it feels as though just in a MOMENT you can fall into a depression,

Keep in mind that the same thing applies to the opposite …in a MOMENT you can fall out and back into contentedness.   Say yes to things that feel good for example.  Taking care of basics puts everyone in a better position to make the best daily choices on their own behalf and help create this outcome.

Peace~

 

 

 

 

Why Robin Williams’s Death Can Be A Good Thing…

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My first reaction to Robin William’s suicide death announcement on facebook was astonished  anger.  I felt like he had somehow  copped out, jumped ship.  I was starkly reminded of my dear friend Anne who also committed suicide a month and a half ago…it has been a tough summer.  Lots of people are giving up.

Then sadness took me, in a big way. Maybe it because I am grieving so many significant personal losses and for some very real reasons Robin’s death felt very personal to me. Not only as a fellow sufferer of depression, but because I grew up with him.  All my favourite movies and some of my best moments with my kids include him. He could make me laugh and smile and feel like anything was possible when no one else could. He felt like a friend.

My family has some epic stories, but one of my favourites was when my sister, now an artist but then a high ranking administrative person for Bell Canada was travelling through Los Angele’s and she had the opportunity to meet and speak with him. The one thing that always reminded in the traditional retelling of the story was the effect that his eye had – gentle and full of love she would say. Smiling eyes. robin

And now he was gone.

Depression. Suicide.  My life has been plagued with these two words.  So understandably my next reaction was fear.  If depression could take Robin, then it could take ANYONE…even me.

My story..

I was first diagnosed with depression when I was 15 years old, in university. I was young and far from home and would experience great jags of unhappiness.  A University hospital doctor told me I had depression – a clinical explanation for a chemical imbalance in my brain.  In those days my depressions were only days long – usually right before my period and would disappear in a flash as soon as I would begin.  I never mentioned it, although it felt so terrible because people made so many jokes about PMS – but for someone like me, on occasion, PMS were the two r tree days when I couldn’t make a decision, I couldn’t read two pages in row cause I had no concentration, and I hated myself.

After graduating with my first degree at 18, I came home, worked in a bar (yes it was the Pioneer in case you were wondering) because who in their right mind would hire a kid with a degree in political philosophy.  I had my first child at 25 and within weeks of having her, the depression came back. This time they called it “post partum disorder” –  again my sadness had nothing to do with me – it was BIOCHEMICAL. They gave me magical pills.  SSRI’s had hit the market but barely.  I am not sure which kind it was this time – probably Prozac was about all they really were using in those days.  Thus began my 17 year journey on pharmaceuticals and a coming to terms with depression.

Lots of people have tried to explain to me what depression is.  My easiest depressions only last a day, and the worst one lasted 7 weeks, I was in bed and I came about as close to dying as any living person wants to get.

silhouette-woman-grievingHere’s how it felt to me…

Depression…

    1. Hurts my body. Aches and pains like I am an old lady.
    2. Depression destroys my concentration. I cant read or even watch an entire tv show
    3. I don’t sleep – forget that.
    4. Make me feel like I am no good for anything or anyone.
    5. Makes me believe the world would be better without me
    6. Makes me feel hopeless – no matter what I do nothing will ever feel good again
    7. Causes me to make bad decisions
    8. I suffer from “not-enough-it is” in a deep depression. Nothing I am or I do is ENOUGH.  It;s exhausting.
    9. Depression causes me to harm myself and make bad choices on my own behalf
    10. Makes my family feel hopeless and out of control
    11. Makes my family and friends feel as though they have done something wrong
    12. Causes me to isolate
    13. Makes me feel as though I cant rely on my emotions so I cant make plans = I never know what I will be like in a day or two or three…
    14. Makes it so I am not able to get a full time normal world day job – again the unreliability factor.
    15. Makes me feel ugly, stupid and unlovable unworthy
    16. Sometimes – depression makes me want to stop living (I will differentiate however between “not wanting to live” and “suicidal” -= there is a big difference)

and so on…

Over the years they tried to give my personality lots of names… bi-polar, severe hyper manic rapid cycling depression (this means I m like Eeyore all the time…), border line personality etc.

I was just sad. That’s all. It was a terrible way to live. I would wake crying, sleep crying, no joy, faking everything in my life.  Trying to be the best mom possible, but incapable of really engaging with anyone – because I was incapable of engaging with myself at the time.

So a (male) doctor says he has a pill I can take that will fix the “broken chemistry” in my brain and I will then be NORMAL. I emphasize male because I don’t think any woman who had had a child would have diagnosed me the same way.

But I was so attracted to the possibility of the all encompassing NORMAL. My doctor wanted me to understand…

He drew me a diagram and explained it to me like I was an idiot…

“See these two lines here Josee…” he asked indicating a drawing of two parallel lines about 3 inches apart on a piece of paper. “most people have emotions within those lines” he says drawing an up and down squiggle.   “Your emotions are like this” he said letting his pen go wildly outside of the lines…

Wow. I am nuts.

Then he says something like,  “The medication will bring you inside the lines.  You can have “normal emotions like everyone else”.

Oh lord…I was so happy. They had invented A NORMAL PILL!

Finally someone explained why I wasn’t “NORMAL” (this word was later explained to  me by my Alanon sponsor as which only existed as a setting on a washing machine :)) why I didn’t feel like other people, and why I was SO much more emotional than I “should be”.

It started with anti -depressants, and by the end I had been prescribed every conceivable antidepressant and then some…seroquil, desyryl, welbutrin, celexa, paxil, elavil name it – I took it.

The results?

I didn’t play guitar or sing for 13 years.

I didn’t write

I didn’t draw

I didn’t paint

I forgot what made me joyful

Nothing in life was ever exciting.

Sex was meh…

Was this “normal”?

Not creating for someone like me is like being the walking dead and I became so empty it was ridiculous.

Depression is genetic in my family . I was raised by my maternal grandparents.  My mother told me the story of her first suicide attempt at only 9 years old. Poor thing – luckily the bottle of pills she took were laxatives, which we can almost giggle at, except to consider what kind of despair a child of nine must feel to down a whole bottle of anything, causes the laughter to turn into a choke in my throat.

My grandmother who raised me was a chronic suicide attempter.  In fact, by the time I was 10 I had saved the life of or witnessed the attempt to die of most of the women in my family.   The men (my “brothers” and maternal grandfather” called them weak and “crazy”.  I have one that still does to this day sadly. )  But their uneducated redneck discompassionate attitudes regarding mental health and emotional wellbeing is very representative of a big chunk of western culture. It is these attitude that prohibit a frank open honest discussion.

I would like that to end today.

*suck it up…” they would say.

That’s not helpful.

**I want to say right away that medications are important, and if you are prescribed and antidepressant to get your chemicals back on track and this is comfortable for you, take them, and get your balance back.

But medication is not where it ends,

it can be however where healing begins.

what is healing?

It is ACCEPTANCE OF YOURSELF.

ALL YOUR 2000 PARTS, PERSONALITIES AND EMOTIONS.

Unfortunately psychologist want to focus on your past and tyour problems and psychiatry is looking at “the problem”  only the medicinal aspects to cover symptoms.

It is not enough.

You have to go after THE ABSOLUTE UNADULTERATED  AWESOME BEAUTIFUL TRUTH ABOUT YOURSELF.

ROBIN WILLIAMS’S death can help us remove the stigma overshadowing a potentially open and healing dialogue on this silent deadly killer…robin love eys

No one is going to say he was

    1. Weak
    2. Should have had a better sense of humour
    3. Unintelligent
    4. Had a sad life anyone would want to escape

etc.

We all know,,,Robin Williams was an AWESOME human being – I am so grateful that he was here.

But another part of me understands and can sometimes relate to his hopelessness.

The Buddhist in me finds that his death will cathartically open this dialogue.

Robin Williams is such a key example of someone whose depression led to addiction (avoidance is pretty normal when you feel like crap all the time).

12 step programs are amazing…except for one teenier thing debilitating thing aspect of the 12 step culture…self righteous sobriety. The I’m better than you attitude is not helpful to someone who struggles and although it is are and you will find that 99% of the people you will meet will be supremely authentic and supportive, there are assholes everywhere in life. Right> Like they say in the program – learning to ACCEPT  (even the assholes) is the key.

Good luck though…If you are a person with long term sobriety and you slip – sometimes program people in these programs can be painfully judging and unforgiving – fearing for their own sobriety I suppose.

 

It must have been very hard for him to go back into the program in 2006 after 20 years of sobriety.

The thing is lots of people said they were “so surprised” when he started drinking again.

I always will remember what my mother, 27 years sober when she died said to me

“Never be surprised when an alcoholic drinks. Be surprised if he stays sober”

 

The world requires a dialogue – depression is epidemic and we need to openly share our stories, remove the stigma and walk TOGETHER.

Opening this dialogue and being very honest with myself has been a cathartic experience.

 

I’d like to begin this dialogue.  The only way to heal and see the amazing BENEFITS of having depression are to share our stories, openly.

 

Let it begin right here.

 

This is what i do for my depression today…

 

    1. REMEMBER YOU CANT FIGHT THE OCEAN WITH A TEASPOON…
    2. I try and let myself feel whatever I am feeling.  Trying to NOT be sad, not be depressed NOT BE…anything…is what got you into this mind mess in the first place.  So if you feel like crap…LET YOURSELF FEEL LIKE CRAP.
    3. Identify where the feeligns exist in your physical body – where are your emotions when you feel sad? I find my solar plexus hold this energy.
    4. Don’t use weed for depression. Weed is great – but not when your depressive. It doesn’t work It will make you feel way worse.
    5. Find five things to be grateful for every day – write them down. Or even better share them on social network and help others relate to gratitude.
    6. Eat healthy – treat yourself like your best friend.
    7. Do something nice for yourself; take yourself on a date to a movie, do your hair, a bath? something.
    8. DO THE NEXT RIGHT THING. In massive depression – get up, brush your teeth, make your bed. Do the basics.
    9. Keep a journal. Write every morning,. Don’t edit. Everyone needs a place to spill their guts.
    10. Dont focus on the word “depression”.  YOU are NOT your illness. You are WAY MORE AWESOME than you can tell at this moment.
    11. Find the cool parts – I don’t know ONE fellow musician, artist or writer that doesn’t have some sort of what they would call “mental illness”…although now I am remiss to call it an illness given all the talented beautiful people I have come to know.
    12. Meditate. trust me there is nothing better to remind you that YOU are not YOUR THOUGHTS.

IF YOU SUFFER FROM DEPRESISON PLEASE REMEMBER WHAT I AM ABOUT TO SAY…

** Depression comes from unexpressed emotions.  *not because you have cured depression but because you have found the awesomeness in it.

You know – what we are looking for in life is NOT happiness…It is the ability to handle all circumstances with a peace inside that cannot be shaken.

Everyone can do this.

YOU CAN DO THIS.

Depression is a gift that makes you do the work. People without depression do not need to go  as deep into their self understanding as you can. And the purpose of life IS to understand ourselves better.  Depression is a gift of understanding.

I am suggesting a global open the door on depression initiative.

We need to talk. Openly and unabashedly.

Let us begin this dialogue today.

Tell us about your depression, your story, where has it taken you. What has it taught you?  Where does it come from? Can you identify some needs after talking about it?

Share together. Don’t be afraid.  We will catch you. I promise.  Its a process…and it has to begin somewhere.

I send you real love – although we may never have met I really do understand we are all connected  – we are each other. The more we heal each other, the more the whole world will benefit from your awesomeness.

COME OUT AND SHINE TOGETHER.

In love and service,

Peace