Tag Archive: Buddhism


Near Death Experience

The other day I watched a David Nichtern video, it was one of three on something called Lojong Mind Training (they and others can be found here), which was a new term to me, from Buddhism, but apparently it is pretty foundational and important. I can’t remember everything it involves so I won’t reduce it by trying to explain what I can remember, but he said something about getting old and dying. He said that we can expect to live to about 70-90 years old. That was the span, but he mentioned ages in between which, for me, brought it into sharp relief. I’m 56, and I calculated the years between now and 70 years old and realised it is only 14 years. That brought me up really sharp. When you are 56, 14 years isn’t a long time, especially if you think that could possibly be the end of it all, as far as life’s opportunities on earth are concerned. I had watched another of his videos previously on old age, sickness and death and it had nowhere near the same impact on me as the mention in this video.

I thought about it, this sudden awareness of how short a time I had left, potentially, and I thought that from now on my life is, literally, a near death experience.  Many of us are afraid of death all our lives, sometimes manifesting in denial or defiance, from the point we understand it is going to happen to us.  People say that young people think they are immortal and will never die.  When I was young I think it was something I couldn’t get my head around, that I wasn’t going to live for ever and that, one day, I would be like a lot of the older people I saw.  I still can’t, really.  I have moments when I dread becoming incapacitated and being alone with it, maybe put into a care home.  I can’t imagine anything worse, given my own experiences in hospital and the stories of abuse that somehow manage to get out and go public.  It’s a bit like the way some people view mental illness.  It’s scary as a concept but they hope and think it is never going to happen to them.

I’m a pretty isolated person these days and, in some ways, always have been, so I don’t know how much I have in common with other people in this, it isn’t something I remember having talked about. But when I was in my teens I had this idea that I wouldn’t live beyond 20 or 21.  I just couldn’t see life beyond that point.  I wondered about it a lot.  Maybe it was a bit of a Victorian novel idea of dying young, and I suppose that, psychologically, that sort of thing might be described as a near death experience in the way I’m using the term for this post.  But it is very much an ‘in the mind’ thing.  I’ve known for a few years now that I have lived most of the life I am going to live.  I feel as if I’ve achieved nothing and there are things that are important to me, I like to think, that I would like to achieve, and potentially I now have ONLY 14 years left in which to do it.  Possibly even fewer.  Of course I don’t live with that intense awareness all the time.  If I did I’m sure it would be unbearable for me.  But, at the moment, it can loom over me like a sense of impending doom and fear of failure.  And I see myself beginning to understand and handle and cope with my life experience better than I used to, like little shoots of hope and growth, then I hit a wall and have these crashing waves of despair and regret and feelings like it is all a bit pointless to begin to feel this way NOW when the time I really needed it and it could have made a real difference in my life and perspective was when I was much younger.  It’s like, ‘what’s the point of this, now?  I’m going to die soon.  It’s too late.’.  It is preceded by real joy, but the joy is quickly extinguished in painful feelings of hopelessness and fear and it being too late, and that death is very close and ready to pounce.  Often, along with that, there are feelings of, ‘why didn’t I get this before?’ and ‘what have they done to me – and why?’.

I didn’t mean to end up here.  I feel as if I had better stop, I’m not sure where else to go with it.  I’m OK, though.  If some of my friends felt able to help me laugh about it that would probably be the right way for me to deal with it.  It feels that way at the moment, anyway.  Laugh at life’s tragedy, at least your own.  It’s the way forward.  As the song says, ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’.  I really think that, to a great extent, it’s a choice.

I hope you won’t mind that I have written this way and that some of you might find it helpful. Thinking about it, I’m thinking I might be describing what has often been termed a mid-life crisis, though maybe I’m past that age, I don’t know.  These days at this point I feel as if I should do a Google search.  Communication and accessibility of information are definitely changing since the birth of the internet.

And ANOTHER of my messy offerings flies into the ether!  I do love to write, though.

Knots by R D Laing

I bought this book recently from the internet, I think Amazon.  It was delivered this morning.  I was first introduced to it by one of my English teachers at 6th form.  She read something that went:

I know
He knows I know
I know he knows I know

and it is full of things of the same ilk that I just get lost in.  I tried to be with it and stay with it but in the end I just ended up believing he wanted us to laugh at the convolution of it all.  People say that laughter is the best therapy, and if he just wanted to wear us out with all the permutations to make us laugh at ourselves and with each other – I thought it was a bit like reading Zen koans.  One of the poems says that what they want from each other is generosity, not one thinking the other is greedy while the other in turn thinks the first is mean.  I think laughter opens the door to generosity, especially the laughter that can arise when you realise you are beaten by the representation of what is going on in the relationship.  That is, unless he is much more intelligent than I am and there are others who manage to keep up where I can’t.  Sometimes I experience a little breakthrough in understanding what he is portraying, and there are places of identification, especially identification from the past of how I used to think and feel in relationships.  I was surprised to see something I went through a few years ago represented, where I thought, basically, that I wasn’t entitled to anything so I was stealing everything I had, or getting it by trickery.  Part of that was the belief that all money is dirty by association somewhere along the line.  Another was being afraid that if someone loved and respected me they were wrong, because I was awful, and the only people I could respect or trust were those who didn’t seem to respect me.

Anyway, I haven’t finished it.  I’ve got about half way through.  There was one poem in particular which really made me throw my hands up in despair of being able to understand it.  It was written in about 6 parts.  Maybe it was meant for performance.  It seems it might be the only way to keep up with it.  I have no idea how much was him having a romping good laugh and how much was a serious unfolding.  I feel sure its main purpose must be to make us loosen up.

Mish-Mash Musings 2

In my last post I wrote about how the Church, during the Inquisition, used to ‘relax’ people into the hands of the state so they could be burnt, and wrote about the parallel drawn by Thomas Szasz between this and the mental health movement.  He said that in a religious age ‘heretics’ were ‘relaxed’ into the hands of the state, but in the so-called enlightened age the parallel is that society turns to the mental health movement for the upholding of the dominant culture.  However, the Church is part of the society which does this, and does it itself.  So for the mental patient who is also a Christian, there is no ‘comfort’ for them in religion.  The mental health system is part of the new way of dealing with ‘heretics’ for the church.  The church believes in this, or says it does, and largely it accords the mental health system the same authority as the rest of society does, except for some people.  It might decide that some people are really not mentally ill and try to help them, but on the whole it validates the mental health system and its ideas.  So someone like me can become very isolated since the Church refers me back to the mental health services.  Admittedly I have not been to every existing church, but the ones that have been part of my life to date have all said the same thing, that they believe I am mentally ill, so accepting the categorisation in the first place.  Many other religious bodies do the same thing.  Scientology does not.  I have only recently discovered that Thomas Szasz had links with Scientology.  For some people this will put them off him, but there are others who hold the some of same views who do not have those links, the writers and editors of This Is Madness, for instance, and Foucault, and R D Laing.  R D Laing was ridiculed for turning to Buddhism, apparently.  I was told this by one of the nurses on Rowan 2, I think, and they said how ironic it was that the psychiatric system is itself now looking towards things like mindfulness as a way of raising people’s consciousness.  They wouldn’t call it raising people’s consciousness, but essentially that is what it is.

I’m not on Rowan 2 at the moment, I was transferred to Newark on Friday night. It is a place like Macmillan Close, complete with door slamming!  I’m not sure how I feel and I hope it is not a matter of my choice, because there are pros and cons with both.  I was told at 6.30 pm on Friday evening that the transfer was going to be made and that I had no right to refuse.  Steve, who was on duty, told me it was only temporary and that I am expected to go back some time this week, citing my housing situation and residence in Nottingham a a reason for me going back.  However, the staff in Newark are under the impression that I am here long term and that housing can be dealt with from here.  I’m confused and feel very disorientated.  I said I didn’t want to come because I don’t know Newark, and that seems to me a good reason at the moment.  I have been homeless 2 years now, Friday was the anniversary, and it can’t be good for me to keep being so uprooted.

This Is Madness

I’ve read a bit more of this book and I’m finding it very interesting.  For me one of the most important things it says is that with physical illnesses diagnosis starts with something happening in the body and ends up with the diagnostic concept, but with ‘so-called’ mental illness it is the other way round, that it starts with a concept and mental conglomeration in the minds of physicians and they then go looking for people who fit the concept, like crusaders.  The concept is fleshed out in committee and applied to individuals, rather than subjective symptoms first being recognised in the individual and a remedy sought.  That is my memory of what was said in the chapter called ‘Diagnosis’.

I’ve just ordered another book as well called ‘Untrain Your Parrot’ by Elizabeth Hamilton.  It is a well grounded and often humorous approach to Zen.  The book is in the Multi-Faith room at the hospital but we are not allowed to take them out, and sometimes no one is there who can unlock the cabinet where the books are kept.  It makes sense that the books shouldn’t leave the room, it keeps them available and in good condition.  I have found that when I have spent time reading it in there I approach things in a better and lighter mood.  I’m looking forward to having my own copy because I think it is something that I will read and dip into more than once

I’m a lot more open and self-controlled on the ward these days, but I still feel angry, hurt and frustrated at what I see happening with other people.

I’ve got a bad cold at the moment.

We have started making approaches to accommodation.  It seems to me it could move either very quickly or more slowly than I would like.  I would like it to move quickly.

I’ve been reading a few ‘Freshly Pressed’ selections and really enjoying them.  They are so interesting.  I just read one called ‘There was no escaping his father’s words’ which made quite an impact on me.  It’s about a man who meets up in later life with his father who had told him that he was going from fad to fad and I felt those words from his father had partly shaped the man’s life.

I don’t feel able to write much more today.  I am generally feeling quite upset and that I need to cry.  That is what I usually feel inside.  I’ve had no intimacy for a very long time now, and I feel very much that I am getting old.  I am nearer death than birth.  For a wonderful period in my 30s I was unafraid, but now I feel a bit wobbly.  I’m not sure if I’m a real Christian, and I have been taught and believe that only Christians go to heaven.  I have not been taught to be a liberal, and my emotional attachments don’t really allow it.  I have been taught, and believe, that there is a hell for people who are not Christians.  I know to some people that will make me sound really archaic.  I have found myself praying that love and mercy will be my judge in the end, that love (God is love) will save me at death.  There is also the teaching that not everyone will die but Jesus will come back and some people who are living will be caught up to Heaven.  I suppose many people want to believe they will be among those who do not die.  I would like to live beyond 80, even to 100.  I’m afraid I will die much sooner.  I’m really afraid that I might go to hell, and I’m afraid that there will be no one who cares for me intimately when I die.  I have no children and no partner, and the only member of my family I am in contact with is my mother.  I would like not to feel so tired and worn out, and upset and vulnerable, and as if my time now is not worth anything and won’t be, that I have passed a point where there was a point.

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