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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

My Teachers, the Leaves

The last few weeks have been very difficult for me and my wife. Things have been very stressful with a lot of problems swirling around our minds from financial problems due to my schizo-affective illness, Medicare dropping my insurance plan and trouble with my medications. I have found myself having bad reactions to my new medicine, Wellbutrin. It has been making me too stimulated and left me bordering on full blown mania. I have been quick to anger while taking it, to the point of being enraged over the littlest things. I wanted to give the Wellbutrin (or Hellbutrin as I call it) some extra time to work itself out because it has less side effects than other anti-depressants

That uncontrolled rage scared me since I haven't experienced that for years as I've been relatively stable with my long-time drug regiment. It was a major red flag that signaled the end of my patience toward the newly introduced drug. My psychiatrist wasn't convinced at first that I should go off the medicine but my therapist/councilor persuaded him to change his mind. So today is the fourth day off Wellbutrin and I feel much better. I feel much more stable emotionally and better prepared to deal with the stressful matters in my life mentioned above.

The other issue is that I got out of my meditation routine and haven't sat on the cushion in weeks. So right after I post this I am going to get back on track and meditate. I am going to do a metta meditation for others and myself to help heal and recover from the devastating events of the last few weeks. As well as help me win some breathing room to better deal with the continuing problems. That being said, sometimes meditation can make things worse if you're engaging in it out of a feeling of obligation, guilt or force. Sometimes it is better when you are feeling really angry to try and calm down through taking a walk/other exercise, read a peaceful book or other activities then meditate with the wrong intention. You don't want to come to resent the practice.

I have let the weight of the weeks events crush my happiness and it has left me in a place where I have been vulnerable and given in to self-pity. So today I began to dig myself out of the pit of defeatism by doing something for someone else. This time of year in Colorado, USA we experience a season called fall/autumn which sees a drop in temperature and crisp, dead, golden and auburn colored leaves falling off the trees, piling up to create drifts. So I tied on my shoes, went outside and began to rake up the leaves scattered across our lawn and my two neighbors lawns. We live in small houses that are all connected with a shared tract of land in the back but three separate, little front yards. Our neighbors are all elderly and the one man is very sick and needs oxygen.

It felt really good to forget myself and just clear up the lawns of the leaves. The minute I stepped outside, the fresh air invigorated my body and mind and brought the present moment sharp into focus. There was a slight breeze blowing around, making the vividly colored leaves dance in front of me. I smiled watching the performance and began to mindfully rake the fallen foliage. As I pulled the rake back and forth across the ground my self-pity began to fade away to be replaced by love of the beautiful nature just meters outside my front door. Then I felt gratitude fill my heart that I have decent health to help my neighbors with the yard work. I delighted in the soothing sound of the light, fluffy, rustling leaves being constructed into orderly piles. I breathed deeply and mindfully as I picked up clusters of leaves and placed them into the waste container.
How funny I thought that we call dead leaves, "waste" when they are still very useful. When piled up they are great fun for children, dogs (and fun loving adults) to jump into. It is like jumping into a large heap of feathers or what I imagine jumping into a large heap of feathers would be like.
Leaves also make great fertilizer in the spring, so no, they are not "waste." The wasteful activity in regards to dead leaves would be not to recycle them for plant fuel. Luckily our city picks up the "yard waste" and deposits it into a large compost pile at a recycling center where the finished fertilizer can be bought in the spring.

I gave of myself freely today and yet I feel like I gained much more. I am always pleasantly surprised at how many teachers there are waiting to help us if we just open our eyes through mindfulness and see with honest awareness. So many times over the last few weeks I was so self-absorbed that I didn't realize I was walking right over the top of my patiently waiting helpers and teachers, the leaves. It is like going on a great trek to the top of a mountain to visit a great teacher for wisdom, advice and peace while in the mean time we become annoyed by the rocks, tree branches, streams and leaves that seem to block our path on the way to the top.

Finally when we reach the top we tell the great teacher how hard our journey was and how difficult it was to reach him. Telling him how annoying the branches and rocks were on the way up making our trip more difficult. And maybe we would even get angry at him for not maintaining the path to make visiting easier. How silly we would look to the great teacher that we became annoyed with the leaves that we saw as blocking our path and slowing us down on our route to the top of the mountain to see the "real teacher!!" Surely that wise teacher would smile, perhaps laugh and tell us that we passed many great teachers that we could learn just as much, if not more from on the way up to see him!! And maybe we'd look confused and say, "I did not pass anyone old man!! You must be senile!! Do you take me for a fool?!! I see now that my journey up here as been a waste." To which he'd mostly likely respond, "Did you not pass many tree branches, rocks, streams and leaves?" "Well yes, of course and I already told you they were quite annoying!!" we'd respond. "Well then, you did indeed pass many great teachers!! I can not offer you anything up here. Go back and talk to the trees and the streams and you will find your answers and peace.

I bow to the leaves that helped me return to myself while assisting others at the same time. And while the leaves will clutter up the lawns again in a few days, I won't whine but rather smile, knowing their return is their commitment to teach me Oneness yet again. I am so grateful for my patient teachers who return again and again as many times as needed to help me understand.

What a beautiful world we are blessed to live in!!

A second post for today is below this one (gassho) _/I\_

~peace to all beings~

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Amadeus said...

Sorry to hear about the side effect problems with the meds. They can be rough. A friend of mine was on Wellbutrin and did very poorly—the side effects and actual reaction was pretty bad. They dropped off it as well.

You are correct about meditation—it is important to do it as you wish and not feel forced into it. Sometimes getting out and smelling the roses (or leaves)--so to speak--is just as good as sitting on the cushion.

I am glad to hear that you found some peace in nature.


Qalmlea said...

Medications can have unpredictable effects on the emotions, that's for sure. I used to use ginger as a spice in almost everything that I cooked. Last year, I went through a rough period, where I discovered that ginger would increase my feelings of helplessness and despair...once even leading to a (mercifully brief) contemplation of suicide. As soon as I realized it was ginger causing this, I cut it out of my diet completely. It didn't get rid of the existing issues, but at least they were no longer exacerbated by a chemical substance.

I turned to meditation and taiji practice to work my way through the "real" issues, and putting that extra space in my life put me on the road to recovery. And made me more aware of moments to practice without formally sitting.

Best of luck on your own path.

PeterAtLarge said...

A beautiful entry, James. So sorry to hear about the problems with those meds. We have had similar heartache in our own family, and understnad both their unwanted side-effects and, at times, their necessity. And, well, the leaves...! So lovely to find solace in them. Blessings, Peter

donna said...

I can't take Wellbutrin because of the anger, even though I'm supposed to be taking it right now. Instead I started taking Inositol and Phenalaline, which is helping a lot.

Try lots of Essential Fatty Acids, too. Salmon Oil is really good stuff.

I had a very explosive day today myself, lots of stress and hormones involved. Take care and make sure to make time for yourself and your meditation - it's very important!!!

And I raked leaves today, too. It helped. ;^)

the psycho therapist said...

What a wonderful, wonderful post. Thank you for the "re-minding", it's always good to hear the bell ring again.

The trials and tribulations accompanying psychotropic use are legion. I know it is such difficult yoga. I am happy to hear your therapist is advocating for you and your concerns. Gifts are gifts. (smile)

Thanks again, you.


diana christine said...

Thank you for your honesty, for your willingness to be vulnerable in this beautiful, brilliant post.

Diana Christine

They call him James Ure said...


Thank-you for your concern. It is indeed really difficult at times but I refuse to give up. Meditation has been such a great medicine too.

Yeah, nature brings me peace and calm every time. When I am up in the mountains interconnectivity is very palpable. Nature does its thing without worry, shame, anger or sadness. It is a great example of just being.


I use some natual medications as well such a flaxseed oil. It is great for the brain and regulating moods.

I agree that meditation is an important and very helpful addition to the medical program for anyone look for calm within the storm.


Thank-you for your sympathy. There are so many aspects that revolve around issues of mental health and it is always so helpful and relieving to hear from others who personal understand the struggles that go along with them.

Yes, the leaves are such a joy. As I type, I am watching the gentle falling of the last leaves of the season. I find they descent onto the ground to be so graceful. It is a great reminder for us to approach the issue of death with grace as well.


Yeah I take that flaxseed oil and it does help. I can feel the difference when I let my supply is gone for a week or so.

I'm so happy for you that you found a similar relief in the leaves. Nature is such a great and gentle teacher.


Yeah my therapist is so amazing. She really cares and it shows. She is such an important part of my support network as this blog has become.

Thank-you for the encouragement. :)


You're very welcome and thank-you for your kind words. I really believe in being as honest as we can. It is so helpful for us and an inspiration to others.

There are things that I still keep to myself as I know many people wouldn't understand if they knew. However, over all I am totally an open book when it comes to my life, especially in on this blog.

Gary said...

Wonderful honesty and insight, James. Your problems with medication and meditation have surely been lessoned by your ability to look at them with some insight: good luck with it all.

Brushing up the 'dead' leaves is a common practice in the forest tradition of Northeast Thailand. Visiting local temples like the International Forest Monastery, you will find monks and laypeople mindfully sweeping the forest paths.Bowing to the leaves with gratitude shows more wisdom from you, James, and I'm inspired.

Thank you.
Gary at forest Wisdom

Tim said...

James my brother,
I had mounds of leaves that got way ahead of me because my back was "out." Couldn't stay ahead of them. The least that I could do was blow them in large piles awaiting the day when I would be able to pick them all up. That day came last Thursday. My Grandaughter (Brielle 3 Yrs old) became very indignant beacuse we were taking away "her leaves." She has enjoyed them so much.
Not sure if this will help, but look into for long term medication assistance.

Gregor said...

My thoughts are with you.

May you be well.

with metta,


Greenwoman said...

I learn so much from you. *smiles*

Chodpa said...

with very best wishes, that you manage and eventually overcome all obstacles from your condition and medications :-)

They call him James Ure said...


If I didn't have the Dharma then I'd be in much worse of a state then I am.

Thank-you for your kind words regarding my wisdom.


What a cute story about your granddaughter!! I hope that your back heals soon. Especially in time for shoveling snow. It never ends, eh? :/

Thanks for the link, we checked it out and I think one of my drugs can be covered through that program. That would be awesome as anything helps. ;)

Thanks for the link.


Thank you so much. It is so comforting knowing that there are many people out there who care. You are so kind.


And I from you!!


Thank-you for your energy and prayer. May you be filled with joy and peace.

a said...

I enjoy your blog and this post in particular. I appreciate your insight and honesty. I bow and offer a lotus bud.

They call him James Ure said...

Thank-you so kindly. I apologize for not replying until now but the last several months have been a blur.

Anyway, I am happy that you like this post and found it helpful.

solitaire said...

Hope everything is well with you now.

With metta,

They call him James Ure said...


Thank-you, I am feeling better. :)

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