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Monday, July 07, 2008

We are All Crazy.

Somewhere in this process, you will come face to face with the sudden and shocking realization that you are completely crazy. Your mind is a shrieking, gibbering madhouse on wheels barreling pell-mell down the hill, utterly out of control and hopeless. No problem. You are not crazier than you were yesterday.

It has always been this way, and you just never noticed. You also are no crazier than anybody else around you. The real difference is that you have confronted the situation; they have not. So they still feel relatively comfortable. That does not mean that they are better off. Ignorance may be bliss, but it does not lead to Liberation. So don’t let this realization unsettle you. It is a milestone actually, a sign of real progress. The very fact that you have looked at the problem straight in the eye means that you are on your way up and out of it.

-Henepola Gunaratana, Mindfulness in Plain English

James: Mindfulness in Plain English is a valuable, influential treasure of a book and guide to not just mediation but the nature of being. Henepola Gunaratana is one of those teachers who has a way of speaking bluntly, firmly correcting you in your practice if need be and get you to smile about it.

He knows how to speak to a Western audience partly due to speaking and spending quite a lot of time in the United States.

Speaking to the quote I am reminded of the period in my life when I came to the sobering realization that I had a mental illness. I felt panic at first that I would totally go insane but not too long after I felt relief that finally I had a definition to my struggles. I was forced to come to terms that I had a disease and just knowing that information helped me adjust my focus and stop trying to fight it and embrace it.

And so it is with a mental condition that you have to remain ever mindful of your mental formations/suffering so that you know when to make a course correction in either medication, behavior and/or a general lifestyle change. I think that is part of what led me to Buddhism as in many ways Buddhism is very much a psychological path with it's emphasis on the mind and being mindful so that we are aware of delusions and suffering that appear in our lives. And in that regard meditation is quite like a medication because it often brings the similar relief to our minds that prescription drugs do.

That's not to say that people with a severe, chronic mental condition shouldn't take medicine if prescribed by a psychiatrist but simply a comparison to show how similar Buddhism and the general field of psychology are. Meditation is a very powerful and effective tool to add to my medications to maintain a grounded, sense of stability.

~Peace to all beings~

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Greenwoman said...

Great post James. REally terrific and insightful passages to share. Thank you. I've never read that book. It sounds wonderful!

Riverwolf said...

Makes me think of the mental/emotional benefits I gain from shamanic journeys--what some may think of as "crazy." But it works for me. Meditation really opened the door for me a few years ago, although I've found it a bit more frustrating of late. Haven't mastered the ego mind yet.

Nice image, by the way.

They call him James Ure said...


Thanks. Anyone who doesn't believe that we all have issues to deal with is someone who needs our compassion.

This is because, to me, if we can show them love and compassion then perhaps they will let down their defenses and look within to see what is causing them suffering because we all suffer no matter what people might say.


If it works for you then that's all that matters. The important point for me is to embrace ourselves for who we are and go from there.

Bruno said...

Thank you for your point of view James. Especially the origins of mental diseases keep puzzling me. Can you enlighten me a bit on your point of view ? I've written a small item about this post on my blog.

Wendy said...

The last couple of paragraphs sound much like a book I just finished (Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain) and one I'm currently reading (The Dalai Lama at MIT) both of which are about the Mind and Life Institute's work to foster dialogue between Buddhist wisdom and modern science.

It's absolutely fascinating stuff.

They call him James Ure said...


I'll come over and post a comment about what I think are the origins of mental illness.


That books sounds interesting, I'll have to look into it for sure. I love the mind-body connection stuff.

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