Monday, January 30, 2012

Broken Words

I can easily write:
I love you guys, this life is beautiful and wonderful and full of secrets. I love this life.
I can as easily write:
I hate you guys, this life is miserable, I am angry and hate my life and everyone around me.
What do these words mean? I do not know. When the words are not connected to something more meaningful, something within, they are broken. (This may be the ``corruption of words" that David Milch mentions here.)

The other day a friend was giving me a ride. We passed the place that I had parked my car and wanted to get off: I was not vocal, and I became agitated. Even though I felt that my friend was going to turn around and take me back to the place but I did not trust my instinct, and therefore, I did not trust my friend either. At a stop light, I got off the car angrily (I was too afraid to express my anger either!) Running back to the place (that I had parked my car) I kept blaming myself and my friend, and became more and more angry and depressed. Why? Because I did not trust myself and my friend. My actions came from fear.

The source of my depression may be a chemical imbalance. Or, it may also be the fact that I do not know myself. Because I am not connected to something inside, my words and actions are not connected to any truth, and I feel constant fear, shame and the need for approval from people around me. I cannot tell the truth because I am afraid of other people's disapproval. This fear is so deep that it has become a second nature to me. I keep apologizing for my actions and feelings, keep thanking people and begging for their love and approval. What I am missing is the source of love and approval within myself.

I keep telling my friends that I respect them, I trust them, and I love them. But are these statements anything more than lies? I am not sure. I do not know. How can I know. respect, trust, and love anyone when I do not know, respect, trust, and love myself? Moreover, if there is any truth to my statements, why do I keep repeating them?

There is some value in self expression. A feeling of freedom and exuberance and vitality comes from true self expression. At the same time, when I start saying things that I do not mean, I feel self-hatred, self-loathing, anger and depression. Maybe there are no short cuts. Maybe I have to say things and observe how I feel after until I learn who I am: By practicing self-expression. I do not know.

Sometimes, I just feel impatient, exhausted, angry and want to end this all.
And sometimes things are better.
I guess this is life ...

2013-04-10: It is so amazing to read these words that I wrote only about a year ago! How much things have changed since then. I was telling my therapist today that about six months ago, I started making decisions, occasionally, in a different way, from a place within, simply doing what "I wanted" and that changed everything. Empowered me. Made me a happier person.
I agree with my intuition then, although I am less bitter now. Words get their meaning and significance from the place they come from. If they are not connected to something inside, then they are shallow and relatively ineffective. 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Inner Landscape of Beauty

An interview with the late Irish poet and philosopher, John O'Donohue, by Krista Tippett on the program "On Being":
The Inner Landscape of Beauty

Transcript: http://being.publicradio.org/programs/2012/inner-landscape-of-beauty/transcript.shtml

The blog entry:  http://blog.onbeing.org/tagged/Inner-Landscape-of-Beauty

Some quotes:

But for me, philosophically, stress is a perverted relationship to time. So that rather than being a subject of your own time, you have become its target and victim, and time has become routine. So at the end of the day, you probably haven't had a true moment for yourself. And you know, to relax in and to just be.

And one day I read in him and he [Meister Eckhart, 14th-century German mystic] said, "There is a place in the soul ...  that neither time, nor space, nor no created thing can touch." ... that your identity is not equivalent to your biography. And that there is a place in you where you have never been wounded, where there's still a sureness in you, where there's a seamlessness in you, and where there is a confidence and tranquility in you. And I think the intention of prayer and spirituality and love is now and again to visit that inner kind of sanctuary.

[a reading from his book Anam Ċara.] In the Celtic tradition, there is a beautiful understanding of love and friendship. One of the fascinating ideas here is the idea of soul-love; the old Gaelic term for this is anam ċara. Anam is the Gaelic word for soul and ċara is the word for friend. … In the early Celtic church, a person who acted as a teacher, companion, or spiritual guide was called an anam Ċara. It originally referred to someone to whom you confessed revealing the hidden intimacies of your life. With the anam ċara you could share your innermost self, your mind, and your heart. This friendship was an act of recognition and belonging. … In everyone's life there is great need for an anam ċara, a soul friend, in this love you are understood as you are without mask or pretension. Where you are understood, you are at home.

... if you realize how vital to your whole spirit — and being and character and mind and health — friendship actually is, you will take time for it, you know? And the trouble is though for so many of us is that we have to be in trouble before we remember what's essential. And sometimes it's one of the lonelinesses of humans is that you hold on desperately to things that make you miserable and that sometimes you only realize what you have when you're almost about to lose it.
So, I think that it would be great to step back a little from one's life and see around one who are those that hold me dear, that truly see me, and those that I need, and to be able to go to them in a different way. Because the amazing thing about humans is we have immense capacity to reawaken in each other the profound ability to be with each other and to be intimate.

I think that beauty is not a luxury, but I think that it ennobles the heart and reminds us of the infinity that is within us. I always loved what Mandela said when he came out, and I was actually in his cell in Robben Island, one time I was in South Africa. Even after 27 years in confinement for something he never — for wrong you never committed, he turned himself into a huge priest and come out with this sentence where he said, "You know that what we are afraid of is not so much our limitations but the infinite within us."

I feel that there are two ways that you must always keep together in approaching the God thing. One is, and this is what I like about the Christian tradition — and this is where I diverge a little from the Buddhist tradition even though I love Buddhism as a methodology to clean up the mind and get you into purity of presence. What I love is that at the heart of Christianity, you have this idea of intimacy, which is true belonging, being seen, the ultimate home of individuation, the ultimate source of it and the homecoming.
That's what I call spirituality, the art of homecoming. So it's St. Augustine's phrase, like, "Deus intimior intimo meo" — "God is more intimate to me than I am to myself." Then you go to Meister Eckhart, and you get the other side of it, which you must always keep together with it, where in Middle High German, he says, "Gott wirt und Gott entwirt" — that means, "God becomes and God unbecomes," or translated it means that God is only our name for it, and the closer we get to it the more it ceases to be God. So then you are on a real safari with the wildness and danger and otherness of God.
And I think when you begin to get a sense of the depth that is there then your whole heart wakens up. You know, I mean, I love Irenaeus' thing from the second century, which said, the Glory of the human being — "The glory of God is the human being fully alive." And I think in our culture that one of the things that we are missing is that these thresholds where we can encounter this, and where we move into new change in our lives, there are no rituals to help us to recognize them or to cross them worthily.

... the threshold, in a way, is a place where you move into more critical and challenging and worthy fullness. And I think there are huge thresholds in every life. ...  if you are in the middle of your life in a busy evening, 50 things to do and you get a phone call that somebody you love is suddenly dying. Takes 10 seconds to communicate that information, but when you put the phone down, you are already standing in a different world. Because suddenly everything that seems so important before is all gone and now you are thinking of this. So the given world that we think is there and the solid ground we are on is so tentative. And I think a threshold is a line which separates two territories of spirit, and I think that very often how we cross is the key thing.
... beauty isn't all about just nice, loveliness like. Beauty is about more rounded substantial becoming. And I think when we cross a new threshold that if we cross worthily, what we do is we heal the patterns of repetition that were in us that had us caught somewhere.

... we spend over one-third of our lives actually in the workplace, and one of the loneliest things you can find is somebody who is in the wrong kind of work, who shouldn't be doing what they are doing but should be doing something else and haven't the courage to get up and leave it and make a new possibility for themselves. But it's lovely when you find someone at work who's doing exactly what they dreamed they should be doing and whose work is an expression of their inner gift. And in witnessing to that gift and in bringing it out they actually provide an incredible service to us all. And I think you see that the gifts that are given to us as individuals are not for us alone, or for our own self-improvement, but they are actually for the community and to be offered. And I think this is where leadership comes in at work.


... in the presence of beauty, it's not a neutral thing, but it's actually calling you, you know? And I feel that one could write a wonderful psychology just based on the notion of being called, you know, being called to be yourself and called to transfigure what has hardened or got wounded with in you. And it's also, of course, the heart of creativity this calling forth all the time, ...

Some Links (from NPR)

When It Comes To Depression, Serotonin Isn't The Whole Story

A story on depression and the medical explanation for it. 

 

Ending Nightmares Caused By PTSD

 A story on our dreams and nightmares. Some quotes:

PTSD dreams are the same real-life event played over and over again like a broken record. "Replicative nightmares of traumatic events ... repeat for years," Woodward says. "Sometimes 20 years."
Scientists wanted to find out the reason why people with PTSD can't sleep and dream normally. One theory comes from Matthew Walker, a psychology researcher at the University of California, Berkeley. His particular interest lies in rapid eye movement, or REM. It's the time during sleep when a lot of dreaming occurs.
It's also a time when the chemistry of the brain actually changes. Levels of norepinephrine — a kind of adrenaline — drop out completely. REM sleep is the only time of day when this happens. That struck Walker as a mystery. "Why would rapid eye movement sleep suppress this neurochemical?" he asks. "Is there any function to that?"
Walker found that in healthy people, REM sleep is kind of like therapy. It's an adrenaline-free environment where the brain can process its memories while sort of stripping off their sharp, emotional edges. "You come back the next day, and it doesn't trigger that same visceral reaction that you had at the time of learning."
Emotions are useful, he says. They show us what really matters to us. "But I don't think it's adaptive to hold onto that emotional blanket around those memories forever," he says. "They've done their job at the time of learning, then it's time to hold on to the information of that memory, but let go of the emotion."
Walker's theory suggests that in people with PTSD, REM sleep is broken. The adrenaline doesn't go away like it's supposed to. The brain can't process tough memories, so it just cycles through them, again and again.


A couple of stories on mushrooms:

Your Brain On Psilocybin Might Be Less Depressed

The Man Who Studies The Fungus Among Us

An interesting interview on Fresh Air:

David Milch: Trying His 'Luck' With Horse Racing

 Some quotes from the transcript (link):

MILCH: It's an alternate reality, and the - if you'll recall the circumstances under which I first came to experience a racetrack, that was a kind of concentrated and elaborately mixed set of messages that I was receiving about what - theoretically, what I was compelled to do because of my nature and how I was going to spend my time.
And I must say that once one enters into that world, there is - your chemistry changes in the same way chemistry changes when you become a drug addict. And your - the reward systems are very different.
And the paradox is that as all of this alteration is going on, you still have the opportunities and challenges of being a human being. That's the rest of the story: how to be a human being and, really, the fascination with how these people conduct their lives is what engaged my imagination.


MILCH: But no, I didn't know anyone literally who was a stammerer. But the difficulty of communication, I think, thematically is what conjoins those two scenes that you've represented: the mysteries of language and what is or isn't meant to be understood. And that's part of the fascination and, obviously, the compelling mystery of that world.


MILCH: I was imitating my father, and the mixture of admiration and awe and fear, all of those elements cohabit, I think, in the portrayal of all of the characters, but especially the character of Dustin Hoffman in the show.
DAVIES: Yeah. Did you get caught sneaking out to the track?
MILCH: Oh, sure. I'd get whacked around a little bit on occasion. But it was also a source of great pride to my dad that I was doing it. Even as he was speaking one way, you could see in his eyes something else, and don't forget he loved the track himself.


MILCH: But, in fact, what you're - you have your finger on something which is of crucial thematic importance: the alienation of spirit that occurs in the woundings - what we can call the particulars of the upbringing of these characters - receives an opportunity to be ameliorated, to be improved by their exposure to these animals. And it's a mystery to them, but it's also a blessing and, in the deepest sense, it's their luck.


MILCH: The same thing that happens with the corruption of the symbol, I feel like the voice is like the horse. Now I know that sounds ridiculous, but what I mean is that, to the extent that I type stuff and rewrite it, I am mechanizing a process which ought to be somatic. And so I try to minimize as much as - I watch the words come up on the screen, and then I suggest a change, but I try not to use my hands in the process.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Impossible

Today, it seems impossible to understand what is going on in my life. Nothing works. Except that working keeps my mind busy, like drugs. I am finishing this fucking annual report, Faculty Activities and Accomplishments, which sounds ... I don't know. I used to enjoy working on this report, two three years ago, when I had some sort of hope for my career and life. Now, it is all lying and pretending that everything is okay, when in fact nothing is okay. I hate this life, period. I hate not knowing what the fuck I am doing in this life. I hate spending years and years in angst and anguish, fighting myself, a sadistic-masochistic life. 

PS. I finished the damn report and instantly felt better, relieved.

Nausea

The eternal nausea
of looking back
at this fucking life of lies

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Fractures:

Guilt and shame grow in the fractures of our personalities.

When we have fighting forces within us, as we follow one voice, the other voices blame us and start a guilt-shame game. It can be very exhausting ... 

Monday, January 23, 2012

I know ...

The constant drips of late night dew
falling on dead leaves,
hesitant lines of wintery maples
losing themselves in fog,
barely discerning the last few lights
of a sleeping village, down the valley,
I whisper final seductive words
to the shadows of past lovers,
and with my last breath, will take in,
all the secrets of this mystic world.

In a foggy night, on a mountain top,
the butterfly will be set free.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Story of Buddy and Dawn

Today, I met "Buddy" and "Dawn", quite accidentally. I was helping our friends to unload their shopping from our car and into their apartment in an old complex in an old Atlanta neighborhood. Our friends are students at the Atlanta branch of Savanah College of Art and Design (SCAD) and they live a few block to the north of SCAD. I first noticed "Dawn" waiving his hand and saying something about the neighborhood and showing a thumb up. He was walking a pit bull, "Buddy", who turned out to be super friendly. Dawn mentioned that he has rescued "Buddy" a few months ago and decided to keep him. He asked my name and told me that in order to remember a name, you have got to repeat it three times and also write it in your head once, according to someone famous, maybe Napoleon. When I asked his name, he gave me his dog's name first. He said that the pit bull is so friendly that he decided to call him "Buddy", even though his friends advised him against doing so. I had to ask him again his name and I first thought his name was "Don". But then, following his own advise, I asked him to spell it and he corrected me. He said he was originally from Venezuella, and that his parents were missionaries and they chose his name because of its meaning, the new morning Sun. He asked about the meaning of my name and I told him that it means being content and satisfied with life. He asked me if I am happy with my life and I said I am trying. Then, "Dawn" mentioned that almost all religions believe in the importance of "love" in life, shook my hand and left with his happy, super friendly pit bull, "Buddy".

Saturday, January 21, 2012

راه کرم

آن کیست کز راه کرم، با چون منی یاری کند؟
  بر جای بد کاری چو من، یک دم نکو کاری کند؟
دلبر كه جان فرسود ازو كام دلم نگشود ازو
نوميد نتوان بود ازو باشد كه دلداري كند
پشمينه پوش تند خو از عشق نشنيدست بو
از مستيش رمزي بگو تا ترك هشياري كند
زان طرۀ پر پيچ و خم سهلست اگر بينم ستم
از بند و زنجيرش چه غم هر كس كه عياري كند

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sounds

Sounds and music
they are different today
or maybe
they come from a different place
I am calm
and I can see
a light in the distance

Friday, January 13, 2012

Dream

One time I was desperate I talked to myself and all personalities inside me and threatened them that if they do not end their fights I will end their life altogether. That night, I had a powerful and destructive dream. When I woke up, I felt that my life is over and that the dream told me that there is no way out.

I am in a street in Tehran, close to where Sima used to live when we met. It is morning, after a heavy storm. Trees are broken and streets are full of debris. I need to pass an intersection, but the street has become a valley and a big wave of flood is approaching from far away. I start descending into the valley but I am paralyzed with fear of height. I remember the rock climbing session that I have done a couple of days ago and manage to get to the bottom and pass the valley.

The other side is in the US. We have to enter a strange store from its bottom floor. The top floor opens to the street, the other side that I wanted to get to. The store has big windows that open to the valley. People stand behind the glass and when the wave of flood comes, they can see under the water. It is a tourist place. I get to the top floor, going up a circular stair as I am watching inside the store. I am amazed.

I enter the street which reminds me of Philadelphia, the place that I did my job interviews and finally landed at my current position. It is a sunny and beautiful day. I am joyful, making funny remarks and asking people if this site is a tourist attraction.

Something calls me back inside the store. I have a bad feeling but I want to watch the flood wave when it passes. I get to the bottom and a couple of people that I know vaguely join me. We go out into a deck that is at the bottom of the valley. We do not have much time because the wave is approaching. I ask my friends to come in but they do not pay attention. I run to the door and try to enter the shop, but I have to struggle with someone.

We finally get in, two of us, and one remains outside. The wave is approaching. The door behind us is not shut well and the water starts leaking in. I am behind the large window and see the water coming up and coming in. The sky turns dark. Everyone is running in the store. The wave crushes and kills the person outside and I see his crushed body against the window. One of the shop's crews which looks like a ship, or submarine now, tries to descend the circular stair but his arm is crushed in a big revolving wheel. Blood is everywhere.

I finally get to the second floor. The wave has move the shop completely and now we are floating. But not on the street level. We are floating in the sewer system, underneath the streets of Philadelphia. Everything is dark and ugly. Water full of floating debris. We are just taken around by the water and there seems to be no hope.
The dream is my life story and my struggle with two waves of depression, one before coming to the US and one after. It does not have a hopeful message. It points to some mistakes that I have made especially after the joy of finding a new job.

If the forces within you ask you to quit, is there any point in prolonging the struggle, a hopeless one?

I did not take the dark message of the dream literally. I took it seriously and started working with my dreams to understand the destructive forces within me. In fact, I gave in to their demands. I have done strange things in the past couple of month, not harmful to myself or anyone, but strange. I though I would get to a peace with these forces or at least would start a meaningful conversation with them.

But what if I am wrong? What is there is simply too much conflict and darkness inside me? Maybe I should stay true to my initial promise ...

Help!

Maybe I do not know how to ask for help.
Maybe I should swallow my pride and admit that I am desperate.
Maybe I should turn to the right one for help, but to whom?
Who can help me?
How many times I should cry and ask anything out there, God or forces within my self, to help me?

Am I too impatient?

Is there something that I should let go of, that I am clinging to it too tight?

Is it life that I am holding too tight? Maybe this is just an illusion and I just need to let go of everything and be gone like a butterfly in the wind?


Under Attack

For a few hours I felt better today, but not well enough to do any work and as the day is coming to a close I am feeling more and more frustrated with not being able to do anything. Something inside me is clearly fighting me and not letting me get anything done.

All I can think of is to leave this life and go somewhere that no one knows me. I feel that I am cornered and trapped and there is no way to improve things except adopting very extreme measures. The alternative thought, which is clearly worse for myself and everyone close to me, is what weighted heavily on my mind last night.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Singing and Brain

Happy New Year 2012 to everyone!

Here is an article that I found inspiring:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/12/26/144152193/singing-therapy-helps-stroke-patients-speak-again

I liked the fact that brain "physical" structure seems to respond to training. This shows the critical role of good habits, and learning new ones as we grow. Here is a quote:

Laurel offered the researchers a big bonus – an identical twin sister named Heather. So the researchers could use MRI scans to compare the girls' brains. They focused on a structure on the right side that's important for singing.
Before Laurel began melodic intonation therapy, that structure was smaller in her brain compared to Heather's. That's probably because she hadn't been doing anything with her voice for a whole year.
But during therapy, scans showed that nerve fibers in Laurel's right-sided singing center actually grew – they clearly multiplied and thickened. With therapy, those nerve bundled got bigger than the corresponding region in Heather's brain.
Dr. Gottfried Schlaug, who heads the study, says that's exactly what he was looking for.
"It is the perfect confirmation," he says. "Basically, the hardware of the system really changed to support this increased vocal output."

Freedom, Religion

A couple of days ago I read a discussion between some friends regarding religion, worship, freedom, and slavery. In Farsi and Arabic, the t...