First up a massive, massive shout out to everyone who reached out to me either on social media or personally after I posted my last blog. As I mentioned in it, I think it can be kind of tragic when people play out their personal lives on social media and only wrote if after I was persuaded by a friend. Any road, thank you for your warmth, affection, and love. It really did bring more than a few tears to my eyes.
So don’t worry this is not a Part 2. Well, not in a direct way. It’s more of an addendum to that aforementioned blog. Despite the love, managing depersonalisation disorder and an impending divorce ain’t as fun as it sounds. A very good friend of mine from God’s own land (and also a GP) suggested I take another look at western medicine. Now I haven’t taken medication for DPD for a good few years mainly because it doesn’t actually fucking work, or certainly hasn’t worked. There’s medication for the depression and anxiety that DPD causes but nowt’ for the DPD itself. But my friends are persuasive buggers. I relented and got (western) med’d up to the max and yikes, some breathing space actually came my way.
I’m telling you all this rather personal stuff not for more love (although happy to accept whatever you got) but to put it out there that even the folk that work to fix other people get broken sometimes. Yoga is such an incredible tool for the mind and body, but it would be foolhardy to suggest it’s a magic wand. It isn’t. But it can help. There’s a rather cute yoga Instagram meme doing the rounds with a heading ‘I bend so I don’t break,’ the obvious inference being that if we practice Yoga then this will keep the mind wolves at bay. But what happens when we do break? As the chances of breaking are like very, very high and pretty inevitable. What was it the Buddha said? ‘Life is suffering’ or more bluntly: In your life at some point shit happens and you are gonna suffer, directly and indirectly. What happens then – has yoga forsaken us ? Course not, the yoga show must go on and we can rephrase the meme to bending to fix the break which is a more plausible statement. So shout out to all yoga teachers on da ‘gram: Can we please, please stop with the ‘Yoga makes me bullet proof and aint life just peachy, darling?’ rhetoric. Lets get on the honesty vibe of #bendingtofixthebreak posts. Thank you. As you were, or are, or well, carry on reading….
As I sat with my therapist the other day (yep, this yogi is well and truly broken, I’m back on the medicine again, and having regular talk therapy) I gave him the cliche of first world problems as opposed to third world problems. Mate I’ve been to India so I know just how tough life can be. But he came back with: Third world/first world, they are still problems and problems in whichever world are problems. And we need to use whatever means necessary to figure our shit out.
My guy also told me about the practice of Japanese Kintsugi -golden joinery or golden repair. It is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. So it’s essentially about finding beauty, character and meaning in the broken – how incredibly beautiful is that?
I was listening to a podcast recently with one of my absolute heroes Rick Rubin. Now Rick had starting meditating when he was 14 (apparently he had hurt his neck and a doctor had recommended he try meditating to help with the pain). He’s known in the music industry as an uber-hip Zen legend. But in his early 30’s he’d went into a very deep depression that he had no idea how to get out of. His long term meditation practice didn’t help any. Eventually Rick was persuaded to take meds and after a little bit of trial and error finding the right one things started to ease up. He quite publicly puts that easing up down to pharmacology. Interestingly enough on his own podcast ‘Broken Record’ there’s an ace episode of Rick interviewing Bruce Springsteen. And The Boss tells of a similar story to Rick’s when in his early thirties he too had gone into a darkness that was resolved due to finding the right meds.
So here we’ve got two incredible people and might we say geniuses – leaders in their field with the world at their feet both going into a deep depression and were able to use meds to fix their break. Ok so please note that NOT for one hot minute am I advocating anyone who suffers with any kind of mental health problem be quick to jump on the medication bandwagon coz I aint. But I think the right idea is to be open to anything and everything that could help. Yoga, meditation, medication, you dig? I guess there’s this idea that as a Zen practicing Yoga teacher for 25 years or so I should be able to use asana and meditation instead of medication but why not use both if the cap fits, eh?
The room where I sleep, in the house that I part own, feels like a physical manifestation of my life and my mind. It’s easy to get lost in ones own pity party shit show. The night before my writing this, I try to fall asleep in this room of doom of mine. My mind runs away with itself as I think about a couple of lines in a song I wrote years ago,
Looking back across my life
I can’t see too much that I like
The small room contains a couple of boxes of clothes, a guitar, and a few bags of books. I sigh and think: Fucking hell, here at the age of 53 is the sum total of my life before my very own eyes. What a fucking failure I am! But within minutes of entering the pity party, I’m watching a documentary of the actor Jonah Hill talking with his therapist (on Netflix called Stutz – well worth a watch). His therapist has practical actions and strategies one can take to improve their lives. He talks about one being a metaphor of a string of pearls, where one can look practically at positive aspects of their lives. Even the simple act of waking up and breathing can be a pearl on the string. I sit and think about where my own pearls can be found. I don’t need to look far as I’ve got two snuggled up either side of me fast asleep in the shape of a pair of my kids. Easy and Boo are just incredible children and people – much like their older siblings. So, there, boom! Four pearls on my string before I’ve even had breakfast.
In the morning after the night before I’m catching a train to Edinburgh where I’ve been invited to teach Mysore Style traditional Ashtanga Yoga. Yes, invited by someone I don’t know who found me on t’intent and thought enough about me that they want me to go to their studio in Edinburgh and teach their students – and pay me for the trouble. At least three pearls there to go on the string. And well before I know it I got a couple of pearl necklaces worth of good vibz. Sometimes you don’t have to look too far to find your own pearl, sometimes it’s right under your nose (the fact you are breathing surely has to be a pretty good shout for a pearl, no?).
I’m on the train to Edinburgh finishing this blog off. Another guest of Rick Rubin’s Broken Record podcast is Questlove – top drummer from The Roots and all round decent bloke. Questlove has another strategy to stay positive. Every day before he actually gets out of bed he mentally lists 20 positive affirmations – and similar to the string of pearls above these can be anything from I’m awake and I’m alive and breathing to I’ve got ace kids/partner/dog/cat/yoga zen… you get the drift.
We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars, said Quentin Crisp, and boy oh boy is it easy to stay festering in the gutter and ignore the stars. But the stars are there for EVERYONE all we need to do is look for them.
Happy BIG Shining Stars to you all – stay beautiful and be excellent to each other, go tell someone you love them.