Thursday, August 27, 2009

Windmills in Schiedam


In Schiedam they're these big old windmills that're supposed to be the biggest the world. I guess you have to leave out the new modern ones to make such a claim. The mills in Schiedam were used to mill the grains to make the alcoholic drink, Jenever, a grain alcohol made with juniper berries.

There's a mill here where you can buy freshly milled flour the old fashioned way. It's wholesome stuff I use to make our pizzas, pancakes, cookies, brownies, cakes, and other things. Plus, the people working at the mill are helpful and friendly. Every May they hold an open day when you can go visit the miller for a demonstration. There's a mill that's been turned into a restaurant, and one that's a museum, a visit that includes a ride around the canals of Schiedam.

Trees



I love trees. Whenever I'm out walking in the woods, or in the city, I'm drawn to trees. They're so beautiful and solid.

Dukkha as continual state....


Dukkha is the Sanskrit word for the afflictive state of pain we find ourselves in.

Living in the Netherlands is a form of masochism for me. What else, how else can I put it. Constantly being sort of used up. Where is my energy. I don't know. Better to accept the inevitability of it all, and thereby undermine its influence.

The only way "out," or should I say "in," is a strict regimine of meditation. Tomorrow I will begin to box myself in to the discipline that brings a clausterphobic sense of relief. How else can I put it? Whenever I loose my discipline, I can feel it welling up again, the sharpness of dukkha. When I think of doing something else, there is no choice. There's nothing left for me to do but dedicate myself to refuge in the Buddha dharma.

Waking up early, prayers, hour-long meditation. Late night, the same. Otherwise, the unbearable sharpness of the pain simply won't relent. Over and over again I say to myself, my family is not here. Friends, supporters are few and far between. Stop complaining. So many people don't have their families. Untold numbers of people have less support, and live in destitution, which I do not. I can immediately think of many Tibetan friends whose families are locked away in Tibet. They risked their lives to leave Tibet; they'd be risking them again in re-entering. No way in. No way out for the aging parents, small children. My thought, the pain of separation, the loneliness I face. This, I dedicate to those who are also separated from their families. They too have felt the sharpness of this so acutely. And yet, the beauty, the genuineness of their laughter surpasses mine.

Here's the definition of one form of dukkha I found on a website:

"And what is the stress of separation from the loved? There is the case where desirable, pleasing, attractive sights, sounds, aromas, flavors, or tactile sensations do not occur to one; or one has no connection, no contact, no relationship, no interaction with those who wish one well, who wish for one's benefit, who wish for one's comfort, who wish one security from the yoke, nor with one's mother, father, brother, sister, friends, companions, or relatives. This is called the stress of separation from the loved."

Thursday, June 25, 2009

You, the Living

Two years ago in Rotterdam, before I started studying Buddhism, I saw this film. The girl in this scene is in love with the guitarist, and fantasizes their wedding. After a one-night-stand he's no where to be found. She goes searching for them, thinking they're an item, to no avail.

The Swedish director Andersson is really right on in his social commentary. You, the Living is a beautiful film. People are looking for kindness everywhere, but only running into people looking out for themselves.

I'm not cynical enough to think that everyone on the planet is too selfish to care about anyone else but themselves, because I don't think it's true.

On the other hand, Andersson's vision does speak the truth to me quite accurately. Even genuine people who'd like to express their kindness often end up missing each other. Too many people are stuck in their own narrow and problematic world to make an overture to someone else. So that even if they'd genuinely like to express kindness, they're too afraid of the "other's" unkindness to make the first step. It becomes a process of pre-emptiveness; a means of self-protection. It's a complicated mess of people out there. People are all mixed in together radiating neurosis. Almost no one is brave enough to be consistently kind to everyone he comes across. The Christian ethic of brotherly love has been watered down by one-upmanship.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Ground Under my Feet


Whenever I get an idea for writing these days I let it go. Maybe it's a laxity on my part. Letting go is a good practice that I need to work more on. There isn't anything we can hold onto, so it's a good idea not to try.

I don't particularly like the feeling of having no ground under my feet, but it's a feeling that comes and goes. I have almost learned to accept it completely, so that when it comes, I don't start to panic. There isn't anything wrong with being groundless, so there's no judgment involved. I can't describe it. It just is that way sometimes.

My ego would like to think that when I'm feeling groundless, I'm loosing my sense of ego, which isn't really true. My ego is still there.

When I was 15 I used to sometimes feel walking down the hallway at school in Orem, Utah, that I was walking through a tunnel. Some people might call it a feeling of being disassociated. It could have been related to all the marijuana I was smoking at the time, the acid and mushroom trips. All of that is long since gone from my system.

Anyway, I'd just like to report that life is good. In my last post I was feeling a little sorry for myself, but that's past. I have some good friends here, and I'm grateful. Sometimes I do like to pull out my violin, and think 'woe is me'. But when I do that it isn't an accurate depiction at all. Something I need to make clear. Negativity or depression is a habit that takes a long time to change, but it is possible, and I'm a testament to that. I'm still in the process of breaking that habit, which does go back more than half my life, so I think it's okay if it doesn't get turned around in one year.

Now here I am patting myself on the back for doing such a good job.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Happy Birthday!


Today is my birthday. I've been considering shutting this blog down lately, since I hardly ever write any posts, and a lot of it is negative.

It's true, though. I usually keep my birthday very quiet, informing random people, never wanting to draw attention to myself. Once, while still living in NY, I invited some friends to have drinks at a bar, and was surprised at how many people showed up.

Now that I live in the Netherlands, I approach my birthday with a growing sense of confusion every year. I never know what to do, if I should be happy, if I should plan anything, thinking, no one would come. Who would I invite, anyway.

Some people throw big bashes.

I still have a strong urge to leave the Netherlands, asap. My family is so warm and hospitable. They're so helpful and kind. And I'm so lonely here with the kids, taking them to school, and picking them up everyday, almost never having a conversation with anyone. What is the point. I'd rather be an outsider in my own culture, if I have to be an outsider, at all.

I realize there's a lot of virtue in being alone, and I should find some comfort and dignity in that.

Then, I'd really rather be successful at something, and I know I have it in me, but I came to the wrong place for that, and it still burns in me. I have to admit.

I could give up all of these things, the desire for acceptance, success, friendship, and set it out to sea in a flimsy, make shift raft.

It's quite possible that I'd be saying goodbye to the inner conflict that causes me, and people who bear the brunt of it, so much anguish.

What is the point in causing myself this misery.

If something's not there, some perceived wish or want, it simply isn't there, and then let it be, dear.

And of course, happy birthday.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Metta Sutta


The Buddha's Words on Kindness (Metta Sutta)

This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who knows the path of peace:
Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech.
Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied.
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and calm, and wise and skillful,
Not proud and demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove.
Wishing: In gladness and in saftey,
May all beings be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be;
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to-be-born,
May all beings be at ease!

Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings:
Radiating kindness over the entire world
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.
Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down
Free from drowsiness,
One should sustain this recollection.
This is said to be the sublime abiding.
By not holding to fixed views,
The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,
Being freed from all sense desires,
Is not born again into this world.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

How to Recover from a Psychosis without Medicine


The Story of Joris van Huijstee (42)
How to Recover from a Psychosis without Medicine
Translated from the NRC Handelsblad (http://www.nrc.nl)
14/15 February 2009

After a psychosis it’s as if you rise from the dead. You have to be re-born emotionally. Someone who’s never had a psychosis doesn’t understand what that means. There’s little empathy in society for psychiatric patients. If you break your legs, someone holds the door open for you, even ten years later, but for a psychiatric patient, the door is slammed shut. It’s an unbelievably hard existence. Even so, a psychosis isn’t the end of the world. You can even recover using your own strength.

At a certain point, when I had a psychosis, I took things into my own hands. I didn’t go in for treatment. I decided to address the problem itself: I stopped taking medicine, and took the long road toward independence. You take medicine for your surroundings; you look like you fit in, but that’s only on the outside.

The pharmaceuticals have a lot of influence in psychiatric healthcare. It’s slowly become this way over the past twenty years. Psychiatrists used to look at the symptoms of an illness, and then they’d give a diagnosis. These days, they mostly ask themselves: What can I prescribe? I think it’s important that people who experience the same things that I have realize that you can also recover naturally. I think that many patients yearn for a life without medication. The majority of the psychiatrists will say that you can’t recover, but I haven’t taken medication in 15 years, and I also haven’t been depressed in 15 years.

The psychosis manifested itself in 1990 during a period of heavy drug and alcohol use. For years I blackened my lungs with cigarettes and marijuana. I got drunk when I was 15 for the first time. I drank more than the others, and I always stayed longer at parties, instead of going home to study for my exams. When I was 24 it was as if my brain slowly opened a door to a past that I’d always kept closed. As a child I experienced trauma that I repressed for years that came back then like a boomerang.

I was thrown into the grow-up world early on. I lived in a foster home for five years, from the time I was six-years-old, because my parents had relationship problems. I was abused there by the teenage son of the family and his friend. For a long time it seemed like a taboo subject. I came to a still-stand emotionally when I was six. When I was 24 I started to re-experience the trauma. I had an identity crisis. There were times when I didn’t know my own name anymore.

A psychosis is a degenerative process. Your mind actually walks off, separates from the body. You think irrationally, fantasy and reality are no longer separable. My mind couldn’t bear the physical re-experiencing, and that manifested itself in angst. I was scared of everything all day long. I’d never experienced that before.

I was committed for a year to a psychiatric hospital. Everyone in such a hospital has a damaged child inside of himself. I didn’t want to acknowledge the memories of the fearful boy in the crevices of my memory. My treatment consisted of talk-therapy, working with clay, and painting. I also got anti-psychotics. The intention is that you gradually go off the medicine, but they usually have side effects that need to be counter-acted with more medicine, so that, after half a year, you’re swallowing five pills in the morning, and five at night.

I read that 10 percent of the people on these medicines are chemically “happy.” They lead a so-called happy life, but in reality the chemicals paralyze part of your nervous system. It’s not a cure. The side effects bring new suffering with them. Medicine makes you cynical, bitter, and paranoid. You can become depressed from them, and even become psychotic. On top of it all, the medicines always come with a warning that if you stop taking them, your symptoms will return even worse than before. Nine out of ten patients relapse sooner or later. They have a subscription to the institution, and are dependent on medicine.

You can ask yourself if medicine serves the patient or the pharmaceuticals. Their interests are at odds with each other. I’m not suggesting that everyone should stop taking his medicine, but that once you're in its clutches, it’s difficult to break free. If people know about your psychiatric background, and you have bags under your eyes, then they think it’s from the medicine, but with someone else they think, he just didn’t get enough sleep.

One of the reasons I stopped singing the institutional song is that, I think, I choose instinctively for hormone therapy. I asked the therapist for it because I had the feeling that I wouldn’t make it without some extra power. Life in an institution is no walk in the park. It’s a hell. In prison, at least the prisoners have the idea that they can escape. That gives them hope. Pharmaceuticals take the hope away that it’s possible to live without medicine. Some patients can’t cope with reality. It would be good if they added hormone therapy to the medicine to give the patients strength. They could derive some hope from it, and the feeling that there’s been a stay of execution.

During therapy I learned to talk about my fears. You get a handle on them so that you can register and analyze them, but re-living them comes later. But I wasn’t cured when I came out of the hospital. I got the idea that I had Aspergers-syndrome, a form of autism. There were many signals that pointed in that direction. The conclusion was that they couldn’t rule Aspergers out, but the therapists weren’t interested in the diagnosis since there wasn’t much they could do for me as an adult, they said. They only wanted to give me chemical medicines. I avoided this. I left and decided to pave my own way.

It was a road with thousands of incremental steps. I sometimes say, I didn’t cry a thousand tears at once, but cried one tear a thousand times. It was a question of perseverance. My theory is that mental illness stems from diseased organs. The mental health sector sees things the other way around. The brain controls the body. I think that, for example, if the lungs, liver or kidneys are diseased that the blood pressure changes, and that’s how psychosis occur.

If you can ensure that blackened lungs, and kidneys damaged by alcohol abuse, function normally, then it will have a positive effect on the diseased brain. That’s why I stopped smoking and drinking ten years ago. In order to cure the kidney damage, I drank four or five liters of liquids per day to keep my bladder functioning well. Everyday I walked five-ten kilometers. I have a tendency to shut off into myself, but I forced myself to look forward to tomorrow. In addition, I followed various alternative and homeopathic therapies.

If you don’t drink or smoke and you’re not dependent on medicine, then you’ll do what you need to do. You don’t stay in bed as easily. After a while I got a job as a telemarketer, and I was good at it. I even won tickets to the Champion League between Ajax and AC Milan in Venice because I was the top salesperson in our department. But at a certain point, I thought, if you choose for a life without medicine, and you’re critical of the influence of the pharmaceuticals on mental health, then you shouldn’t be sitting on the phone selling products. You should pick up a pencil ("pick up your gloves") and write down your story to help people with similar problems.

I’d already written detective novels. Time heals a psychosis. This time I wrote an autobiographical report. Of utmost importance was the message. I wanted to express a contrary opinion. In the chapter, “Mental Illness Stems from the Body,” I wrote about how I found my way toward recovery.

That’s cost me a lot of energy the past several years. I haven’t made it big in society, which is unfortunate. But, first things first. I live on government assistance, write books, give Dutch lessons to asylum seekers, and private Dutch lessons to foreigners. One day I’d like to generate my own income. If my book, now only available online, is downloaded a lot, perhaps I’ll find a publisher. I’m driven, and I would like to be successful in life. I’m not scared that the psychosis will come back. I know how to survive.

Joris van Huijstee’s books can be downloaded online for free (in Dutch) at http//:www.tijdgeneest.nl.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The International Film Festival Rotterdam


Yesterday afternoon at the International Film Festival Rotterdam I was reminded once again that I'd rather be at Sundance, which is a film festival in Utah that runs about the same time as Rotterdam. Can't be two places at once.

Last year I really enjoyed myself at the Rotterdam festival, seeing something like 25 films. It was pretty relaxed. I got my tickets on time, and didn't run into any problems.

This year I don't really have the drive to go there. There seem to be fewer films I really want to see. I wrote two different short articles for two English language publications here in the Netherlands in anticipation of a great time. But of course, you can never repeat anything. Life is in constant flux, so there's no going back to a better, happier time. Maybe my spirit will change, and I'll get excited about this year's festival.

It took me over an hour yesterday to get my tickets and collect my Tijgerpas, which gives you a discount on films. First I stood in the wrong line for twenty minutes before some nice old Dutch woman informed me that I needed to be in the other line. So then I went to that line and waited for another twenty minutes. Then I went back to the original line, and waited for another twenty minutes. The staff told me that I should've come earlier if I wanted to be on time for my film, and wouldn't refund my ticket.

By the time I got to the film I went there to see it was halfway finished.

"Everybody Dies but Me," is the title of the film by the 24-year-old Russian film maker, Valeria Gaïa Germanica.

Perhaps I missed all of the more humanistic, character building bits in the first 45 minutes. What I saw was an exercise in deflation.

My original motivation for going to the film was to reflect on my own early wild teenage years of drinking and getting into trouble. It made me realize that the rocky times I experienced as a teen were really quite sweet and quaint in comparison to what many girls are experiencing today.

The first word that pops into my head is "crass." The characters are harsh, hardened and mean at a very young age. The only tenderness or glimpse of vulnerability the film maker lets us see of the main protagonist is at the very end when she breaks down in sobs. Even here she draws away quickly, and the film ends.

I got the impression that the film maker was reflecting her own experience, and that it was probably too painful and confrontational for her to show the pain of her characters. That's one of the the problems with using your own unpolished material as the stuff of narrative. You can't face the pain yourself, and so you block it out, and that comes out in your work. There's always something missing that you intentionally leave out as a self-protective mechansim.

Perhaps it's the youth and inexperience of the film maker that prevents her from portraying any nuance in her characters. She strips them down to their base motivations. One of the actresses has a cute kind of vulnerability to her. She seems to be portraying herself in this case, and not to be playing a role. The other two girls are thin, young, and precocious in their short, tight pleated minis.

I did enjoy seeing shots of Russian youth walking down the hallways of their school in jeans. That was about all I enjoyed in this film. The young extras walking or racing past in their new clothes. It gave me a glimpse of what kids are like in Russia, just regular kids going to school.

When I walked into the film one of the girls (the one who cries at the end) is undergoing disciplinary measures by her parents, who are pushed to the brink of their neurosis by their only child. I'm pretty sure the father says something like, "Your not hanging out with those sluts anymore.... I'm not even going to hit you....," whereupon the girl starts banging the floor, "Daddy, don't hit me! Please!" she shouts.

In an attempt to save their daughter from becoming a single mother and a high school dropout with no future, her father starts escorting her to and from school. This is a source of mortification for the young woman, who's concerned that her image is being tarnished.

She isn't too far off the mark, since it is for this very reason that her two best friends dump her, and make plans to go to a disco on their own. The two girls are concerned with impressing a group of cool older girls, and don't want to be hampered in the process by their uncool friend. "They'll smash our faces in if we're seen with HER!" is their rational for dumping their girlfriend.

Under lock and key, the outcast girl is determined not to miss the festivities, and schemes to escape her father's watchful eye. To this end, she decides to use and abuse the kindness of a "nerdy fat girl."

The two are depicted in an empty high school lunchroom. "Why weren't we friends before?" asks the nerd, while finishing off her meal of gooey mashed potatoes and gravy and fried liverworst. "I've never eaten here," exclaims the other.

On the afternoon of the disco, she has the nerdy girl divert her father by ringing their doorbell. As the nerd is explaining that the errant young woman had forgotten her textbook, the girl, determined to leave the house, jumps out of the window of their ground floor apartment in her pajamas. Frantically, she changes into some tight, ripped jeans, and a T-shirt in between two large green garbage dumpsters, and runs off to the party.

There's a scene of the nerdy girl waiting for her at a street corner. Of course, she doesn't show.

Meanwhile, the two other girls are drinking and smoking, all dressed up and on their way to the disco in their silver car with a red interior. When they get there, they meet the cool older girls in a dingy school bathroom. The older girls encourage one of them to chug glasses of wine while taking drags from a joint. Predictably, one of them winds up passing out on the floor while the older girls jeer at her and take photos with their mobile phones. While her friend is in the process of getting hammered, the third girl goes off to find her stud.

She spots him in the hallway of the school disco going off with her jilted friend. We already know he's a rake, since we see him the hallway of their school biting the hair of a girl, while the third girl looks on longingly. He ignores her, but she is undeterred, he's so dreamy.

The conversation goes, "Would you like to go outside.... Would you like to smoke.... What is it like being alone.... Well, you know, it sucks.... Let's go to our place.... What if I don't like it?.... You can leave."

Our place turns out to be the dank basement of an abandoned warehouse. The young stud has a special place there where young girls let him see "their naked pussies." The rejected girl goes along with him. He undresses himself hastily, then pulls of her pants. Before she knows it, she's not a virgin anymore. "How was it?" "It was never like that before," she struggles to hold back her tears, but she's a real tough girl only looking for a little acceptance from the rake, and that's that.

Her parents intercept her at the disco, but she runs off anyway, only to get the shit beaten out of her by the rake's girlfriend. "Did you fuck that whore?" the girlfriend asks the prized youth. A group of teens standby, including the rake, jeering while the girlfriend repeatedly kicks the recently deflowered girl in the stomach. They take photos with their mobile phones, and shrug their shoulders and walk away when it's all over, "Come on. The fight's over."

The nerdy girl finds her fake friend beaten to a pulp on the ground, and tries to help, uttering kind words, and helping her up. It's a wonder she can walk after being so badly beaten, but she stands up anyway and she can walk. While the nerdy girl makes attempts at soothing her, she tells her to sod off and calls her a fat cow. This is the final scene for the nerdy girl in her tight green crochet dress.

There's a scene of third girl making friends, getting high, and then making out with a new guy. They're laughing and having a good 'ol time. In fact, with her curly blond hair, slightly paunched belly, little nose, sparkly eyes, and girlish laugh, she appears to be the one redeeming character in the original trio of friends. She might just have a future. In her last scene we see her making out rather innocently on a bench in a park.

There's another, earlier scene of the wasted girl being discovered by her friend, "Come on. I saw her with him. Let's go get her!" She throws up, and passes out, gets discovered by security guards, and is ultimately carried off by her father.

The jilted girl is shown at the dinner table, snorting and scarfing up her potato salad. Her parents "Daddy will take you to the shops tomorrow, and buy you something new.... Why don't you wash up those wounds with vodka, you could get an infection.... We still love you." The daughter: "I don't care about an infection.... I hate you...." She runs off. The mother, "I think we should board up her window tonight. Do we have any wood?" Then, a scene of her crouched down, crying on her bedroom floor closes the film.

Girls are in big trouble in the Russia, and I'm sorry for them.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Cascando


Cascando
by Samuel Beckett

1.

why not merely the despaired of
occasion of
wordshed

is it not better abort than be barren

the hours after you are gone are so leaden
they will always start dragging too soon
the grapples clawing blindly the bed of want
bringing up the bones the old loves
sockets filled once with eyes like yours
all always is it better too soon than never
the black want splashing their faces
saying again nine days never floated the loved
nor nine months
nor nine lives

2.

saying again
if you do not teach me I shall not learn
saying again there is a last
even of last times
last times of begging
last times of loving
of knowing not knowing pretending
a last even of last times of saying
if you do not love me I shall not be loved
if I do not love you I shall not love

the churn of stale words in the heart again
love love love thud of the old plunger
pestling the unalterable
whey of words

terrified again
of not loving
of loving and not you
of being loved and not by you
of knowing not knowing pretending
pretending

I and all the others that will love you
if they love you

3.


unless they love you

Monday, January 12, 2009

Me


There is a general sense of discomfort when you refer to yourself as "me," which is a very subtle discomfort. We usually don't acknowledge or notice it, because it is so subtle, and since it is there all the time, we become immune to it. There is a certain basic ambivalence there. It is like dogs, who at a certain point begin to relate to their leaches as providing security rather than imprisonment. Animals in the zoo feel the same thing. At the beginning they experienced imprisonment, but at some point this became a sense of security. We have the same kind of attitude. We have imprisoned ourselves in a certain way, but at the same time we feel that this imprisonment is the most secure thing we have. This me-ness or my-ness has a painful quality of imprisonment, but at the same time it also represents security rather than just pure pain. That is the situation we are in at this point. Every one of us is in that situation.

The Path is the Goal
The Collected Works of Chögyam Trungpa