A few thoughts on having Mental Health

My life has been something of a struggle the past couple of months. Online friends may have noticed a silently decreased presence. I’ve been struggling with my health. The problems have been mainly emotional, however, there have been physical issues as well. I won’t go too deep into the reeds with this one; suffice it to say, I’ve been suffering deeply.

It started with a few nights in a row getting poor sleep. If it wasn’t one thing it was another: I was too hot, I ate too much, I mismanaged my intake of substances, something upset me before bed, something excited me before bed, I was too cold, ect. I have posted about this issue in the past.

At any rate, a few nights in a row of disturbed sleep was all it really took. Eventually I reached a point where my circadian rhythm was completely disrupted and my life spun out of control. At that point it didn’t even take a sleep-disruption anymore to result in a poor night’s sleep. I was going weeks on end with maybe 2-4 hours of sleep a night. Completely insufficient for maintaining health, and my body and mind were deteriorating.

I wish I could say I’ve made a complete recovery, but unfortunately I’m not there yet. In order to kick-start my circadian rhythm I needed to resort to daily sleeping pill use. At first, that didn’t cut it, and I had to add antidepressant use as well. I’m currently taking an antidepressant called mirtazipine, which in addition to being an antidepressant, also causes sedation (which helps falling asleep). Right now I’m off the sleeping pills but I am still taking the antidepressants and melatonin supplement nightly.

I don’t like being on antidepressants, but they are helping. The thing is, I don’t feel clinically depressed right now. I actually went through a short period of hypomania on them that I needed to suppress. I suffered from clinical depression previously, in my teenage; I guess you could say I’m in remission. I’m reluctant to stop using the antidepressants, because I was suffering deeply from lack of sleep. But now, everything feels kind of fake. The medication has given my waking life a vaguely-unpleasant dream-like quality, whilst also being… not happy, but anti-depressed. It sucks, it feels unwholesome.

Worst is, the antidepressants blunt my feelings of metta, or loving-kindness. I’m still able to practice, but the feeling is distinctly less pronounced. It requires more effort to produce a feeling with half the intensity. Which, in of it self, makes me feel… not depressed, but wistful.

At least its way better than the anti-psychotics I tried for off-label use as a sleep aid. Those made me feel like I was drowning in a stupor of mental dullness. And they also didn’t work to get me to sleep. One night was all I needed to know that I never want to take that mind-poison ever again.

At any rate, my aunt, who is a psychiatrist, encouraged me to take the somewhat-helpful antidepressants and the thoroughly unhelpful anti-psychotics. She termed what she observed me having as a kind of “lucid depression” wherein I had the physical symptoms of depression without the affective (emotional) symptoms. This seems to be a word she made up on the spot, because a web search returned nothing. If this is the case, I chalk up the maintenance of my lucidity within the depths of chronic suffering to my dharma/meditation practice. So even though I’m not doing great, this experience has been confidence boosting for me. Dharma practice really has fortified me with indispensable mental tools.

I really hope to re-invigorate my practice after this episode of poor health has blown over.

Meditation on Death

18-Jun-2016

Instructions: Read the italics text silently to yourself and do as instructed. Read the bold text out loud. Remain mindful of your emotional state throughout the reading. Carry forward the principles of previous instructions into subsequent lines, unless directly instructed otherwise. If a specific line becomes overwhelming, return to the previous line until the feeling-tone becomes neutral, and try it again. If the practice as a whole becomes overwhelming, switch to a samatha practice (calming meditation), and try again at a later time. Be persistent.

Enter a place of solitude and guard your thoughts. Examine how you feel mentally, emotionally, and physically. Next, consider the death of beings, with mind undistracted, thus: “I shall die; I shall enter the realm of death; I shall not escape death.” Remain mindful of the feeling-tone in your mind and body as you contemplate this phrase over and over, and do so until the felling-tone becomes neutral.

Consider in inevitability of death by repeating “My death is inevitable. There is no skill or cause that can make my life immortal. Just as when the sun and the moon rise, no skill or cause can make them turn back, so to can no skill or cause stop my own death.”

Next consider the timeliness of your death, by repeating the following phrases until the feeling-tone becomes neutral:

  • I may die in old age
  • I may die in a decade
  • I may die in a year
  • I may die in a month
  • I may die in a week
  • I may die within the day
  • I may die within the hour
  • I may die in the next breath
  • There is no sign of death. There is no fixed time when death will occur. The time of my death is impossible to predict.

Contemplate the manner of your death suchly:

  • I may die from infectious or parasitic diseases
  • I may die from wearing out of the body
  • I may die from lack of food or drink
  • I may die from fire or drowning
  • I may die from heat or cold
  • I may die from being attacked by an animal
  • I may be murdered, or die in violence, or war
  • I may die from an accident
  • I may die from dementia
  • I may die spontaneously, from no assignable cause

Consider the non-discriminating universality of death:

  • Kings who possessed great treasures, and beings who were of great social power, and all other kings, entered the state of death
  • The many sages of old, who possessed great supernormal power, and who caused fire and water to issue forth from their bodies, also entered the state of death.
  • The great hearers of old, the Venerable Elders, who were possessed of immense wisdom and power, also entered the state of death.
  • The many Buddhas and arahants who attained enlightenment, and who were endowed with all virtue, also entered the state of death
  • The Consummate, Supremely Enlightened, Matchless One, who manifested boundless compassion, purity, and wisdom, also entered the state of death.
  • All beings who were before my time died, all beings who are alive now will die, and all those who are born in the future, will also enter the state of death.
  • All those who I am close to, all those who I am far from, and all those who I don’t know, will also enter the state of death.
  • All animals, all plants, all fungi, all microorganisms, all that which lives will enter the state of death. Death is the final condition for all beings.

Next, be mindful of death in the impermanence of the moment, in the same manner: “In the past conscious moment, one did not live, one is not living, one will not live. In the future conscious moment, one did not live, one is not living, one will not live. In the present conscious moment, one did not live, one will not live, only one is living”

Take some time to examine how you feel mentally, emotionally, and physically. Finally, contemplate the benefits of this practice, once: “The practitioner who practises mindfulness of death is possessed of diligence as regards the higher meritorious states, and of dislike as regards the demeritorious. The practitioner who practises mindfulness of death is not greedy or stingy, does not cling to things, and is endowed with the perception of impermanence and the perception of not-self. The practitioner who practises mindfulness of death fares well and approaches the ambrosial. When this practitioner comes to die, there is no bewilderment. The practitioner, through steadfast mindfulness of death, develops the perception of disagreeableness. But owing to facility in the perception of disagreeableness with facility in steadfast mindfulness, the mind grows to be undisturbed. When the mind is undisturbed, the practitioner is able to destroy the hindrances and cause the arising of the meditation factors”

On paws, claws, and sincerity

I am a furry! I have been one for my entire adult life, and I was one for a sizable chunk of my childhood. I have been a furry longer than I have been not a furry.

It all started around 13, when I got my first private computer. Keep in mind this was circa 2000, back when the internet was a very different place. I was kind of a socially awkward child, and although I had a fair share of friends, I lived very far from them in a suburban neighborhood that had really nothing going for it. I also struggled with reaching out and initiating contact. Consequently I used to spend a fair amount of time surfing the web. Again, I always struggled with approaching people and I guess it was easier online.

Me after surviving Y2K

One of my favorite things online was webcomics, and it wasn’t long until I discovered animal-people themed comics. Something about these deeply resonated with me! I supposed I always enjoyed funny-animal cartoons such as Bugs Bunny and this felt like an extension of that interest.

One web comic artist who tended to draw a lot of animal-people comics I really enjoyed was Dave Kelly (who ended up being a very tragic figure decades later, but I digress). A lot of his comics were very raunchy and salacious, especially Smut, which could only be described as semi-pornographic. Definitely things a young teenager shouldn’t be exposing themself to. The comic had an oekaki board attached to it, which is a kind of chan-like forum that allows people to draw directly in their web browser and post their art. Being attached to a semi-pornographic comic that heavily featured animal people, of course this oekaki had very heavy involvement from furries. Both Wacoon and Nanimoose posted there (not to be a name dropper of late-x early-millennial era popufurs). And from there I eventually was linked to VCL, Furaffinity, and other repositories. Not to mention Second Life, which is its own can of worms I’ll probably end up doing a post about later.

And yes, my early involvement with furry did grow out of a sexual tantalization. Pre-18s definitely do have sexual feelings, deal with it. But it was, and continues to be, far far more than that. Currently, the sexual aspect of furry actually remains a very small part of what it currently means to me. As Patricia Taxxon covered in her recent vlog (which inspired this post), there is a certain disarming earnestness about furry creatures. I think this especially is true for socially-awkward types such as myself, who yearn to be earnest but struggle with it in practice.

Furry allows you to distance from the self without estranging from it. The fursona is a filter that allows you to approach uncomfortable and unfamiliar aspects of psyche – things that are too overwhelming to be seen head-on – from an oblique angle. It allows you to craft and play a role; something that can serve a mediating function, rather than directly interfacing with confusing aspects of the self and social life. The fursona, and interaction of fursonae, serves as a layer of abstraction that imposes form, structure, and most importantly, safe distance. In this distance one is free to experiment, and hence, explore ways of being that may be more authentic, if not real. The connection to the self is more genuine, because you are creating a the self that you want, and approaching the areas of existence in a manner that is safe for you.

So, yeah, I guess you can say that furry is a neurosis. Whoops!

Hello I would like you to meet the neurotic emanation of my identity.

As I have matured I have gone through several mainline fursonas that all served me in different ways:

  • Sanny the golden retriever – Basic (cringe) “me, except fuzzy femboy UwU” fursona
  • Vlad the bat – Super sarcastic & ironic (cringe) “me, except The Worst” fursona
  • Student the squirrel – Bizarre “me, except an old professor” fursona. I was in grad school at the time (cringe).

I’ve also had some feminine alts to explore that aspect of myself as well:

  • Jocasta Panda – Hedonistic and bacchus-like figure.
  • Ruey Shark – Just a funny, dumb, jokey, playful girl! She’s great!

My current guy is Petrichor Squirrel, and he is quite different than my previous furry emanations. Instead of representing who I am or some mindset I would like to explore, he represents what I deliberately strive to be in a moral sense. He is an aspirational figure of self. He is the confluence of furry and the other great influence on my life, dharma, into a single being. He represents what I believe to be the fruits of existential development – a being of depth, wisdom, and kindness. In ways that, I myself, occasionally reach; except Petrichor is like that consistently. Through discipline and mental fortitude he has exhausted all greed, hatred, and ignorance from his being and operates in a default state of empathy, sincerity, and acceptance. All the time. The ultimate Mary-Sue!

I doubt I’ll ever be as attractive as a being as Petrichor. But he is less of an end goal and more of a pointer towards a unconventional and idiosyncratic morality that I’ve adopted for myself as the small-t truth. Yes, he is a neurosis – but he is a neurosis in the service of transcendence!

In a famous teaching that I’m probably misremembering the Buddha asked “if you needed to cross a river in order to then climb a mountain, would you not build a raft? After crossing the river, would you then strap the raft to your back in order to climb the mountain?” Of course, the Buddha was cautioning against clinging to the word of the dharma after it has served its purpose, however I do see this parable as holding meaning for who Petrichor is in relation to me. In many ways (which I have glossed over, or have not covered here) I have been damaged, and I use furry as a cope in order to deal with that damage. Furry has become an inextricable part of who and what I am, as an identity and sense of self. I view him as a leveraging of that depth toward a direction of growth and maturity.

Om petri petri maha petri maitri petri om petri svaha!

Practicing stealth dharma

Sitting on a park bench, deliberately fostering consummate feelings of goodwill and compassion for the man sitting across from me. Putting all my effort into this. My eyes moisten and my breath quivers. The emotions are almost overwhelming. I do not know his name. He does not know that, for a brief moment, I dedicated my whole existence to his happiness.

How to find eternal happiness

Originally written in January 2021

Focusing on your own happiness, trying to gain, maintain, and protect your own happiness; This will work for a while, and the basic needs must be maintained in order for the body to flourish. But impermanence will eventually sweep away any gains you make. Your tastes will change or circumstances will change. This will not work in the long run.

Only by contact with a deeper nature that transcends impermanence can people feel eternal happiness. What is the only feeling that we cannot get enough of? What is the only cup that cannot run over? The answer is: love. This is the only psychological state that people do not grow tired of. We can always feel more love. It is the deeper transcendent nature of people to love.

Therefore, if you wish to find a happiness that does not go away you must practice love deliberately. To feel happiness all the time you must learn to generate love consistently. This includes love with yourself, with those you are close to, with those you do not yet know, and with those who you find difficult. To reliably access the only deeper happiness that does not fade, you must not let your love fade.

The only way to keep a constant supply of love, and consequently, happiness, is to orient your attention to love. That which you love, and that the qualities of things that elicits that state. Salvation from misery is an attention that is always focused on love.

This is not an easy thing to accomplish.

Billions of years of conditioning have primed people to always be on the look out for trouble. Our attention is scattered, and that which brings us suffering easily grabs it. Most of us have had emotionally stunted upbringings and we live in harsh times of destruction; this condition has made us neurotic and has confused our ability to recognize the things we love. But you would have to be pretty far gone to not know of a single thing that makes you feel love. Start where you are comfortable.

Practice feeling love on things that elicit those feelings in you automatically. For every being this will be something different – for some it will be the imagery of a particular situation, for others an aesthetic experience, and for others a word or concept. But we all have at least one thing we can imagine that gets those feelings going. See how long you can hold onto love after stopping contemplating the thing that elicits it. Spend time getting in touch with the physical and psychological states that come with love. See if you can stoke the feelings of love by mimicking those physical and psychological states in your being. This is subtle work, but it can be done.

Once you can reliably stoke those feelings of love, think about yourself while continuing to elicit the physical and psychological states that come with love. For some this will be easy, for others who have been taught by life not to love themselves this will be incredibly painful and difficult. However to be able to be in contact with happiness reliability you must be able to orient your attention towards the conditions that cause love reliably, and you are not more constantly in contact with anyone else but yourself. It is very hard to feel genuine connection with anything else when the experience of everything is mediated by something the Self does not like. You must start with you.

Then orient the attention to those you are close with. This will probably be easy. It does not take much effort to feel love with those who are responsible for our wellbeing. Ride this wave of easy love. Abide in the space it creates and absorb its rejuvenating qualities. You have earned this.

Then orient the attention to those who you do not yet know. The people who you’re aware of but do not have an opinion on one way or the other. This might feel boring or difficult, but if you are able to focus on the physical and psychological precursors of love, as you had practiced, you should be able to get it going while focusing on those you do not yet know. By doing this repeatedly something magnificent happens; those you do not yet know become automatically associated with the states that create love through repeated conditioning. Consequently, recollecting people you do not yet know becomes the grounds for, ultimately, experiencing happiness.

Now the only thing left to do is to replace love’s opposite, hatred. You cannot feel love while feeling hatred; this is impossible. So in order to reliably experience the love that creates happiness, you must condition yourself to never experience feelings of hatred. This is not easy, because we have already learned how to hate and this has become a mental habit. But using the principles described previously, we can also grow love for things that would usually cause us to experience hate. By doing this we deliberately replace hate with love, and thus sorrow with happiness.

So next, orient your attention to those you find difficult. These are the people you do not like and who do not like you. But while doing this deliberately generate feelings of love using the same technique. Deliberately mimic the physical and psychological precursors of love, allowing those feelings to grow, while thinking about the people that elicit its opposite. This is very difficult, but it can be done. Start easy; with someone you only mildly dislike. You have plenty of time to practice this skill until you are proficient enough to use it on those who elicit full-blown hatred.

The more you do this, the easier it gets. You will find if you do this enough, it starts happening automatically. You will start to notice that the list of people you find difficult shrinks, and eventually it becomes hard to think of anyone you feel enmity towards.

But keep going. Practice the same skills on places, on objects, on groups, on situations. Keep on orienting your attention to love while exposing your mind to things, and the more things will be associated with love. The more things that are associated with love, the more frequently you will encounter things that make you feel love automatically. Consequently you will experience happiness more consistently.

When you can experience love while considering all things, you will find eternal happiness.