Sunday, December 23, 2007

That was scary ...

I was in the shower not 20 minutes ago when I experienced the weirdest sensation.

I was a little unsure of my footing, and then I felt what I can describe only as an electric pulse passing through my body. My legs lately have been excruciatingly painful below the knees. In the shower, this pulsing affected the same part of my right leg, but there was no pain. It just tingled. My leg felt as if it weighed nothing. It felt as if a current were passing through it, and also through my body, from my head to my feet. I felt manic, as if I were being invigorated by a surge of energy.

I could feel my pulse accelerating wildly (in fear), and I worried whether I would be able to breathe. I wanted to jump out of the shower and call one of my sisters because I felt sure this was the end. I started to panic, but there wasn't any pain.

I probably was just feeling a bit woozy after having slept a good part of the day. And if not that, then there's some other physiological (or psychological) explanation. I don't go in much for mystic bullshit, even though I sometimes would like to.

But it was an odd sensation -- noteworthy enough to write about.

Update at 5:30:

I had another, much more powerful sensation about a half-hour after the first. A friend of mine is sure they were panic attacks, and I'm inclined to agree. It has been so long since I had one, though, that I forgot what they were like.
It seems that I'm so preoccupied now with waiting for the end to arrive (I know I'm being a fool) that I'm misinterpreting things and giving them meaning they don't have.
Going back to counting the breaths is what I need to do.


wenders said...

Dear Michael,
Panic attack? Are you sure?? Sounds like you are being blessed with big doses of healing energy, especially if there is no pain. If I may say so, there is nothing "mystical" about that. If you get a chance to turn around, there is no need to be scared. Just turn around and let go of the waiting. You might find there is nothing to wait for.
Gassho and love,
wenders, the fraudella

Michael said...

Hi Wenders,

Yes, I'm reasonably sure it was a panic attack. What difference does it make, anyway? If it produces fear, what it is called doesn't mean a damned thing. It's the fear I want to accept.

wenders said...

It is my understanding, at least, that the Three Treasures are more powerful than we can usually imagine, and regularly inspire awe. And, yes, they are resilient enough to withstand any name you might apply. As the sutra says, "This is the truth, not a lie."
In gassho and with love,

Dogo said...

Sorry it's been such a tough day. Thinking of you...

Lisa said...

Acceptance is truly the hardest thing to attain but an answer for anything.
i love you

Michael said...

Hi Wenders,

One of us is missing the entire goddamned point -- and I'm not ruling out that it might be me.

I don't see panic attacks as manifestations of the Three Jewels. Maybe I'm fucking blind. Or just misinterpreting your words.

A panic attack is a reaction to fear. That's what I was experiencing. I was scared shitless. I don't want some mystical New Age crap being used to describe what I believe I felt. I want to demystify, inasmuch as I can, those perfectly normal, natural feelings and phenomena that we humans try to build up into some sort of signs or messages from the gods.

Sorry if this sounds harsh. But this is the way I believe I have to go now, and I don't want to be dissuaded and distracted unless there's a damned good reason to be. We physicians should heal ourselves.

Lisa, Dogo,

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Hi Michael, I have a heart condition and the problem I have is that when I have symptoms, It causes fear which increases my heart rate which aggravates my symptoms. What happens is that I imagine the next few moments rather than just living in them. Maybe something similar is happening with you.

gniz said...

Hey Michael,

Just want to say that I can't really even imagine what you're going through, so i wont know til i go through it myself.
But I am rooting for you, rooting for you to find that sense of acceptance and calm that you seem to be working towards.

Take care and stay aware (or not as your choice may be)!


Michael said...

Yes, yes, I think you nailed it on the head.

I suffered from acute panic attacks throughout adolescence. They were so terrifying that I buried them in the deepest recesses of my mind and have tried to forget that aspect of my life.

It was difficult for me to to recognize today that what I was experiencing was that old terrifying feeling. It hadn't been forgotten at all, in reality.

I want to try to embrace that fear now.

Mike Cross said...

Every morning during sitting-zen, I consciously practise expiring. I never need to count the breaths. As far as I am concerned, counting the breaths is for wankers. You count the breaths, Michael, only because you are more interested in the goal your little mind is set on (“embracing the fear” or some such nonsense), rather than the process. What kind of wayfarer are you, “o-henro-san”? Wanker! Fraud!

Listen, it takes one to know one.

The way I practise expiring is this: The idea to expire fully arises. The idea arises because Master Dogen’s instructions, which I am accustomed to follow, include the phrase KANKI ISSOKU, or “expire fully once.” But I know from experience that my habitual reaction to this idea is a reaction from which I wish to be liberated. It is, in essence, a fear reaction, whereby, as I try to breathe out forcefully the head and neck stiffen, everything twists downward, and the limbs pull in to the body. So the challenge then is to give up the idea which puts me wrong, to totally get rid of the idea of expiring, and yet to expire.

That’s it. That is all there is to it.

I call myself a fraud because, from time to time, I am able to see that I never truly give up my end-gaining idea -- not completely. I preach non-endgaining, non-doing, but I don’t truly practice what I preach.

But even though I am like this, a fraud through and through who clings to his own end-gaining ideas while encouraging others to let go of theirs, even I am not such a wanker as to go down the false and tainted route of counting the breaths.

The challenge as I see it, Michael, for you and me equally, is to completely give up all idea of expiring, and thereby truly to expire.

That’s it. For a true follower of Master Dogen, there is no vital art of practice other than this. Certainly not counting breaths.

I would really like to write for you, in your hour of need, the authentic truth. And it is just that desire to be authentic that turns me into a fraud. Fuck!

Marie Rex said...

I think the most important thing I have learned from my study is to live now, in this moment. Not spend this moment dreading or worrying about future ones.

Embrace your fear like you would a small child. Hold it close and comfort it, see it for what it is and then let go. This sounds so easy, it is and it isn't. For me seeing my feelings and accepting them is a good way to quiet them.

Mike Cross said...

Soto Zen practitioners and the like turn the present into an idea and try to gain it. Master Dogen's teaching, as I understand it is opposite: not to end-gain to be present, but just to be present to end-gaining.

Hence: "When an idea arises, just wake up. Just in the waking up to it, it vanishes."

For example, Michael, you had some idea about painkillers, some prejudice against taking painkillers, some agenda about retaining your mental faculties to the end, and that idea was going to cause you to suffer. But you woke up to that idea and saw it as it was, only an idea, without any reality. That waking up wasn't chaff; that was wheat. The substance of sitting-zen practice is like that.

Counting breaths is chaff. Soto Zen is chaff. Twopenny-halfpenny advice from random well-wishers is chaff. But insofar is it doesn't threaten your own agenda, you seem to welcome all such chaff uncritically.

When Wenders encourages you really to take refuge in the Three Treasures, which is wheat not chaff, which is real not empty, you react against it.

You look forward rather to receiving the "Buddhist" precepts, joining a "Zen Buddhist" community, and thus "moving closer."

The one who is missing the entire goddamed point might indeed be you, Michael.

Wenders' advice to turn around is not New Age crap. It is traditional teaching. Maybe you react against it because you have a strong idea not to turn back, but just to keep going forward, one front in the other, in order to move closer to some imagined destination.

What does it mean to take refuge in the Three Treasures? For example, it might mean to get your sorry arse onto a sitting cushion and stop suffering off at source, by giving up your own crumby agenda.

Time to sort the wheat from the chaff?