One thing on that list was the suggestion to write this post, as part of a larger project about Zen for Bipolars. I'm neither low nor high today, just in that nice balanced space between waves, so I'll take advantage of that and begin.
Starting up on a manic moodswing is similar to being pleasantly excited for a normie (I don't like that word, we're not abnormal, but what else can I call people-who-don't-have-moodswings? Maybe "ordinary people"?) But it includes the allure of a mental shapness and confidence. And it will not naturally subside. That's my experience, and I was just ordinary until I was 33, so I know the difference. This difference highlights the crucial fact that bipolar is a neurochemical dis-order. That's why chemicals are often useful in the treatment.
Science is telling us these days about brain plasticity, that is, how we can change our brains even into old age. There's a lot of further research on the specific effects of meditation on the brain. My own experience is that nothing will calm you down better when you're too excited than meditation, which has been briefly described like this:
Sit down.Teachers of young children call this a time-out. It works. Even little ones can follow those directions for a few minutes. For kids with temper or panic attacks, a one-minute meditation of three deep breaths, exhaling all the way, can work magic.
But the little ones have an advantage over us; someone is making them do it. (Most elementary school is a formidable training in doing what an authority tells you to do.) As a grown-up, you have to exert this control over yourself, unless a manic episode gets so bad that you are hospitalized. Then you will be medicated. If you are really bothering people, you will sometimes be shut in a 'quiet room" for a time. Interestingly, a quiet room is rather like a Zen meditation hall: empty, clean, quiet. No screens, no one to talk to, no stimulation, nothing but a mattress on the floor. But we can actually arrange our own quiet times.
To the left is a photo I took at Grailville in 2010, a month before my scheduled transplant, when I was very sick and very frightened. It was a good retreat for me, given that. Perhaps you can see how calming it was.
I like the subtle colors and shadows in the photo, which is of the hedge that separates Grailville from a meadow; if you look, you might be able to make out the wire fence in the late-morning shadows. I took photos that year for the first time; it became a contemplative activity for me, and neither the teacher nor anyone else chastised me. Ama Samy's retreats are relaxed and kind in the way I understand retreats are at Springwater Center, founded by Toni Packer.
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