Monday, September 21, 2015

Zen and the Art of Squirrel - Calming the Brain

My brain does not shut itself up all that often.  It likes to ramble on and on often with little in the way of a goal or a conclusion.  Occasionally it makes up its mind, usually when it is riding the crest of the manic wave (as it is right now), but I know that I have to plan ahead when this is happening.

The manic wave can only last for so long.  This is actually a god thing for if it lasted longer my heart would likely explode from the exertion.  But while it is around I am going to make the most of it.  But I also have to be conscious of what I am doing, and make sure not to let it go to far.

Under normal circumstances I would already by diving into a book to make sure that I can slow down.  Right now I have something that I really want to accomplish so I am going to let it roll for a little  bit before I settle it back down.  For a while a few years ago I managed, with prescription assistance, to stay on the high side for an extended period of time.  I accomplished a hell of a lot of work.  I was working my one job, painting extensively, writing multiple blog posts a day, published a magazine, promoting for a night club in Chicago, editing videos together, and sleeping about 2 hours a night.

Lets just say that it was not a healthy time, even if it was incredibly productive.

Damn near ruined everything that I had in my life.

The crash, when it finally came, was horrific, thankfully it was tempered by mountains and good friends, but it took about six months to get everything back to a normal level.

Let us say that as an example on a scale of one to ten I average out at about a five.  On a bad day I am running about a three, a good day would be a seven.  Right now I have all the amps at eleven, but I am going to be bumping this back once I get this, and maybe one more chapter written.  During one of my old manic episodes before I started figuring out how to control and when to go hide I would be running about fifteen.  I actually once had someone stop me and ask how much cocaine I had been doing.  The answer was none, it was a natural rip-roar. 

During the medically induced episode I was averaging about fourteen.  I do not think that in the mood I am in right now, which is very up, I would ever be able to accomplish anywhere near what I was pulling off EVERY DAMN NIGHT back then.

So yeah, I got a lot done, what is wrong with that?

Well, I alienated damn near everyone, lost my house, attempted to start over in a new city because it seemed like an awesome idea RIGHT THEN.  Blew through a few thousand dollars and ended up with nothing.

Alas, the bad side of mania, it kills you quick when you have to come back from it.

But what is there that anyone can do about this?  I have found that I can sense, now that I am paying attention, when I am entering a manic episode.  As long as it isn't corresponding with another event of which I have no control, I will try my best to immediately and actively slow everything down.

I have found many ways that work to slow down, some of them are actually very productive in their own right.  One of these things is writing.  This is part of the reason I am not fighting super hard against the Dr. Jeckel as we speak.

I also read, this involves mass quantities of sunflower seeds, but those are good for you anyway, and I will explain the sunflower seeds fully later.

On a side note; I have to start taking notes of all the things I say I am going to mention fully later.

I will ride a bike, exercise, work in the yard, split wood, tire myself out.  I do occasionally play minecraft to relax.  Occasionally I will start doing some crazy science things, which is also going to be mentioned later when I discuss that not everyone wants to see your spreadsheets.

Meditation helps.  Yoga helps, you don’t even have to be good at it.  Having a cat helps. 

The best things in this world when it comes to dealing with getting past the manic phase though is to talk through it.

You need to have someone who will understand that you are going to ramble a little bit.  Ok maybe you are going to ramble a lot.  There may be portions of what you say that are almost incomprehensible to people who don’t have compatible educations.

When I play pool sometimes I realize that I need to slow down if I want to win.  I need to calm my mind so that I can think about how the shot is going to work.  I chant to myself nam-myoho-renge-kyo it try to chant seven times for every breath and let my body relax.  I try to get everything down to a pattern of breaths and silent chants in my head.  I think about how the chants interact with what my body is doing.

Am I a good Buddhist as a result of this?  No, but I use the chant as a way of keeping my brain from over concentrating on one thing, as many people who process information far faster than the average duck will know, actually trying to use the brain on two things at once allows it to stay on one thing better.

Find something that you enjoy, but takes a lot of time of concentration to master.  I discovered yoga, and I really should spend more time doing it, unfortunately I also discovered thirty-seven other things that I enjoy, some of which are actually very productive in their own rights.  Others are not as productive and could very well show up in the list of things to beware of.

Music can also be divine.  I used to listen to a lot of angry metal and crazy European this, that, or the other thing.  I actually developed quite a liking for it.  Now I have a tendency to lean more towards the classical.  My definition of classical does include everything from Pink Floyd to Bach, but the effect is really the same.

I would love to be able to make music, but I have three left thumbs when it comes to musical ability.  I can’t rap either, my brain jumps ahead of where my mouth is and it skips parts without my realization.

When you feel that you are hitting mania you need to nip that in the bud though.  You cannot allow yourself to get to high because every wave has a trough.  But the lower and longer period you can make the wave, the easier it is to ride out the storm.

This is going to be the first of many references to th squirrel.  The squirrel is incredibly active all summer, running, jumping, chattering at you from his perch in the tree.  But even he realizes that he has to plan ahead a little bit.  He knows that this may be a great time to be a squirrel when the trees are green and the food is plentiful, but winter is coming.  There will come  time when the sun is not as high as it is in June.  When the weather is not as hospitable.  You need to take some of your energy that you could spend out chasing the lady squirrels and trying to be as squarely as possible and use that energy to set aside some stores of food.  Be conscious that with every high in the season, there is also a low.

If you are with me in these experiences you will now what it is like to have the spirit of squirrel, so think ahead like the squirrel and plan your next move.  I imagine if squirrels could read they would have extensive libraries in hollowed out trees.


Don’t get caught off guard like a squirrel who does not know that winter will soon be here.  Have what you need ready, and don’t waste the highs ignoring the lows.  You know that you will have both so balance them out.  Maybe you don’t get as much done in the short term, but maybe you survive in the long term, which I think is far more important. 

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