Disclaimer

I started writing  Pennsylvania Echoes  because I wanted to improve my grammar.  I chose meditation, mindfulness and how they apply to my daily life, as the blog’s subject matter.  Writing about Mental Health Management has received the most appreciation.
My world- view will not cure mental disorder. but I cannot separate my world view entirely from management or my great concerns for Mental Health.  So I must present my thoughts, and tips on “Mental Wellness” in my own way and from my own experience–  if I am to be honest.
Any information you find is meaningful is presented as is.  There is no Warranty. Too bad I can’t cure my bad grammar.
Enjoy.
–Chris

tomato meditation

Still hot, right off the vine on a warm summer after noon — nothing beats cherry tomatoes. Some are just superficially sour…,
The best of them sour first..
then molasses sweet
then sour again..

This cool August day’s sun would not bake these little fruit morsels today to anymore than 70 degrees in my small tomato garden of the backyard. None the less, at room temperature, (I was sitting outside) they were a tasty reward for my zazen meditation..
It all started today when I was reading a book on subjects related to gardening, I was having a little bit of trouble concentrating, So I thought to myself, “Self… its a beautiful day out, lets go out back and get a little focus back.” The back patio, which faces my tomato, pepper and leak garden is as good as spot as any.

The things you notice, and notice that you weren’t noticing.

During meditation I became mindful that my grass was the lawn was tall enough to mow. This is typical for me, thoughts of having to do work, or some task always surface when I meditate — roughly ten minutes in..
I chuckled to myself about the cicadas that I had not noticed before. “How many days have they been chirping in the afternoon, grasshopper, and you had only now noticed!”

cherry-tomato.jpg

Cherry Tomatoes!

So after sometime, 30 minutes, 40 minutes, twenty minutes, who knows… I decided I was finished meditating .
Time to reward myself. Ahh!!! I have ripe cherry tomatoes on the vine!
Most who meditate regularly, may report that, after a period of letting go of thoughts, one become closer to his senses and that included taste…
I can still taste the tomatoes as of this writing.

The following is a haiku I wrote about tomatoes.:

reddened and ripened,
oblong, fireball bulbousing;
flashes her nature.

I wrote it for Alan Watts after enjoying one of his lectures on tape some time ago…
you can find more poetic musings here..
.
All work and no tomatoes make jack a dull boy.

People are Different: Medication and Mental Disorder

People function and react differently given the same chemical cocktail. One medication can be a wonder drug for consumers of Mental disorder, restoring their ability to function adequately for a long duration of time. Another patient may not respond at all to the same prescribed psychiatric medication. And the next consumer could have serious negative or dangerous effects from the same medical therapy.
People are different.

A funny story about me….

Lithium is a commonly prescribed drug for Bipolar Disorder. It is a relatively cheap, successful and safe mood stabilizer. It’s a naturally found substance – Lithium compounds are  salts. Most consumers who take the drug therapy successfully usually only deal with the side effects of weight gain, mild tremors and dry mouth. Lithium can take up to three months to build up in a consumers system to show full effect.
Unfortunately, for me: I am highly sensitive to the stuff. After a period of build, actually a smaller dosage than normally prescribed for someone of my weight, I began to REALLY feel the effects… the side effects. my eyes came close to swelling shut, throat constantly dry and thick to the wear I had trouble swallowing.
Scream.jpgI remember sitting at a fast food restaurant trying to ingest a meal of soda and fries… the tremors!  my hands and arms shook so violently that I had trouble getting fries in my mouth until I gave up, eyes squinted, and a lethargy that made me look like a  shaky zombie. (definitely not like those cool superfast zombies I see on TV. Now that would have been cool!)
This was still better than being “Manic” (An elevated level of mood and energy that made impossible for me to sit still, or do things like read,watch tv, drive, or even walk for a long period of time.) However, I was not one of the fortunate  who use this drug successfully…. I would not be able to work or enjoy leisure with lithium
The funny part was the drug to almost as long to get out of my system as it took to build up. Those were the early days of my mental wellness management. I joke about how bad I looked out in public at times, and how I was cursed to wait to I pissed the salt out of my system.   Well,I guess you had to be there..

A serious story that is important to know…

I know of a person who says she suffered from major depression for over twenty years.  She was prescribed many medications and therapies over the years, including electroconvulsive therapy  — the latter is often reserved when no other therapies seem to work.   Nothing worked. (She had a physical handicap as well, which further complicated her health woes leading to many stays in the hospital). After twenty years, Someone finally prescribed her a different class of medication than she we would normally be prescribed for severe depression…  Her “Wonder Drug”.. in her words.
It was a mood stabilizer called lithium. She would be diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder II  soon after.  She told me repeatedly that “Lithium saved her life”. After a few months Her depression cleared, she got back part of her life again. I have not heard from her for along time, but she said was generally  happy when we  last spoke.
Her success , of course, is important, but…

here is another important observation in mental health:

Many people seek treatment for severe depression and are prescribed anti-depressants… only to experience their depression get significantly worse, including suicidal thoughts.
As it seems,  something is  physically different in the manifestation that would correctly be diagnosed as Depression and in the manifestation that would be correctly diagnosed as Bipolar Disorder II. Unipolar (major) depression and bipolar disorder in depression  be appear outwardly  as the same.
But in fact, a therapy of prescribed antidepressants, WITHOUT a mood stabilizer or a like drug can make Bipolar Depression far more severe.
A commonly observed side effect of someone who should receive treatment for Bipolar Disorder, but is only taking Antidepressants is increased mood cycling with with deeper peaks and/or valleys.

A  little more about this subject: “Bipolar Disorder: A Mistaken Diagnosis“.

As it turns out: even Clinical Depression and Bipolar Depression can be physically different, just like results  of  treatment with that commonly prescribed salt.
A treatment that works for one person , may not for the next.  

Perhaps we  just can’t treat all people to the same, after all.

Forgive my pun-word game… its just a segue for my next post on how  my experience with Mental Disorder   matured my philosophical approaches and attitude.

Post-Post

mood-charting-example

mood-charting-example

If one is suffering from depression, inhibiting levels of  anxiousness, or extreme shifts in mood or emotion, enough to seek out professional medical treatment…
Mood Charting can be very advantageous. There is no way to predict completely the outcome of treatment and diagnosis.  But one can improve his chances of avoiding misdiagnosis by tracking his/her own  shifts and patterns in mood, energy level, focus and behaviours.    Getting the correct diagnosis early could certainly improve a consumer’s  chance of getting to a functional, productive  and happier day-to-day life.

Here is one suggested  reason  for   common misdiagnosis of  Bipolar Disorder Depression  for Major Depression:
a patient simply doesn’t recognize the brief  period of  hypomania that they experience. Up moods, with extra energy and alertness  can feel good.  A person doesn’t  normally think or know something is wrong when he/she  feels good.   He/she   fails  to describe or report these hypomanic periods to his doctor.
Tracking moods, focus, anxiety, sleep patterns over a long period of time can help doctors detect the right diagnosis.

Examples of mood charts can be downloaded on the CHARTS  tab above.

 

wetlands photo 3

Its about meditation, love and family… and waterfowl.
A usual spot I visit on walks with cheap camera has become a place to practice observation – some field work for a class I am taking. Home work for my Permaculture Design class demands that I work on passive observation. observation is a passive form of interaction and a type of experience.

This class encourage, in part, sitting an ecosystem (ie. a neighborhood, park, farm, pond) and letting go of presumptions and subvocalization (my word choice for thinking in spoken language) and sensing the close proximity world. If that sounds like meditation, yes its close. Zen, Phenomenology, and the permacultural observational practices of meld well. I will talk more of in upcoming posts.

One thing I have pleasantly seen around the local ponds and man made reservoirs these last couple of months is a growing number of Herons and a new season of young Canadian Geese.
So a couple pictures from yesterdays walk and sit with my camera:

Clicking the mosaic image above will reveal the slideshow.
Have a great weekend!

Policies of Work

I was looking in a notebook on my computer and reviewing some of my personal policies and principles of work.
They have changed over the years. I have spent a lot of years in manufacturing and production, and I really beat my body (and mind) up when I was young. “Being a good worker” has always been important to me. That has never changed. But as I have aged I have learned to be more efficient in regard to staying healthy and happy.

Here is a rough list of policies I practice…. some policies from Zen and Permaculture Design writers that I have incorporated into my strategies and tactics of everday work:

Be practical

  • do what works… experience is useful.

 

Wu wei

  • no action, effort or thinking beyond whats needed. (wu wei)

 

Bring the right attitude:

  • keep a “beginners mind“- Suzuki Shōsan.
  • Be confident, unassuming, mindful(observant) and playful (experimental).

 

Be ergonomic and efficient.

  • understanding my body and my environment while at work.
  • always remember good posture and movement.
  • always use as little stresses on my body/mind as possible: See Wu Wei.
  • create good structures and workstations (e.g use a surface tall enough when working on it)
  • Use the correct tool the correct way. ( more on ergonomics)

 

Use everyday science

  • use my understandings of leverage, thermodynamics, rates, even saturation (I am pretty damn good and fast at mopping floors with only hot water :D ), gravity and other forces

 

K.I.S.S or Keep it Simple [,Stupid]

  • make small changes for the greater benefit.
  • it is much easier understand the changes (including costs and consequences) of a tweak,change or experiment when it is uncomplicated

 

Know the players of the playground

  • heh-heh. This one might seem to contradict the previous policy a bit, but it calls for a little balance. One thing I have learned is people, coworker’s that is, do bring their personalities to work with them. Know what a boss expects out me, and know what my coworkers want out of their day at work. Just like back in school, there are followers, there are there are the Kings and Queens. Work life is alot easier if one pays attention to this.
  • In Short: don’t step on toes, inadvertently; and acknowledge coworkers existence and place… usually as simple as a smile and ‘good-morning’.

 

“The problem is the solution”

  • Quote from Bill Mollison. Use difficulties to positive means

 

the standard of Quality is the conformance to Zero defects.

  • this policy only works in producing goods of the same kind (such as assembly line production)…It was one I used in my twenties at work. Personally I do not care for any universal or “standard” policies of quality or conformity when dealing with people, animals, organisms, communities or ecosystems. Thus, this old policy of mine may get thrown out.

 

Be Ethical.

  • practice reciprocity, remain dignified and respect others.
  • practice my primary cares: Care of people, Care of Earth, my primary concern of mental wellness

 

the policy of responsibility of authority

  • “The role of beneficial authority is to return function and responsibility to a system or people.
    If successful no further authority is needed”. from Bill Mollison’s Permaculture.
  • in my words: encourage self-sustainability in others… environment and other people.(See me poem!)

 
 

I hope to get old gracefully,with less pain and fatigue, and with good productivity.
May you do the same.

Zone Mapping with Gestalt Perspective

I was on my way to a gardening class this weekend, when I got to thinking about “Zone Maps”.
Zone Mapping is a graphical method in permaculture design that is used to organize and compare systems (most often ecosystems, landscaping, sustainable gardens, and conservatory area regeneration,etc).
After intensive observation of a system, One drafts a zone map with concentric circles. The simplest zone map would start with something like this
Zone 0 – basic necessities of people and dwelling areas.
Zone 1 – areas of ecosystem designated as support of basic necessities
Zone 2 – semi-wild. this is areas with lots of edges.. where system meet (i.e Ecotone)
Zone 3 – the wild. untamed or unknown areas or areas not of use.

Zone maps can be applied to more than just landscape or conservatory projects. A designer can use them to graphically map out communities, business models and just about anythings. This is an application to aid the study and comparison of things and concepts as systems.

Which lead me to thinking about the Gestalt perspective, which includes the study and comparison of “wholes
So I experimented with some zone-mapping with Gestalt:

Permaculture

Gestalt Contact Awareness

o basic necessities basic needs
basic responsibilities
esteem
meaning
1  support of  basic necessities “nourishment”
cultivation of skills
growth, learning
2  semi-wild
edges
interaction of systems
contact
new interpersonal activity
interacting with environment
3 wild
unused or unknown
Withdraw
expulsion  ideas and activity
that is either “toxic” or
“no longer fits”
letting go

 

This is what a ‘zone map on gestalt perspective’ might look like:

Gestalt-Awareness-Zone-Mapping.png
 
My zone map is a comparison and between: a simplified organization of a ecological design ;
and an organization of developing awareness from Gestalt therapy perspective. Note these are just my conjectures just for zone mapping practice.
I am starting to learn how to use zone maps, so this one is rough… missing a few components.
I hope to post improved experiments later as I learn.

Swimming between Systems

swans-near-ice1
 
Today I learned a new word: Ecotone.
An Ecotone is an area where two ecological systems or communities meet, transition and integrate.
That to say: Enough differences between meeting systems or communities to observe a boundary , however resources are constantly exchange enough to to describe any “boundary” as permeable. A simple example would be beach and sea, where minerals and small life are constantly be deposited or eroded.

I cannot help, but to think of my new word “Ecotone”, learned in my permaculture class and compare it withthe word “Contact” from Gestalt Therapy. Contact is the meeting of differences, where resources are exchange between. And so is an Ecotone.

It does not surprise me (anymore, that is) to find similar, if not synonymous terms in both Gestalt and Permaculture. Both approaches merge science and holism. Gestalt therapy places weight on one’s awareness of his/her real-time experience ; Permaculture places heavy emphasis on one’s observation and interaction with ecological systems.
What first peaked my interest about permaculture as an approach, is that permaculture may be far better suited to empirically support holism.
Permaculture design is anchored, concretely, in observing ecology.

I have other ambitions and curiosities with permaculture. Besides I am only beginning my course. None the less, I welcome any personal synthesis between the gestalt theory, permaculture, science and holism , as I continue to learn.

On a completely unrelated topic: It’s still cold here in Pennsylvania, It was sleeting when I left my class for home. I feel like I am swimming between seasons, much like the Swans in the picture above.

Adding Infinite- Scroll to Pennsylvania Echoes

As Pennsylvania Echoes has evolved, I have passed on  stuff that I thought it was important for other people to access,  regarding  mental health management and mental disorder;  along with general wellness.   Many who deal with Mental illness are poor .  Many people live in areas with limited broadband around the world.
Because of this, I limit the amount of pictures and embedded graphics that I post, so that pages may load faster and correctly for those who have limited internet connection.

I’m turning  “Infinite -Scroll”  on ,  A wordpress.com  blogging feature,  so that it is easier to to scroll  through posts on my home page.  Previously, I left this feature off – , but I don’t think it will hamper page loading speeds and accessibility.  Leave me comment or a message, tell me what you think… If you think i need to turn  the Infinite Scroll feature  off.

–Thanks,
Chris.

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