I’ve been running a life experiment for the past few months. I’ve been trying to pull together all the lives I’ve lived, all of my experience and knowledge, and integrate them into one completely functional version of “me”—whatever that is.
It started with something I called my “Anti-Depression Program.” When I stopped taking both my medications, I wrote a detailed list of all the things a depressed version of me would gradually, eventually stop doing: housecleaning, laundry, sleeping, healthy eating, writing, fucking. [But for some reason, when I’m depressed, I shower at least twice a day. Bizarre.]
I made this list my anchor, my point of meditation. The list kept me mindful. I will clean all of the dishes before going to bed every night, I told myself, because that’s what a person who is not depressed would do. I will create and stick to an apartment cleaning and laundry schedule. I will eat well and in moderation and never just for comfort. I will try to get enough sleep. I will have sex as often as possible.
Eventually, after a lot of internal kicking and screaming, I added regular exercise, daily meditation, and this daily writing practice. I’ve never been all three of these things at once: a working writer, a practicing Buddhist, a reincarnated gym nut. Add to that mix my new therapist, Linda, to help keep me on track.
But I was late to my appointment today. Fail. I’ve gotten very good at putting things in my calendar. Checking my calendar every day, on the other hand, that’s another story. When I finally arrived, we spent the 30 minutes left in the session discussing exactly what this blog post is about: integration.
I told Linda that this is my religion from now on, pulling it all together: the abused child, the street kid, the punk teenager, the rebellious college-aged wandering insecure writer, the self-assured graduate student, the professor, the poet, and the Internet scholar.
I told her how much meditation and therapy were focusing my mind. I told her how much I believed, in my gut, that I and all human beings were born with an innate Buddha-Nature, which is just the capacity to see through all of the noise and the cultural bullshit stories, the capacity to remember what’s real and who we really are.
Most of us have been habitually reacting to other people’s assaults for so long that we’ve come to believe those reactions, those physical, psychological ticks and twitches, are who we are. At least that’s my story, my main problem. The psychologists call it bracing, as in constantly waiting for the next assault, bracing to get kicked or punched. Living tensed.
“But I’m feeling better,” I told my therapist, Linda, while I wrote her a check for my co-pay. “I think it’s a combination of everything I’m doing, the results of my whole anti-depression integration thing we’ve been discussing, and all of this writing. Writing every day really grounds me.”
“Keep it up,” Linda said, folding my check and sliding it into her pocket. And then, in my imagination, she added: Word.