Movies to See and other random thoughts

How to Cook Your Life

Move over “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance!” Filmmaker Doris Dorrie turns her attention to Buddhism and that age-old saying, “you are what you eat.” In HOW TO COOK YOUR LIFE Dorrie enlists the help of the charismatic Zen Master Edward Espe Brown to explain the guiding principles of Zen Buddhism as they apply to the preparation of food and life itself.

I had the pleasure of doing a cooking workshop with Edward Espe Brown during my monastic years. He’s a damn cool guy and an inspiration for me. I’m seriously looking forward to this one coming out. (Thanks for the link Bryan! Have I mentioned that I love my man?)

Blade Runner–The Final Cut

Ridley Scott’s brilliant classic restored to his original vision. The best science fiction film ever has its special effects restored. Plus, confirmation of what we long suspected: Deckard is a…

Philip K. Dick rocks. Blade Runner changed how I looked at the world. I will watch this one again and again. Besides, Darryl Hannah is so *cute*!

And now for something completely different…

The past week + has seen my bursitis flare up to a new level of pain. Oxycodone was helpful for a while, but I only had two of them. Unfortunately, I cannot keep myself unconscious until the pain goes away, though if the option were available, I would be tempted. Honestly, I don’t know how to fix my body.

I scored a piece of countertop and a section of kitchen cabinet at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore for $25 yesterday. With the addition of some legs, it will make a perfect workbench for my stained glass work. I’ll post before and after pictures of the project. I was very proud of myself for being thrifty. Workbenches for artists are stupidly expensive ($250+). Even with the Canadian dollar being on par, that’s just way too much money. It’s nice to know that occasionally my brain still kicks in.

Random thoughts

When Buddhist Monks Get Mad

The monks in Myanmar are asking themselves how Buddhism requires them to respond to conditions in their country. I am asking myself how Buddhism requires me to respond to conditions in my life. How do I practice mental illness/borderline personality disorder/whatever you want to call it? How do I practice the moments when my thoughts spin out of control, when my emotions overwhelm me like a tidal wave?

I’m scheduled for an assessment at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto on Tuesday. The BPD clinic there has a five-month-long program to teach DBT skills in a 2-hour weekly group therapy session. The first barrier to entry is a telephone interview which assesses whether or not the program would be appropriate and helpful to me. That was on Monday last. I “passed” and am now scheduled for the longer, in-person assessment downtown. It’s the kind of interview I really wish would have ended with “No, we’re sorry—you don’t have BPD and you don’t need to come to this program.” But that’s not how it ended.

All of the above wishing doesn’t negate the fact that I’m glad that I’ll be getting some serious help with this. I know my emotions do tend to spin out of control, especially when I’m under stress. But for most of my life, the targets of my angry outbursts have been the grown men (or women) who were my significant others. I could always justify that they were capable of taking care of themselves even when I wasn’t in control.

Brianna is a different story. She’s just an innocent little girl, much like I was 38 years ago. And just like I didn’t deserve the abuse heaped on me by my mother, she doesn’t deserve it either.

The most honest answer to the question “Why did you go live in a Zen monastery?” is probably “Because I swore to myself that I would not grow up to be like my mother and I meant it.” And, it is the reason why I will take myself downtown for an assessment of my mental health and why I will go down there once a week, every week for five months and why I will put myself out there no matter how painful and difficult it feels. Facing this illness is difficult and painful. I have to take responsibility for something that isn’t my fault and learn how to live with the brain I have, not the brain I wish I had.

I will not let my child bear the burden of an illness that I am afraid to confront myself. I will not visit the sins of the mother onto the next generation.

And not just for her, but for me. So I can look at myself in the mirror and know that I have done everything that I possibly can to deal with this. So I can have self-respect and dignity. Because it is what needs to be done.


The first thing Brianna asks for when she gets home from school is food. “I’m hungry Mommy.” The second thing is “Can we listen to the girlfriend song?” The girlfriend song is the Pussycat Dolls “Don’t Cha”. Apparently, the album is one her teacher plays in the classroom at the daycare so the kids can freezedance, and now she knows that I have it on my iPod.

I have mixed feelings about my four-and-a-half-year-old dancing around singing “Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me? Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was a freak like me?” It seems a tad inappropriate, yet I don’t want to be a prude either. Pop culture is what it is. And as cute and amusing as it was the first time we saw her singing, it’s also reminiscent of Jon Benet looking far too sexy for her age.

But Brianna loves singing and dancing along with the album and I’m loathe to squash any appreciation for music shown by my child. What to do? Probably nothing—I’ll let her listen to the album and not make a big deal out it. It’s not bad for pop music and I’m secretly proud that my kid chose a nice funky R&B album to glom onto.

Okay, now she wants to go play Lego Star Wars on the PS2. With me.

My kid is pretty damn cool. :^)


Maybe, just maybe, it could be possible that I have been engaging in a tad bit of self pity. Perhaps.

It might be time to end the pity party. I’m just saying. Non-judgmentally, of course.


Radical Acceptance

Radical acceptance, as used in DBT (dialectical behaviour therapy), means that you accept something completely, without judging it. I am finding it difficult to radically accept the fact that I have borderline personality disorder (BPD). My reaction to this diagnosis resembles my four-year-old daughter’s reaction when confronted with something she really dislikes: “No! No, no, no, no, no, no, no!” accompanied by stamping feet and clenched fists.

This is emotion mind, and emotion mind does not want to bear this burden and wear this diagnosis. Rational mind says “Hey, it’s just a name for a collection of symptoms that you’ve had for a really long time. Nothing’s changed—you are still you.” But emotion mind doesn’t want to listen.

And what’s on the dialectic between emotion mind and rational mind? Wise mind. Buddhists might call this the Middle Way. Wise mind tells me that the stigma, both internal and external, is greater for BPD than for depression and anxiety. It also tells me that the name is not the thing and the illness is not the person. I know this.

Borderline personality disorder is so called because its suffers are “on the borderline” of psychosis. Many professionals and sufferers are pushing for a name change. The biggest name in the field, Marsha Linehan (developer of DBT) prefers emotional regulation disorder. Other suggestions include impulse disorder, interpersonal regulatory disorder, and extended post-traumatic stress disorder or post-traumatic personality disorganisation.

In some ways, it would be better to be psychotic. I mean, when you have schizophrenia, you really believe the aliens are trying to get you. People with BPD are fully aware that their emotions and behaviour are inappropriate. They simply cannot do anything about it. To me, it feels like being in the back seat of a car and my emotions are doing the driving. I see the cliff up ahead, but I am powerless to change course or do anything to prevent going off of it. And so I do. Over and over again. I believe this powerlessness is what leads many people with BPD to suicide.

BPD explains a lot. Persistent and pervasive feelings of emptiness, the outbursts of rage and anger for no reason. The inability to settle down with one career, one occupation because of “impaired ego integration—a diffuse and internally contradictory concept of self.” I would resist the diagnosis more if I didn’t recognize aspects of myself all over almost every description of BPD that I read.

I don’t know what this means for my future. I fear the implications. But I also know that I’m on the right track: the “homework” my therapist gave me for the next two weeks is two-fold.

  • Practice mindfulness of thoughts for 5 minutes each day. E.g. sit.
  • Practice awareness of judgments. Be aware of when I am engaging in judging and let go of any judging that is not useful and beneficial.

The cure for BPD is practice. Two thoughts arise:

  1. My instincts led me to the right place when I went to live at the monastery.
  2. Profound gratitude to all the mental health professionals who have dedicated their efforts to helping people with this disorder. Marsha Linehan in particular who made the connection between mindfulness and BPD which has turned out to be one of the most helpful therapies ever.

Studying dialectical behaviour therapy is like applying Zen practice to my mental health disorder. From past experience, I know this is going to help. I just need to let go of judging myself and practice my life, this life, mental illness and all.