I'm so grateful to have found this site. I live in Vermont and am a bit of a newcomer to the Buddhist philosophy, so I welcome the prospect of learning so much from all of you (and in the process, from myself, as well). I'm a science educator up here at a local high school, and like many Westerners on this forum, first became exposed to the dhamma in an academic setting (college) and later through the writings of some of the Shambhala teachers (Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, and Pema Chodron, in particular). I also occasionally frequent our local Shambhala meditation center on Sundays, but remain eager to learn more about all forms of Buddhism and the rich history of all traditions. So again, finding Dharma Wheel is a real treat!
At the risk of "TMI" way too soon, I'd nonetheless be remiss if I didn't come clean right off the bat and say that I'm writing to all of you from a very strange point in my life. Every 3-4 years, as if on a timer, I experience debilitating recurrences of horrifying depression. I've been off and on medications since my senior year in high school (I'm 28 years old now), and have, regrettably, been on practically everything except lithium to "fight" it off. These cycles aren't the trendy, romanticized, soap opera versions of depression you see on TV. They are VERY real, energy sapping, horribly introspective nightmares. I've come to know them well, and I've learned to see them coming from a mile away. The recent months have shown me that I'm likely on the cusp of another such lapse, so I'll be completely honest here and say that I'm hoping that being a part of a new community will also help keep me ballasted in trying times when they emerge.
As hard as I used to fight, I know now that these occurrences are all part of a bigger cyclical picture, and that they will happen again, will leave after a prolonged period, and sure enough will return again years down the road. I'm not a person to define myself by an illness (or really anything, I guess), but it is something to know about me, and clearly something that has had a profound effect on my life. Recent years of meditating and talking with others have helped prepare me for the future, and suffering has taught me the value of softening my heart and relationships with others as a result of experiencing crippling sadness and anxiety. Ironically, depression seems to be closely related to mindfulness - except that instead of letting things go and experiencing reality as it occurs, what you are continually self-monitoring is how horrible you feel, and what you end up concentrating on is self-absorption and horrifying bleakness.
I recently read a beautiful chapter by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche that has given me hope, however, entitled "The Genuine Heart of Sadness". Kind of blew me away, honestly. Put a lot of things into perspective for me, and has given me a bit more to think about for when the next "trough" occurs. I had no idea how beneficial these experiences could be to me as I try to cultivate a greater kindness in the world. In my family, it's always been a subject to be avoided, and a circumstance that should be fought and medicated to death, rather than embraced and learned from.
Anyway, I digress. And as always, I'm always trying to learn...
So with all that out of the way, here are some more positive things about my life: I'm a beekeeper, an avid kayaker, I've got two beautiful golden retrievers and a wonderful partner, I play mandolin, I love to illustrate (see my profile for more info), and I'm also crazy about geocaching.
Again, I'm really looking forward to meeting all of you and taking part in the forums. It's wonderful to have such an incredible and vibrant community just a few clicks away. Thanks for listening to me ramble.
"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle." - St. Philo of Alexandria