A blog about nothing.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

TAKE A HIKE


The entire body of cutting edge literature on nutrition can be summed up rather patly as follows: Eat more fruits and vegetables.

Five words, in case you're counting. Let nature's bounty, plants, crowd out the other junk (animal products, refined grains, processed foods) until you achieve 100% saturation with fruits, vegetables, a moderate amount of beans and a modest quantity of seeds.

Done. Now it's time to move on to other areas of life lest we confine ourselves to eating like mere animals and deserve the label recently bandied about. Orthorexia is an unhealthy obsession with otherwise healthy eating. Who needs it? Just eat plants until you are satisfied, and eat them again a few hours later. Repeat a couple/few times a day and do it indefinitely. Remember the kiss rule. Keep it simple, sweetheart.

Now onto another area that could use a little attention. The online obsession. This month's issue of Outside magazine  has a great article written by political blogger David Roberts entitled "Reboot or Die Trying," which details his efforts to manage his web obsession and the year he spent unplugged. During this time he led a more unstructured life, went on long walks, practiced yoga, played catch with his kids. Of course he was an extreme. Blogging for a high-traffic website requires one to be always available via text/email, ever abreast of news developments. It's not like this blog, whose only reader is you!

Roberts covers climate change, which as you know is a hot topic. He found himself spending over 12 hours a day online, often putting the kids to sleep, kissing his wife good night, and logging on from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. to catch up and keep up. The result was a constant fidget, restlessness, a junk food habit and a gut, among other nuisances that seem to be the inevitable result of staring at one or another type of screen for most of each day.

But although Roberts was an extreme instance of web-obsession, the addiction to our devices is spreading like wildfire. There's been a 50 percent increase in mobile screen time between 2012 and 2013. That means if you were spending 2 hours a day talking and texting and surfing, you're now spending 3 hours. Most Americans (75 percent) own a smartphone, over half check their phones at least once an hour, including while on the toilet and first thing in the a.m. Smartphone users ages 18 to 24 send an average of 67 text messages per day. Sheesh! That gives me a pain in the neck just thinking about it. Mind your posture!

What is all this time online doing for us, other than causing our fingers to cramp up and our eyes to dry out and go bloodshot? Is it exercising our brain or just exhausting us? Some might say the former, but it turns out that the later is the case.

Roberts quotes psychology professor Larry Rosen, who discusses the difference in brain activity while you're sitting at your computer versus talking a walk in nature. Research indicates that technology is highly overloading our brains, while nature walks are calming. This is science reinforcing common science.

Rambling through nature is really a wonder-drug, offering many of the same benefits as meditation. Because it is meditation. You don't have to sit in front of a candle to achieve mental calm. Researcher Alan Logan has described experiments in which cognitively fatigued subjects are taken on a walk, some through a concrete environment and others through urban greenspace. Then they return to the lab and undergo a battery of testing and all the markers of cognitive efficiency - memory recall, target identification, overall attention - are consistently better after having taken a jaunt through nature.

The effortless attention involved in watching drifting clouds, hearing the sound of the wind, heeding the songs of birds, is the mental equivalent of floating on your back, and this restful mind makes for a healthier you. It is through the activities that allow daydreaming - taking a shower, weeding the garden - that allow moments of insight and creativity and why great thinkers including Rousseau, Thoreau, Darwin and Nietzsche, among others, were fierce believers in nature walks.

Of course one can only walk (or run) so long or so far. My personal best is 33 miles at a stretch, but that was perhaps overdoing it. After time spent in nature, for many it's back to the laptop or phone. Roberts offers some tips on managing your online time so you can remain effective without slipping into the realm of burn-out. I'll leave interested parties to access the magazine itself for these helpful pointers, since you're already doing most of them yourself.

Thanks for staying present.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

NEVER GIVE UP

 
Meditation is a fight. As soon as you begin meditation, other thoughts will crowd together, gather force and try to overwhelm the single thought to which you try to hold. This thought must gradually gain strength by repeated practice. When it has grown strong, the other thoughts will be put to flight. This is the battle always going on in meditation.

But meditation is catching on in the mainstream. Chopra and Oprah conduct workshops. The Navy Seals train the mind. Georgetown University has set up a program to help military trainees blunt their reaction to stressors. It is called Mindfulness-Based Mind Fitness Training, or “M-fit,” and students learn how to focus intently and stay present in the moment. The goal of such exercises is to teach people to pay nonjudgmental attention to exactly what they’re feeling in the moment. Not trying to change anything, just giving it (feelings, stimuli, other stressors) your attention. By monitoring your feelings without judgment, say the researchers, you achieve detachment from them, which allows you to soldier through difficult moments without letting discomfort disrupt your focus.
 
This is what the sages have known for millennia and what the scriptures have laid out for even longer. And now modern society, some circles at least, is coming full circle. If you are or have been an athlete, you know the feeling of being “in the zone,” that place of total focus in which you’re completely present.
 
Consider distance swimmer Diana Nyad, who achieved a goal she’d been chasing for more than 35 years when at age 64 she swam from Cuba to Florida, 110 miles, without a shark cage to protect her. During the 53-hour swim, she paddled through jellyfish, swallowed saltwater and suffered the chill, finding reaching the shore barely able to speak.
 
How did she do it? “I steel myself, over months and years of training, that absolutely nothing will stop me,” she told reporters. “Your mind begins to have an unconscious set.” She went onto explain the mental exercises she’d perform, counting in various languages, singing hit tunes. These are similar to the concentration practices required by some meditation techniques. The purpose: to train the mind to focus, so that thoughts will subside, and stillness, the true nature of consciousness, can shine in its self-luminous light, fully revealed.
 
Nyad’s first words as she staggered onto the beach at Key West, slurring her words through swollen lips: “We should never, ever give up.”


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

SALVATION ARMY FOR THE SOUL

Time magazine came out with a figure that it takes around $245,000 to raise a child from birth to age 18. Which is roughly $12,000 per year, or $1,000 per month.

This seems really cheap. I thought because they excluded housing, which the parents would absorb. If you and your spouse have to pay rent in a one bedroom, and then you have a child and don't move, that child doesn't cost you anything in additional housing costs. But it seems that housing is factored, in. In fact, housing accounted for the majority of expenditures, 30% according to a pie graph featured in the article. Of course where you live influences the cost of living. It is more expensive to live in New York or Hawaii than in Oklahoma or Ohio. Forget about Los Angeles, where finding a one bedroom for under a grand is nearly impossible.

But still. $1,000 per month to live. And we could argue that a child has more necessary expenditures than an adult. Think pediatric visits (health care), clothing (which the child outgrows and which needs to be replaced), food (to feed a growing body) and compulsory education at least to high school, if not until graduation. And all those toys!

Which begs the question, is it possible to live on $1,000 per month as an adult. And if so, could one live comfortably? Time came out with another figure: the Average American spends $150 per week on food. That's $650 per month on eating alone. Of course, many eat at least a couple meals a week at restaurants, so this figure would be lower if you ate all meals exclusively at home. Probably closer to $100 per week.

When you think of it, $1,000 per month is quite a lot - if you factor out rent. Even spending $500 on food each month leaves you the same amount, or roughly $120 per week, on other expenses. But living so frugally may require major lifestyle makeovers. Since most people commute 30 minutes per day each week to work, often leaving their counties, and there are work-related expenses such as car, gas, clothes, and phone that tend to go up when you work outside the home (clearly).

But $1,000 per month is a good number to shoot for. When I was in medical school I spent about $1,000 a month, which broke down to $600 for rent and utilities, and like $1000 for food. It's a lot, but I was living in the West Indies and everything being imported nothing was cheap. Even living on canned beans was pricey. I was driving a used motorcycle I paid for in full, and since I had $2000 per month to live on, I was able to save up for school supplies and the occasional new pair of jeans. There were no malls or movie theaters, so temptations were at a minimum. Of course had I lived States-side the grocery bill would've gone down markedly, but the $500 in rent I was paying probably would have gone up.

So how to pare down the cost of living? I know you live frugally (and admirably), but in case you're looking to simplify, start by cutting unnecessary expenses. Ask yourself with each monthly purchase or expenditure: Is this absolutely necessary for me (in Fight Club's "Hunter/Gatherer
sense of the term), something you cannot possibly do without? You'll find that there is more superfluity than meets the eye.

I had this conversation with my father, who was thinking of retiring but wondered how he could live on $3,000 per month in social security. That's a grand sum, and with a few quick calculations we found that he probably could. Of course, he'd have to sell his precious Corvette and maybe get rid of a few pairs of shoes, but he owns like 100 patent leather office kicks, and they all look the same, so they wouldn't be missed. Maybe he'd give a pair to me, who haven't bought a pair of non-running shoes in perhaps a decade.

My point is, why be a slave to a way of life just to make ends meet when many of those ends are created by the very job you have? The solution can be the problem. People get so focused on making more money, when it is easier and more convenient to simply spend less.

By doing so, we can cut into the $3 trillion national debt, which at an individual level isn't much better: total student-loan debt is $830 billion, and total credit-card debt is about the same ($835 billion).

Talking about all the money we don't have can get really depressing really fast. I've got to stop reading Time. That's about $30 in yearly subscription fees saved. We'll get there yet!

Websites and app useful in the ridding of junk abound. Of course the mental clutter and emotional baggage are what we really need to toss in the recycling bin. Too bad there's no Salvation Army for the Soul.

Monday, September 8, 2014

THE CREATION


That's some pretty inspiring music by Haydn. Ecumenical when you can't understand it, but probably written with the Christian notion of "Almighty God" in mind.

Which begs the question. When you hear the word God, what comes to your head? An image of a hoary bearded one clothed in white striking down sinners from on high? Love? Allah? Buddha? Christ? A formlessness energy and order that is the undercurrent of all that is? Pure intelligence? Omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence? Or are you an atheist? I really don't believe in an atheist as such. We all believe in something. And that which exists forever transcends both religion and irreligion, it just is... Do you believe in you?

Here's a little story. Imagine if you will, Absolute Oneness. Pure Awareness not aware of itself. In this Awareness the stirring of consciousness gives rise to the notion "I am," which essentially is awareness of its own existence. Simultaneous to the arising of consciousness is this living-dream called the manifest universe, and within it various entities (individuals, like you and I) which are only concepts arising out of the identification of consciousness with an apparent object that is actually only an appearance in consciousness. Wow!

This manifestation of the Universe and entities occurs spontaneously and without reason, like the appearance of waves on the sea, and foam on the wave. At the end of our allotted span here on Earth, consciousness once again spontaneously merges in the Absolute.

To find a parallel in your individual life, think of the nature of dreams. Each night you go to sleep, and whether you remember it or not, you have dreams. These dreams - entire worlds of roads, cities, cars, and peopled with characters some of whom may be familiar to you, while others are entirely new - arise from your consciousness, as does even the character which you play in the dream. (I've often looked in the mirror in dreams and found strangers staring back at me, or looked down at my body and seen someone else, although in the dream it was perfectly apparent that this was who I was supposed to be.) And at the end of the dream, the entire world sinks back into your consciousness, and you wake up, get out of bed, go about your business, forgetting about the dreams you had.

This is a microcosm for that which occurs on a universal scale. The whole universe is a dream in cosmic consciousness, and each individual consciousness, attached to a fleshy vehicle (body) enacts its role in the dream, which has been scripted from time immemorial. Yes scripted. Even your reading these words has been willed from before the beginning of time.

Do you find this hard to believe? Does it contrast with your cherished idea of free will? Submit it to the test. Before you turn in tonight, try writing the script of your own dream. You will find (as I always do) that no matter how hard you try you have no (or at least not complete) control over the visions that arise from your consciousness, all of which seem supremely real (just like "real" life). And these visions arise in your own head! Good luck trying to control waking life.

The point is not to seek to control what you cannot control, or even to seek anything. If you dream of trying to find gold, and even if you attain it in your reverie, this seeming treasure is valueless and disappears when you wake up. Nothing you seek has any value. It is only the seeker that is real. Only you!

So instead of pining after worldly pleasures, or building castles in the clouds, keep your attention fixed on the dreamer, the individual consciousness which is your lifeline to the Absolute from which it springs. It deserves reiterating that you will find that there is nothing in life worth seeking - for it is all a mere figment of imagination within consciousness. Fulfillment lies in waking up, in realizing the dream character is not the real you, in realizing the oneness of the dream character (and all other characters) with the dreamer in whose mind these dreams play themselves out. Wake up. It's hard if not impossible in your night-time dream to realize you're only dreaming. But you can do it in your day dream, and once you see life for what it is, it changes everything!

Remember the oneness. God is all and all are in you.

Once you realize this, life becomes what it was meant to be, what it has always been, which is a game. So throw the joystick away and just play.

Of course all games have rules, and most major religions provide useful guidelines for conducting yourself in this game we call life. Jesus Christ proposes two commandments which he says are above all else: To love God with you whole heart, mind, and soul; and to love your neighbor as yourself.

Get the message? It is love. And the object - whether God, others, you or me - is the same. It is you. You are the subject. You are all that is. That's something to rejoice about. Amen sister!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

THE ONE WHO SUFFERS

Once a lady visited the sage Ramana Maharshi. She had just lost her only child and was stricken with incapacitating grief. Ramana Maharshi shed a tear (uncommon for sages to do) and consoled her, reflecting that the loss of a child is said to be the most profound suffering a human can experience on earth. The woman was comforted in her sadness, and she asked the sage what advice he might provide to help her bear this immense burden of sorrow.

Maharshi's words were succinct: "You must kill the one that grieves."

What did he mean by this? Surely not that this poor woman should take her own life, obliterating her existence as a means of escaping the loss of her child. As he elucidated further, it was that she should kill the personality, the ego that identifies itself with a particular body, and sees others as separate. "Were you crying over your son's absence before he was born?" the sage asked. The answer was clearly no. And that's the point. We are all sparks of consciousness, whose essence is identical, one to the other.

I had a difficult time impressing this notion on my own mother, who like so many people clings jealously to her own personality, and sees separateness wherever she turns. She used the following argument as justification for the reality of her individuality: "How do you explain my love for astrology," she said, "which is not shared by my sisters?" My reply came quick. There are many factors at work to the personality traits we adopt. Genes. The very astrological aspects she mentioned, if you believe in that sort of stuff. Life experiences.

An example. In my teens I was big into weight lifting. Why? My grandfathers had been muscle men, and I had had a friend from high school who introduced me to Gold's Gym, where I proceeded to spend a substantial number of hours among sweaty bodies and amidst the heady smell of iron and the rather ear-shattering sound of clanking weights. My tendencies (being the son of my grandfathers) met with an opportunity (exposure to Gold's) which resulted in the muscle head I became, the one who was quick to gain 40 pounds of muscle and thereafter turned my friends and brothers on to the iron pursuit.

But all that you take as you - the personality, idiosyncracies, talents, habits - are all caused by genes, environment, circumstances, "chance" events, etc. None of this were you born with, so how can you define yourself by this limiting traits? Why limit yourself to a false, shadow self. The real you is the spark of consciousness which animates this body and whatever personality comes with it. And when the body has passed its allotted time here on Earth, that consciousness sinks back into the absolute from which it came.

And so you see, mourning the loss of another is like a wave mourning the loss of a ripple that has hit the shore. Its existence has not ended, only its particular form. But our essence is eternal, it is where we are from and where we return when it is done.

Now you may say, "I don't want to merge." I like "me" as a separate individual, and losing this begets anxiety, even if it means gaining totality. But that is your mind talking. And the mind needs duality and separateness to exist. The one you truly are is beyond thought, and not upset by these thoughts that the mind proposes, because you are beyond mind. Remember, you are Awareness which at its essence is not even aware of its own existence! When once again you merge with this Awareness, like air with air, or light with light, the mind won't raise these questions, because by then it will no longer exist!

And since from this Awareness all consciousness and life forms spring, then you can be said to be every living thing on Earth and elsewhere, so you do not lose anything when dropping your present flesh and blood form, you gain awareness of all that you are. Which is why death as blessing is the best kept secret around.

After spending time with the sage, the bereaved woman thanked him and left feeling so much better.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

LIFE IS A STATE OF MIND

I contemplated calling this post "Universe As Illusion" but when I recalled the final line of one of my favorite movies, Being There, I had to use "Life Is a State of Mind" instead. After all, isn't it? I don't mean reality is how you perceive it. I mean whatever you perceive is unreal, because the mind perceives the world through the senses and the mind itself is ephemeral and unreal. The sages have defined reality thus: It always exists (so knows neither birth nor death) and is present everywhere, at all times. Sounds a lot like the definition of God that many people hold. This notion of reality leaves no room for mind or its component parts - thoughts - which are like fleeing clouds that form seemingly out of nothing on the canvass of the sky, change shapes at a whim, and then disperse just as suddenly. Try to hold onto a thought and it'll slip out of your grasp. Of course people always grasp at their thoughts, and what good does this do? Consequently by living in our minds (a false castle with no independent reality though it is) we become plagued by phobias, anxieties, and guilts. Who needs it.

Adi Sankara, living in the 8th century CE, posited three things:

1. God alone is real.

2. The Universe is unreal.

3. The Universe is God.

What does this seeming paradox mean?

Simple. The manifest universe (what you see around you, world, stars, people, roads, the thoughts you think and the emotions they engender, even the body you identify with) has no independent reality apart from unmanifest God which as consciousness pervades all and animates everything, from the atom to the solar system.

The universe is real when seen as a part or reflection of God, but unreal if taken to exist on its own. Like the shadow, which cannot exist without the figure it outlines, or the reflection of the sun in water, which cannot be without the heavenly orb.
Why go chasing shadows and running after reflections? Do you wake up from a dream holding yourself accountable for what occurred in your nocturnal reveries? The obvious answer is no, because you see those imagined adventures, real as though they seem, for what they are - namely, dreams! Stick to the Source - the dreamer, the consciousness from which the universe springs and which then enters into the universe to experience it. Heavy stuff, this. But is it really? Didn't we all learn it in gradeschool with the simple rhyme:


Adhere to this consciousness, the witness that experiences everything in creation, the one that is beyond personality, likes or dislikes, the unqualified Awareness which is, and play the game of life knowing that one day the dream, and the dream figure that you represent, and the dreamed universe in which "you" seem to act will subside back into that consciousness, individuality merging into totality.

It is this consciousness - present everywhere you go, at all times, and as such truly deserving the designation of divinity - which is your life-line to the divine, the grand Awareness from which all individual consciousness derives, the Absolute, the All, God, call it what you will. Call it I. You are I.

Once you see the Oneness that underlies and pervades everything, we can play the game of life without attachment or care, truly free. But you were never bound to begin with. Freedom and bliss is your very nature.

So you see, that the Universe can be both real and unreal depending on how you view things is not the paradox it seems, but rather is as natural as can be.

Friday, September 5, 2014

THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE


Recently my mother asked me, "Of all the times in your life, which was your very favorite?"

I thought about it for a minute before I said: "Those times in which that question was never raised." What did I mean by this? Life is best when you are so in the moment, so absorbed in living, that your mind is not drawn to the past or leaping into the future. You are present here and now.

Imagine when you were a kid, "in your prime," and everyone has their time to shine. For many it's in high school and college, once the awkwardness has diminished and confidence has emerged to take its place. Imagine as a senior in high school reminiscing on how great it was back in the 2nd grade. How uncool! Life's highlights are clearly not spent thinking about the past or pondering the future.

Of course there were eras that, looking back, I favored above others. When I was a Little-Leaguer and our team made it all the way to the Regionals in Arizona. The summer of '86 was good to me. Even stars like Bryan Adams had his "Summer of '69." Of course parts of high school were fun. And then there was that six-month stint in Brazil, when I wrote my first novel. Others I won't go into here...

What do all of those time have in common? I was fully present in the moment, in the living of it, whatever it was that I was doing. Of course it helps when you're doing something really different from your norm, rather than just washing the dishes or taking out the trash (which these days I seem to be doing all the time!). But does this need to be the case. Do you need to do something extraordinary to feel extraordinary?

The truth is that all life's experiences are precious, even in their variation. An old Zen adage says: "Do everything as though it were the most important thing in the world." Because it is. In the grand scheme, everything is as important as everything else (immensely so, or totally insignificant, depending on the view you take). And beyond the personal distinction of good and bad, meaningful and meaningless, there is just being. Which is where the party is really at.

I once heard it said that "There is the life you live, and the life that you learn from when it's done."

Am I, at 41, in life's second stage, where the focus is on reflection? Are all the biggest experiences in the past? I have elected not to get married or have kids, so those aren't events that will likely be a part of my future. I don't have a traditional job (of the 401-K type) so retirement is unlikely. What's the next traditionally big event? Death? You laugh, but it's true.

Of course, the scriptures speak of Self-realization. But that's not really an event, since the you, the true You, the Self, does not change in the moment you are realized. You just wake up and see Reality for what it is. Nothing changes on the outside. You often just continue your life, going about your business (and yes the plate washing and trash emptying, too), but you're in on the secret. Self-realization is cool, but it's not "event" to look forward to. Oh well.

There is a bright side, however. Without big times lying in the foreseeable future, and reluctant as I am to live in the past (it makes me feel so old!), I focus ever more on the now. Even moreso than when life was so interesting that I was caught up in the living. Because in living life's manifold events, you're living outside yourself, attention focused on externalities (like baseballs and Brazilian beach bodies). You are immersed in the dream life, which changes so swiftly, is ultimately disappointing, and finally ends.

But what is that which does not change? Ah, and so we're back to the witness. Consciousness. Your true nature. And since consciousness doesn't change, adhering to it allows you to transcend time. To be Timeless. Has a nice sorta ring to it, wouldn't you say? Be timeless and free. There really is no way else to be.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

ON SADNESS








There is a long list of brilliant people whose exceptional productivity was followed by periods of deep depression and self-doubt. Many of these geniuses have resorted to alcohol, drugs or suicide. They include Wolfgang Mozart, Edgar Allan Poe, Vincent van Gogh, and Emily Dickinson, Eugene O’Neill. The list also includes the artist Henri Matisse, writers Charles Dickens, William Faulkner, Sylvia Plath, Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde, Tennessee Williams, and Virginia Woolfe, businessmen Howard Hughes and J. P. Morgan, scientists Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud, Sir Isaac Newton, composers Frederic Chopin, Gustav Mahler, Cole Porter, as well as world leaders Alexander the Great, Napoleon Bonaparte, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, and many others.

Robin Williams, whose movies I found utterly delightful (especially Mrs. Doubtfire, and What Dreams May Come, though I preferred the book) is a more recent instance of a cherished performer being snatched away by depression and suicide. And if current trends keep up he will certainly not be the last. Indeed Winston Churchill called this sickness the black dog, with booze being the favored self-treatment. Alcohol provides a brief and costly respite from being sad, as it is a central nervous system depressant itself.

Many people wonder how a person who appeared to have everything could do this to his family. A man with such a prolific and lucrative career, money, so much talent. Alas, Williams once remarked how he could bring great happiness to so many people, but not to himself. Perhaps he recognized that these great gifts were illusions. Like the man who possesses gold in a dream and wakes up as poor as he was when he went to sleep. Williams may have realized that fame and fortune were essentially valueless, being here today and gone tomorrow. But perhaps he was not aware of the perfection inherent within, perhaps he did not live in intimate association with his immortal and blemishless soul! But how can he be blamed? We live in a spiritually impoverished time. Add to depression a diagnosis of Parkinson's, and there are very few indeed who would not opt out of the Earthly nightmare that living with this disease can become, especially for the sensitive genius that Williams was. What a precious man!

Dick Cavett is another comic who has suffered depression. Writing for Time magazine he recalls a conversation he had with a brilliant psychopharmacologist. Cavett assumed that there had been a lot of progress and new medications since back when he was first diagnosed in the ‘70s. The answer was, “No, we’re really not making much progress, I’m afraid."

Cavett recognizes that depression seems to stalk the arts like a Jack the Ripper, and the hope is that some day a chemical link will be found between great performing talent and susceptibility to depression. But like the futile search for the perfect anti-depressant, the chemical basis for sadness has eluded researchers, likely because it does not exist.

The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer recognized the existence of a certain temperament more prone to black moods. He called it the melancholy, which is “generally given up to sad thoughts,” with periodical fits of unrestrained liveliness (which the moderns would call bipolar or manic states). This abnormal sensitiveness is the stuff of genius, and to Schopenhauer excessively sad men were sad precisely because they were so brilliant; and as Aristotle writing over 2,000 years ago correctly observed, those “distinguished in philosophy, politics, poetry or art appear to be all of a melancholy temperament.”

Everything is not without a price, and so it is with talent. And the more sensitive a soul, the more acute its suffering.

How to effectively deal with mental illness? First, we must recognize that life itself is a sort of illness, as the sages say. In order to enjoy the play of life, consciousness must attach itself to a perishable fleshy vehicle. The union of spirit and matter represents the affinity of opposites, and opposites attract but can certainly clash.

Consider that the nature of consciousness is to be eternal and perfect, and then it is confined to a body subject to degeneration and disrepair, and when the spirit identifies with this vehicle destined to become ordure and ash, what invariably ensues is suffering.

But how can what is spirit really suffer? The mind which is a product of the union of spirit and matter is the true cause of the suffering, and also the one that suffers. But the mind is merely a bundle of thoughts, and when you look for it, it goes away. So suffering itself is an illusion. That doesn't ignore the fact that it seems real at the time. But as when you recognize a mirage in the desert, you no longer look to it to gratify your thirst, once you recognize sadness as a thought, and thoughts the product of a mind without any independent reality, then sadness fades. And unlike anti-depressants and psychotropics, this is a treatment that is both effective and side-effect free. When will the medical health professionals catch on? 

Now if we could only cure Parkinson's... Give us enough time and you and I are bound to come up with something.