What does the dark allow me to see? From politics to Zen Buddhism.

Isn’t it interesting how you start one project with a clear idea of what you’d like to focus on, and then you end up with an entirely different topic in your head?

This happens to me a lot. ADHD, y’know. I don’t mind; it’s a bit inconvinient at times, but I make the best of it. Where was I going with this? Ah, right: I want to focus this post on Zen Buddhism instead of exclusively on politics like I had planned to; I had a whole post typed out about the rise of populism in  the West and other not so cheery things, and I decided that I needed a break.  Or rather we all need a break. Zen and politics may not seem related at all, but they are entirely interelated to me, because I take on board way too much stress as both a perfectionist in my studies and an empath who chooses to study some horrific events in the world, both past and present. Zen helps me calm down a little bit, although my practice isn’t as far advanced as those who can meditate without disturbance.

Gratefulness.org posts a question on their Facebook page every day for followers to ponder. Although not a Zen Buddhist site, the practice of mindfulness and gratefulness is very much in Zen tradition.

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 This particular question of What does the dark allow me to see? resonated with me because of my history of depression, which is something I have battled since I was a young teenager and will continue to have to do so for my entire life. It’s just one of those things. I’ve more or less made peace with this prospect. And I am speaking about it because I’ve tried to hide it almost all of my life and I’m tired of contributing to my own shame and to the shame of others who battle mental illnesses.

The darkness I’ve felt many times has given me more empathy towards others, both humans and animals — a desire to want to help, to want to make things better, or at least as okay as I can contribute to them being.

I try because I don’t like the idea of knowing I have caused pain or am contributing to it, because I know what pain feels like very well. I know exactly what feeling like you’re lost at sea during a winter storm in rough waters without a liferaft in sight feels like. It’s for this reason as well that I wish to use my education to hopefully influence provincial and/or federal policies toward mental health care and addiction services and improve conditions and funding for various community projects. My passion is examining contemporary (the last three decades or so) civil wars and genocides in the continent of Africa. I’ve been to two countries in Africa, and as lovely as the countries were (Senegal and Morocco), I didn’t go for the purposes I’d like, which is gathering information to retell the invaluable stories which have been told whilst they were au courant, but need to be revisited and retold. We must never forget any tragic event in human history, for if we forget, we are more destined to repeat it, as the oft-paraphrased quotation goes.

Would I be drawn to suffering if I didn’t know it myself? Probably not. And for that, I am grateful, because I feel I finally have a purpose, and maybe, just maybe, I can contribute to a greater good in whatever minuscule way possible.

And for anyone who is wondering: my Dharma name, which was chosen for me by my sangha, is Compassionate Refuge of the Heart.

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Peaceful today.

It looks as though both the alt-right or “free speech” rallies in Vancouver and Boston have turned out peacefully. Thankfully.

This battle was won, but the proverbial and perhaps literal war is just beginning.

My head will explode if I continue on monitoring these situations all day after not sleeping last night due to thinking too much.

A manifesto of sorts.

Well, not really a manifesto, but I just wanted to keep with the theme of the post.

I’ve returned to blogging again after a hiatus  — I’ve flirted with it a few times since 2013, and I’ve had a few blogs in the meantime that explored spirituality, my extensive travelling, as well as photography, my thoughts on mental health, but I was just never really sure what to write to sustain the blogs.

I was a prolific blogger of the progressive political agenda for about three years, ending in 2013, and prior to that, I had a Livejournal from the time that I was very young for about five years. In addition, I had and still have physical diaries — the good old-fashioned type, as these are beautiful relics from a time that is increasingly slipping away. I’m a believer that everyone should own a proper journal, as there is something so beautiful about having a tangible book rather than electronic records to capture memories and thoughts through your own handwriting — I suppose I view it as a time capsule of sorts.

I just wasn’t sure I wanted to return only to write about the one thing that I am most passionate about: politics. This time, however, it isn’t with a political agenda, or at the very least, not a deliberate agenda like my blog from the early 2010s when I extolled the virtues of a political party that I still support, but no longer wish to prop up in any form, as with any other political party. I believed wholeheartedly in what I said at the time, but now I see things quite differently and in a more informed and well-rounded light.

I’m a political science/studies major. It was the natural choice for me, but took many years different majors (and essentially wasted money) for me to come to this conclusion that I had always known was my calling, but never wanted to admit to myself. I’d always wanted to be a social worker, because I wanted to help people; this is also why I initially got involved with party politics at provincial and federal levels at a very young age: to help make society a better place. It’s naive, but I was someone who hadn’t been calloused by the world, even though I dealt with my own fair share of personal hardships.  My goal was to help others in order to make sense of the pain that I’d felt in my life by lessening the pain in the lives of others. But life just doesn’t work like that. And it was foolish of me to think it was that simple.

It almost felt like grieving when I switched majors, but now I realize that anything that makes me feel this alive, this hungry for information, to have this lust to seek out knowledge unrelentingly in nearly all of my spare time is the major for me. I always knew this, though. But it was a matter of admitting it.

I am also doing a diploma in addictions and mental health counselling on top of the BA in Poli, just so I can do some sort of counselling work should I desire to or the need arises once I have graduated. I still have a while before graduation, and that’s fine with me. Although I will be full time this coming semester, I will be just barely so; taking on too much when you’re prone bouts of depression and anxiety like I am (no shame in speaking about mental health) is a recipe for disaster. I am a driven perfectionist who also happens to have ADHD on top of that. So university has taken me longer because not only because I hadn’t found my path, but because I took breaks to travel and to think, and to fall in (and out) of love, to grow as a person — all educational experiences in their own rights for which I am much richer for.   I’m working on my own timeframe, not anyone else’s.

So then, why have I returned? Because writing helps make sense of thoughts that I simply cannot escape from.  There have been awful things permeating my every waking moment for the past week,  but I will save that for another post. And yes, I am talking about what happened in Charlottesville. I become deeply emotionally entrenched in things I research and write about: I recently wrote a term paper on Paul Kagame and the Rwandan genocide and the violence of the Great Lakes Region of Africa for a summer semester I took, and I had violent dreams every night for weeks and agonized over whether I was doing justice to the victims, to the survivors, to Rwanda itself in my paper. It becomes a deeply personal crusade for me, and I don’t like to leave any stone unturned. The post will not be so much about what happened in Charlottesville, but the makings of it. I had a great back and forth email exchange with a fantastic professor of mine to pick his brain about all of it and to just discuss the situation as two human beings who were very troubled. So I will have that up some time in the following day or two.

And so concludes my first post. I’ll explain the blog’s title in the next post, as it is apropos of that post more than of this one.