Ketuvim: Trees

Melodies I weave, songs I sweetly sing;
Longing for your presence, to you I yearn to cling.

In the shade of trees I delight to dwell,
To grasp your mystery, captured by your spell.

I glorify you with words and song,
Declaring with my heart: for you I long.

When I can’t see you, I write your praises,
And though I don’t know you, I long for your places.

To the assembled birds and your branches speech,
You alluded to your wisdom that is sometimes beyond our reach.

The scope of your greatness and the marvel of your strength
Are reflected in your bark and described at great length.

They have painted you, but rarely as you are;
They draw your colors and portray you from afar.

They speak of you in poems in countless varied visions,
While you remain throughout all their renditions.

They try to portray you as one now young, now old,
With leaves now green, now red and turning gold.

Nothing is more precious among the earth’s good pleasures,
Than sitting against a tree, chief among forest treasures.

-adapted from “Hymn of glory” in Siddur Sim Shalom
-Shadow

Ketuvim 16

My adaptation of Psalm 16

Keep me, O Living Earth,
For in you I find refuge.
I said you are the source of life,
You are my mother,
And my happiness lies in you alone.

All my desire is to be among
Those who protect the land,
And those who respect it.
Sorrows increase
For those who disfigure your face.
Never will I follow their ways
And never will I trod their path.

Living Earth, my share of the heritage,
My cup,
It is you who keeps me secure.
The lines have fallen for me
In pleasant places;
A wonderful heritage is mine.

I will honor the Earth who has given me counsel,
Even at night my inner self instructs me.
I remember the bounty of the Earth always;
It sustains me with its abundance.
I cannot be shaken.

So my heart is glad
And my flesh rejoices;
Even my body shall rest in safety,
For you sustain me now,
And will embrace me in your arms at death.

You have shown me the path of life,
The fullness of joy in your presence.
Everlasting happiness
In the mists of your wonder and beauty.

-Shadow

Ketuvim 18

My adaptation of Psalm 18

I do not know from where my strength comes,
Nor do I know who I love
When I come undone.

I feel as though there are no rocks
beneath my feet
Or any sure foundation to stand upon.

The sorrows of sadness blanket me,
I scream from a place of torment
As I struggle to break free.

No one can see my internal struggles
No, not one.

I have been true to no god
I was not blameless before any of them.
I am not free from guilt.

It is said with the loyal, god will show himself loyal,
With the blameless, he shows himself blameless,
I have been neither.
With the pure, he shows himself pure
But I am crooked and not humble.

There is no one to light my darkness,
And I feel crushed underneath its canopy.
I have no shield,
No refuge,
Nowhere to feel secure.

I am constantly at war with myself
And I grow tired from battle.

-Shadow

Self project: Accountability

Recently I began to do a little bit of self evaluation and asked myself: What do I value? The first thing that came to mind was accountability. Saying that “accountability” is one of my values is a lie. It sounds nice but the truth is, rarely have I been held accountable for anything or taken responsibility for that matter.

When I was committing fraud against the state, my father bailed me out so I wouldn’t go to prison. In fact, I have committed fraud numerous times and every time, my father was there to pay all of it so I never had to see inside of a jail. My father is dead now and can’t bail me out anymore.

Every time I aggressed toward another person, “they MADE me mad”. When I stabbed a guy, “He deserved to be stabbed for what he did”. When I ran over people with my car, that was their fault too. When I destroyed property, threw things or screamed like a crazy person, I said it was their fault. They were either stupid, mean, or deserved it in some way. Still no accountability…or taking any responsibility for my often impulsive behaviors.

Then I thought about honesty. LOL Obviously, fraud is dishonest. But sometimes, I just make up things to tell people just to see how they will respond. For example, a coworker recently asked the whereabouts of one of my employees. It had been several weeks since they had been at work. I told the coworker that my employee was on vacation, traveling the world and was currently at the Great Wall of China. The truth was, I had no idea of the whereabouts of my employee. I assumed she had quit.

If you have ever heard of the term “shadow work”, then you know in a nutshell it is the thing that pisses you off the most about other people is the very aspect within yourself that you refuse to recognize. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be pissed off about how THEY behave. I fact check everything because I don’t believe anything anyone tells me. Why? Because I am dishonest a good bit of the time. In any case, now to the list of values I believe I possess. Learning, knowledge, curiosity, privacy, personal autonomy, independence, and solitude. All of these are self explanatory.

I used to try to convince myself and others that I valued accountability, responsibility, and honesty. We can say what we want but our actions speak louder than words and determine our worth.

Which reminds me of a conversation I had with my ex several years ago. At the time, my ex’s sister was in rehab…by force, not choice. She wasn’t exactly doing well in the program. My ex asked: “How can I help her? I feel so helpless.” I responded, “If you want to help her, be willing to meet her where she is right now, not where you want her to be.”

Pretty good advice for myself right now. I don’t have to be angry with myself anymore because I don’t possess accountability, responsibility or honesty. I no longer have to tell myself that I am worthless because I don’t possess these values. To be clear, this does not mean I will never take accountability for my actions. It means, I must be willing to meet myself where I am right now, not where I think I should be. That instead of fighting against what I hate about myself and beating myself up…and everyone else…I can use that weakness as an opportunity to begin taking accountability. Especially now that I know I have been failing to do these things. As my sponsor in Narcotics Anonymous used to tell me, admitting it is the first step.

-Shadow

Alternative medicine: Kava root

Disclaimer:  This post is in no way meant to diagnose or treat any mental or medical illness.  The views expressed here are solely my own.  If you are pregnant, nursing or on medication, you should always consult a health care professional before taking any herbs.

 

In the last episode, I mentioned that I was going to stop taking some of my medications and try supplementing more “natural” alternatives.  In short, when I stopped taking just one pharmaceutical medication, I was wound up so tight I felt the only way to release my rage was to bludgeon someone to death.  Just to be clear, I started taking that medication again before someone experienced an unfortunate accident.

Through my experiments with herbs, I have found one herbal remedy to be useful, in combination with the other prescription medications I currently take.  But before I get into that, it is worth mentioning some background information.

The herb: Kava root

Without getting into the history of the use of Kava root (which you can research yourself), I am going to begin with the current trend of this ancient herb.  This herb is sold all over the internet, in the form of powders, capsules, tinctures, pastes, etc. Various companies make all kinds of promises about what this herb is good for and why you should buy their product rather than the other guy’s.  Just like CBD oil, which I have never tried, some of these companies make some wild claims about what Kava can do. Some of these companies seem to be targeting people who want to use Kava in order to get high. It’s whatever, but as an amateur herbalist, I use it for it’s better known benefit: relaxation.  

It is important to mention that the FDA has warned about potential liver damage associated with the use of Kava root.  Although I question those claims of liver damage since it lacked evidence that the few people that had liver damage actually got it from Kava root.  Another thing I questioned was if it could be proven they received liver damage from Kava root usage (no proof was offered), then how much were they taking and for how long?  As mentioned above, many people are using it in higher than recommended dosages to get high. So although I am not completely discounting the claims of liver damage, I do question them.  Because I question the ingredients of what the companies of some herbal supplements promote. For example, read this 2015 article about the ingredients of supplements from the New York Times.

With that said, Kava root has become so popular in the US that Kava bars have been popping up everywhere during the last several years and they are particularly popular in Florida.  

I have been taking Kava root off and on since 2016 (off and on because long term use side effects are not known).  I don’t use capsules, powders, pastes, etc bought off the internet because I don’t know what’s in them.  At best, it might have no benefit…at worse, I might end with the above mentioned liver damage because it was made in China and has ingredients no one can pronounce.  

I use a tincture made by Mountain Rose Herbs in Oregon. This is a company that I personally trust and that is why I buy from them.   In the future, I plan to make my own Kava tincture with the dried root that I purchase from the above mentioned company.  It is a pungent, bitter, soapy flavor followed by a numbing of the mouth. In other words, it tastes so much like shit that it makes me gag.  But the good thing about tinctures is if you can’t stand the taste, you can put it in any liquid to mask the horrible flavor.

I have found it to be very beneficial when combined with my other pharmaceuticals.  And because Kava root interferes with a good bit of medications, I check Wed MD before taking any new drug…over-the-counter, herbal or otherwise.  The only possible interference with my current medications is it could increase the side effects of them (which is dizziness and drowsiness…side effects I did not have anyway).

So overall, I have felt more relaxed during the day (I don’t take it at night), more carefree, have less head chatter and feel happier overall.  It does not leave me feeling stoned, drugged, or hazy.  Kava tincture (from Mountain Rose Herbs) simply works well with the combination of psychotropic medications I already take.  How it would work alone or in combination with other herbs like Valerian, Skullcap, German Chamomile, Lemon Balm or Passionflower, I do not know.

In the future, I hope to experiment with others herbs that I am currently growing and post my findings in future blogs.  Stay tuned for the next episode.

-Shadow

 

Project: Alternative medicine

My posts have been lacking because I have been busy working outside.  I got off the Netflix binge and now on to something else. I go to work, come home, work out in the yard…I have been busy tending to plants, including herbs I’ve planted from seed.  I’ve even creating an “herbal flower bed” from rocks that I gather around the property.  I’ve planted things like Lavender, Skullcap, German Chamomile, Valerian, Nettle, Primrose, Lemon Balm, etc. All medicinal plants. When I am not tending to these things during daylight hours, I am running around the property foraging for wild plants…or sometimes crawling on the ground looking at bugs, until I remember I am supposed to be foraging. When I am indoors, I am preparing tinctures or other preparations and writing it all down in a notebook.  Yes, in a literal notebook with actual paper, not on a computer screen where it gets automatically saved in the wild blue yonder.

I have been using herbal remedies and making my own remedies/care products for some time.  I have an entire apothecary of various “remedies” and products I’ve made. But this is the first opportunity I’ve had to actually grow herbs from seed.  Gardening has also been very therapeutic and I am finally at a point where I want to see what happens when I stop taking psychotropic medications (again) and replace them with herbal alternative (again).  Now might be a good time to mention I was on herbal remedies when I was in that god forsaken noisy apartment a while back. They had became ineffective to all that was going on there that I turned to modern treatment.  I take a Kava tincture during the day but at night I am still taking an antipsychotic. Oh, and I still take a low dose of Lexapro during the day. I question its effectiveness as my racing thoughts seemed to stop only after I began taking Kava again.

So, my first experiment will be to see what happens when I stop taking Lexapro.  I will post the results at a later date.  Then after I have made tinctures from Valerian, Skullcap, Lemon Balm and Evening Primrose, I will see what works best for helping me to be able to sleep at night.  That is, of course, after I make sure they don’t interact with the Kava tincture.  And in case you don’t know, after the herbs are gathered and ready to use, it will take an additional six weeks to make them into a tincture.  

So for now it looks like a season for experiments…and I just love experiments.  Let’s see what happens.

Shadow

Debt owed to the past

I have been silent for a while because I did not have anything to say. I don’t have that much to say now, but writing is supposed to help a person sort out shit or something. So I am writing.

First, I abandoned meditation. All my interests are short lived so it should not come as a surprise to anyone. I also stopped learning about Buddhism.  Perhaps because it takes way too much effort for me to “play nice” all the time and not say what immediately comes to mind.  Internally (and sometimes externally) I am somewhat intense and the calm, go with the flow Buddhism approach is a lot of work.  Too much right now.  Besides, I had gotten distracted by binge watching Netflix and bookbinding…again. Creating illuminated texts…again.

After a few weeks of this, I began to feel restless and I could feel boredom beginning to creep in. Emptiness soon arrived, followed by depression. By this point, I felt compelled to do something different. I felt as though I had to fight against these feelings.  To get rid of them somehow.  So I went outside, began observing nature (again) and recording it in my nature journal. I spend several days working on my flower bed, planting herbs, plucking weeds…anything to be outside in nature. When I would come back into the cabin, I would sit in silence staring at the walls. I suppose one could say this all occurred because I gave up those wonderfully inspiring Buddhist teachings that were attempting to show me a better way to live.  So I could be happy for the rest of my days and I threw it all out the window when I stopped listening.

Old ways of being are really hard to change.  I must like being miserable…of being in chains…of being bored, never sticking to an interest long-term and feeling empty.  Otherwise, why would I keep returning to it?  It reminds me of the Norse myth concept of the Norns (spinners of fate) and the great world tree, Yggdrasil.  At the root of Yggdrasil is the well of Urd (past/memory) from where the tree gets its water.  The waters of the past/memory are absorbed by Yggdrasil (symbolizing the present) and then fall from its leaves as dew (symbolizing a debt owed to the past) back down into the well.  This same idea can be seen in the meaning of the names of the three Norns who are considered to be the spinners of fate: Urd “past”, Verdandi “present” and Skuld, often translated as “future” but some suggest that “necessity/intention” or “debt owed” is more accurate.

Whether we realize it, the past has made us what we are today.   Whether we believe by an outside entity or by ourselves does not matter.  In my current state of boredom, emptiness and depression, I must ask myself what I willing to do…what debt am I willing to pay to the past so that I can be more balanced in the present?  Because up until now, all I have been doing is returning over and over again to the well of the past without ever really paying the debt that is owed.

Shadow