Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

Preciousness and Welfare


I attend a weekly sitting meditation group.  I haven’t been attending all that long, a few weeks before the semester started.  But it is already something I look forward to each week, and it’s on my “Must Do” list for the week.  Not many things make that list. 

As the name implies, we sit and meditate.  Which I value.  My therapist had been trying for ages to get me to try mindfulness meditation.  Now I know why.  And then after the sitting portion of the hour, the leader has something to discuss, something s/he brought in to read, or something s/he had been thinking about lately, or some words of wisdom s/he found to pass along. 

This past week, the reading was from the dammapada:

If one knew oneself to be precious,

One would guard oneself with care.

The sage will watch over herself

In any part

Of the night.

 .. . . .

Don’t give up your own welfare

For the sake of others’ welfare, however great.

Clearly know your own welfare

And be intent on the highest good.

This passage really struck home with me.  I’m in recovery, but I’m still working on “knowing myself to be precious.”  Or, maybe, I know myself to be precious now, but I’m still learning to watch over myself.  I still need a lot of help with that, especially in the night.  But I guess one could argue that accepting that help is watching over myself.  In the past, I never used to accept that help, and there were times when I was quite passive aggressive (aka manipulative bitch mode) in denying that help from friends and loved ones.  

The second part of the passage is something that’s difficult for me.  And it came up for discussion at a good time in my life.  A time when I am currently helping several others in various ways, and constantly thinking about reaching out and how best to go about it, and thinking about what various people need most.  And in the meantime, I’m going through a bit of a rocky period myself.  Oh, not as rocky as it was even a few months ago, but when I look at it honestly after hearing this passage, I have to admit that right now I need to make sure I’m not “giving up my own welfare.”  It’s something I’ve been good at in the past:  choosing others over myself.  But again, if I’m honest, that never did lead anywhere good.  I think I’ve finally learned that you really can’t help others if you don’t help yourself. 

So I encourage you to sit–and meditate if that’s your fancy–and think about one way that you can know yourself to be precious.  Write that one thing down and stick it in your pocket.  When those moments hit when you’re questioning recovery, read that slip of paper.  And maybe in a more peaceful moment, add another reason.  Keep adding reasons as you dwell on this idea of preciousness.  And be sure to take some time for yourself.  I know a lot of you are busy people.  But five minutes of silence, five minutes of calm breathing, five minutes of curling up with your cat–just five minutes can bring about peace.  And I don’t know about you, but I will take peace, however fleeting, for just five minutes of silence.


September 27, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , ,


  1. How does someone focus on themselves when their job/life is focusing on others. I don’t know how to make time ( I skipped homework last night and just sat with my kitty, but I feel guilty about not doing the homework) I would like to invest in a do-over button please!

    Comment by Shannon | September 27, 2012 | Reply

    • As someone whose job used to be focusing on others full time, I can understand this question. I think when you work in any type of helping profession, it becomes even more important to take time for yourself. That doesn’t have to mean not doing homework, but maybe it can mean putting off the homework for ten minutes while you take a hot bath or drink a cup of tea. Taking time for yourself does not have to mean sacrificing other important aspects of your life. It just means scheduling them a bit different.

      Comment by surfacingaftersilence | September 27, 2012 | Reply

  2. Would you be interested in participating in an art exhibition in Canada? A photograph you have posted of your ICD scar and cut out heart is a lovely image. Email me if you are interested and I will give you the details. marnieablair[at]hotmail[dot]com

    Comment by Marnie Blair | November 10, 2012 | Reply

  3. I just got a chance to look back over some of your old blog posts and wanted to thank you for all of your work on this. I went through anorexia and bulimia and compulsive exercise for about ten years and would consider myself recovered. I still read recovered people’s blogs because it helps me put into words the experiences I had during my fight to get better. I think that everyone around me took it for granted that I would try to get better, but hardly anyone really realized what a battle that was, and what such a dramatic change felt like. I don’t live at home anymore and now when I talk to my parents, my mom is sometimes surprised by the change in personality I’ve had (from extreme self-obsessed “introvert” to nearly extroverted).
    Anyway, one thing that makes me feel less alone is your ability to write openly about your continued struggle with depression and your health problems. I’ve known that I had a gene mutation that was causing me to slowly go blind since I was a child. I have frequent eye appointments now because of an unexpected complication. I too was an avid runner and haven’t run in two years because of an as yet undiagnosed problem with my joints and tendons that has involved both hips and both shoulders. I also have frequent bouts of depression. I only mention this because, though the situation for me is different, I imagine there is a certain kind of suffering that is associated with degenerative conditions. One is always trying to cope with the current condition knowing that it could get worse, and if it does, it is as if the process of grief starts over. Each reminder of the condition (when I need to get somewhere and have to ask for a ride since I don’t drive, or when I have to go in for appointments) can trigger the grief response again, but this can also be unpredictable. Something that seemed to be difficult but emotionally manageable yesterday (tripping over someone I didn’t see, brings me to tears today (when I trip over a display in a store.) I find “Radical Acceptance” to be a very difficult skill to use for something so big as a whole degenerative condition, but I can use it in small chunks (accepting the painful eye-drop dosing I need multiple times a day, or accepting just for today that I’ll need to make a call to ask for a ride.) I suppose the problem lies partly in the question asked in DBT “will this matter in five years?” to which I want to scream “Yes! And it could be even worse!” Probably a better thing that I tell myself is: There will be a time when you may have less function, but will be more happy than you are now, so you may also be able to be happy now while you have more function. I know there are people in worse situations with better attitudes, and I try not to use this as a judgment against myself but a hope that it is also possible for me at times. Have you ever read about Amy Carmichael? The last decades of her life were spent mainly in bed and she wrote fabulous poetry. I definitely recommend her writings and checking out her autobiography. Here is one of her poems I love:
    Will not the end explain
    The crossed endeavor, earnest purpose foiled,
    The strange bewilderment of good work spoiled,
    The clinging weariness, the inward strain,
    Will not the end explain?

    Meanwhile He comforteth
    Them that are losing patience. ‘Tis His way:
    But none can write the words they hear Him say
    For men to read; only they know He saith
    Sweet words, and comforteth.

    Not that He doth explain
    The mystery that baffleth; but a sense
    Husheth the quiet heart, that far, far hence
    Lieth a field set thick with golden grain
    Wetted in seedling days by many a rain;
    The end—it will explain.

    Comment by Joy | December 6, 2012 | Reply

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