Sharing tea with the ninjas

This morning, I spent some time sitting in gassho meditation, reflecting on the Reiki Precepts. This practice is foundational to Reiki Ryoho, but there are some days where I feel like it’s the life raft I’m clinging to for dear life. Since I was a child, I have struggled with mild depression and anxiety. I’ve learned to recognize their cyclic, yet unpredictable nature. They are not this monolithic beast forever on my back, but rather these twin ninjas who sneak in, slice me with their katanas and leave me sprawling on the pavement. I know they’re coming, but not always when.

I know the suggestions. I’ve tried them all. I have yet to find a medication that didn’t make me feel worse than I felt before I took it. I receive psychotherapy. I’ve read the self-help books. I exercise regularly. I have a spiritual practice and do self-balancing treatments. I have a great family and friends, live in a progressive town, engage in vocations I enjoy, and am in good health. So what’s the issue?

I don’t know.

Years ago, when I lived on my own for the first time and was dealing with persistent anxiety, I found myself up late one night,  bleach fumes in my nose, gloves on my hands, using the vacuum hose extender to clean dust off the ceiling in my 500 square foot basement apartment. Last night, I was cleaning the kitchen at 11:30 PM, instead of getting ready for bed. I often dream of hauling most of what we own to the curb and living in Zen-like austerity. The clutter and unfinished projects at home drive me nuts on the bad days. Setting my universe in order relieves my anxiety temporarily, but never seems to resolve the actual issue. Same with exercise and self-balancing treatments for depression. I get the energetic lift and then later, start feeling the funk.

Of course, what is the actual issue? The actual issue is that this is just how I am wired.

Although I can develop coping skills and change my mental approach, the ninjas are as much a part of “me” as my curly hair. My efforts to eradicate depression and anxiety is proving as futile as past attempts to make my very curly, very coarse hair behave otherwise. So, the only answer left is to befriend the pernicious ninjas. The next time I hear the faint sigh of air splitting, I should turn around and bow in greeting instead of cleaning something or becoming angry. I should invite the ninjas to sit and share a cup of tea with me. As my Komyo Reiki teacher, Hyakuten Inamoto says, “A cup of tea, a cup of enlightenment.”

I have no illusions that befriending the ninjas will cause me to be suddenly be free of depression or anxiety. But maybe I will finally accept they are simply just aspects of my Oneness. The ninjas are a mirror for my own attempts to establish a sense of false safety and order when an underlying order already exists within the universe, a flow I keep resisting.

Perhaps when I sit down for tea with my ninja friends, my resistance will fall away. Or, I’ll get nicked again by the katanas. This time, though, I should simply bow as if receiving Kyosaku (the “wake-up stick” used in zazen practice) and say, “Thank you.”

(Image credit: Shandi-lee on Flickr)

6 responses to “Sharing tea with the ninjas”

  1. Have you seen a mental health professional about this? This sounds to me very much like you’re somewhere on the bipolar spectrum. If that’s the case, medication does help.

    1. Yes, I see a therapist regularly. I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and depression, not bipolar. I don’t experience the mania often associated with bipolar. I also have PTSD from birth trauma.

      I don’t do well on any kind of psychotropic medications, which is why I’ve sought other means.

  2. as always, thanks Dana for your wonderful and honest posts!!

  3. Dana,
    I really hope you will glance over this article that talks about the actual genetics that look to be associated with depression.

  4. Thank you for sharing this story. I remember reading a little book a long time ago called “Taming Your Gremlin” and your story reminded me of it. It takes courage to accept the things we cannot change and it’s an honor watching you on your journey.


    p.s. I love your curly hair!

    1. Thank you! There is such a tendency to beat ourselves up about the issues and quirks we have. Some things can be worked on, but not everything is “fixable.” Even the great meditation teachers acknowledge that. I have found that having mindfulness about what I’m feeling, expressing some humor (seeing my issues as ninjas, for example) and trying to give myself permission to not feel or be OK from time to time helps a lot.

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