By David Jones
My job is mentally taxing some days, trying to analyze customer requests for help, then trying to meet needs which they often don’t know how to adequately express.
Some days are quite easy. Other days I spend eight hours throwing my brain at baffling scenarios. It takes a toll. Mix in the lingering effects of a small stroke I had in the past, and I can get absolutely overwhelmed, stuck in a rut of low mental energy and emotional overwhelm. One thing folks without mental illnesses (or training in treating them) don’t always grasp is the tsunami that happens in my mind.
This was one of those moments of crisis.
After a day which my supervisor agreed had already been difficult for me, I was confronted with a work situation that brought me to a stop. I couldn’t trust my memory or understanding of the procedures I needed to use. I felt lost, confused, unsteady. Doubt crippled me. I emailed my supervisor for clarification on the procedure, and while her reply cleared things up it also made me wonder what was happening to me.
Since I now work from home, e-mail and other communication apps have taken the place of walking to my manager’s office to explain my mental and emotional plummet, so I messaged her: I am having a struggle and I need to meditate for a few minutes.
It’s a strategy for circling my wagons and getting a grip. My wife (working in the next room) agreed with me, and my supervisor was fine with me taking a few minutes.
I sat still, closed my eyes, and began to sit with my breath.
But mental issues have their own inertia—it takes something to get them moving, but then it takes even more to stop them once they’re in motion. Quickly I felt I was losing my battle. That’s the panic which overwhelm can produce. My mind was a room full of thick dark smoke.
I began praying in that way you do when you’re having a tug-of-war with a mental crisis and you’re losing ground. Then it came to mind: my tingsha.
I opened my eyes and took up the cord connecting the two cymbals. I bought them fairly recently, and their ring is something I feel deep within, like my very being vibrating in response to the chime. I held them the way the teacher showed me, took a deep breath, let it all out, then struck one cymbal with the other.
KINGGGGG! That’s my representation of the sound, that initial collision of metal, followed by the sublime tone. I closed my eyes, and the smoke in my mind’s room dissipated. I saw a temple of jade and marble in the distance.
The pure tone from the tingsha is a help for me when I need to re-center.
I can get all scattered, and if even the act of bringing myself back to the breath eludes me, this tone refuses to be defeated. Every time I’ve used it, it suddenly calls all of my senses and faculties to an ordered attention, like a mom who’s had it with the kids running and screaming through the house.
I know there are traditional uses for the tingsha, and I humbly respect them. I would never want to disrespect traditions or those who hold them. But in my case, these traditional cymbals have a unique place and function in my life now. They help me center myself when things are lost in a maelstrom of mental and emotional chaos.
As the clear ring enveloped me like a sonic hug, I began to repeat quietly, “I am at peace.” And as the cleansing tone faded, I actually was. I was able to acknowledge the storm without being flung around by it. After a couple of minutes, I was more stable and ready to resume my day.
I’m not saying such things will work for everyone, but this works for me and has now become part of my tradition; even though I’ve used it for a little while, this one moment was definitive. I believe it’s part of a sensible mental health maintenance program to find the things that work for you and help you.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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