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Earlier I wrote about using meditation for PTSD.  Something amazing happened along the way. I slipped into the desired state of “being,” of being present at all times. This shift of consciousness emerged like a blooming rose. Apparently, this shift on consciousness is difficult for most. I know why, but that’s a different blog. I quickly overcame my sense of self appall, when I discovered just how rarely I was present, and like most people, my thoughts were predominantly in the past and in the future – reliving or fictionalizing my past, and looking forward instead of being present. The past does not exist and neither does the future. I had, like most people built an unconscious world view, displacing my being from the only place there is, the present moment.  That is the world we live in. Nearly 99% of the world is unconscious. I never received that kind of training in Nichiren Shoshu or the SGI. I don’t know for sure, but there must be Nichiren sects that teach this kind of meditation 101.

I was asked by the doctors at the Veterans Administration to put together a program on meditation for pain management for a dvd that will be distributed throughout the VA system. I realized that even though I had studied and dabbled in basic meditation for years prior to becoming an SGI member,  I never put my best effort toward it and actually regarded it as inconsequential. Now I realize that Nichiren was in the moment as was Shakyamuni.  I realized that according to the eternal Lord Buddha Shakyamuni, the bodhisattvas of the earth were his original disciples and his advanced guard to teach the Lotus Sutra everywhere in the universe that He appeared. We had already completed the six paramitas that include the paramita of meditation, before our Lord Buddha grew the Lotus Seed within us.  The paramita of meditation includes all manner of satori, dhyana and samadhis for billions of lifetimes. If that’s true, all of that training and knowledge is in my field of consciousness. And it was! And here I am now teaching veterans with chronic pain how they can be in the moment and relieve their sufferings, as there can be no suffering when one is present in the now.

What does being in the moment have to do with the Lotus Sutra? It’s this – only when you’re in the moment can one truly know that you are the true entity of life, the essence of being, and that your life is an emanation of buddha consciousness. Only then will you truly know that you are Namu-myho-renge-kyo. Only then will you understand that the Buddhist gods, the Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the universe, the gohonzon, and all that is manifest and unmanifest is your life. Only then will you realize that not only are you the treasure tower of Taho Buddha, but your life and awakening is the eternal Ceremony in the Air.

This is a story of triumph and a new phase of life.

The preacher handed me a pamphlet. He told me that his name was Mr. Desmond, and he was 96 years old. Although he was using a walker, the old man looked terrific.

“Are you saved?” He asked.

At that exact moment, I had what’s known as “the thousand mile stare.” I closed my eyes for just a moment, and composed myself. Mr. Desmond looked at me with those steely blue eyes. Few things are more formidable than an elderly Christian of strong faith – not that I was looking to debate, but it seemed as if I might actually need to do shakubuku.

It seems very important to this narrative that I now describe how the great hero Shakyamuni Buddha, led me over the long, grueling, and perilous road to the respite of Phantom City, then on to the moment of grand awakening.

When I arrived at the VA, in April 2011, I was a feeble old man in both body and mind. Even my spirit felt trapped like some ancient critter being sucked under in the Le Brea Tar Pits. The universe body slammed me, then put me in a figure-four double grapevine until I cried uncle.  Although I had just turned sixty, my body was wracked with intractable pain, leaving me to get around with a walker. There is much more to share, my friends. As it is said, – ‘the Devil is in the details,’ but I have found that the demons are in the omissions. In my writing, transcendence is in the meter, while bliss is in the blossoms that spring from intention. It may seem redundant for me to revisit my challenges, yet, after much consideration, it seems to me that the bones must be ‘Clovis-cut’ from the flesh, deeply scored, then milked of their  life giving marrow, if we are to truly know the “cause and conditions” of our situation. Allow me to proceed now without embellishment, in order to give hope and good tools to those facing their own impossible moments and circumstances. The great mythologist, Joseph Campbell, describes “the hero” (of a thousand faces), as one who gives up all they have and all they are, gaining everything, without a single thought of recompense. One goes through an initiation – a sort of death in order to realize salvation. The dawn of awakening is in that singular moment we keep stressing, yet is so very hard to know that moment, and even harder to maintain it.

My twenty-five pound, fat cat, Casey, taught me his feline form of  focus. Casey’s practice of “Be Here Now,” Cheshire Cat Zen, is a method more interesting and humorous to me than seeing twenty-three gyrating gurus  in a conga line, dancing  through a packed Crystal Cathedral. Oh poor reverand Robert H. Schuller! When finally transitioning out of  the rabbit hole at super luminal velocity, then to the privy of this saha world’s burning house, we then discover that  there really is “no moment,” much less a singularity.

After a lengthy battery of tests, a neuropsychologist determined that my cognitive skills were fully intact, but PTSD had laid waste to more than eighteen months of recent memory, and “it” had profoundly impacted my short term memory.  The closest visual description I can give of PTSD is that of a pulsar in space, that throws off  light like a spinning laser. All the experiences  of my reality tunnel, which is another term for “rabbit hole,” had rendered recollection into mere shadows and feelings, devoid of  substance, like a dream within a dream. Reclaiming my memory was like trying to catch the Cheshire Cat.

There was no rising moon to illuminate my path to salvation. At the VA, as lieutenant Dan told good old Forrest Gump, “It’s Jesus this, and Jesus that.” There was nothing to cling to. My only desire was for the Lotus Sutra, like an infant crying out for its mother. The words of others were garbled sounds, uttered deep underwater. I couldn’t understand what others wanted me to hear, and I was not interested in what anyone had to say. “Jesus this, and Jesus that.”

Neuropathy had numbed all of my limbs as if they were partially-asleep, with a sensation of electric waves, flowing from hand to hand, and foot to foot. Needle sticks stung me like fire ants. My favorite foods became repulsive almost overnight, smelling and tasting like the iron in my blood. Nausea swelled and quelled with tidal force.

Peaceful and wrathful deities appeared in my mind as rising and falling waves. My awareness conjured up mirage after bloody mirage on some hot, distant pavement, visually existing, yet unreal in every way. From this repeating, of successive forty-nine day confinements in the acid-tent, that spanned two years, Charles Atkins, emerged as what can best be described as a 120-year-old Jinyo Bosatsu, transformed in body, mind, and spirit – an ancient entity that appears wherever Shakyamuni Buddha preaches the Lotus Sutra, to endure and transform all fear and obstacles, for the sake of annutara-samyak-sambodhi. I had finally become, Gakkoren. Today, my pain level had dropped from a 7 to zero. I put my cane and walker in storage. Mentally, I have gone from PTSD victim to resident sage here at the VA.

It was September 8th, 2012, when my samadhi took me into the realm of awareness and awakening, where the past and future became the moment, this very moment. Perhaps this realm could be considered the bastion of the akashic record, where the inner connection of the multiverse is apparent, and you are the center, just as here is the same as everywhere or anywhere. “Indra’s Net,” begins and ends in the atoms of your being. It doesn’t make sense, but you are the universe, the beginning and the end.

From that day forward, every intention I have conjured, has taken perfect form. From the mighty Abyss where duality is dressed in saintly robes, and hell is the fear of green in an English garden. Love has delivered me from the greatest pain I have ever known.

I had just finished a grueling six hour vigil in palliative care with a veteran who had left instructions in his “advanced directive,” that we should read him passages from the Bible, and pray for him at his bedside. My patient, Mr. Joe, had finally “given up the ghost,” after about ten agonizing days in a coma. Terminal patients don’t follow some sort of linear decline that leads to their final death. Yes there are five stages in the dying process, but dying plays out like blackjack, out of sequence and the house eventually wins. Patients who wear a DNR bracelet, may fight and cling to life, even when living on only means more pain, more suffering, more fear, and more morphine. It is in our DNA to fight for life.

Over the course of a week, I sat many hours at Mr. Joe’s bedside, holding his hand, speaking gently to him, and reading his favorite Psalms. It’s only natural that one gets attached to their patients. I spend many hours with the veterans. It is said that hearing and touch are the last senses to go. For those who have never shared someone’s final times, no two experiences are ever the same, as each person faces death differently, even when their minds seem eclipsed by coma, or pained by fear or regret. Some face death with stoicism, some grow so depressed, they just want to be left alone to try and figure out what’s it all about. One can never tell what’s in another person’s life and mind. For that reason, as an Angel Wings Volunteer, one must be sensitive, in the moment, and responsive to the dying person. Leave your baggage at the door, and give meaning to the moment you are sharing with another soul. Trying to bring forth tranquility is the sitter’s main goal. Creating the ground of eternally tranquil light is not some idle, intellectual  goal. For me, I start with a deep breathing method known as pranayama, to let loose my tension and manifest a state of deep relaxation.  My spirit is to pour pure love and an all-embracing calm into my cup of psychic medicine that I call “Soma Qi.”   This healing starts within my spirit as compassion, touching the patient with mercy.

Spending time with the terminally ill sounds like a wonderful idea, except for a couple of important matters. First, doing so. is heart breaking. I am most often called upon because far too many of those veteran’s have no relatives or friends to be with them as their lamp oil runs out. Second,  the work is beyond exhausting, leaving the sitter both energy depleted, and shaken. That’s because when a person dies in “real life,” it’s not like the movies, where that person rides off into the sunset. And third, when a volunteer feels a “calling” to sit with the dying, they are often working through  their own issues with death. The palliative care vetting process attempts to address such issues, but they can be well hidden, especially when the volunteer needs to use palliative care to work out their own past failures in dealing with death. Perhaps the most delusional reason a volunteer seeks out such servitude is that others will think of you as “wonderful.” The sobering truth is that one finds out rather quickly that volunteering in a hospice may in fact garner one attention for their apparent selflessness, but the sheer weight of that self-deception will crush one’s self-respect. One must assume the role of sitter with a sense of mission and will soon learn that one receives far more reward for their altruism than they put into their work.

As a spiritual healer, I have learned from my mistakes in palliative care. One of my first patients, Mr. Mann, was an eighty-two year old veteran in the final stages of cancer. I sat with him, holding his hand and quietly chanting for his well being. The next day, I came back to sit with him and was shocked to see him sitting up in bed, alert, with a finished eating tray! Old Mr. Mann stayed in that vital rebound stage for a full two weeks. Was Mr. Mann’s rebound just the natural order of things, or could it have been jump started by my poorly phrased prayer?

The vetting process to be a “sitter,” in a VA hospice, is quite formal and strict. The mission of Angel Wings is to ensure that “No Person Dies Alone.” One may need to sit there for hours, starting at 3:00 a.m., just to be close to someone who may not really want you there. It can be awkward. The VA is fully staffed with highly experienced and compassionate clergy, who take turns ministering to inpatients. But, a sitter learns early on, that it is not necessary to call the nurses when death is eminent. The clergy come in after the veteran expires. You are there to offer comfort, support, and help guide the dying person.

One develops their own style as a sitter. I am a chameleon, becoming whatever that veteran needs me to be to help guide them through their final stages of the dying process. The VA has very strict rules and a very formal clerical hierarchy in terms of what the non-clerical, medical staff can and cannot do, as well as equally strict guidelines for the volunteers. For example, one cannot go around trying to “save” the patients, nor can they “preach” their gospel unless the patient had formerly requested in writing, in their advanced directive, that such death bed ministering can and should be done. Many of the patients I have attended to, have formal requests for prayer and reading of Bible verses. As a Buddhist, I find no conflict whatsoever reading Bible verses to someone who is dying. I even had one veteran whose family were very “New Age,” as was he, and I was asked to use acupressure on his feet, as well as to use mantras and meditation at his bedside.  The family was so elated by their loved one’s appearance of peace after I had sat with him for a few hours, that they requested that I stay there bedside, and help guide both them and their loved one into the next world. That particular experience was most fascinating, because all four of us attending the loved one, had an unmistakable metaphysical near-death experience. We all simultaneously drank from that cup, seeing and feeling what the patient was experiencing, including all of us catching his light body lifting from him physical body, and catching a brief but unmistakable glimpse of the spectral light.

In my earlier mention of Mr. Joe, he was described to me as a strong Christian who actually served as an unofficial volunteer, who spent almost a full year as an inpatient right across the hall from palliative care. He read the Bible and chatted regularly to the vets in palliative. The head nurse knew all about Mr. Joe. He was a highly respected elder in his church. She described him as an evangelist who could recite from memory, large sections of the New Testament. According to the head nurse, Mr. Joe had requested bedside prayer, and reading him the Bible. He was very sociable – just a sweetheart to the staff.

Mr. Joe had gone into a coma, and I sat with him, holding his hand, and reading him passages from his favorite scriptures, which were clearly marked in his Bible, along with notes that emphasized key points. The first few nights were a breeze, but all of that rapidly changed. When I arrived late one night, Mr. Joe was highly agitated. He had fallen into a coma, and his eyes were wide open. He had gone from a gregarious guy into a frenzied state. I didn’t know if his obvious panic was due to pain or fear. I know that death carries with it, its own natural, latent fears, so I read him some beautiful Psalms and other verses that he had marked. As a side note, I became more and more perplexed by the harsh, fearful words of the Bible, wondering how anyone could feel uplifted by what I was reading.

By the end of my shift around 5:00 a.m., Mr. Joe needed a relaxer, as he was shaking with fear. There were no other signs of eminent death, so I told him, I would be back around the same time the next day. Over the next several days, Mr. Joe had some kind of paranoid dementia surging through him, even though he was comatose. He began to moan like a ghost, getting louder with each hour until the charge nurse came in and gave him a couple of different shots to calm him down. Mr. Joe’s eyes were now glossed over like he had cataracts. He never blinked. By the time I left around 3:00 a.m., he was writhing in some kind of agony and terror that I can only describe as frightful to anyone, no matter how hardened they might be in the face of death.

I got a call the next evening, long before my assigned hours, to come right away, because Mr. Joe was about to die, or so they thought. After four hours of horrific suffering, the nurse urged me to compel Mr. Joe to die, to “let go.”. This is a very common practice, as the dying person seems caught up in some kind of clinging or attachment to their world. An important part of my work is to guide people from fear and attachment into a more peaceful state of mind. Mr. Joe just kept getting more and more panicky. He reached out and grabbed my wrist and damn near broke it. Mr. Joe had gone hysterical in a coma, and the nurses needed to put his wrists in leather restraints. I never saw the clergy. I must admit that I was surprised by how much the good lord let one of his disciples suffer in his last days. If Jesus paid for the sins of Mr. Joe, there may be a refund due.

The next evening I was called in early to attend to him. He was now being injected with large doses of morphine and relaxers, but it was like Mr. Joe had fallen into the wood chipper. I violated the rules by telling Mr. Joe, I was a minister and asked him if he had any sins to confess. I know he could hear me and ordered him squeeze my hand if he heard me/ After a couple of strong requests, he gripped me like his Bible. Of course he was comatose, but I spoke in a formal, priestly manner, and gave him what I thought was pretty damn good version of “The Last Rites.” Elmer Gantry would have winked at me.  I anointed his brow with lotion, making the sign of the cross, telling him this was holy oil. My holy water was from his sippy cup.  Next, I read him the Twenty-Third Psalm. I told him Jesus was waiting for him. He could now experience the love of God and Christ, but  he must now let go. I spent the next hour with him, trying to give him a sense of peace by softly singing “Joy to the World.” When I left, Mr. Joe looked like he was hanging on to the edge of a high cliff with hell waiting to swallow him up. I went home, drained, and I cried.

The next day, I asked the Buddha for help. I brought my juzu, and my sutra book. Mr. Joe was, in my opinion, in a state of hell. “Enough with these pitiful expedient means!” I quietly began to chant daimoku, and then recited gongyo. If I were caught, I would be sent home and probably warned that if I did anything like that again, I would lose my volunteer status. To me, Mr. Joe’s peace of mind was more important than anything to me at the moment. I chanted and touched his head like the old gojukai ceremony, sending the vibration of my prayer into him. I stopped and said,

 “Mr. Joe. It’s time for you to rise above your fear and pain. I give you these heavenly words, Namu-myoho-renge-kyo. There is only suffering here. Your spirit shall now merge with the light. Namu-myoho-renge-kyo. Namu-myoho-renge-kyo, Namu-myoho-renge-kyo.”

  With my index finger, I touched between his eyebrows, imagining that white tuft of hair that was a distinguishing mark of the eternal lord Buddha, Shakyamuni. I chanted three more times, and quietly meditated until the morning. It was just before the day shift began. Mr. Joe had grown quiet and still, and his hands were icy cold. His legs showed signs of marbling. The death rattle quietly echoed in his throat. Mr. Joe’s mouth opened slightly, exhaling one last time, and he then went limp. I got the nurse, then said my goodbyes. The charged nurse asked me if I would come back in an hour. They would clean him up nicely, put him on a gurney, and drape it with an American flag. We service members saluted, others put their right hand over their heart, and openly cried.

I headed for the Canteen for some morning chow. Every nerve in my body was electrically charged. Every particle of energy inside me spiked. I just needed to sit down. That’s when I crossed paths with 96-year-old Mr. Desmond.

“Are you saved?” he asked, while handing me a religious pamphlet.

“Why, yes, I am saved. I’m Buddhist, or more properly, I AM Buddhism.”

“You look like Lutheran,” he said with a laugh. “It’s only through Jesus Christ that you’re saved from your sins,” said Mr. Desmond.

“Of course you would say that. Why shouldn’t you claim that? You don’t know any better. Most likely, you don’t know about Buddhism or any other teachings outside of your Christianity,” I said, in a most understanding way.

“Jesus died for your sins. That’s the only way to enter the kingdom of heaven,” he said.

“I grew up a Lutheran. I was confirmed. I’ve studied the Bible from Genesis to Revelations, and I’ve yet to find any religion in it. Please don’t take offense, sir, but in the words of the great professor, Joseph Campbell, the mythology of the Bible is little more than childish fantasy. It’s a myth that none of you really understand. Even as a child, I was a non-believer. Buddha taught that one must work out their OWN salvation with diligence.”

 “It’s only through the lord Jesus Christ, who shed his precious blood for the sins of mankind, that you might enter the kingdom of heaven,” he said with a twinge of frustration in his voice.

I recite the words, Namu-myoho-renge-kyo. This is the source of salvation. With all due respect, it’s not logical for you to expound your religion when you can’t even make distinctions between metaphors and the literal text in your own faith. What’s more, you’re not knowledgeable of the other religions or spiritual traditions.”

 He looked at me as if I were doomed. He said, “It might be too late for you.”

 I don’t know where it came from, but with great compassion and respect, I touched his hand.

“Bless you my son,” I said, without the slightest bit of disrespect. Even though this noble senior was thirty-three years older than me, he was like a school boy to me.

 “Bless you my son.”

When I arrived at the VA in April 2011, my survival was in doubt. I had lost about fifty-three pounds and the will to live. PTSD is no less than a traumatic brain injury. There was structured physical therapy for the gazillion sports injuries I sustained as an athlete, and there was psychotherapy that I can only describe as a mental health enema. I attended weekly sessions for both, and after several months in self-imposed isolation from other people, I was finally allowed to participate in a compensated work therapy program designed to re-integrate veterans back into work and social settings. At home, I worked hard to bring forth the natural beauty and harmonics of chanting, even though I was in a constant state of turmoil. Every gongyo, I would feel the words rise and take form. It was hard, but I deprogrammed myself from chanting for personal wishes, and taught myself to disregard thoughts of the past or future. Each time my mind would revert to the past or contemplate the future, my attention learned to ride the rhythmical sounds of gongyo and daimoku like a hawk glides on the wind. In the beginning, I could hold on to the present moment for only a few moments at a time.

It is also important for me to add that there was so much clutter in my thoughts that I had to reach deeply into my spiritual toolbox for additional help. As some of you may know, I had seriously practiced meditation and yoga for more than five years before I became a Buddhist. When I reached into that dusty, grimy part of my toolbox, I could hear the shouting of senior leaders everywhere and even Nichiren, that Zen is the “teaching of devils.”  Since I didn’t deny the sutras and I believed in and had faith in the Lotus Sutra, I decided to try the expedient means of Mindfulness Meditation to regain control of my swirling mind. In my SGI experience, chanting had always been a hyper practice that used the thousand million-fold explosions of thought we ordinary human beings have at any given moment to formulate our prayers and intentions. Yes, in my opinion, chanting as taught in the SGI is a highly aggressive form of prayer, and quite dissimilar to meditation. Furthermore, chanting with specific targets in mind is not that efficient. One need only look to the consistent failures of shakubuku campaigns over the years, and the disturbing lack of “actual proof” of sincere members.

 

Regarding meditation, I was fully schooled in kundalini yoga and meditation way back in the day. I know the elements of vipassana.  I knew what to do, even though it had been forty plus years, and I seated myself in a quiet room to still my mind.  LMFAO x 100! My neurons burst like fireworks, so I began to count my breaths. 1,2,1,2,1,2. Once the counting quelled the bursts, I stopped and began to breath in my nose and exhale from my mouth until I felt light headed. My thought processes became the calm before the storm, and then all hell would break loose as my ego was given “the sleeper hold.” Thoughts like where are my car keys…my knee hurts..she was hot…I’m hungry…I have an itch on the end of nose and I dare not scratch…etc…” Rookie stuff, huh? According to the Lotus Sutra the Bodhisattvas of the Earth are fully schooled and have conquered the six paramitas, so I wondered where my old mojo had gone.

Every time there was a thought, I continued to count my breaths until my mind stilled again. I repeated this process until my timer went off. I had meditated for ten minutes. Seemed like a half hour. That evening, I increased it to fifteen minutes and in the morning, did it for twenty. It was shocking to me how little control I had over the thought explosions of inane, extraneous, and insipid thoughts that bubbled like champagne. The next morning, I added pranayama deep breathing to start my meditation and for counting breaths. Pranayama uses the abdomen to pull in and exhale air. It took almost two months for twice daily quiet meditation sessions to arrive at the point where I could still my mind almost at will. I found myself feeling very peaceful every time I meditated, and still use it everyday to augment my spiritual practice. In Dhyana and Samadhi, one chooses a fixed point to concentrate on. Hindu wisdom compels it’s holy men to be, to know what lies between two thoughts. I suppose that’s their version of the sound of one hand clapping. For me, I would wait for a pin point of light to appear and then try to visualize my gohonzon in that lights. That was a whopping task of concentration, my friends, and that’s what I still try do to this day. On with the story!

There was a vital reason for me to find sanctuary in the present moment. Even though I was being aggressively medicated and engaged in psychotherapy, PTSD had overwhelmed my mind and emotions with agonizing thoughts of my wife’s dead face staring off into the wild blue yonder. I tried self-medicating with cannabis, which proved to be vastly superior to the pharmaceuticals that I had to take. In fact, cannabis got me to eat again, improved my mood, and worked miracles with my impaired memory. When the dust finally settled, my therapist and I determined that I lost about eighteen months of memory. Little did I know at the time, my adventure in wonderland was identical to what is described as “the Abyss,” in modern occultism. All the great mystics must pass through the abyss or die trying. There, the ego is slowly vaporized of all preference and attachment. An excellent allegory is the Phantom City chapter of the Lotus Sutra, where the traveler must traverse a dangerous terrain that is perilous to mind and body. The Buddha then conjures a Phantom City for the weary to regain their strength. This can be viewed as a false but necessary nirvana. After refreshing their strength, the Buddha guides them to the true nirvana. What emerges, if one survives, is a being that is impervious to the “eight winds.” Let’s explore that transcendental experience some other time, as my cat reminds me that such transitions defy explanation. However, my former (past life) student of magick, and now deceased teacher (12-1-1947), the infamous Aleister Crowley, described precisely what I encountered in the Abyss.

“I could not cross the Abyss till I had torn out my heart….”

“I remember nothing of my return to…There was an animal in the wilderness, but it was not I. All things had become alike; all impressions were indistinguishable. I only remember finding myself on my bed, as if coming out of some catastrophe which had blotted out in utter blackness every trace of memory. As I came to myself, I found myself changed. I knew who I was and all the events of my life; but I no longer made myself the centre of their sphere, or their sphere the standard by which I measured the universe…I did not merely admit that I did not exist, and that all my ideas were illusions, inane and insane. I felt these facts as facts. It was the difference between book knowledge and experience. It seemed incredible that I should ever have fancied that I or anything else had any bearing on each other. All things were alike as shadows across the still surface of a lake – their images had no meaning for the water, no power to stir its silence.”

Each morning, I would awaken before the sunrise, fending off thoughts of suicide. Looking at the Gohonzon, I would tell myself that “today, is a good day to die.” As the day wore on, I had to consciously find the will to live. Little did I know that all the joy was being sucked out of me, but at the same time, all pain was on it’s way to extinction too. I was constantly assailed by gut wrenching memories or paranoid speculations about my future that blew through my mind like so many dust devils in an unforgiving desert.

I tried aversion therapy, where I wore a rubber band around my wrist that I would snap hard on my skin each time I recalled a painful, unproductive memory. In the first forty-eight hours, my wrist was swollen, scarred and bleeding. “Serves me right,” I thought. After all, I believed I was more than partially responsible for my wife’s death, and no amount of therapy was going to reconcile that guilt. She had died of a drug overdose from pills she had taken from me. But there was more surrounding her death that only came to light after her passing. Jennifer was a “Solitary Witch.” A very powerful one at that – I knew this before we were married. While looking for a suicide note, I found her magick grimorie – her book of spells, and there I learned that she had cast a spell on me and her ex-husband. My pain and sense of guilt over her sudden death ran cold through my veins, as I had thought I was under psychic attack by some Buddhists that needed to silence me from my own sect. I knew there were some who sought to silence me. I had used Bodhisattva Fugen’s dharani spell in the Universal Worthy chapter of the Lotus Sutra. I broke it down into syllables and used it as a shaman or magician utters their invocations. “Adanda dandapati dandavarte dandakushale …”  And so on. I asked that all spells and curses be returned to the sender, ten fold. Imagine my shock just a week later when she turned up dead in her bathroom. How utterly strange and tragic!

My therapist asked me how many times I relived the moments of finding her dead. How many nights did I have disturbing dreams? I didn’t know the magnitude of those thoughts, and told him that I would arrive at an accurate number by the next appointment. After a week of study, I had the answer. The number of times that I relived the death scene was far beyond what I had imagined! The first year after her death, I recalled various elements and emotions every three seconds, sixteen hours a day, seven days a week. At night, I would have recurring nightmares of those moments. In one year, I relived that trauma about 7,008,000 times. Flashbacks only last a few seconds, but they assail one like mosquitoes in a temperate swamp, leaving one battle weary.

My challenge was to overcome the relentless onslaught of disturbing thoughts. For close to two years, I would wake up and begin my day like a tennis match with a pro. PTSD had a serve like Serena Williams, and my return shot was like a ninety-year-old man after his morning meds! My therapist knew the answer all along, but through his four decades of treating PTSD, he compelled me to find the answer myself.

Even with daimoku and quiet meditation, for nearly two years, I fought the emerging terror and pain. My training in the SGI taught me to meet every challenge with abundant daimoku, never retreating, always advancing. Giving in was not part of my training or experience. I used micro-specific prayer to meet my flashbacks head on, with the roar of a lion. Of course, I cannot blame the SGI way of challenge and response through prayer, even though I was failing in my battle! Intellectually, I knew that the SGI way of targeting prayer to a specific, desired result was part and parcel, the way I was trained to overcome obstacles. On the other hand, I was fully up-to-speed in the actual science of prayer, as conducted by the international prayer research society, known as Spindrift. After decades of research into the effect of specific prayer for targeted results, and non-specific prayer for the best result, Spindrift proved that targeted prayer most often fails to produce a desired result, and more often generates undesired and unexpected results. General prayer or intention, with the proviso of “Thy will be done,” hit the mark by a 10-1 ratio! Thus, giving up all attachment to a fixed result works best. I knew this, and now I had to have the cojones to let go of my training and need to obtain a specific result.

I mustered my strength to approach my PTSD in a completely different way. I was in dire straits, friends. Physiological changes gave me cold sweat as if I had to vomit. My hands trembled. I became trance like hundreds of times a day. I became adept at masking symptoms. It was September 5th, 2012, when I had the first in a series of “Grand Awakenings.” It was a samadhi beyond all that I had ever experienced. I sat before the Gohonzon and sobbed. Healing, therapeutic tears rolled down my cheeks like a good old country gulley-washer.

Please excuse my strong language now, I’m not that warm and fuzzy.

I sat before the Gohonzon and said something to the effect of, “I can’t fight this PTSD anymore, Gohonzon.” Then I loudly addressed the universe:

“Is that all you’ve got, bitch?!”

“You’re not so, bad.”

“Common Mr. Flashback! I don’t care anymore! You can’t hurt me anymore than I’ve been hurt! Suck on this!”

“You’re nothing but a chicken shit ghost. Common, take your best shot, hoser!

For the record, I never, ever thought the PTSD visions were outside myself, but I addressed those mental phantoms as if they were external – it was easier that way. From that instant on, I invited the flashbacks to haunt me, because I couldn’t fight them any more toe to toe. I mocked the apparitions. “You’ve got no substance! I’ll bet you can’t even get it up!” I sneared. “You couldn’t scare a squirrel, you punky ass little mofo!”  “You’re not real and you have no power here, so do your thing and then go fuck yourself.” Ha ha ha!

As soon as I discovered this tool, I knew I would be healthy once again. Every day, the flashbacks diminished to the point where I may have one a month, and when it hits, I laugh at it like seeing a bully get kicked in the balls. I began to live my life again, on my terms. In April, 2013, after two years of treatment I began the second phase of my life as an Angel Wings Volunteer in the Palliative Care unit. I became a hospice volunteer, sitting with the terminally ill during the final stages of their life.

This work with the dying is both difficult and rewarding. I usually come in and sit with the veteran, holding their hand and guiding them to a more peaceful death. My how far we have come, from a shamed exile to hospice volunteer, bringing peace and comfort to those ready to die. I suppose this new role goes back to the dedication in my second book, “Riding the Wheel to Wellness,” where I said, “For the sick, the suffering, and forgotten.”