Z is for Zen

Z is for Zen

A quick scan of the internet shows that the definition of the word Zen is a troublesome one. The most basic, factual one is this: a Japanese school of Mahayana Buddhism emphasizing the value of meditation and intuition rather than ritual worship or study of scriptures.

Urban dictionary comes up with a nice one: One way to think of zen is this: a total state of focus that incorporates a total togetherness of body and mind. Zen is a way of being. It also is a state of mind. Zen involves dropping illusion and seeing things without distortion created by your own thoughts.

Sun is warm, grass is green.” http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=zen

The Cambridge dictionary’ s version is pretty poor: relaxed and not worrying about things that you cannot change:

Don’t worry about doing the right thing with your baby – be more zen about it and you’ll be happier.

I tend towards the Urban dictionary version and it’s pretty much what I felt when I began this blog. Walking a tightrope is a powerful metaphor for the way my life is; ages back, someone suggested just letting myself fall. It scared me; it still scares me. My collection of essays from this blog, Depression and the Art of Tightrope Walking, is my account of my discoveries and explorations of a life dominated by depression; my recent collection of poems A Box of Darkness is intended as a treasury of what I have found in that darkness.

I thought of the blog title several years before I began blogging; it sprang to mind instantly. There have been a number of blogs using Zen in the title; many are using it in a very different way. Some reflect the philosophy of Zen and the Art of Archey, some Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (reviewed here). But I am proud of my blog. This, by remarkable coincidence, is my 1000th post here. Z is indeed for Zen, and it’s also the end of this A-Z not-a-challenge. I hope you have enjoyed my meanderings and excursions.

<departs left, pursued by a bear>

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Depression and the Art of Tightrope Walking: first the book, one day the movie?

The movie bit was intended as a joke.

Finally, the project to publish some of the posts from this blog on the theme of depression has come to fruition. The bitterest of ironies is that it was delayed because I was fighting depression; yet, perhaps that in itself speaks volumes about the need for such a  book.

It’s not a self help book in the classic, “Follow these instructions and be free of whatever ailed you,” tradition. If I marketed it as such, I would be lying. It’s very tempting, though, as such books usually sell incredibly well, but that’s because there are vast numbers of people seeking help for their pain.

If anything, this is a book that asks more questions than it answers. All the posts are from this blog, but since they span a considerable space of time and are dotted in among over eight hundred other posts, finding them isn’t an easy matter. The fact that they are freely available on this blog, if you look hard enough, is why I can’t enroll the book into the Select programme, and why therefore it won’t be available to borrow via the Kindle Unlimited scheme.

This is the blurb:

“I’m a writer and poet and a long-term sufferer of depressive illness. I try to keep smiling but sometimes I fail. I love the natural world, and am a great fan of the vagaries of the English weather.” These words were the first attempts to define what my blog was about when I began it in February 2009. From these first tentative steps into blogging, Zen and the Art of Tightrope Walking has expanded into a wide-ranging and eclectic exploratory journey into what it means to live with depression. There are many posts on the subject now, and I decided to collect together the ones I felt were potentially most helpful to others affected by mental and emotional distress. They’re not intended as classic self-help or as a replacement for treatment but rather as a commentary from one person’s experience. Sometimes it can help simply knowing we are not alone in a journey, even when it feels that way. I’ve enjoyed the whole concept of the Zen koan, a short question that usually has no answer but is intended to provoke more questions and more thinking. Think of the classic one: What is the sound of one hand clapping? Most of my posts are written with this aim in mind; I just lack the compactness of a koan. I try to look at the world from another angle. I like (like? not sure I like it but I am inwardly compelled to do it) to ask questions, sometimes awkward ones. There is no final answer about anything. That’s the joy and the sorrow of it. Depression and the Art of Tightrope Walking contains twenty essays from the original blog and includes a foreword from Suzie Grogan, author of Shell Shocked Britain-The First World War’s Legacy for Britain’s Mental Health and editor of Dandelions and Bad Hair Days (Untangling lives affected by depression and anxiety)

It’s available here as a paperback:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Depression-Art-Tightrope-Walking-Zen/dp/1511921005/ref=la_B00766135C_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1441304725&sr=1-1 

and here as a Kindle version: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Depression-Art-Tightrope-Walking-Book-ebook/dp/B014V7313A/ref=la_B00766135C_1_10?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1441304796&sr=1-10

In a week or two, the two ought to be joined onto one page.

There’s a launch party on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/events/354508034737778/

It’s available across all Amazon stores. You can either enter the title in the search facility of your Amazon store, or (neat little trick this) you copy the URL, then change the bit where it says dot co dot uk to dot com or whichever *suffix* your country uses, and that should take you to the correct page.

As I said in my previous post, reviews very gratefully received. The visibility of books on Amazon is a very tricky issue but it’s known that a certain number of reviews increases visibility. 25 reviews triggers certain extra promotion from Amazon (or so it is believed) and 50 initiates more. The mystery surrounding how the great ‘Zon works is dense and impossible to fathom but the consensus is that more reviews (especially good ones), more visibility.