jmeff wrote:When I was 14 I got into zen very intensly with no teacher. I read all sorts of buddist books meditated hours and hours a day. I had some amazing experiences in the beggining. Then when I was 16 I had an experience of complete seperation Some people call it depersonalization. Following that experience I had extreem anxiety and depression. I suffer from PTSD I got as a child also. Anyways I'm 25 years old I've been put on 5 different medications for major depression and spending 7 years in a addiction. I am now 2 years sober in alcoholics anymous. I've been able to find some spirituality but I still have some terrible memories of the feelings and experiences I had while meditating. It's almost tramatic. Whenever someone metions buddism or metitation my heart sinks. Sometimes when it's sunny out I drift deep into that horrible alienation zen brought me. I just wish I never found budism. I Just want to find peace, to heal from this negative association. I know I can't practice buddism anymore, which makes me sad because I did like something about. Like anyone I wanted to be free but instead got punished for it. I thought for awhile if I can't attain enlightenment there's no reason to live. I just want a new path I can walk and make peace with the path. A part if me says the buddist path is the only way to peace. I guess I need clarity and aceptance and permision to follow a different path to peace.
It's important to realize that Buddhism and meditation generally do no cause dissociative experiences. Trauma strongly predisposes people to depersonalization experiences, and the way you practiced meditation helped manifest it. You didn't know, and you were looking for something that would help you. But make no mistake, meditation is a mind-altering practice and can be just as dangerous as a drug if used improperly. Just like a scalpel it can harm or heal depending on how it's used.
As Peter said, it seems that the association you have between Buddhism/meditation and negative emotions/memories due to classical conditioning. It's just like Pavlov's dogs. Bells don't normally cause dogs to salivate, but when a bell happens together with food consistently, the dog associates the bell with food and starts to salivate. You associate meditation and Buddhism with negative experience because you experienced both of them together, and in a very powerful way.
One way to extinguish this conditioning is by exposing oneself to the "bell without the food," and eventually the brain learns that the relationship no longer holds. That's tricky to do in your situation and you also don't want to trigger any major difficult experiences that could jeopardize sobriety.
If you aren't already involved with a trained professional therapist to deal with your trauma, etc. I strongly recommend you find one. Twelve step groups are a fine method for many people, but severe conditions like this benefit from additional help. (Ditto Peter's recommendation for CBT as well.)
To embellish on some of the recommendations made above, there are a few things you can do which are spiritual and will enhance your life. Calling them "Buddhist" or not is irrelevant. It's just a label.
One is the path of service. Find some altruistic activity to engage in regularly, donating time and effort to some cause you would like to contribute to. Altruism has inevitably has beneficial effects, mental and physical, for the one who does it (see this excellent book: http://www.whygoodthingshappen.com/
). Further, it gets you out and interacting with people, which will help counter feelings of alienation. Loneliness and alienation are illusions and our very existence is defined by connections. Altruism is an integral part of 12 Step groups too, in helping other addicts. But it's good to do something and make social contact beyond recovery groups as well.
Another possibility is doing practices like Tai Chi and/or yoga. These are means of focusing but also keeping grounded in your body. See this article on benefits of yoga for mental illness, including PTSD.http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Mental_Health_Letter/2009/April/Yoga-for-anxiety-and-depression
Another possibility is to focus on compassion and kindness, especially toward oneself. This is a practice that is lacking in traditional Zen meditation. This doesn't need to be done in seated meditation, but could be done walking or doing daily activities. When sweeping a floor, wish thoughts of loving-kindness towards all who will walk over it. When preparing food, wish loving-kindness towards all who will eat it, and all whose lives they will touch. When driving or commuting to work (or wherever) wish loving-kindness to other commuters. When watching a movie, wish loving-kindness towards the actors and crew who created the film. There are no limits for the application of this. The only limit is one's creativity.
Thich Nhat Hanh wrote that "We must practice in a way that removes the barrier between practice and non-practice." (from Being Peace
If the association with the label "Buddhism" is troubling, then drop the label. These things are universal. Call it "Oogey-boogeyism" or don't call it anything at all. Follow whatever path you care to. It's all one path by different names anyway (so sayeth Matthew Flickstein).
I guess I need clarity and aceptance and permision to follow a different path to peace.
The irony of you asking is that you are the only one who can grant this to you. No one here can give them to you, and no one here can deny you them. Your happiness depends on the choice you make in your given circumstances, not the choices of others.
[Edit: grammar corrections]