My friend Jake, in his words, experienced two decades of intense declining psychosis, terrifying and agonizing beyond comprehension. These states were triggered when he was in college and tried out a simple chakra meditation every day for one year. He describes the states of consciousness he couldn’t understand that resulted from it as possibly kundalini energy and/or psychic attack.
During these 20 years of mental suffering Jake developed a practice in which he sits quietly for at least 3 hours a day doing nothing, that has been the primary source of him feeling substantially better. JAM, or Jake’s Anti Meditation is how he refers to it. He doesn’t follow his breath or focus on anything, but rather sits and does nothing. If he misses JAMMING for a day his state of mind often becomes intolerable again.
This practice is one he can do almost anywhere: at home, on the bus, at a cafe, in the park, it doesn’t have to be quiet or solitary or free from distractions but he needs to be doing nothing, not talking, typing, reading, watching TV or focusing on anything.
As a result of JAMMING, aka sitting and doing nothing, Jake put other pieces of his life back together. He has his own online business, is financially stable, has satisfying friendships and enjoys the simple life he’s created using his own rules for what he needs to stay sane and happy by his own definition. The flexibility of his work allows him to take hours of JAM time everyday.
He has never taken psychiatric drugs for any extent of time and doesn’t go to a therapist but does put some attention on his diet and exercise.
A lot of us have those little things we need to do to feel sane by our own definition that perhaps no one else needs to do in quite the same way. Mine include writing with a pen and college ruled notebook 7 pages every day, sometimes about things of no interest to anyone but me. Many need a certain amount of exercise, time in nature, certain foods and connection with certain people. Jake’s main need is to do nothing for as many hours a day as he can squeeze in. If he weren’t financially stable and socially adept, this need might be labeled as a mental illness in itself. It’s all arbitrary.
From Jake’s JAMMING, sometimes he gets clear intuitions and thoughts that guide him in his life, or ideas for other people. From my journals come the same type of thing.
Maybe you have a need to spend hours a day playing with clay, talking to yourself, singing to flowers, or staring into space. Something incredible could be born of your idle hours, and even if not you should be able to live in a way that allows you to thrive, however different it may be from your neighbor’s way.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.