Leonard Cohen Mistakes Antidepressant Side-Effect For “Spiritual Achievement”

By the time I finished my tour in 1993, I was in some condition of anguish that deepened and deepened. Prozac didn’t work. Paxil didn’t work. Zoloft didn’t work. Wellbutrin didn’t work. In fact, the only comic element in the whole thing was when I was taking Prozac, I came to believe that I had overcome my [sexual] desires. I didn’t know that it has that side effect. I thought it was a spiritual achievement.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen


From Leonard Cohen: Remembering the Life and Legacy of the Poet of Brokenness by Mikal Gilmore (Rolling Stone: 30 November 2016) Note:  The entire article – an excellent read – is available at the link.

Also see

“None of this represented the solution to a crisis of faith” Leonard Cohen On Choosing To Live At Mt Baldy Zen Center & Be Ordained A Buddhist Monk

None of this represented the solution to a crisis of faith. I looked at it as a demonstration of solidarity with the community. I was never looking for a new religion. I was perfectly satisfied with my old religion.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen


From Leonard Cohen: Remembering the Life and Legacy of the Poet of Brokenness by Mikal Gilmore (Rolling Stone: 30 November 2016) Note:  The entire article – an excellent read – is available at the link.

“I tried all the conventional remedies [for depression] – wine, women and song. Nothing worked, including religion” Leonard Cohen On The Resolution Of His Clinical Depression

For me, [the retreat at Mount Baldy Zen Center] was one of the many attempts I’ve made in the past thirty or forty years to address a condition known as acute clinical depression. I tried all the conventional remedies – wine, women and song. Nothing worked, including religion. But fortunately, this condition dissolved. [Interviewer: With being on the mountain?] I don’t know. I don’t know how it began or how it ended, but, thankfully, it did end. Nothing worked for me. Not the recreational drugs, nor the obsessional drugs, nor the pharmaceutical medications. The only effect Prozac had on me, I confused with a spiritual achievement – I thought I’d transcended my interest in women. I later learned the destruction of the libido is one of the side effects. But it’s a mysterious conclusion, because I really don’t know what happened. I read somewhere that as you get older, the brain cells associated with anxiety begin to die. [Pauses] A lot of other brain cells die, too, so you’ve got to watch out.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From Leonard Cohen on Becoming a Monk, Why His Opinions Don’t Matter by Mark Binelli. Rolling Stone: Nov 8, 2001.

More about Leonard Cohen’s depression can be found at .  All Cohencentric posts on this issue are collected at .

Leonard Cohen On His Experience As A Zen Monk “The first and most discernible lesson is to stop whining…”

The first and most discernible lesson is to stop whining. And I don’t really need to go much beyond that. It was sort of like boot camp. It’s a rigorous life, it’s cold and it’s above the snow line. Four-thousand feet was the snow line, and we were up around 7,500 feet. A lot of it is involved in surviving the winter. There’s a lot of shoveling of snow. There is very little private space. There’s a saying in Zen: ‘Like pebbles in bag, the monks polish one another.’ Those rough edges get smoothed out.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen reborn in the U.S.A. by Geoff Boucher (L.A. Times Pop & Hiss: February 27, 2009)

Leonard Cohen At The Mount Baldy Zen Center – A Cluttered Austerity


Cabin Scenes From Leonard Cohen, A Portrait

Viewing the Armelle Brusq 1996 documentary about Leonard Cohen’s experience at the Mount Baldy Zen Center (see Superb Video Of Leonard Cohen At Mt Baldy Zen Center), I was struck by the amount of detail the film displayed of the interior of Cohen’s cabin. I am posting these screen captures from the film and Pico Iyer’s description of this residence (see below)  to provide readers a sense of Cohen’s lodgings from 1994 to 1999.

Other than his computer and synthesizer and the cabin phone, Cohen’s implements of daily life, glasses, mirrors, pencils, tissues, and such, could be characterized as “simple but plentiful.”

Pico Iyer’s Description Of Leonard Cohen’s Mount Baldy Cabin

Published in Buzz in April 1998, the year before Cohen left Mount Baldy, Leonard Cohen Unplugged by Pico Iyer describes Cohen’s residence at the Zen Center:

His home is a markedly simple place, with a small black WELCOME mat outside its door. Inside, a narrow single bed, a tiny mirror, a dirty old carpet, and a picture of some puppies cavorting under the legend “Friends Are All Welcome.”

Farther inside, a pair of scissors, a few Kleenexes, a small shoulder bag with a Virgin airlines tag around it, and on a chest of drawers, a menorah. “This place is really quite a trip,” he says, smiling. “You enter a kind of science-fiction universe which has no beginning and no end.” His own ragged gown, I notice, is held together with safety pins. The small Technics synthesizer in the next room is unplugged.

As to the psychological implications  this particular collection of items holds regarding  the owner, I’ll leave it to the readers to draw their own conclusions.


Note: Originally posted Apr 9, 2011 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Superb Video Of Leonard Cohen At Mt Baldy Zen Center – Armelle Brusq’s 1996 Film Now Online


Rare Opportunity To View High Quality Documentary Of Leonard Cohen During His Zen Retreat

A high quality copy of the entire Armelle Brusq Spring 1996 Documentary has been uploaded to YouTube. For anyone with even a modest interest in Cohen’s career, this is a must-see video (and one somewhat difficult to find in the past).


The Armelle Brusq documentary shot in Spring 1996, about Leonard Cohen’s experience at Mt Baldy1 from which the clip is taken is described in LeonardCohenFiles. Excerpts follow:

Armelle Brusq is a young French artist living in Paris. She filmed this 52 min documentary in Spring 1996 on Mt. Baldy and in Los Angeles using a customized camera. The Norwegian television was the first to show it (on March 15, 1997), and later many other TV channels followed.

Leonard Cohen commented from the Mt Baldy Zen Center, his home at that time: The monks up here think it’s pretty good. Roshi said to her: “You great artist”

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  1. This documentary is referenced under several names, the most complete of which seems to be “Leonard Cohen. Spring 1996. A portrait in time by Armelle Brusq” []