This blog is an invitation to breathe and really look. If you don't follow the impulse to turn away, can you simply be with the energy that is expressed in the above photo? Can you notice what arises and stay with the image anyway: the fear of being pulled down or somehow being 'contaminated' by it, the repulsion, the blame? Can you simply look, neutrally, without any concept of what this is, why it's happening, and what needs to be done about it? Can you simply be with it? Can you open your heart to what you see? Can you see with your heart? What happens as you take your time, breathing, looking, being with this energy of depression, being with the man who is suffering with it?
My own history and break-through
As I have a history of depression myself, I know it very well. Years of psychotherapy in my thirties helped a lot, but depression still came back every so often. It is only when I came across self-inquiry, as taught by my spiritual teacher Gangaji, that I had a real break-through moment. I remember it well: I was feeling utterly depressed, and I had done everything I would usually do to help myself feel better: meditating, journaling, drawing, going for a walk, talking to friends, doing things to distract myself. Nothing had helped. I decided to take a bath, as baths tend to soothe my fraught emotions. As I was laying in the bath, I was moved to inquire into the depression. The inquiry was similar to what I suggested above you do with the image of the depressed man, except that what I was inquiring into was my own depressed state and energy. As I opened into it, and stayed with it, without any notion about what this was, the emptiness and darkness revealed themselves to be the very same emptiness and stillness that I had been searching for spiritually. What a surprise! Somehow the depression had lifted, and I was in a state of awe and wonder, experiencing this still, vast spaciousness in a way I never had before. I was so struck by this insight and transformation that I wrote a poem about it (you'll find it below).
After this experience, depression was no longer the same. I wasn't so afraid of it anymore. Depressed states would still show up, but somehow they had lost their power, and they came to be increasingly shorter. I can't say I ever enjoy meeting depression again, but I am no longer afraid of it. Nor do I try to get rid of it when it comes, as I've found much truth in the saying 'what you resist, persists'. When I need to, I take a fresh look. It's always interesting what depression reveals when inquired into. I'm simply willing to be with it and stay open.
As of late, depression has come back to 'haunt me' in a different way: it somehow kept coming up when I was talking to people, especially spiritual people. As I started reflecting on this, I realized that more inner, spiritually inclined people are more prone to depression. And I could see that inquiry could be an incredibly valuable tool in responding to it, especially for spiritual people. So I'm now offering a new online group program -- Depression as a wake-up call -- that provides a safe and sacred context for people to learn and be guided in their own fresh look at depression. If you're interested in this, or know anybody who might be, you can find out more about it HERE or by clicking on the thumbnail or the title. The program starts on Tuesday, 30 May 2017. Thank you for spreading the word! (For another, even more spiritual angle, check out the blog 'Depression as a wake-up call' on the Healing and Awakening website.)
Dark night of the soul
All the lights have gone out.
Even the Sun has lost its radiance
behind the clouds of un-knowing.
The trees have fallen silent,
no more life visible in them.
There's not much life force left
in this body,
nor is there any power
in this mind.
The heart is empty,
the darkness is
as being surrenders
to it without resistance.
The dark side of life
no different from the light,
really no difference,
both a doorway