In light of what is going on in the world today, as people break into rage at injustices, out of lockdown in rebellion, or feel paralyzed or depressed in the face of the extraordinary disbalance in our world, we need to ask what cultivating inner peace looks like.
Recently, we have been considering how anger’s explosive energy, when acted out externally or stuffed down internally, ravages our lives and those of others. But there is another, more passive way that we can suffer and feel disconnected from the moment. When we ignore or judge what we are feeling, we often find ourselves sinking into depression. This week, we will look at that more deeply, as we consider depression’s passive, heavy energy and how we can find relief.
The primary focus here is the occasional depression that we can all feel from time to time. Clinical depression is a mood disorder for your doctor to diagnose, and requires medical attention. Yet whether you suffer from a medical condition or a passing case of the blues, we can explore together the landscape of depression with care and attention, on top of any additional support you may be receiving for your particular situation.
When we are depressed, we become listless, and have difficulty activating. Why do we get depressed? Why does chemical treatment not always resolve it completely? If we can take a few deep breaths now, pause, and give our minds a chance to open to possibilities, we can find answers to these questions. The key is in going to the root of the issue.
THE POWER OF HONESTY
Depression is an aspect of our human psyche that calls for deep and compassionate self-honesty. Being depressed is like being in the dark. Light is always shining on us, yet a heavy roof overhead keeps us from seeing it. The thing is, we are the ones who put the roof there. To release it, we need to understand why we did so in the first place.
Any resistance to the moment arises from an unconscious reaction and the perspective of “happening to me”. It is as though we have built a house and forgotten we hold the key to its door. Then, having built the house, we decide to settle in—because we don’t want to see what lies beyond its walls.
There can be a pride in feeling separate, that can fuel our depression. We only return to the sun when we are honest and willing to see what we have been trying to hide from ourselves: our pain, our rage, our pride, our need to have it all figured out. The truth is, we do not need to build a house for these feelings, or to push them away. Though we may have thought the house would protect us, it has actually just boxed us in and cut us off.
For this reason, when we face depression, more than ever we must practice non-resistance to that which is. That means being present for even things we don’t like. This at first may feel uncomfortable. It can be scary to feel vulnerable, especially if we are attached to having everything figured out and under our control. But through non-resistance, with patience, courage and compassion, new internal space will emerge and the walls to the house will begin to dissolve. This helps us understand, witness, and release. In presence, we can be honest with ourselves about our tendency to feel sad, grieving, or anxious.
Through non-resistance, we can compassionately understand the presence of depression in our lives. When we meet it with a sense of attention and kindness, without judgment, we may find that our soul is asking us to leave the house of our resistance.
HEALING DEPRESSION THROUGH BALANCE
Many of us have been taught to devalue receptivity and emotional fluidity and focus instead on productivity, logical reasoning and taking charge. Our society’s general lack of harmony with organic unfolding may be a reason depression is widespread today.
Because we are a part of Nature, each one of us has an inherent tendency toward balance. Depression is often a signal that we have lost touch with that balance. As such, our healing revolves around finding a balance between inner investigation and outward engagement.
We live busy and often disconnected lives. Easily caught up in what others think, how we appear, or how others look in the media, we can lose touch with our own inner voice. The more we do so, the more we lose our power, because we cut ourselves off from our healthy roots. Depression calls us to tap in and explore what we are really feeling.
Unexpressed anger often underlies depression. Perhaps paralyzed by the fear of disapproval or upsetting the status quo, we have stuffed down our anger so that it becomes thwarted and muted, directed at ourselves. We may discover we beat ourselves up in a way we might never treat another person. This is because of that thwarted anger we have not addressed, the ways we may feel trapped, powerless, or without choice. But are those perceptions true? Are we truly without choice?
When we look deeper, the root of this self-directed aggression is self-judgement, which is based on feeling separate from the whole, unworthy and unloved. Self-forgiveness, therefore, is instrumental in being able to heal from depression. We must challenge the negative self-talk rather than give into it. We must question, “Is this true?” to the voices within that keep us small. Honesty must be our watchword.
Compassionate understanding of our depression also shows us that we need to engage outwardly in healthy ways, to bring in fresh energy to what has been stuck in the dark. So we ensure that we go for a walk or jog in the park regularly, or engage in activities that help us feel alive. We avoid self-medicating with foods like cake and ice cream, or with distractions like television, social media or movies. Such attempts to escape our feelings will only leave us more stuck.
It is also powerful to consciously choose to laugh. When we become really present, we see the humour in the idea that anything could ever permanently eclipse the sun. Our painful feelings can never fully obscure the truth that we are infinitely loved and integral parts within Nature’s intelligent whole. Once understanding is present, in the practice of witnessing, we open to the field of possibility. We learn to see things as they are, allowing ourselves to flourish in the fullness of the whole.
HEALING STEP BY STEP
Doing inner work is essential in healing depression. It allows you to be in touch with what you are really feeling and make friends with your soul. At the same time, make sure you also move outward.
Even small daily efforts to activate both inwardly and outwardly can recalibrate your self-defeating messages. This will help you to feel more loved, connected and supported. See if you can find even a hint of willingness to open in each moment and be receptive to the possibility that you are loved in ways you cannot yet see or understand. Looking within is how you discover your soul’s light. Going outward is how you live it. And on your walks, don’t forget to look up at the sky. Even on a cloudy day, the sun is still shining.
We are organic beings. None of us has it all figured out, nor can we expect that we should. Most of us have little understanding of what is actually happening right now, let alone what happened a few minutes ago or yesterday. We certainly don’t know what will happen tomorrow. We live in a natural world that is vast and mysterious like the oceans. When we let go of trying to have it all figured out, we may find that we start enjoying this moment as it is, rather than trying to fight it, build a house around it, or make it into something it is not.
This week, find a safe and comfortable place, pen and paper in hand, and gently and compassionately ask yourself:
• Do I have a tendency for depression?
• In what ways can I see it in my life?
• Do I have unexpressed anger?
• What do I feel angry about?
• When I go within, can I see this may be behind my depression?
• Can I see how, in feeling depressed, I am in resistance to the moment?
• What am I resisting?
• Am I willing to be honest with myself about what I am feeling?
• Am I willing to practice self-forgiveness?
• Am I willing to embrace my power of choice?