Sunday, November 12, 2006

Dismantling Depression

What may seem overwhelming is merely a construct of the mind

Anything can trigger it: the coming of spring, Christmas, the death of a child, or a parent, losing one’s job, finding out you have AIDS, being left by a lover, or the sheer boredom of everyday life.

What the above scenarios have in common is a change in lifestyle, or a pending change. And while many of the above scenarios would leave plenty of normal people feeling bruised and hurt, it becomes unhealthy when these feelings pass their sell by dates.

Take Christmas. Some people are afflicted with depression because of the pressure to be happy, the pressure to change their living arrangements (albeit temporarily) to accommodate family and friends, perhaps people not seen for some time. But struggling to get out of bed or sleep at night simply because December 25 is looming indicates something has gone screwy. Similarly, with summer approaching, and the airwaves quivering with let’s-get-happy jingles, about beaches and bikinis, fun in the sun, some people may find themselves suddenly facing insecurities about themselves. Perhaps they feel overweight, or generally unattractive. Summer presents the threat of being exposed.

Now, to some extent depression is healthy. It can be a healthy experience if we’re able to deal with it critically, instead of by being merely reactionary (which is what led to the depression in the first place). Depression slows down the metabolism, and asks us to deal with reality. To the extent that we resist what we know we ought to be doing, the depression persists. The value in depression is the message being communicated. Often, that message is not a happy sentiment, but some kind of warning. The warning usually goes something like this: a test is coming and you need to get to work soon to get yourself ready. It’s about anticipation and preparation. And often, how we respond to this news, is simply to attempt to subjugate it mentally. Since these impulses are so subtle and silent, they may seem digestible, in bite size chunks. But for every swallowed thought, there’s a tablet that goes down the hatch to untie the internal knots, and diffuse the throbbing headaches.

A far better way to deal with the depressed state is to identify the original message that set it off. This is how we start. From there is the less easy task of finding out how to interpret and evaluate the significance of this message for our lives. And then a third step, even harder, is to put the insights into practice, in ways that help us to grow. In the end, depression is basically a t-junction in our lives. It is a place where we cannot continue in the same direction we have been going, and now need to make a choice, a choice which will involve action, in one or another direction. Going backwards on the road we’ve been traveling is like going underwater. You can do it, but not for very long. Your life has brought you to a crucial juncture, and the longer you delay, the more life builds up around you. Hence, feelings of being overburdened, and overwhelmed.

A lot of the burdens of depression are mental constructs. When my mother died I was 17 years old, and I suddenly saw a whole life ahead of me without her in it. It’s extremely difficult to deal with the future, and all its unknowns. Who can know what the implications of a present day change will be in one month, let alone years and years down the road. So don’t do it. Depression is the continual resisting of an essential decision, a choice. Depression is a signal that one’s being sends out with this message: please stop what you’re doing and do something different, this is hurting me.

Depression, especially when it is prolonged, is a mind construct. This means that not only are the burdens we feel from this mental malaise, but the actual malaise, is caused by our faulty mental paradigm. You consider an act, but then the mind throws twenty curveball thoughts for why you shouldn’t do something. Thus you remain in a theoretical domain governed by mental activity. This is your problem. You need to get out of the mental construct, either by thinking your way out (which is unlikely to work) or by acting your way out. Put simply: do, to be. Start by exercising more. Whoever said: I think, therefore I am, probably ended up extremely depressed. Our thoughts are not who we are. We are our being, and being doesn’t need thought to exist.

Being is that feeling when you’re just you, without thinking. It’s when you daydream, or run, or get a sudden realization. You feel the pattern of your life, you feel the lifeness in your self. Being doesn’t need a thought to say: I’m not happy, or ouch, this food is hot. Being is instantaneous. We need thought to decipher maps, and study calculus. But thought has a way of dominating the freshness, the clearness, of simply being, and being joyfully alive.

One of the best ways to experience being (which is simply existence uncontaminated by useless thinking) is to be fully present in the Now. Do it now. Breathe. See things around you without judging. Feel how you are connected to everything. People who talk about creation and evolution sometimes forget this beautiful, and magical insight: the creation didn’t happen in a flash of light long ago, and then end. Evolution didn’t stop with the appearance of man. Both processes are still in full swing. The Now is still being created, galaxies are spinning outwards into an ever expanding universe. All over new creatures are being born and dying. And in us, the fire of creation is still blooming, bursting in a continuous explosion. Eternity, is in the Now; the past and future are illusions. Time is a mental construct that leads us to think about 1 hour from now, or last Wednesday. Actually, there is only one time: Now. It’s all we have and all we’ll ever have. To the extent that we dwell in the past or future, we surrender our life in the Now, and become zombie-like dreamers.

Being in the Now means crashing through the mental constructs we habitually create. The good news is reality is self evident. People with depression are afraid reality might cause them more pain. The good news is reality is the only place to be, and the Now presents everyone with liberation. Be yourself, know who you are and most important, connect with the universe. Depression is symptomatic of chronic disconnection. And the most important disconnection we feel, when depressed, is a disconnection from our true selves. Depression then, is a long term failure to be true to our souls. Depression is the message saying, simply: stop lying to yourself, start living a truer life.

Unfortunately, many people are afraid to think real thoughts. They’ll go to other people and wait until they hear what they want to hear. They’ll court drama, because drama tends to support the mindstruct that the ego wants. Ego is dependent on our thoughts. Ego is all about: I think, therefore I am. And it’s our egos that hurt us the most.

Living simply, merely enjoying the life that flows through us, in the moment, without expectations or muddying thoughts, is the road to happiness. Being in the Now is how we become congruent to the wonderful, joyous people we really are.

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