“Our soul is always calling us home. And the way home is through the mind” –Jiivanii
So you are moving along in your life and then something happens that stops everything. You find yourself unable to get out of bed or off the couch. What once was easy is now riddled with anxiety and dificulty. Panic sets in and takes over the mind, body and spirit. What’s happening?
Clearly a lot of people experience various degrees of depression and anxiety. Even in good times, there is an average of 16 million new cases of depression in the United States every year, leading me to ask, “What is really going on here?” There are numerous ads announcing the latest drug treatment. A friend told me recently that one such television ad (we don’t have television) announces that “If none of your other medications work for depression tell your doctor about this one!” An implication here is that this drug may be your last chance.
There are no last chances until you are dead. And even then I am certain our karma continues, as do our chances.
You probably want my position on drug treatment. I am not opposed to it; I am also not in favor of it as the “first or only” response to depression and anxiety. In fact, in all cases of drug treatment one should be engaged in psychological, spiritual, social and environmental remedies.
There is a cure for depression and anxiety. Just as the African proverb suggests: “the treatment is right next to the wound.” The solutions are right next to the problems. In my thirty years of offering counseling I find that the answers are in the questions. Each client carries within themselves the answers they need. Look at your life and find the cure.
When confronted with such suffering as depression and anxiety, your cure is in your response. So don’t kill the messenger.
Don’t Kill the Messenger
Depression is a part of a whole life, not something one can separate out and label only as “chemical” or biological. Even so in those situations where biology may be a primary factor—to leave out the rest of the human experience (emotional, mental, spiritual, social and environmental) would be a failure in treatment. In fact, when someone experiences an onset of depression their life is talking to them. Their soul is sending out an SOS — something is not working here! So to just take medication would be to cover up the discomfort of the message and in so doing kill the messenger. To be free of depression or anxiety or to at least not be run down by them, one must be able to listen to the Voice of the antagonist. So even in the situation where medications help, be mindful to take enough to help but not so much to kill the messenger before you understand the message.
Narcissism In Healing
When we become ill or dis-eased there is a need for us to become somewhat self-absorbed. For example, if we are hit in the head with a brick we need to clean the wound and bandage our head. We would need to stop the bleeding. What tends to happen though with depression and anxiety is we may get too caught up in the whole drama of it all. Everything is about our depression and anxiety. As soon as possible we have to agree that this dis-ease, this problem is not just about me. It affects everyone around me. Self-absorption is not a cure and will result in more sense of isolation. Take care of the bleeding and then get on with the transformational healing.
So, at the same time you will need to hold up the mirror and be willing to take a look at your life and ask yourself some questions. What in my life is not working?
A New Map of the World
Your view of the world will need to change – you can’t keep looking out into the world in the same way, it is not working for you anymore. For this change in view to take place you will need some process of thought transformation. Such practices can be found in Buddhism (Lojong practices, meditation,) cognitive-behavioral and didactic therapies, and awareness techniques, for examples.
Often depression and anxiety is brought on by one’s paradigm shifting, life has brought to your doorstep some big changes. But you keep holding on to the same view, the same way of relating to your life. Depression and anxiety then is again the call of your soul to change your view, to transform your self. For example, where in the past everything came easily, you didn’t have much to worry about. Then you lost your job or a loved one. Or some other outward circumstance triggered a big change. Now you need a new map of the world since the world around you has changed. If you keep trying to take the old road to the new place you will remain lost. Other times it is that the life you thought would bring you happiness isn’t. So the paradigm wants to shift but you may not know how to go about this transformation, this change in view. You will have to choose some antidotes to the depression: some techniques of thought transformation so your view and relationship to your life can change.
The Unlived Life
Your response, your cure, will need to include a spiritual component. Spiritual for me means bringing forth such qualities as love, forgiveness, creativity, compassion, and awareness.
Many times someone has come to me depressed and angry and it doesn’t take a long search to find out that they are leaving a large part of their life unlived. Their cure is simple (but not easy): they need to activate their creative life – take that class, bring out the guitar, write that book, move to the country and raise organic chickens, or simply read more books and take more trips. They need to commit to the creative life.
If you don’t fulfill your creative calling, we all lose
Spirituality also means that we come to deeply understand that we are all connected somehow, that our life and what we do with it touches everything and everyone. Your life matters and it matters in a big way. For me this includes holding the awareness of karma and how every experience (result) has causes. We didn’t get here alone or by accident. Our entire life leads up to this moment, to this experience. Furthermore, in my Buddhist practice I understand that I am also influencing future lives. Ultimately it doesn’t matter who threw the brick or why, it is best to put our energy in applying the antidote.
I hope for you a happy, creative life. I hope you listen to the messenger and seek the antidotes for true happiness. It is never too late and there are no last chances, just the one before you now. Something beautiful wants to happen; a treasure wants to be revealed! Get that updated map and get going!
Spend some time outside aware of what gets your attention. Allow the natural beat of nature to sooth you. Breathe in some outdoor air, notice where the moon or sun is in the sky. Take some time to journal afterward.
Watch the Movie Off the Map. What do you think brought the husband and the visitor out of their depressions? Consider how the entire movie is a metaphor for our life’s journey and the difference choices we have. How does each person represent different parts of your self? Notice how we influence one another.
Read, Parker Palmer’s book, An Active Life.
Find a qualified spiritual teacher or a transpersonal psychotherapist that will help you with thought transformation, meditation practices and experiencing the reality of oneness.
Keep a spiritual journal. In October I will be offering another round of Spiritual Journaling Classes. See my calendar.
Check out your area for Shambhala trainings, and mindfulness meditation classes.
Watch the movie 10 Questions for His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Read the 14th Dalai Lama’s book, Ethics for a New Millennium.
Preorder my book: The Wheel of Initiation: Practices for Releasing Your Inner Light.