Once in a great while, we meet someone that brings a new light into our lives just by their wisdom gained through long-term spiritual practices. I’m one of those fortunate folks that came into contact with the creator of LivingUnbound.net.
Here is an excerpt from Living Unbound that explains the issue of depression, its connection with the conditioned mind the effect of meditation:
Living Unbound Q&A: Meditation and Depression
March 11, 2010
A Living Unbound Visitor Asks:
“Here is a question: It is suggested in many traditions that if one is experiencing true depression (not just a blue mood, but an actual disorder, where one can’t feel any pleasure), since the meditation will amplify the inward ruminations of the depressed person. I have through personal experience verified this for myself–over a year of meditation did nothing to keep me from spiraling downwards, and in fact made me feel worse. I forced it in an effort to overcome my situation, but it just prolonged the experience.
What has made it to start to lift is a combination–medication, physical exercise, good diet (note: diet and exercise alone were nothing for severe depression!), therapy, and doing the internal work with the help of these external things.
So–any suggestions for one that is truly, clinically depressed, for whom meditation will not help or make things worse? I think meditation is risky in such cases–with a suicidal person, downright dangerous.
Should they focus on just connecting with things that make them feel better, or are there any other spiritual practices they could do (besides meditation)?”
Living Unbound Answers:
Thanks for asking this question; it’s a very good one.
Per your mention of potential danger, yes: when dealing with significant depression, it’s always wise to get input from a trained professional (medical doctor, psychiatrist, etc.) regarding best courses of action, overall. And yes, some people do find that meditation can seem to make depression worse. However, meditation is also one of the most proven practices for opening to Living Unbound.
Most of us who deal with depression have a custom-mix of factors that caused the depression, and a custom-mix of factors that keep the depression in place:
Psychological tendencies, lifestyle induced biochemical issues (i.e. sedentary lifestyle, poor eating or sleep habits, alcohol or drug use, etc.), other medical issues which contribute to depression-related symptoms, and so on. And so, for many of us, a custom-mix of changes, ranging from becoming more active, to becoming more social, to positive adjustments in diet and activity level, to positive adjustments in mind-habits, to starting daily spiritual practices, is usually what it most helpful in stepping free from our sense of depression.
When we go through a depression we have a tendency to pull ourselves inward, to move into a shell, so to speak, and we tend to do a lot of thinking inside this shell; thinking that is usually not pleasant or positive, to say the least. Hence diet, exercise, doing things that involve being more active and outwardly-oriented, such as being with friends, or otherwise connecting with people, maybe taking up a new sport or recreational hobby; doing things that lift us up and get us active. These things are important, and can be as important, or more so, than medication alone, depending upon the exact nature and depth of our depression (if we decide with our doctor that medication may be useful).
This is the cycle we talk about in the first lesson in the Teachings section of Level 1, The Cyclic Nature of Living. Depression pulls us toward inertia, and so its “antidote” is that which take us into activity, away from inertia. Exercise, work, activities with friends, spiritual practices, and so on, all contribute to restoring the natural cycle, with balance between activity and rest.
If we decide with our doctor to start anti-depressant medication, there is often an initial period where the medication may seem to be working very well. Many of us have heard, and or experienced, people who start on anti-depressant medication say: “This medication I am on is really working!”
However soon, with many of us, the medication is not as effective as it was when we started it. There are many reasons for this dynamic, and this is why doctors and patients so often go through multiple trials of anti-depressants. The main reason that anti-depressants tend to have temporary effects, is that our conditioned thinking patterns essentially re-create the depression in ways that medication can’t overcome. We think ourselves back to the place we started and no medication can get us out of that place. Changes in our activity level, and increases in connecting with people may offer relief of the worst of our symptoms, but only permanent changes in attachment to thought patterns, and permanent biological changes brought about by effective practices of various types, can permanently alleviate depression.
This is because these permanent psychological and biological changes eradicate the underlying causes of depression. We can change medication several times, but if we don’t supplement it with identifying and dissolving our conditioned mind-shafts, we will just think ourselves back to where we began, depression-wise. So-called “talk therapy” can help, too, but the quality of this therapy varies widely. And usually, the patient is not taught how to think in ways that facilitate freedom from depression.
This is a key part of what Living Unbound is here to do: to help us all find, utilize and share the tools which help us all in Living Unbound, at every level of body, mind and spirit.
A bit of inner silence goes a long way in helping us to see the mind-stories, mind-labels and mind-shafts, which re-create depression. When we meditate, attention moves inward, and any depressing thinking may be even more noticeable, and therefore may seem worse than ever. This can give us a sense of not only worsening depression, but also a sense that it’s the meditation that is making our depression worse.
However, if we can consciously meditate for a few minutes by focusing on our breathing, or on a mantra, we will notice that we can actually experience a gap in the thinking. Even few seconds of experiencing a gap is a way to touch our inner silence. Our inner silence is past the depressed layer, it is not touched by thoughts or depression.
And so, meditation helps us know the part of ourselves that is free from depression, and it helps us notice the mind patterns that keep us bound to the long shaft of depression, while we’re in it.
Once we see through the illusion of the shaft of depression, then, even when we do feel depressed, it is only that moment of depression we live though. We don’t mentally pull in the previous 20 years of depression into this current moment of depression. This results in the current moment of depression not getting the energy of the memories of the past 20 years of depression; it is not connected. One moment of depression is a lot easier to deal with than 20 years of depression. It then gets easier and easier to handle this single moment, if and when it arises, and it gets easier to release it, and to let the next/current moment just be what it is, without automatically bringing depression-enhancing memories and thinking into it.
However, in order to see any of this, getting in touch with our silence for a few minutes is essential. Without touching our inner silence ever more deeply over time, we can only cycle between activity and inertia, and depression will always return, or have the possibility of returning. However, touching our inner silence helps us to experience the part of ourselves that is ever free from depression. Inner silence is the doorway to Living Unbound, to Freedom Beyond Imagination in our own experience, in reality.
And we don’t have to practice 20 minutes of mantra meditation, especially when just starting or when we feel like we are going through a depressive phase; even 2 to 5 minutes twice a day, of breath or mantra meditation will help us to connect with our inner silence, our true nature.
The few minutes of suggested meditation is to simply touch the stillness, our own inner silence. One moment of experiencing stillness has more power than the mind can think. This stillness helps us see though the workings of the mind, by giving us a vantage point beyond and before it, and most importantly, by allowing us to experience that there is actually a part of ourselves that is actually, ever free from depression or the possibility of depression.