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compassionate curiosity

I, and others I have spoken to feel depressive episodes are one of the more difficult states of mind we can encounter. My experi­ence is that meditation can be beneficial, if practiced under the supervision of a skilled therapist or teacher. Tending to depression through meditation

Having sat with many different teachers over the years… it wasn’t until I found a teacher that had been through feeling depressed and used meditation to soften this, that could truly point me in the right direction.

I remember being told by Reggie that depression is workable… which I remember clearly thinking (although too introverted to respond), f*ck you…. workable… you have no idea…

Having taken on his pointing’s, having sat through these states and turned months of difficulty into days, sometimes even hours… I began to understand what he meant. Tending to depression through meditation

Through meditation, this ‘workable’ state of depression, took time and effort… although I quickly realised how much effort I was putting into berating myself and harnessed that energy with curiosity and compassion instead…

By turning to meditation, it doesn’t mean cold turkeying your medication either. My stubbornness led me to ditching the prescriptions many years ago and just managing it, (quite unsuccessfully my wife would tell you).

Antidepressants can be an enor­mously useful for some. Tak­ing them can be a very compassionate action, enabling you to function, to engage in society, something which is crucial to softening this state of mind, to recognise that you are useful. Don’t feel guilty about turning to them, if you are using or wanting to turn towards them, then feeling guilty will only harness this state, fuelling it with more reason for you to feel down… I have heard that medication can help you to meditate…

Depression is a state of mind when we can experience a strong sense of being cut off, disconnected, and miserable. If you are a practitioner going through such difficulty, it is important to know this is not a personal failure. Don’t get caught in the trap of feeling guilty or of think­ing you have no value. That only adds suffering to the suffering you are going through… cementing in your mind your useless-ness. A truly fruitless venture… this won’t feed your recovery.

Coming back to the idea of it being ‘workable’ you need to understand the concept of impermanence.

To try and summarise impermanence with a little practise. Just for the next moment I want you to clap your hands quite hard and notice how something starts as a sound, then pain, warmth, tingling then eventually nothing, like the clap never happened… it continues to change… pain changes… just like everything in life changes.

Lets reflect a moment… what is one thing that has remained permanent… just one thing that has lasted the 13 billion years of creation (or whatever it is)? Tending to depression through meditation

Nothing… right… everything has changed. Nothing is permanent… So just like we can recognise that nothing ever has remained permanent… this state, if we can see this state as impermanent (rather than the black and white thinking we get stuck in as it being permanent), like storm clouds in the sky soften to let the sun shine, or the fog like the one in Brisbane today, or the one that rolls in out of nowhere up at the Airport in St Peters… it comes, and then it goes… permanence is a trick which we begin to believe… Nothing… Nothing is permanent. You need to feel this in your heart.

So workable… impermanent… feel into your heart…

The emotions you are feeling are real… the sadness is real… the battle is fake… it is a façade… a mirage… Who are you battling? Who is winning and who is losing…? It can’t be you. You can’t battle your mind with anxiety and hope this anxiety lifts your depression…

I was reading somewhere that war has been going on since 2600BC. A battle has been raging on Earth for 4700 years… so what would make you think battle will form a resolution. Often in most conflicts the winning side never truly wins… it creates an underlying hatred of the victors which surfaces, maybe not straight away but it bubbles away… feeling of guilt and disappointment, anger and hatred… all emotions known all too well with sufferers.

So, we must turn to the heart, to self-compassion. A radical shift, yet something that can ease this state which can cause us so much suffering.

Compassion is the desire to alleviate the suffering of others… self-compassion is the desire to alleviate your own suffering. 

With compassion we begin to meet that negative belief, negative self-talk with patience, with stillness. No battle. As Martin Luther King jr prescribed… non-violent activism… can we let it pass without the overwhelming guilt and disappointment. Being active in recognising, yet patient with the initial response. The job at hand is to unite not segregate.

Connecting with your human-ness. You are that which is hurting… tend to it…

“plant your soul with good seeds, don’t cover yourself in thistle and weeds, then rain down, rain down on me” Mumford and sons.

From the view of our meditation practice, we have lost our ability to do nothing, or resting in our own skin. We have lost our connection to stillness or nothing-ness.

Meditation has become a consumable to help us be busier… To cope with craziness. Now don’t get me wrong, if it can help in anyway, then amazing, although the underlying need to meditate is not being fulfilled and the loop of difficulty and negativity may return.

Meditation, or the formal part of the practise can be tough… resting into depression is difficult. This is where the informal part of the practise becomes so important. If today you feel it too difficult to function, you just want to rest in your bed or couch… just keeping working with your thoughts when you remember or can… try your best to bring compassion… remember that you have been here before and it will ease… that fighting your mind will only prolong this state. If you can take 10 minutes just to sit and watch your mind without judgement. Maybe start with a minute… Even set your timer… Just one minute without judgement.. let all states be neutral… no good or bad… just movement… even spend some time watching the sky. Even if it is just opening a window in your room or lounge room to look out of. Just watch the clouds and remember these clouds too will pass…

When you can (or as often as you can) get out and walk… breathe… bring kindness to your thoughts throughout… always reminding yourself that the battle is fruitless… that I will nurture this state and breathe. 

Let go of any thoughts of blame if today’s meditation is not like yesterday… you haven’t failed… you have been strong beyond your understanding.. You are making a stand, a non-violent activisim…. if you forgot… if you couldn’t be bothered… again no battle… no winners no losers… the most beautiful part of mindfulness is that at that moment it starts again… it doesn’t matter where you were or where you are… you are right here… and it is only now that matters…

I remember being told can I just make the next minute count… Can I just, when the world seems foggy… can I just make the next minute matter… no comparison. Dedicate 60 seconds to compassion and kindness. Make your world simpler one minute at a time… always looking forward with patience.

As you begin to get better and better with self-compassion, we can begin to move from recognising states of good and bad and just see impermanence… the movement… the change… flowing… that it is workable. That within that stillness there is and has always been hope…

The last and one of the most important points… please, please please reach out to people. There are people that can help… that just want to see you happy. You are not alone, you have never been alone, it is just another trick your mind plays trying to protect you but leaves you alone and helpless…. PPpplllleeeaaaaasssseeeee talk… it helps (even if it hasn’t in the past).

“The most beautiful people we have known are those that have known defeat, known struggle, known loss and have found their way out of the depths.

They persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, understanding and deep loving concern…

Beautiful people do not just happen.” Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

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