Depression

I have lived with a depressed person for a while. And although I have only personally experienced mild forms of depression, my friends illness clarified a few things for me about the nature of suffering which I would like to share with you out there.

First of all, what is a depression? For me, it is the painful sensation of life’s “pressure” due to a person’s inability or incapacity to flow with it. Life happens but the person resists, tries to desperately hold on as (s)he does not accept the impermanent nature of life. And this resistance to life is what manifests as suffering as it creates contraction in the body-mind, shuts the depressed person off sensually from experiencing the wonders of being alive and sucks him or her out energetically.

If you read my blog you know that my mantra is to say “yes” to life, to first understand it and then accept it. The reason for resisting (saying “no”) is always rooted in fear and fear is rooted in misunderstanding life. We usually find it easy to understand the “positive” aspects of life but we completely misunderstand the “negative” and so our fears and our resistance arises (I call our tendency to resist and clutch “ego”).

So what is it we do not understand?

We think the “positive” is independent of the “negative”. As we take a stroll in the woods we may be enchanted by the beauty of nature ignoring the fact that “behind the scenes” organisms are continuously fighting for survival. But the beauty of nature precisely hinges on the principle of the survival of the fittest. If you say “yes” to nature but “no” to the darwinistic principle you are being contradictory and will be hopelessly confused about life. Same applies to human qualities. If human beings had no means of being aggressive, we would not be here now capable of enjoying the world. Let’s face it: whatever exists has its place and makes sense in the grand scheme of things. Everything (including the “positive”) is the way it is, because everything (including the “negative”) is exactly the way it is. Or “this is this, because that is that”, as the Buddhists say.

Because we fail to see this interdependence we think that the “positive” and the “negative” are engaged in an epic battle against each other and that the “positive” can (and must!) win. This is the oldest story ever told. The quest to get to this place where the “good” will permanently prevail within (e.g. new-age “enlightenment”) and without (e.g. “heaven”). But that’s an impossibility because the “positive” can never take over the “negative” as they depend on each other. Like one side of a coin can never take over the other. Hence, trying to win this battle will forever frustrate us. It can’t be done. Life is the whole works, it includes light and darkness. For how would we define “good” if we could not contrast it with “bad”? The sense of darkness gives rise to the sense of light and vice versa. Eradicating something must ultimately eradicate its opposite as well. Take away one side of a coin and you don’t have a coin anymore. So, as we go on tackling this futile task of seeking “heaven” while rejecting “hell” we roam in the cycle of suffering that the Buddhists call Samsara (consequently, thus from a Buddhist standpoint even the angels have not transcended Samsara but are only temporarily in heaven). Hence, depression is another word for being very tightly stuck in Samsara.

Sometimes, though, being stuck is part of the way forward. The spiritual literature abounds with people having awakened in midst of a depression as they got so exhausted that the tendency to reject the flow of life (“ego”) just stopped. In these situations the biblical statement “thy will, not mine” reveals its deeper meaning.

To conclude, some wise words from the Buddha, the first systematic psychologist in history. His whole teaching can be summed up as follows: as long as we are too ignorant to notice that everything continuously arises and passes away in mutual interdependence, we are caught in grasping and rejection which leads to endless frustration and suffering.

Let things be and you have arrived.

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6 Comments on “Depression”

  1. Isn’t depression just the other side of another coin? It seems a simplistic explanation for depression, but I guess it works for the type that comes from unhappiness with the way things are, but there are various forms and I think feelings and thoughts about life don’t necessarily come into play in some. Having experienced various forms myself I can state that sometimes depression shows up when life seems quite agreeable. I think of it like clouds covering the sun on a really nice day. No rain, just something covering the shining sun on a great day. It can be mystifying that it shows up and it can cause the former type of depression if one resists its presence, but the original depression seems like a drug that entered the brain and soiled the happy moments. Nothing mental started it, but mentality arrives to judge it. If watched consciously it will disperse like the cloud. If not, it can be the catalyst to take one deeper and hate reality. I’ve experienced both. Being multipolar, it took me years to see this. I figured I just hated life. People ask you “what’s wrong?” But there is no answer psychologically. It’s not wrong, it’s just the other side of shining. If someone were to ask why I was happy, I would have no better answer. I could make one up and say life is good, I feel great, or any number of cover stories but the fact is, if I am happy it is because I am happy. If I am depressed it is because I am depressed. No reason. And it isn’t actually me that is happy or depressed, it is just a changing state and has nothing to do with me. This, I realize, is different from what you are speaking about. Not liking the fact that it is raining, or that you got yelled at or any number of events in life that seem contrary to your wishes. But, as you might have noticed, this coin has more than one side.
    You Rock and I love what and how you write. Peace.

    • Thank you for your comment. As I am reading it I acknowledge that depression is indeed more multi-dimensional and more complex as I may suggest in the post. I am writing from my personal perspective and the perspective of only a handful people in or out of depression that I know.
      I think you say it right when you say that depression can be another side of the coin. Happy Buddha, sad Buddha, but still Buddha! The first step out of a (“no”)-cycle of suffering is to find a way to say “yes” to it. And to see depression as the other side of the coin does exactly that. With a “yes” we allow it room and the chance to go on its own pace and rate. When we say “no” we keep it close. So, technically, from my definition of depression, a depression that is not resisted is not a depression but a “negative” state that we have learnt to embrace. That way we flow and do not suffer over the suffering. I guess that’s sort of what you also meant, right?

  2. runjhunk says:

    Reblogged this on Runjhun kejriwal and commented:
    As long as we are too ignorant to notice that everything continuously arises and passes away in mutual interdependence, we are caught in grasping and rejection which leads to endless frustration and suffering


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