Depression & Non-Dualism

There are two ways to handle depression. We can attempt to get rid of the depression. Or we can get rid of the person who is depressed.

Getting rid of the depression usually doesn't work. But the effort wastes a great deal of time and money on therapies that fail and drugs with devastating side effects. So if I can't get rid of my depression, why not just rid of "I"?

This doesn't require suicide. In fact, suicide is just another self-help technique. Self-help techniques only reinforce the "I" who needs help. After suicide, the "I" returns for another depressed lifetime, needing even more help.

Getting rid of "I" does't mean getting rid of life. Quite the contrary. Getting rid of "I" opens the lock that lets life in, life abundant and overflowing, life so vast no little "I" can hold it.

Consider that "depression" is simply the world, the world in its actual state: constantly disintegrating, emotionally confused, irrational, violent, and nearly always insane. In Christian language, it's the fallen world of Sin. In the language of India, it is the wheel of Samsara, whose nature is suffering. We try to carry this world in our heads, to make sense of it, to incorporate the world's madness into our identity as "I." But this is an impossible task that depresses even God. He tried to carry the world on his cross and it tore him to pieces.

But Jesus woke up. Resurrection happened when he let the world go. Infinite light flooded his darkness, and the flood of that light released countless souls from hell, from depression. His body felt weightless. He ascended. "My kingdom is not of this world," Jesus said.

Why should YOUR kingdom be this world? Why should you identify all this suffering as "I"? You are not this heaviness: you just carry it and call it MINE. The dark heavy cloud of the world moves THROUGH you, but it is not who you ARE.

A cloud moves through the sky, but the sky itself remains empty, limitless. Just so, you are not the clouds that form and dissolve in and around you. You are the sky, the pure space of Awareness. You can respond to depression by gently releasing your attention from the cloud, and becoming the clear space that contains it.

But "I" want a noble task to perform. "I" want some work to do on myself. "I" want to overcome depression. So "I" feel insulted when my depression is not validated, not recognized as a substantial reality. How dare you call "my" depression a cloud!

This is how "I" inflate when depression is taken personally, and owned as part of "me." When reality dawns, which simply means that Awareness happens, this "I" melts into spaciousness.

I'm not saying that depression isn't real. I'm saying that this cloud of moods, fears and desires is not really "me." There really isn't any "me" there for them to happen to. "I" am not ten thousand thoughts racing through the mind. If I see them racing, isn't there a still silent Seer? Otherwise, who would see that thoughts are racing? What is this space through which thoughts race? What is the nature of the Seer, in whose awareness a world of trouble arises and dissolves like a mirage, a cloud in emptiness?

This Great Space enfolds every pain, even the pain of death. It's stillness surrounds every battle. The "I" is just one speck of the world-cloud that ever arises and dissolves in the Great Space of Awareness. The "I" can also dissolve.

But we don't allow this dissolving to happen. When the world's pain weighs upon us, we would rather play Jesus, or Bodhisattva. In our melodrama, which we've been playing for lifetimes, we take the world's pain personally. The suffering of all sentient beings becomes "mine." And when the world's pain is "mine," it becomes "me."

Somebody handed me this coat-check, so I claimed the coat, even though its not my coat. Its a seedy old garment that's been passed around on the streets for years. It belongs to no one and I don't have to wear it. But I choose to.

Can't we explore a new way to deal with depression, with the world's pain? Let's stop taking it personally. It's not who we are. It just feels like ours because we claim it as our identity. This claim on suffering is very ancient. It seems to be a birthright. We still cloak ourselves in the the Original Sin of our ancestors, passed down generation after generation. We medicalize it nowadays and call it depression. We believe we inherit it through our DNA. But its just an old story.

Depression is the Bodhisattva's Vow. Depression is the Via Dolorossa, the Way of the Cross. Though we're mostly non-believers now, we still carry the old rugged cross. So many saints thought they had to bear the world's suffering. They became us.

This is why depressed people are often very spiritual, creative artists, old souls, and cultural intuitives. The depressed are the canaries in the coal mine, registering atmospheric insanity in their bodies. But they are also the people who discover, after much suffering, a new Way.

The new Way is non-duality. Non-duality means dissolving the "I" so that no one is there to be depressed. Then the weight is no weight. It's just a cloud floating in air.

Become aware of your depression like a cloud in the sky of Awareness. Then relinquish the formation of an "I" who claims ownership. Refrain from calling the depression "mine."

When "I" arises, crying, "This is MY depression! This is happening to ME!" feel this "I" as a physical sensation in the brain. Watch "I" dissolve back into its neural synapse. Attend to the physical sensation instead of forming a word or mental picture. To defer the act of naming sensations that arise in the body requires no effort. In fact, it is a great relief to see that we don't need to attach "my" to any phenomena.

Only observe, as Awareness. This was Jesus' simple instruction to his disciples when he said, "Watch and pray." You will discover how restful this is, how healing, because Awareness doesn't have to name anything, and doesn't need an "I."

Prayerfully watch depression as the pain of the world registering in the body. You can even feel compassion for it.

A shift occurs....

Previously, "I" was a point contained in the heavy dark cloud. Now the point has melted away, and the cloud is contained in the Great Space of Awareness. Nothing was done to the depression. But Awareness has happened around it.

No work is done because Awareness is already there. What prevented us from knowing that Great Space was our clinging to the infinitesimal point of "I". The moment we let go of this point, we become aware, and there is an effortless explosion into Awareness, requiring no energy. In fact, energy increases a thousandfold. The mere shift of attention FROM A POINT IN SPACE TO SPACE ITSELF is an expansion that never ends and has no limit. No "I" remains to clutter or interrupt this spontaneous simultaneous instantaneous explosion of nothing into everything and everything into nothing.

Awareness allows and forgives. Awareness cannot judge, because there is no one there to judge or feel judged. Awareness only allows and forgives.

Have you forgiven the world for being a dark cloud that floats in Awareness? Forgiving lays the burden down. Forgiving ends the judgment. Forgiving allows depression to dissolve.

The world is a happening in Great Space. But no one is doing it, and it isn't happening to you. There is no "you" in Great Space to be depressed. There is only the possibility of embracing and healing the world by holding it in Awareness, as a mother holds her only child.


lynn said...

Thank you for a profoundly beautiful and moving post. This rings with the clarity of truth and is reassuring, inspiring . . .

Anonymous said...

I agree with this and feel also that awareness is a great cure of psychological 'problems'.

But so many people are unable to even begin to reflect on the truth of the ground of the Self, even when it is patiently explained to them. I wonder how successful one would be in counseling the average depression patient in this manner. I have known one or two depressed people, and they were if anything more resistant than average to the proposition that their agonized small self is just a cloud. In many cases depression arises from an unusual degree of clinging to aspects of the small self.

I know a woman who was broken-hearted and fixated on a man she could not have; I told her that this longing was not the whole world, the source of happiness and purpose of life like it seems to her at present; I told her that she should be aware of her depression (and depressive thoughts) with cool impartiality and compassionate attention. What eventually helped her was medication. Now she is gradually weaning herself off the medication and is in a better state of mind and moving on with her life.

It is wrong to generalize and say that the scientific approach is always wrong or that medication always has 'devastating side-effects'. Some people are just too messed up for self-inquiry; they are not ripe for it, like a chimpanzee is (probably) whole stages of evolution away from beginning self-inquiry.