I just came of the phone with an old friend. From his perspective his life has taken a couple of unfortunate turns, robbing hem from his success, his self-worth, his money, his house and his marriage. He feels pretty depressed, unsurprisingly.
What I have learned by experience and from my teachers is that the way to grow or to move on is to realize that the perspective that we are having on life is not the only perspective. Another thing to realize is that negativity or depression is a very sticky perspective. It feels very real and heavy and impossible to shake off. But that doesn’t mean it is so.
“When you feel depressed, when you feel bad, it is sometimes for no reason at all. You wake up in the morning and feel hopeless, terrible. We may use our experiences to justify that feeling. I feel bad…because I don’t have any money. I feel bad…because something has gone wrong in my life. In fact, our early morning depression is not all that logical. Out of nowhere, you just don’t feel so good. Then you come up with all kinds of logical explanations for why you are depressed. In our tradition, we talk about how fearlessness comes out of the realization of fear. Similarly, when you experience morning depression, it is possible to cheer up. That situation is genuine and quite workable. From morning depression and its terror, we can step right into basic goodness. We can appreciate depression as being like a wobbly staircase. When you put your foot on the first step, you wonder whether it’s going to hold you. You might fall. But as you take further steps, you realize that it’s going to carry you upstairs. We learn to reject the terror of morning depression and to step into morning basic goodness, right on the spot.”
Excerpt from: Ocean of Dharma: The Everyday Wisdom of Chogyam Trungpa
Trungpa is suggesting to put our foot on the first step of the staircase. Of course the tricky part is that depressive thoughts are very good at preventing us taking even that very first step. For me it is helpful to develop a curiosity towards the depression. I experience it as a low, dark voice that has a lot to say. It is pretty clear to me that I can’t avoid that message. Avoiding parts of myself that I was reluctant to be confronted with probably got me in that difficult spot in the first place. So I muster up the courage and energy to create the much-needed dialogue. It is not pleasant to hear what the voices of Self Hatred, Failure, Fear, Shame and guilt have to say but nevertheless I always feel a bit better afterwards because I am a little bit wiser no and letting parts speak that are usually ignored causes relief on both sides.
Best places for me to create a dialogue with myself are on a meditation cushion or behind a laptop. I make special time to empty myself. Instead of suppressing any negativity I welcome it and look for more. I treat my feelings as guests and do my best not to miss or overlook anybody. Also I do my best to find the words that fit, as if I try to call every feeling by their name and make time to talk to every guest personally.
Another way to look at it is that a dark or negative mood is very self-centered and an expression of self-pity. For me, if I see how sorry I feel for myself and, if it was up to my ego, how long I can stretch that state of mind (forever) I find it quite embarrassing. Since I know that I can function even with an ego that wallows in self-pity I can chose to do something positive. Screw that ego! The best way I know to counter my self-pitying ego is to be kind and helpful to others. My ego is not my master and I refuse to give him too much space. Even if my actions don’t cheer me up I have at least been of some value to others. I don’t have to take myself so fucking seriously and just lend others an ear or a hand. In the bigger scheme of things it is not so important what goes on in my mind as long as I allow myself to act from the heart.
This is episode 19 in a series of 100 blog posts that will be published daily during the 100 Day Warrior, a unique program around physical strength, inner wisdom and meaning. All posts are written by Atalwin Pilon, founder of Basic Goodness and creator of the 100 Day Warrior. For requests for motivational speaking, in-company workshops, online coaching and mindfulness training click here. If you would like to join our international community of brave and inspiring human beings or just follow this blog and receive updates, please click here of sign up on the right side of the page. Atalwin specializes in coaching smart and creative people, both groups and individuals. If you are interested in a free coaching session click here.