Using Depression in Service to Spiritual Practice

I wrote in the post on Depression and the Dark Night that I had used my depression in the service of my spiritual practice.  I want to think what I meant by that.  At least in the beginning, Depression was in charge.  Depression forced me to find a spiritual practice.  It also stopped me from moving forward in any conventional career or life-style.  And it forced me to continually ask “What purpose is there for my life?”  I suppose that in refusing to blame someone else for my misery, or take it out on someone else like my parents did, I was already making a spiritual choice.  That’s probably important, the many times I made the choice for kindness or compassion, or even silence, instead of cruelty or anger.  I couldn’t say I really started to “use” my depression until I began to work with Somatic Experiencing.  I would have to say S.E. is a spiritual practice in itself.  I’ve described it to other people as “vipassana meditation with an intense focus on sensations in the body.”  Having this new way to look at depression meant staying with it, staying in the present, and observing myself as objectively as possible.  This often brought me to a place of having more compassion for myself.  Also understanding that my depression was the result of having been traumatized, and not a personal defect or a choice, helped me to release a lot of my self-hate and anger toward myself.

I’m feeling pretty depressed right now.  I tell myself: this is because you weren’t happy with your talk on astronomy at Breitzfelder Park, because you are tired from doing “Sacred Sites” at Beverly’s, because you waited an hour on the highway and never got to see Caryn.  These are good reasons to be depressed.  Some compassion for Jenny who’s having such a hard time.  I’m also feeling sick — a little queasy of stomach, a little bloated & clogged in my intestines.  I did do some abdominal massage and I have an appointment with Kellie in two weeks.

Another thing I’ve learned from depression is how to surrender, how to give in and trust the process.  I have mantras that help me: “I offer myself to this process,” and “Thy will be done.”  The first one I learned at Kripalu and found very helpful.  It’s similar to AA’s First Step which is “Accept that I am powerless over __________  (in my case depression).”  I’ve actually worked through the 12 steps with a therapist.  One thing that was comforting about AA was not having to believe in God.  At that point in my life, god was judgemental and punitive, “Capricious, Malicious and Willful.”  So it was a long time before I could say “Thy will be done.”  I couldn’t do that until I had learned from experience that there IS an unconscious process that carries me to healing, integration and growth.
There is a big difference between “surrender” and “giving up.”  Initially, I was so afraid of giving up that I would go on trying long after I should have quit.  The few times I did actually surrender I thought it was giving up.  At this point I understand “giving up” to mean dropping the project and turning to distraction.  This is different from “taking a break” knowing that you will return to the project refreshed.  For me “surrender” means letting go of the effort, but staying with the project, the depression, the pain in the heart, not trying to change it.  Sometimes I use the words “completely accept.”  They help me relax and let it be.

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