I woke up this morning to a tweet from Kay, which sent me to this link. A link about how depression may be an evolutionary trait. It’s quite fascinating, and in case you don’t have the time to read the actual link now, it essentially says that the genes that are involved in depression are also involved in infection fighting. Therefore the symptoms exhibited in depression such as low interest in activity, social avoidance, laying low, doing nothing, reduced motor and cognitive speeds actually divert the bulk of your available energy to strengthening your immune system. Fascinating read…thanks Kay.
While I kept scrolling down past the article, a thought occurred to me, “wait, I am more happier now than I’ve ever been, and I’ve been consistently happy over the past year. So why am I happier now, and how does that connect with this new theory of depression/infection warfare?”
Then I saw a it. A link to an article with the title Eat, Smoke, Meditate: Why your Brain Cares how You Cope. I read it, and while I read it, my mind spiraled into all sorts of ideas and thoughts, and I felt like sharing them would be helpful to someone out there.
From 2007 up until 2009, I frequently battled depression. And I can confidently attribute that to my experience at varsity during that period. I was engaged in study and doing as I was expected by society at large and all. But I was also beginning to ask myself a lot of questions about life and myself and what I really wanted to do with my life. It’s quite a long story and I have a post for that coming up some time. Long story condensed to one line. I was studying, it wasn’t making sense, not because it was hard per se (even though admittedly my mindset and thinking skills were not suitable for the kind of work at hand), but because it made no long term sense to my life and there were a host of underlying unconscious thought and emotional patterns within me that were self-sabotaging in nature.
The second half of 2009 saw me in some of my worst bouts of depression, which had me in bed often and not able to do any work (an extreme case of deep procrastination). At the end of 2009, things broke apart for me, and I began what some people call the Fool’s Journey. I spent about a month mostly by myself in SA, not going home for Christmas and took that time to think about life. It was during this time I bumped into one of the fundamental and useful techniques for dealing with life. Meditation.
It happened by accident. I was feeling particularly distraught and agitated, which is a state that is reinforced and exacerbated by the mind running amok from one problem to another. On impulse, I switched off the light and sat down on the floor in the dark, and began to observe my thoughts, sift through them and sort them out. I experienced and immersed myself among all the thoughts that worried me, and I resolved almost all of them. I gained insight; I knew what options to take and how to handle things. And when I was done, I felt calm, quiet at peace. A state that had eluded me no matter who I talked to or how much I prayed or went to church. And I know that last sentence would be controversial to some, but that’s how it was for me.
And I realized the answers I seek are within me. There is a part of me, that has a direct link to all that is, and the cosmos beyond, there is a part of me with a direct link to God, and if I go there, I’ll find what I seek.
And since then, as I’ve lived, made choices, made decisions, worked and played. It has been in the context and against a backdrop of meditation in various forms. The kind I mentioned above is something I felt instinctively to do. The main point here is not the ‘meditation’ per se, but the state it fosters or supposed to foster if you do it right, a focus on the present and an increased awareness, of self and of the environment. The more you are focused on the now and being in the now, the more energy you have to create your experience in the now. The more aware of yourself and the many emotional and thought patterns that run below the surface, the better you can deal with, resolve and choose more empowering thoughts and emotions. The more in tune with your self you are, the easier it is make inspired life choices, do what you really want and in the process be happier and at peace.
And at the end this is what we seek, a sense of being able to cope and handle whatever life throws at us.
I learnt about this time last year that I choose depression a lot. Sometimes I truly get depressed for no reason (I had my last episode last week for 2 days) but then it had become really engrained in my psyche and sense of identity. I made it a part of me; I loved the idea of the angst-ridden artist. I thought it was cool (such adolescent tendencies shakes head). But once I realized it, I started consciously choosing happiness. I would not have come to this realization if I didn’t have a certain level of self-awareness. Now, when I have a negative emotion or a strong disturbing emotion, I allow it to be, I experience it, I resolve it, I move on. I am able to experience the nowness of the feeling and then move on from it, I don’t keep rehearsing or playing it over and over again in my mind. If I can’t control the outcome of a thing, I put it away from my mind; all I focus on is what can I do. If I make a mistake, I let it go quickly, I focus on what I can learn and what I can do right now. If someone is mad at me, I feel the twinge of guilt, or sadness, or pain for a little while, then I let it go. I understand now that what determines my inner state is what I focus on.
I’m not perfect at this, but I’ve learnt a lot.
Jesus said things like, “Don’t worry about tomorrow and it’s troubles because today has enough of its own”. That’s a call to the now.
What I’ve just described may seem strange to some people, but it comes much easier to understand and practice once you realize that the tangible world we are immersed in, does not really exist (quantum physics and all that) and all the emotional reaction we have to things comes from what we overlay the blank canvas of life with. We interpret events, we give meaning to things and happenings, we are wrapped up in our egos and selves and see things as perpetual threats to us. This experience of being trapped n immersed in this unreal reality sends our minds into all kinds of spirals and loops causing stress, agitation and depression. By waking up to it and being aware of it, you can rise to a level above it, a place of constant peace, unconditional love and creative power.