In late 2006 I was suicidally depressed.
I was at the deepest end of the dark abyss of depression and I had given up on any attempt to climb out, knowing from the hundreds of prior attempts that all I’ll manage to do is tear off my fingernails without ever making it to light.
I have always felt, like most of us, that there had to be a separate peace, perhaps a different possibility, if only I knew how to get at it. I devoured any thing I could find on depression or self-help, but those only made temporary differences, if any. A few years ago I went to a grueling ten-day silent meditation retreat, but at that time my mind had been screaming and I could not really meditate. I read Tolle’s Power of Now, and I found it appealing but I could not really understand it. But nevertheless something had come through to me. Something had found its way to my consciousness.
A seed had been planted.
In early 2006 the emotional pain was unbearable, I accepted it completely without conditions or hope, not from wisdom, but from sheer exhaustion. Miracalously, life began to change, slowly but steadily and palpably.
Living starts with the subtle shift of attention from thought to Awareness. The trick to living is to be still, alert and observant, here and now, without the effort of analyzing or interpreting, without any resistance at all to what is already happening, inside or outside. This sounds passive. It is passive. You have to do nothing. You shift attention to awareness, and soon you have some astonishing realizations.
You realize that intelligence and creativity come from this seat of awareness, and not from thought. You realize that the idea of time, of past, present and future, is actually a very superstious idea. You realize the nature of thought, emotion and conditioning. You began to see that thought creates the ego, the observer, the sense of I AM, the very sense of who you believe yourself to be. You begin to understand the nature of fear and desire and beliefs and intention and attention. You begin to see that the our sense of reality is only a symbolic representation of reality we create in our heads, and it is not a good model. It guarantees unhappiness. You see the addiction to struggle. You began to see the possibility that Life and Living can be one, and that Life can flow effortlessly.
And this is something that’s accessible to all. In fact, we all already have it.
My journey hasn’t been smooth at all. After twenty five years of sometimes-debilitating depression, I opened to a possibility beyond the mind, and I put in a lot of effort towards being present. I read and learned, meditated, did yoga, quit my job to write, travel and work on “myself.” This led to a sense of peace and a seeing-through of my jumbled and conflicting priorities. Soon after, I was in an energetic, active life. There was some peace, a lot of energy, but also a great deal of emotional turmoil. After a while, I realized that this “being present” was affected, artificial, dull and lifeless. I think my mind was just creating a mental space called presence. I found that the technique of observing thought worked better. The emotional turmoil settled, but led to detachment and apathy, and very low energy, the opposite of where I had just been. I gained weight and got very lazy and ineffective. And soon after, to add to the misery, there was anxiety. The financial crisis wiped me out and I couldn’t find a job. The anxiety deepened, always hitting in the morning when I woke up, with a great deal of turmoil, fear and flutter, and during these episodes I could do nothing except walk around to work off the fear. Perhaps this was a bout of dreaded depression, though I don’t believe so. The anxiety motivated a search for solutions, and I came upon release techniques. I was shocked that the releasing actually worked! The anxiety cleared quickly and completely.
Soon after, I realized that I was running around in circles; that the seeking and introspection and effort were in themselves an obstacle. This was a great relief. The love affair with accumulating knowledge and techniques and reading and effort ended. Awareness and release did all the work, when I just got out of the way . Detachment and apathy remained for a while; these were uncomfortable and inconvenient to daily living. I cleared emotions around the need for change, and desires and beliefs, and as I continued clearing, intentions clarified, and the desperation to change dispersed, and I began to understand the nature of intention-action. These stages were not clear-cut; they overlapped, and I only understood where I was at any particular time only long afterwards.
It turns out it wasn’t the usual chase for fulfillment, it wasn’t the chase for happiness, it wasn’t the chase for relationships and power and money, it wasn’t introspection or analysis, it wasn’t accumulating knowledge about the mind and ego, it wasn’t spirituality, it wasn’t techniques or meditation or yoga, it wasn’t medication or therapy…in the end it was all about letting go and resting, effortlessly, in awareness. Release and Awareness.
The journey continues, and I don’t want to mislead anyone. For me, it’s been quite bumpy. There have been times of realization, times of flow, and times of deep apathy. Overall, the journey is very much worthwhile. Others would probably look at my life right now and see problems. I see the beauty of experience.
I’m writing this as notes to myself, so I can read this in case I’m bumping and bouncing off problems in life again for some strange reason. Perhaps the writing here will help you if you are seeking a different possibility. Perhaps you will find some resonance. There is nothing in here which has not been said before.
My purpose in writing this is to simplify. The thing is, it’s so simple to live well. It’s simple, and it takes no time to realize this possibility. But the mind will obscure the obvious. Nevertheless, the realization of the truth of existence is inevitable.