What is depression?
Blah-ness. Dryness, emptiness, futility, disengagement. Painful to lift a finger. The opposite of love.
By depression, I mean the mild to moderate clinical illness which has both physical and psychological symptoms and affects mood, thoughts, emotions and level of energy.
Does Awakening overcome depression?
I had episodes of anxiety for twenty years, worsening over time. With this method, anxiety was released in a matter of days. I can say with confidence that anxiety is a thing of the past for me. There are occasions when I feel the beginnings of anxiety—a jittery sensation in the belly. When I was unconscious, I gave no attention to this physical sensation, and it built up over time into an energetic feedback loop of physical sensations and thought-stories. (All emotions are in fact a feedback loop of thought-stories and body sensations.) But with instant recognition, I can easily release anxiety before it begins.
Depression is another matter. Anthony de Mello tells a parable of a Zen Master who said: Before enlightenment I was depressed. After enlightenment, I am depressed.
In my experience, depression does not go away as we awaken, but the experience of it is very different. The sense of futility and sadness and desolation goes away. But physical symptoms such as insomnia and low energy can come up. What is very different is my attitude towards these. These show up as simply another experience. There is no fear and no aversion and no attachment. So what remains are physical symptoms and they don’t gell up into that dark morass that we call depression.
Does depression bring about Awakening?
Yes, it does.
I see depression as the first Noble Truth of Buddhism. It is our reaction to the delusion of suffering. Suffering feels very real, but it is brought on by delusion, and this confusion manifests as depression.
Another way to say this is that depression is when we nudge ourselves to awaken.
Yet another way to say this is to say that depression is the way some of us react to the insanity of being identified with our thoughts and beliefs, separated from who we really are.
Does Awakening bring about depression?
Yes, it’s possible.
Many people report symptoms such as the Dark Night of the Soul, detachment and apathy, while awakening.
Apathy and detachment can come about when we first start waking up from the delusion of the ego. A crisis can also come about when we realize that all our intentions, even our best spiritual intentions, are suffused with the ego.
Feelings of apathy and detachment and desolation are temporary, but they can last a while. I’ve felt apathy and its cousins to varying degrees over a period of two years. When we recognize we are not who we take ourselves to be, we reject many beliefs and ideas and perspectives we’ve long held. Sometimes this is a relief, and intelligence becomes free and easy. Sometimes, it’s confusing and disorienting.
We begin to lose hold of the familiar. Relationships, interests, careers, really just about everything that we use to navigate the world with can change.
We can come to the conclusion that nothing really is important. Why should I care?
The answer is why not? Why shouldn’t I care and engage with experiences?
We don’t have to disengage from the world. We can simply stop seeking completion in the world.