Amarjit dedicates the entire episode to the topic of depression. He discusses how depression is a serious topic that is often misunderstood. He answers the question – what is depression? He makes a distinction between depression caused by physiological reasons, such as head trauma and other physical traumas, and the typical depression we encounter as a result of the experience of life. He defines depression as a growing pain that is a signal of false identifications that no longer works for you. He does this with an explanation of how depression is caused by attachments to aspects of the ego. Then he defines the ego. He then gives methods for elevating yourself from depression. Amarjit also shares a poem that he wrote in his deepest depression.
How to elevate yourself from depression
What Is Depression?
Various times throughout our life we seem to fall into an emotional hole. One moment we are walking down the road of life and everything seems fine, then suddenly we trip and are in emotional freefall. We feel overwhelmed by life; every emotional lesson we learned suddenly feels as if it had never happened, making us feel that we are starting over from the beginning. Simple lessons that we thought we mastered before return with a vengeance. Soon we find ourselves forgetting what it felt like to walk on level ground. We long for that feeling of balance and happiness: the optimism of another day. Instead we dread facing the happiness that exists outside of us, reflecting back just how empty we feel in our internal sorrow and shame.
This overwhelming hopelessness fills our being. Making us feel that no matter what we do, nothing will change the way we feel. We feel emotionally stuck, and it seems that it will never end. Everyone can relate to the emotional struggle of depression, but what exactly is it?
Depression is a conscious or unconscious awareness of a false identification that no longer fits your life and is difficult to let go of. This false identification is based on the ego. The ego is just a collection of thoughts that we identify with. For example, we say, I am a husband/wife, homeowner, executive, etc. The stronger we identify with these ideas of who we think we are the more prone we are to depression. The deeper and more valued the identification, the more difficult it will be to get out of the depression.
The problem occurs because the value of self is attached to an identification of an aspect of the ego. For example, a person loses a job that made them feel important. This person falls into a depression because their feeling of importance was attached to this identification; this was where they saw their value. This often happens when people end a relationship, lose their job, retire, or have some other big change in their life.
The phrase – I am – is dangerous. “I am” is a phrase that sets you up for future states of depression and false identifications. It is this type of identification that has the potential to lock you into a role. It limits the vision you have of yourself and in turn restricts your life experiences even if you aren’t depressed. You are only one thing: the creative manifestation of the creator, a spiritual being. Everything else is temporary. Any identification besides that is false. You are not your culture. You are not your nationality. You are not your religion. You are not your sex. You are not even human. These are all temporary. Identifying with the temporary is what brings suffering and limits your experience. You are a spiritual being. Your natural state is love. Identify with that!
How Do We Liberate Ourselves From The Emotional State Of Depression?
Everyone gets depressed. Even yogis. The difference is that yogis already have the tools to help them let go of false identification easier. They know how to work on the physical body to balance the emotional self. Most importantly, they are better equipped to be flexible in order to let go of aspects of the ego that have a hold on them. The more flexible your body is, the more flexible your mind is. The more flexible your mind is, the easier it is to change patterns. Also, yogis have an understanding that they are not their mind, making it easier to let go of the collection of thoughts that are not working. However, the identification issues related to depression tend to be more difficult because they are ingrained in our psyche everyday through our ingrained thoughts and repeated actions.
Letting go of these identifications that are not working are crucial to lifting the darkness of depression. Remember, these identifications can have deep roots, making it a challenging and long process. Below are methods for liberating yourself from the feelings of suffering that depression cause.
It is vital to keep your body healthy and active. Everyday do some form of physical activity such as yoga, hiking, running, etc. Being in nature is also a great way to reestablish a connection with yourself. Whatever you do, do not be sedentary.
Your mental and emotional health are effected by what you consume. Proper nutrition is vital to getting out of your depression. Learn to make the correct association with food. Mistakenly, we call junk food comfort food, but this is not true. Comfort food is food that makes you feel good. When you are depressed junk food will keep you down, not comfort you. Think of comfort food as healthy food to lift you to a comfortable life, not junk food that will keep you feeling miserable.
Focus on your work. If you don’t have a job, keep busy looking for one, or create tasks to occupy your time. Paint your house, work on your garden, volunteer, etc. Staying focused on something takes your mind away from dwelling on how bad you feel. When left with nothing to do, the mind will build up your problems making them seem worse than they really are. Being inactive gives more time to build false identification with your suffering. Your suffering is temporary. You are not.
Spend Time With Friends
We tend to withdraw from life when we are sad. Interaction with caring friends keeps you connected to life.
Creativity is one of the best medicines for depression. You don’t have to be an “artist” to be creative. Draw a picture, or write about how you feel, just find some type of creative self-expression to focus your attention. If you don’t have any creative outlets, find one. Creativity is a great way to connect with your true self.
Appreciate the experience
Give it time. Don’t try to rush things. You will find a new center and get out of this feeling of hopelessness. When you focus on how good you felt before you were depressed, or how good you wish you could feel, you are no longer living in the present. Not living in the present is what causes suffering whether you are depressed or not. Focus on the present. This is why activities that connect you to the present bring happiness.
Look at depression as a learning experience. The Buddhist concept of impermanence is extremely helpful during depression. Remember that this moment will never happen again so appreciate what it has to teach. Furthermore, Buddhism says that suffering is a holy truth. Through suffering we are able to find liberation. This depression is an opportunity to liberate yourself beyond where you were before.
Emotional intelligence is true intelligence. You may earn many degrees and learn about many subjects, but this is not true intelligence, this is knowledge. Think about a time in your life where you went through some emotional hardship. How did you feel when it was over? You learned something about yourself. You probably felt stronger, more equipped to deal with life. This is true intelligence; the rest is just acquiring information. Emotions are the most important tool for self-awareness. They are not there to dictate your behavior, but to guide your attention. Emotions are key to realizing the self.
Unfortunately, our society looks at depression as an illness. In fact, they call it a mental illness. Conveniently since they have classified depression as a mental illness they have medication to treat it. Unfortunately, this medication numbs the emotions causing a separation between you and your emotional self. Sure you may not feel so depressed, but you also won’t feel so happy. There are no free lunches.
Depression is not an illness. It is a process of an expanding consciousness through spiritual awareness and growth. Think of it like a baby that is suffering because its teeth are growing through the gums. Once the teeth are grown in the baby is stronger and can participate in life more fully by eating a wider variety of foods. This is part of growing. This is depression: an expansion of the mind through the guidance of the emotions that provides a deeper more authentic connection between the soul and this human life. Depression is an opportunity to let go of the person you thought you were to get closer to realizing the spiritual being you are.
Poem from this episode:
Set me free
by Amarjit Singh
I wake up and don’t know if the sun shines
my vision tinted in gray
whether my eyes are open or closed, or it’s night or day.
My knuckles white I clench my sheets
crying blindly like a baby with unmet needs
tears of frustration won’t go away
I don’t know how much longer I can stay.
Do I need to bleed to set my soul free?
My journey seems wide
but why do I always come back to the same side?
Helpless and alone I drift
not sure if I’ve ever slept.
I feel such deep despair
that lines etched in my face
match my heart to create a tortured pair.
My soul’s struggle grips me outside,
does it need to end for me to feel truly alive?
Sometimes the warm smile from a glowing stranger
feels like the first rays of summer.
But I could never let her in
like a rose in bloom
darkness grows in gloom.
How can I confide
that I’m lying awake
while I’m dying inside?
Do you think she would run and hide
if I asked her to rip through my chest
grab my hear out and squeeze it against her breast?
Numb my heart is heavy
beating is just a technicality
whatever needs to be let it be
because my heart is aching for my soul to be free…
Book mentioned on the show:
The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation
by Thich Nhat Hanh
Submit your questions
The podcast Facebook group
Music courtesy of Aykanna