This is a nice short video on the benefits of meditation. Very topical on this mental health awareness day.
“Depression isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign that you’ve been strong for too long.”
This is one of the most popular quotes on depression but it has me wondering, what does it really mean to be strong?
Culturally, strength is often associated with size, power, and aggression. But the concept of being strong in the face of depression has nothing to do with any of those. It is entirely an internal battle. One voice in your head says you’re worthless, and the other says you’re awesome. I would say that many people view strength here as carrying on with daily living even as the negative voice starts to completely drown out the positive.
Another purpose of this quote is to address the idea that people who are much less affected by adversity are much stronger than those who respond with anxiety and fear. The truth is that there are internal factors at play in every individual that no one can really understand. If that apparent strong individual had to listen to a persistent internal negative voice for 15 years they probably would not appear so resilient. But does that mean strength is the absence of negative self talk?
Perhaps, those that appear strong have just never been forced to discover the true depth of their strength.
So then what exactly is the depth of true strength? It can not be that unending desire to reinforce the positive in opposition to all of the negative. Yes it may work for a while but it seems like so much effort, especially for the one who is already in a weakened state. But in the realm of duality there is one very relevant, eternal truth at play. The idea of good creates the idea of bad, right creates wrong, happiness creates sadness. If you want to get rid of the negative voice forever, you also need to lose the positive voice.
This does not in any way mean giving up. But it is the beginning of a spiritual transformation. It is the realization that whatever your mind says is, for lack of a better word, horseshit. But you are not meant to stop your mind from thinking. You are simply meant to stop giving it authority.
When I observe the most spiritually transformed individuals on the planet they appear to be immune to the debilitating effects of depression, anxiety, & fear. Or in many cases it was the intolerable suffering from these conditions that created their transformation. And they didn’t achieve this state through any kind of superior strength. They simply took a step back from the fight and saw it all as just a play of the mind.
Could it be true that being strong actually causes depression?
If your strength response to a negative thought, is a more powerful positive thought, then this quickly turns into a runaway train of a stronger negative thought. So the next time someone tells you to stay strong in the face of suffering, smile at the beauty of their intent but know in your heart that strength is not the way. Instead stay quietly present in your belief that whatever your mind says has no authority over the definition of who you truly are. Your true strength appears when you offer no resistance to any thought that your mind creates.
The next time you experience an unwanted or negative thought, dig into it and find it’s origins. Feel no shame and do not run from it. Search for it’s source of power. Be quiet and wait patiently for the answers to be revealed to you. Pay strict attention to it. Be intensely curious but unassuming. What do you find?
It just simply fades away.
There’s absolutely nothing there. It exists only superficially. It is just a thought. There is no depth and no truth to be found. As the thought fades from reality so does the body’s reaction to it. Whatever anxiety, guilt, or fear accompanied that particular thought goes away quite naturally.
There are some powerful implications here. Now you are free from resolving each disturbing thought that appears. Be calm simply in what your inquiry has revealed to you. Dwell in the knowledge that they are not real. There is no need to deal with it. No need to say that this is not me. That I am better than this thought. Or kinder. Or more loving.
A thought has no link to identity.
The deeper realization of this inquiry is that ALL thoughts are not real, good or bad. You can now be free of this entire realm of thinking. Yes they still happen but it means nothing to you. When you let this river of thought flow without disturbing it, you are also leaving behind the ideas of past and future as well. This is the true gateway to the now. The now is not a constantly moving point in time. It is a dimension completely separate from it.
This is the question that blocks my growth. Some moments or days I am endlessly asking myself this question.
I become an infinite loop of validating that my thoughts in a particular situation are representative of the person I wish to be, or think that I am. I fear that if I don’t perform this double and triple check my very identity will drift off and become something bad, something very far from where I want to be.
It’s like I am constantly righting the ship.
The random nature of the mind makes this an incredibly tiring activity. I am sure there are many techniques one could perfect to train the brain to be more efficient in it’s thinking. Prior to becoming spiritual I forced my thinking to become more positive. I wrote down my better qualities and carried them around with me. In my tougher times I would repeat positive phrases dozens of times.
And this worked to a certain extent. Repetition was the fuel of my negative thinking so it makes sense that it could be reversed. However this still empowered the mind as the determining factor of my inner peace. And the randomness of the mind is still there.
I suppose it is that inherent randomness of thought that enables creativity.
It allows new ideas to emerge. It is this total freedom to create without boundaries that the mind loves. As soon as we place limitations, rules and boundaries around thought our mind rebels. Almost like a teenager, you tell the mind not to think something and it will think it until the cows come home. And because we are trained to identify who we are with what we think our anxiety goes through the roof. Compounding this is that the emphasis on identifying with thoughts is growing exponentially in our culture.
There is popular buddhist saying “What we think we become”, however the end of that quote is often left off and it changes it’s meaning entirely. It follows “When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.” While the shortened version of this quote seems to emphasize controlling your thoughts, when heard in it’s entirety it seems to point away from that. To free yourself of thought is to be joyful.
In order to really change this world you need a free mind.
When you’re that true self who can watch the mind without getting wrapped up in it’s content brilliant ideas will flow through you. Perspectives that remained hidden before will be revealed. You will have an understanding of the whole that’s required to transform this planet into the utopia it was meant to be.
What is real? How do you define real? – Morpheus
Not only a line from a great movie, but also the topic of my wonderings for the last day. As I was sitting in traffic yeterday, mind wandering, thoughts arising, words and images coming to be, I had a piercing realization. Specifically about an image that was repeatedly coming into my head. Nothing bad, in fact probably the exact opposite. It’s right there as if I can see it with my own two eyes. I can easily describe it’s shape and colour.
But am I really seeing anything at all?
What is it that makes up this vision? There is definitely a feeling to it. A good feeling. It is quickly followed by overlaying thoughts building up it’s complexity. But I keep thinking there is no real picture in my brain at all. I am not “seeing” anything!
From the best I can tell this image is born completely out of energy. I would almost say energy created by me but since energy cannot be created nor destroyed I would have to say it is shaped by me. That energy is then interpreted by my brain to create an image or thought. Unchecked this leads to more thoughts and more images like a runaway train.
If you interpret your thoughts as good, then no big deal (for the moment), if not – uh oh!
A negative association with the energy you’ve shaped will then motivate you to try to justify why that the image appeared, why it does not define you, why it is untrue, and then push it away. This is energy versus energy. Of course, the more fuel you supply the more out of control the fire gets.
If you are anxious about flying, like me, that initial energy would be shaped into an image of myself sitting on a plane followed very quickly by thoughts of not wanting to be there, images of plane crashes, and feelings of claustraphobia. All born out of the energy I put into creating that initial image of a plane.
That’s a nice realization to have but what does it mean?
Initially this meant a new place to start when trying to be the observer of my thoughts. As I have read from many spiritual teachers, being the witness of your thoughts rather than getting wrapped up in them is key to finding peace. However, I have always had trouble with this. Being the witness of my own energy is much easier I find. There is no content to deal with and this process has brought me deep into my own body. I actually seem to difuse the energy when I do this.
Escaping this energy also functions as a window for the inherent energy of life to flow through me. When you shape your own energy it’s like you’re going against the flow of life. Nothing is needed. Just let the energy of life guide you in all that you do.