Spirit and Depression
The journal excerpt below describes one of the first times I experienced the extraordinary power of going within and down. I had no idea what I was doing, and I had no idea what was to come.
It was at a time in my life when I felt desperately depressed. Day after day I was in wretched emotional and physical pain. My life was devoid of meaning or hope. I couldn’t imagine a future in which I might live with even the smallest degree of peace or happiness. I felt I had nowhere left to go, nothing left to do. I believed I had come to the end of my life. I remember walking up to my small art studio in the backyard, fully intending to come up with a plan for ending my life.
"This is utter despair. I feel truly hopeless.
I shake with the fear of knowing that this is my life and I am not doing anything with it.
Why can’t I move?? Why do I keep getting up in the morning? Why don’t I just suicide like so many others?
Why do I keep on going? I have no hope left. I can’t function in this big world.
Voices from my past continually leave me ruined. They toss me around. Fucking up my life.
Later: I can’t go on … I cannot go any lower … and yet that seems the only direction I can go.
I FEEL so desperate. I begin to FEEL how low I can go. I FEEL it. In every ounce of me. In every bit. How low can one human being go? How low?
I keep going down. I have nowhere else left to go. It doesn’t matter if I die doing it … l will just keep going down until I die.
Later: And then suddenly I literally SEE the absolute connection of everything. I SEE it. There are no doubts.
I am not imagining it. It is utterly real.
It is as though there is some sort of vital substance that connects everything and yet IS everything –
the trees, me, my feelings, the clouds.
Everything belongs. Everything is absolutely as it should be.
On the one hand I am astounded but on another it seems so completely obvious.
It so much more ordinary, and yet extraordinary than anything I have ever experienced.
I try to find the right words, but the coming of this experience is beyond that. It was just 'with' me.
How, when, why – I can’t seem to pin down. And it doesn’t seem to matter.
It is timeless – there is just this eternal present filled with infinite hope and possibility.
Later: From the point of utter despair, when I shook simply from the fear of being alive, I have arrived at this point. It seems miraculous. Perhaps I have been given a short glimpse of something that is attainable. Perhaps now I know what it is that I am working towards."
- journal excerpt -
After the experience I walked back to the house in complete awe of the world around me. Where before there had only been desperation and hopelessness, there was now intrinsic meaningfulness, supreme beauty, wholeness, peace and perfection.
I wasn’t in an altered state of consciousness of any sort, or an angelic nirvana of heavenly light or bliss, but rather, I was witnessing the very fundamental nature of reality. I could literally see the vital ‘stuff’ that formed everything, and I could see that it was the same, regardless of whether it was the ‘stuff’ that formed the most beautiful flower or the most tortured pain. It was all One. There was only one thing happening. I knew this unquestionably as the Ultimate Truth and I knew that there could never be anything that was apart from it. Everything belonged and I belonged.
Over the next few hours the experience and the accompanying strength, hope and insight slowly faded. I had no context for understanding what had happened and had no way of re-experiencing the process in a conscious way.
Yet the resonances of what had happened, and also the questions it raised, stayed with me over decades. Although the experience did not magically wipe away my suffering it did give me a profound presentiment of the depths, vitality, potentiality and truth that could be lived and known through this human body.
I also came to understand that it had been in ‘letting go’ into the ‘lowness’, surrendering to it, moving down down down into the chasm of my despair and being wholly prepared to risk my very life, that I had been gifted such an extraordinary glimpse of Truth.
However I wish to emphasize that there is no 'typical' experience when it comes to moving down and within - each movement of descent is as singular as the person and the circumstances in which they find themselves. The depth to which we descend is often directly proportional to the ‘weightiness’ or intensity of the feelings or life questions by which we feel questioned or burdened.
In the case of sadness, we may descend only a short distance and in a few hours or days quickly grow into a new bearing or new solidity. However, when we feel questioned by our lives in very deep and powerful ways, such as by the death of a loved one, the loss of our livelihood, the loss of our health or a deep lack of meaning, we can often feel profoundly depressed. And it is in the intensity of those feelings that we are then swept a long long way down, often into the most remote and hidden valleys of our being.
Such a process of descent can often be very lengthy and intense, particularly if we 'fight' it, but I have found that this intensity, although extraordinarily difficult to live, often attests to the fact that there is a significant belief system or indeed an entire perspective or orientation to life that is being radically shifted or transformed.
However, each and every time, there has always been a sense of amazement and surprise that somehow out of the rubble of my torment and distress I have literally been ‘born again’.
As a postscript, my journey has once again brought me to that Oneness, but now as the lived reality of my life. (See below).
What is our true nature?
The Truth of what we are has many names: Consciousness, Awareness, Spirit, God, Presence, Source, Essential Reality, True Nature, True Self, Silence, Emptiness/Fullness, Spaciousness, Oneness, Divinity. Ultimately though, it cannot be named. It is not a 'thing'. Our True Nature is simply our direct experience without any input from our mind or thoughts whatsoever. It is an openness or space which all at once, is everything and contains everything; it is both the background and the substance. We have never ever been separate from it in any way except in our minds ... we are Spirit. It is our natural state. (It was my True Nature that was the very vital, open, timeless 'substance' into which I descended briefly in the experience I recounted above).
When I first put up this website in 2004, I did not 'know' Spirit as my lived reality. At that time I was primarily identified with an 'ego' self while also intuiting a deeper wordless reality within. I gave this inner reality the name 'spirit' and thought of myself as "a spiritual person" ... what I would now call a spiritualized ego. I believe that this is how the majority of people would understand their spirituality.
However, I was also aware that in a fundamental way, the pieces of this spirituality didn't really add up. Why did I still suffer so much? Why did I still have times of deep depression? Why didn't I feel supported by my spirituality in a deep and lived way?
When in 2001 I came across Peter Wilberg's writing on depression (see Articles), I was thrilled and relieved (for more details read My Story) that I now had a bigger context: when I felt depressed, it was because I was living primarily as an 'ego' or surface self, without acknowledging, listening to or inhabiting all that lay in my depths. It was in understanding and consciously living the process of depression that the tight knot of 'ego' gradually began to dissolve and I became freer and less encumbered. I deepened and expanded. I suffered less. I began to heed the voice of Spirit, and function more and more as a whole.
Raindrops on a pea leaf.
Awakening and beyond ...
Then, early in 2008, I 'awoke'. Early one morning, I was sitting at my computer sipping a cup of tea and checking my emails, when all of a sudden I 'awoke' out of the everyday self and into my true identity as the vastness of Spirit. It was as though the tightly held contraction of thoughts, feelings and history that I had always assumed was somehow 'me', simply let go. I sat for a few moments, stunned, and then burst out laughing. What I had been searching for was closer than close! I was Home.
However, rather than an ending, this awakening was just a beginning. I had to learn to navigate in the world from an entirely new perspective. Much integration, deepening, unravelling and clearing has since taken place and continues to this day. (I currently have a book in pre-publication that describes this period of my life in much more detail).
However, in knowing what I am, rather than the suffering, turmoil, depression and suicidality of the past, there is peace, contentment and the sense that all is deeply well …
The cracks in the pavement, a breeze coming in through an open window, the leaves of the trees, the old woman who lives down the road, the pain in my knee ... here here here is the Truth and the Beauty of God.
And I truly never get depressed any more ... there is no need.
Some further notes on awakening ...
In writing of ‘awakening’ here, I am referring here to the profound change in identity that takes place when one ‘awakens’ out of the ego or separate self and knows one’s true nature to be that of the open, vast and infinite space of Consciousness. This awakening is not a fleeting or momentary glimpse or an idea or memory held in the mind, it is one’s directly lived experience. Although it may take many years to mature and stabilise, once a true awakening has taken place, it is always available and cannot be unseen. A truly stabilised awakening may be termed ‘enlightenment’. As is the nature of the Infinite however, deepening never ends.
My intention here is not to suggest that the awakening was a direct result of following the movement of depression. There were so very many factors involved. In addition, the moment of awakening itself was entirely spontaneous and uncaused: I was not "trying to be enlightened" or "trying to wake up out of ego". But I do know, that the understanding of depression and descent I have detailed on this site, did have a profound effect on my understanding of life, of suffering, of Wholeness, and of our deepest deepest longing to know ourselves as what we truly are.
Spirit longs for itself to be known.
Depression is a spiritual process that takes the whole being into account. Depression suggests a highly specific and crucial movement back INTO the felt inner space of our bodies. Its function is to restore a sense of who we really are - our true home in Spirit.
When we feel depressed we might use words that convey a movement downwards or a pressure on us. We talk of feeling down, we talk of weight, of feeling low, of darkness. We might fight these feelings at all costs because in our everyday world there is little or no conception that there is an infinite space within, in which we can move and follow such feelings. Rather, we may experience that inner space as an abyss, a pit, the unknown, the darkness ...
But that pit, that darkness, that emptiness,
is only empty, because we haven't yet filled it