The Powerful Energy of Depression


Eastern and Western practices related to psychology may appear contrary to each other, but in the experience of many, the concepts and methods turn out to be complementary.

In our digitally connected world where cultures constantly rub elbows, growing numbers of psychotherapists borrow ideas and methods from other traditions. People may use both meditation and antidepressants for symptom relief, or might go to a Tai chi class after a cognitive behavioral therapy session.

An Intelligent Energy

Many who are managing depressive symptoms within the Western healthcare system, have grown up with a disease model of depression. There is no doubt that depression causes dis-ease and interferes with the ability to function at our best, or sometimes to function at all.

However, not all traditions view depression as an illness to be resisted. The spiritual teacher Vidyadhara Chogyam Trungpa wrote about depression in his book The Lion’s Roar, as an experience of a powerful and dignified energy. Chogyam Trungpa’s spiritual roots are in Tibetan Buddhism, where any sickness is considered a psychosomatic, or mind-body phenomenon.

Here is a paragraph from The Lion’s Roar (the lion’s roar is the fearlessness of knowing that whatever comes up in the mind is a path, and is workable):

“Depression is not just a blank, it has all kinds of intelligent things happening within it. I mean, basically depression is extraordinarily interesting and a highly intelligent state of being. That is why you are depressed. Depression is an unsatisfied state of mind in which you feel that you have no outlet. So work with the dissatisfaction of that depression. Whatever is in it is extraordinarily powerful. It has all kinds of answers in it, but the answers are hidden. So, in fact I think depression is one of the most powerful of all energies. It is extraordinarily awake energy, although you might feel sleepy.”

Embracing Experience

The beauty of Chogyam Trungpa’s description of depression is its power to help people walk toward their depression and embrace the experience no matter how unpleasant. Depression ceases to be something to fear or resist, and is instead something to explore since it is there making us feel miserable anyway—and Trungpa is aware of the suffering depression causes.

“Things get very heavy and very slow.” writes Chogyam Trungpa. “Meeting inspiring friends, who used to be inspiring friends, becomes depressing. When you try to put that used to inspire you, it also brings depression. Still nothing ever moves. The whole thing is black, absolute black.”

Though most of us would not choose depression for a partner in the dance of life, it is a helpful approach—if it is one that resonates with you. It does not interfere with using coping techniques and/or medications that help us stay in step during the day. It may also help relieve any guilt or shame people have about being depressed.

Source: Shambhala
Photo credit: Jay Aremac / flickr


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