Depression: Restoring Emotional FlowSadness is a response to loss and, as with all our emotions, is a vital aspect of our self. It allows us to honour our losses. Sadness, when allowed to flow freely is self-limiting – running its course and finally diminishing, finding a natural balance with our other emotions. If we fail to be open to and honour our sadness, we risk it becoming “stuck”. Once obstructed, pushed away or ignored sadness can solidify into a pervasive state of mind called depression. Depression is often characterized by feelings of hopelessness & despair fueled by a perception that the sadness will not lift. Not only does the “flow” stop but one’s world becomes darkened – a heavy weight burdens our heart. Spending time in a darkened world with a heavy heart may seem like a terrible sentence, yet it is in this dark, quiet place that an opportunity arises. Depression makes us stop, withdraw from the outer world and send our awareness inward – to a deeper place of knowing. And while it is true in this deep place we may wrestle our demons – it is also true that here we have an opportunity to confront & clear that which we have pushed away and hidden from ourselves – our dishonoured emotional experiences. Here from this dark place our unawareness & inertia can be brought into the light of consciousness and released. So how does one begin this inner exploration, this journey to insight? There are 3 keys that help unlock the gate. The first is awareness of the nature of your emotional experience. Firstly name where you are and how you are feeling now. Complete this statement: “I am depressed because I feel _____________________ now.” Name it in the present tense. It may be sadness, or anger or disappointment or something else under the depression. Now take it deeper. I am depressed and I feel _________________ now because _________________________________________. Please note: it is irrelevant if the “because” is “rational” or “irrational”. It simply is what it is. By completing this sentence you are both honouring and validating your emotional experience as real. Now deeper still … My feeling of __________________ has become blocked/stuck/obstructed because _________________________. This last sentence will give you insight into your own mechanisms & habits of self- protection. Remember, we do not intentionally become “stuck” with our emotions. We have learned mechanisms to protect ourselves from pain & grief that sometimes includes pushing emotions away or aside or down. And this works – temporarily. But over time our dishonoured emotions can solidify as in the case of sadness may lead to depression. Sometimes there is very little clarity about why one has blocked or pushed down an emotion. That’s ok. Being able to identify and name the emotion underlying the depression is the most important thing. The very act of naming a suppressed emotion entails acknowledging and honouring it as part of your self thus allowing the light of awareness to enter. How much light enters? Maybe a lot, maybe a little; however, even if it is only a brief twinkle this act of reaching and acknowledging deeply held emotions allows us access to an even more profound understanding. Here we can tap into the reality that there are emotions beyond the emotions and all our emotions, all our experiences are naturally in flux, like everything else in the world. Look around, everything from massive mountains to infinitesimal atoms is shifting, changing. So the first key is an understanding of the actual nature of our emotions – understanding that even if we feel our depression or sadness or other emotion will never lift, the reality of the universe is that change is the very nature of emotions. Furthermore, we can understand that the very act of pushing emotions down, away from consciousness, or obstructing them requires energy for it is against the natural flow. This leads to a huge drain on our life force, perpetuating our inertia and sense of hopelessness and despair. So if a recognition of our emotions and understanding of their changing nature is the first key what is the second? Once again from the deep still place we must ask… Who is the “I”, the “Self” whose emotions I have recognized? Who is the “I” beyond my emotional experience? Upon deep reflection we can gain insight into the realm of being that is beyond the manifest, changing universe that we inhabit – the realm of the Divine within – the “Self” that exists beyond our emotions, and is therefore unchanged by emotions, expressed or otherwise. This is our infinite, expansive Self – our true place of refuge. This realm of being, this Self is like the ocean: deep and profound. Our emotions play like waves on the ocean – stirring the surface & constantly changing but never changing the ocean’s fundamental nature. It is this understanding, this illumination of that which we truly are, our true unchanging nature that is the second key for our freedom from emotional distress including depression. And from this place of understanding we can take an objective view of our own emotional life – our emotions that flow, and those we have blocked, consciously or not. In order to act in this conscious awareness and restore our emotional flow a third key is required: compassion. From the deep wisdom of the Self tap into the Divine quality of compassion and place your own self, in all its humanness directly in this Divine light. Ask yourself… If I were not I, but another, would I not have compassion for my suffering? By tapping into Divine compassion we can forgive ourselves our own weaknesses, frailties and failures. Compassion infuses our view of our emotional struggles with another Divine quality – non-judgment. If we do not judge our emotions as good or bad and consciously accept them as they are they naturally return to a state of “flow.” Depression, turns back to sadness; flowing until it finds its natural state of equilibrium in the context of the whole of our emotional life. As sadness flows it fulfills its purpose: allowing us to touch our grief, honour our losses and thereby helps us fully appreciate the rich emotional experiences that comprise this life.