“You seem depressed,” my friend Clarice said to me yesterday.
“No,” I responded. “Down, but not depressed.”
I truly believe my war with depression is won, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t skirmishes on the borders every now and then. I do not wish to give anyone the idea that my life is nothing but butterflies and daisies since I gave up antidepressants and decided to get better. I still have plenty of problems, challenges, and frustrations. How I choose to deal with them determines whether I fall into depression. Everyone has down times, and everyone gets discouraged. Actively seeking to minimize the downs and circumvent discouragement are at the heart of a healthy style of thinking.
Healthy thinking requires practice, and I mean this in the sense of practicing medicine or practicing yoga. It must be done on a regular basis to see meaningful results. Meditation is often suggested as a good way to de-stress and stay mentally healthy, but I have found it best for two things: becoming frustrated or falling asleep. Fortunately, Clarice is better at it than I, and she gave me an excellent suggestion that I want to pass along.
Instructions for meditation always begin: Sit or lie down in a quiet place. (I am good at this part. I usually follow it up immediately with a nap.) The next instruction is to clear your mind. Think nothing. (Yeah, right.) If a thought enters your mind, just observe it without judgment and then go back to thinking nothing. (As if! Thoughts zoom around my brain like monkeys on crack and are often equally productive.) I don’t know what the next step in meditation is, because this is where I get up and go eat some chocolate.
Clarice’s excellent suggestion helps me to calm my mind and soothe any anxieties I may be feeling without resorting to cocoa-based products. I am not sure I would call it “meditation,” but at least I feel calmer afterward.
Sit or lie down in a quiet place. Try to stay awake. Now, picture the sky, clear and cloudless. It arcs overhead, pure and blue and changeless. This is your mind. This is your self, your being.
Now, picture any thoughts that go through your mind as clouds blowing across the sky. They may be thin and wispy or dark and heavy. There may be light wind, or gale force wind, or tornadoes passing through. Lightning may flash; thunder may rumble. None of these things affect the sky. They may change its appearance momentarily, but above it all, the sky remains, unchanged and unchangeable.
Your thoughts are only passing through. Especially when they are negative, worrisome, or fear-filled, let them blow on through. Sunny times are coming around again if you will be patient. I believe the classic statement is, “This too, shall pass.”
And so it will. Thanks, Clarice.