Learning to remain calm in the midst of trauma and sorrow is one of the most valuable by-products of meditation and mindfulness.
For the last few months I have been in a state of non-mindfulness more than mindfulness. In my non-mindfulness I have acted like there is no tomorrow and my planning skills went right out the window along with my sense of proportion. I have lots of responsibilities, too many for me actually, but they are mine nevertheless. And I must deal with them and not deny that they exist.
I can remember being 19 and seriously depressed. When asked what would help me, I said I wanted to return to my childhood. That, although not at all healthy, was a time when I wasn’t responsible for anything except doing what my mother told me to do. I knew that Dad and Mom were taking care of the big things and I was aware when there were financial problems or just generally aware that there were psychological issues in my home. I still felt protected.
I’ve been on my own since I was 17, although I did have to return to my family home at the age of 21 and didn’t leave again until I was 24. I probably would never have left if my mother hadn’t left and told my Dad to get rid of me or she wasn’t coming back. Really. I had wanted to move out three months before that crisis but my mother threw a fit at the thought of me getting an apartment? She waited until it was impossible for me to find a nice place to live and then gave me the boot.
This was a milestone for me. I learned to be on my own without support from anyone. I read everything I could – as I always do when confronted with issues. I had counseling. That lasted until it dawned on me that Mom was the problem, not me. You would have thought I could have figured that out sooner given my childhood.
Being a natural peacemaker, living with my family was horrible. But I did survive. And I learned many years later that you cannot make peace where anger is entrenched. And it is only possible to make peace within yourself.
How to do that? There are so many paths to realization. One is meditation which I have discussed in-depth. One is being mindful in every moment of your day. One is devoting yourself to God, Krishna, Buddha – whoever you see as the Supreme Being. One is reading spiritual texts such as Vasishta‘s Yoga. One is finding your self, your Witness. One is being in a routine and not being blown off course by every occurrence in your life.
Today’s post was prompted by a young woman who suffers from clinical depression. She is buffeted back and forth by her job, her employers and her new living quarters. All of these new things in her life are causing her to be even more depressed. There is no feeling of comfortable recognition. Not being able to be in surroundings that don’t feel new, she is sadly untethered. And she cuts herself – a terrible manifestation of self hate.
The pain she feels is real. The feeling of not belonging in her surroundings is real. And her desire to have approval from her employers is real too. But what she is assimilating from all these circumstances does not have to be more depression. She could, given the right counseling, see all of these things as not emergencies but opportunities to stretch her wings and fly. She could deal with these issues by being more assertive at work and not allowing her employers to make her feel “less than” they. She could make her new home feel just like home with her boxes unpacked and her favorite things around her. She could be mindful.
Whenever I am faced with a situation that seems beyond my abilities, I try to understand what lesson I need to learn from it. Recently, the need to find alternative living arrangements for my husband wasn’t something I wanted to do. I was pushed into it by my son, who saw the devastating pressure being put on us as a result of his Dad’s illness. I wouldn’t get help for me, but I would for my child. He could not take it any longer. I had a rough time understanding that because I just dealt with the trauma from moment to moment and rarely let it build into a crisis for me emotionally. Physically I was exhausted and strained, constantly on the go from morning to night, running up and down stairs, doing laundry three or four times a day, fixing meals for my husband and making sure he had everything he needed. I did take time out for me to meditate which helped.
But my son’s mental health was on the line. Twice in the last couple of months I thought I would need to get him to the ER. In fact he asked to be taken there just to get away from the home. Given his medical history, a stint in the hospital usually lasts 3 to 5 months. Having gone through 3 of these hospitalizations, thankfully not here, I didn’t have the energy to deal with this again. So I acted, finally.
I felt like an ostrich with her head in the sand. I was so used to having health crisis in the house I couldn’t fathom any other way to help my husband. Until the family crisis ensued and I knew I had to do something. It was a horrible decision. Do I protect the health of my child or do I continue to care for my husband? I couldn’t do both.
The only tether to sanity at that point was my innate calmness. My ability to say “Is there an emergency right now?” and to answer myself with No. I take everything in steps. Whatever is presented to me in the moment, I do it. If I need to feed someone, I feed them. If I need to hug someone, I hug them. If I need to explain issues to someone, I explain them. I don’t need to become angry or pout or throw things. I just need to do what is in front of me in the moment.
The young lady now in the depths of depression needs support. Feeding pain and sorrow is a habit. It can be broken and a habit of inserting joy into sorrow can happen. Pain and sorrow are emotions that need to be recognized but they don’t need feeding. They just need love and understanding. Examine where the pain is coming from, understand if it is from some projected fear from the future or guilt from the past, wrap it in love and then please – let it go. Don’t keep it and feed it. Transform pain and sorrow with love, first for yourself.