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Depression and Anxiety: Reasons for my Spiritual Practice May 4, 2012

Posted by Living Abundance in Uncategorized.
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I once heard a meditation instructor or Dharma teacher quote someone saying that people come to spiritual practice for different reasons: they are running away from the light, they are running toward the light, they are running away from the darkness, or they are running toward the darkness. I knew when I heard that that I was running away from the darkness.

I have a personal history of both major depression and anxiety. I also share a family history of major depression and anxiety.

I have experienced major depressive episodes twice in my life: once when I was in high school at age 14 and again when I was in university at age 19. At both times I had suicidal thoughts but never suicidal intentions. I found both of these experiences to be quite painful and extremely scary, and I know for a fact that I am not completely over them or I haven’t completely made peace with what has happened in my past.

I experienced a great deal of social anxiety in high school, in part influenced by bullying as well as being what the psychologists label as “neglected” where my classmates didn’t pay attention to me, both of which started as early as elementary school. I can recall in high school sitting at the breakfast table having to force myself to eat because of a pit of nausea and tension in my stomach at the thought of going to school.

My social anxiety started to improve gradually, and much faster once I went to university. After I recovered from my depressive episode in university, all of the negative energy I was carrying in my consciousness turned from depression into anxiety, and I noticed eventually that my symptoms fit the criteria for generalized anxiety disorder.

It was at this stage of my life that I came across Buddhist meditation. At the time, I had made a change in my life to start being more positive in my thoughts and actions as well as with the people and activities which I surrounded myself. I remember wearing a rubber bracelet from a website I saw featured on the news called “A Complaint-Free World,” where the wearer was committed to not complaining for as long as 30 days!

I found Buddhist meditation to be a framework to support my intentions to have positive thinking. I also found valuable aspects to the spiritual tradition that my earlier reliance on self-help and clinical psychology couldn’t offer: Acceptance and compassion.

Before coming to meditation, if I was depressed, I couldn’t accept it and I judged myself for somehow bringing this on myself. I also judged my family for passing down the tendency to me in my genetic inheritance.

The Buddhist spiritual practice allowed me to just accept what was happening in the moment as what I had been handed in life, and that was what I had to work with. It gave me a way to help free me from judging myself, and instead allow myself to have some compassion for my suffering.

There are so many other important aspects that the Buddhist spiritual and meditation practice offers that helps me to heal my depression and anxiety. One other aspect I will mention is the need to not make up a story about what is happening to me. I don’t label myself as a depressed person, a survivor of depression, or an anxious person. I make every effort not to focus on my family history of these disorders or else I feel that there is no way to avoid inheriting them myself. I try my hardest not to focus on my lifetime history of what has happened to me, or to project into the future: “If this has happened for so long in my past, it must mean that it will continue to happen for a long time in the future.” Nothing fills me with more despair and grief than this type of thinking or feeling shackled down with an unbearable burden. Thankfully, I’m able to recognize the effect of these kinds of thoughts and try my hardest to not spend time there.

I continue to work on these memories of the painful times in my life, and know for certain that they have been transformed and will continue to heal. All I know now is that I can say my motivation for my spiritual practice is to run towards the light: I have known the joyful, peaceful, and fulfilling experiences that make up human life, and I have started to trust this as my true self.

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