This is such an important text, glad I found it back. I want to share it, it was send to me by the Buddhist community ARO in the US when I followed an online meditation course, so all credits to them. Let its light brighten your mood.
Aro on Depression
Although it may seem otherwise, depression generally does not just happen – it is something we do. Depression is a way of attenuating (vervagen) emotions we are unwilling to face. Rage, fear, and sadness are the most common targets. We clamp down on them and squeeze the energy out of them.
Unfortunately it is not possible to suppress negative feelings without also suppressing those that are positive. When we armour our hearts against pain, we also defend them from enjoyment. Killing anger or sorrow also turns us into emotional zombies.
In the downward spiral of depression, we try to use thought to address emotional pain – but this can never work. Thinking only addresses the circumstances that brought about the pain – it does not confront the pain itself. We just find thoughts running around in circles—slower and slower—as we deplete our energy. We fuzz into a state of bewilderment and—eventually—oblivious torpor (onbewuste apathie).
We attempt to avoid pain by avoiding life. To shut down the bodily sensations of emotions, we must also shut down our other senses. In depression, colours wash out – everything turns grey. Music becomes mere sound. Everything tastes like cardboard.
Perversely, we may cherish some forms of pain because they confirm our identity and provide meaning. ‘I hurt, therefore I am.’ We may seek our pain to be validated and wear it proudly as a mark of worth.
Meditating with depression is difficult. We seem to have too little energy to sit and apply the technique. Shi-nè (Tibetan meditation technique) may be counter-productive: the quiet space it reveals, is superficially similar to the lobotomised quiet of depression, and we may confuse the two. The method of separating thoughts from feelings does not directly apply: depression does not feel like anything—unless you count cold grey fog as ‘something’.
Depression seems endless as we approach paralysis. To address depression you must be willing to allow change; to let go of your identity as a depressed person; and to let in a little of the pain you are holding at bay. It is helpful to recognise that depression is not intrinsically a condition of too little energy but of too much. The energy of suppressed emotions is never actually destroyed – merely distanced.
The only way out of depression is to reawaken the ability to feel. The best method is to open to the senses. Be receptive to sights, sounds, textures, fragrances, and tastes. Allow yourself to uncoil gradually in sensory enjoyment. This involves overcoming inertia and the depressive damping of sensation. Physical exercise is especially useful. It breaks the slow, weak loops of depressive thought and opens you outward – thereby replenishing energy.
The value of meditation for depression is in helping uncover what is suppressed. Meditative alertness cuts the fog. It then enables you to apply the technique of separating the painful emotions that arise from their accompanying thoughts. To do this requires courage. If you have previously used the technique to transform anger or desire, you know that the pain will abate. If not, opening to pain requires a leap of faith.
Meditation allows us to strip off layers of armour – gently. Only by facing negative emotions can we relate to them intelligently – by releasing them from the straight jacket of conceptuality.
Greater willingness to feel emotionally negative gives us greater capacity to feel positivity.
Enormous creative energy is freed when we cease to employ energy against ourselves in the suppression of natural feelings.