depression

I Had a Black Dog, His Name was Depression | WHO Video Message of Hope

In collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to mark World Mental Health Day, writer and illustrator Matthew Johnstone tells the story of overcoming the “black dog of depression”. More information on the book can be found here: Matthew Johnstone 

WHO Mental Health Topics

The UnValentines of Single People | How Does it Feel? | My Unness

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The unvalentine of year after year of single life. How does it feel to be uncoupled, unlinked, unrelated? Are you undone? For me I am definitely in a state of unness. Singleness by choice, a kind of pristine space albeit from time to time an alone one. This is the time, including the Christmas and New Year period, when this unlinkedness comes to the fore. It is not so much the lack of a link to a partner that causes from time to time a sharp ache, a sense of separateness so acute to be an actual heartache. The yearning is for a community, a relatedness, rather than a relationshipness. The bygone days of sharing, preparing meals, talking in the kitchen. Nowadays I no longer cook for myself. Some studies have shown that eating alone is not good for you. I find it depressing, so I would rather eat in a distracted way, while doing other things, almost in passing.

These simple, heartwarming moments can yawn like a chasm, like any Grand Canyon in their missingness. I do the stuff of meaning making, focusing on projects, meditating, increasing spiritual practice, but it is true that this unness does not sit as comfortably as at other times. I am especially aware at these times to try to focus on positive things, to steer away from undoings, to avoid certain spaces where couples and families congregate. How do you cope with the life phase of the fifties, when children are grown and you are alone? What do you do to get closer to fine?

Even a short walk on the beach helps me. I love to watch the people and the deep presentness of the dogs enjoying the sand, sea, air and of course the kelp. I sit and smile, pushing my hands and feet into the sand, a simple and great joy, looking out to sea and at the ghost mountains in the distance.

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And yesterday this sign made me smile too:

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Photos taken by Carol Knox

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Feeling Down? Focus on Something you can Do, a Project or a Task that you can Accomplish

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When feeling down, depressed or blue, something that characterizes these feelings, is that nothing seems meaningful, life seems colourless and bleak. According to Viktor Frankl, one way to get out of this mind set, or to change these feelings, is to focus on creative things that you can do, uncovering meaning through tasks that you can fulfill. By thinking of a project or task that you can accomplish, you orient yourself towards the future and have something to look forward to doing. If you happen to be feeling down or depressed, try to think of something that you can do, no matter how small. Then throw yourself into action to do it.

Photo by Carol Knox of the valley taken from Trappieskop, Kalk Bay, Cape Town.

Inspiration | HardCore Zen | The Question of Suicide

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This post is inspired by someone I have deeply cared about, (and still deeply care about, who introduced me to Buddhist thinking) and whom I wrote about in Beatific Smile No Black and White. I was exploring and came across a poignant post by Brad Warner on Hardcore Zen. I have been thinking a lot about the Buddhist view of suicide and the first precept: “I undertake the training rule to abstain from taking life.” In an article on the Buddhist View on Suicide Brad talks of his own pain in a very honest way:

“I put a bunch of rope in the trunk of my car and drove out to the Gorge Metro Park, just down the street from where I lived. My plan was to carry that rope out as far away from people as I could, find a sturdy tree and do the deed. But when I stepped out of my car I saw some kids playing in the field right near the parking lot. I realized I could never find a spot far enough off the path where there wasn’t some chance a little kid out for a hike, or a young couple looking for a make-out spot, or an old man with a picnic basket and a picture of his late wife might find me. Then I thought about my mom and how bummed out she’d be if I killed myself. And I thought about my friend “Iggy” Morningstar who’d killed himself about ten years earlier and how I was still not over that. I put the rope back in the trunk and went home.”

A very valuable part of this article, is that Brad suggests one can see this impulse as the possibility to cut off your former life and go in a completely new direction, without destroying the body. Thank you Brad Warner.

For me, in thinking about the suicide of Brett, (never again that beatific smile), it seems that somehow one needs to get to rock bottom, where one is faced with the possibility of extinction to this life, or the possibility of a rebirth to a new life within this life, (a kind of triumph, in my daughter’s words). Brett was a person of extreme contradictions. He wanted to become a Buddhist monk in India, when I first met him. Together we tried to actualise the best possibilities offered to us, by creating a Reiki Healing Centre, (The Arura Reiki Centre, pictured in the photograph in my previous post) and a shop called Padme. Brett became a JKD instructor and had the opportunity to actualise his positive potentialities. Sadly this was not to be.

Brett became involved in VIP protection and work with taxi anti-violence in KwaZulu-Natal, (a business fraught with danger and death). He moved so far from his positive self that I think it was hard for him to see his inner nature. Carrying arms and working in conditions of extreme violence, including tours to Iraq, just moved him into a world from which I don’t think he could return. I remember how he lived in ZuluLand, with others in this unit, with arms lying everywhere. He found it hard to live within society, he had kind of moved into a fringe shadow world.

Some of my greatest sadness is that I only heard about his passing via the grapevine. Only yesterday, did I find an Obituary for him published in the Sunday Tribune of March, 2007. The sharp pain I felt yesterday when I found this, has traveled into today. I felt a strong need to write about it. He left behind my three daughters, who never had the possibility to reconcile many of the things which happened, as Brett spiraled into deeper and deeper depression and despair. He left behind too, a young daughter and wife, as well as his father and mother and sister.

Who can know what happens in “the dark night of the soul?” Eckhart Tolle has this to say: “It is a term used to describe what one could call a collapse of a perceived meaning in life…an eruption into your life of a deep sense of meaninglessness.  The inner state in some cases is very close to what is conventionally called depression.  Nothing makes sense anymore, there’s no purpose to anything.” See Eckhart Teachings.

As Brad says, our thoughts about what WE could have done differently in these circumstances, are just thoughts. We like to organise our thinking. Somehow, some people just can’t turn things around that way Brad speaks about and the way he did for himself. He points here, to the importance of a rebirth in this life, the possibility of going in a totally different direction.

In all things we can just try to be kind and to take care. To anyone who has felt this way, take good care, it is always possible to go in a different direction and grow into a rebirth in this life. There is always the possibility of a new dawn.

My wish for Brett, may he find peace. So far did he travel from the picture of us with our precious teacher, Geshela Damcho, in my earlier post. Thank you Brett, for the introduction to the Dharma and for teaching me Reiki. Thank you again, Brad Warner, for sharing your story and valuable point of view.

Let me end with something beautiful, a murmuration:

Image purchased at Creative Market.