Now and then I have a bad bout of depression. It isn’t always noticeable to other people, because I generally run on a pretty even keel. I’m not extremely expressive, and my face is usually neutral (which people mistake for looking unhappy, but that’s a post for another day). The causes of these bouts are variable, but the results are some pretty unpleasant days. Thanks to my spiritual practices over the past three years, said bouts don’t last near as long, and are not as severe.
At least, that was the case until recently. Over the last few months, I’ve had more problems with my mood dropping. Even when it “went away” it didn’t really go away. There was always this vague sense of “blah-ness”, a deep seated sense of dissatisfaction with my life and circumstances. It didn’t seem that anything I could do would help it, that I would simply have to endure. It made me question my spiritual practice, my writing, the path my life has taken so far, my career choices…basically, anything and everything. It all became obscured, distorted by a fog of malaise and anomie.
Needless to say, it wasn’t terribly pleasant.
However, in recent days I’ve felt much better. Now that I have perspective, I’m rather thankful for my most recent funk, because it helped me realize that I was approaching things the wrong way. As often happens in this sort of situation, I ran across something that pointed to exactly what I needed. In this case, it was an article from a blog I read back when I started my spiritual transformation and have largely neglected until now.
Now, the article didn’t reveal anything I didn’t already know. If anything, it simply reiterated what I already understood to be true, but framed it in a different way that lent it a new perspective. Simply put, peace of mind is about acceptance. That does not mean giving up or giving in, but rather it means simply seeing Reality for what it is.
We don’t always want to do that, of course. We develop these pleasant notions of how things Should Be. When What Should Be and What Is conflict (and they almost always do), we suffer. Which, when you think about it, is kind of silly. That’s like being angry at the sun for setting, the rain for falling, or the air for cooling in the winter.
I’ve found that letting go of my ideas of what Should Be and simply accepting what is has done wonders for my mindset. The last few days, I’ve managed to stay pretty peaceful, with only a few blips here and there. That is in large part because I decided that I was going to, you know, actually practice my spirituality rather than pay lip service to it. I was pretty lax in my practice before this most recent funk, only meditating when things became really bad. Back when I was a Christian, you’d have called me a Sunday Morning Christian I suppose. Sunday Morning Buddhist doesn’t quite work, but the concept is the same. Now, I’ve decided to make sitting meditation a daily priority. Even if it is only for five or ten minutes, a little bit is better than nothing. So far, it has worked wonders.
Practice is key to maintaining peace of mind. Acceptance doesn’t come naturally. I’m not entirely certain why that is, although I have a few ideas on the matter I may eventually post about when they’re more fleshed out. Biology and our current culture definitely have a lot to do with it though. In any case, as Buddha observed 2500 years ago, people exist in a state of constant dissatisfaction. Sure, now and then a person might stumble into an epiphany, but that moment of clarity fades under the trials of daily life, until it is largely forgotten or, worse in my mind, becomes an object of trite sentimentality the likes of which you see in those nauseating Facebook memes or chain emails. Only through practice can a person not only hold onto that clarity, but deepen it until it becomes so ingrained that it transforms every aspect of their life.
Oh and I don’t want to give the impression that I’m calling for people to be passive. Passivity and acceptance aren’t the same thing. If something in your life, or in society in general, needs changing, we should do what we can to change it. Accepting it as it is now, without judgement, is a starting point to real transformation. By accepting Reality, rather than fighting it, we gain insight into how it functions, and thus can see how to act or whether action is even possible to begin with.
Now I have the clarity to see all of this. The world is imperfect, and so am I, so the time will probably come that my clarity will be obscured. It is a practice, and sometimes I will get it wrong. That is okay too. For now, though, all is well.