Wildmind Buddhist Meditation

Meditation and Depression

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Meditation and depression

depressed man from behindAlong with stress (which I’ve written about elsewhere on Wildmind), depression is another deeply unpleasant, and sometimes devastating, experience that motivates people to learn to meditate.

Can meditation be useful for those who have a tendency to feel depressed? And can those whose depression is caused by chemical imbalances (e.g. those who live with bipolar disorder or manic-depression) usefully meditate?

I am convinced that meditation can be very helpful for depression, whether the depression is situational (caused by external events) or organic (caused by chemical imbalances in the brain). Research has also shown that learning to meditate can dramatically reduce the chances of relapse into depression for those who have suffered repeated bouts.

The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness, with Jon Kabat-Zinn and others

I am not a mental health professional, and make no claims for any expertise in the field of mental health in general, or with depression in particular. However, I know meditators who have struggled with depression, and they have found their practice to be a great support. I’ve also experienced periods of depression myself, and mindfulness has been an invaluable tool for emerging from that state.

There may be some kinds of meditation which are not of benefit to those who have a tendency to experience depression, and I will mention those in this section. The Mindfulness of Breathing and Metta Bhavana practices however, are certainly useful for anyone to practice.

In fact the Metta Bhavana (development of lovingkindness) practice is highly recommended for those who experience depression.

However there may also be times when it’s best for those who are depressed not to meditate — for example when experiencing an extreme bout of depression it is probably not a good idea to try to meditate. One reason for this are that learning to meditate is a challenging experience, and because when one is very depressed one has few inner resources to fall back on, any difficulties experienced while learning meditation are likely to be taken too seriously and interpreted as a sign of personal failure. Another reason is that when we’re depressed we tend to over-indulge in what’s called “rumination,” or the endless turning over in the mind of thoughts about what’s wrong with our lives. Because meditation is an inward-turned activity it may actually give people who are experiencing depression yet another opportunity to ruminate.

In cases of milder depression it’s quite possible to meditate effectively, building on whatever inner resources one has in order to lift oneself into a more positive frame of mind.

Comments

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Comment from Richard
Time: July 13, 2007, 4:19 am

My partnerhas depression and is being treated with medication. Is there a Buddhist view on anti-depressant medication?

I am confused about what to think about the use of medication? Where does that fit in with a buddhist life?

Any opinions would be helpful

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: July 13, 2007, 1:37 pm

Hi Richard,

There’s rarely “a” Buddhist view on anything, but especially with modern issues like psychoactive pharmaceuticals all one can do is look at some of the fundamental ethical guidelines of Buddhism and try, as intelligently as possible, to figure something out.

I presume what you have in mind is the fifth Buddhist precept of abstention from intoxicants. Given that pharmaceutical drugs can affect the mind, there can be a natural fear that taking them may involve some kind of ethical breach. However a deeper understanding of Buddhist ethics must always return to looking at motivation. The fifth precept is intended to encourage us not to take an aware mind and hinder its functioning by taking alcohol or drugs.

Your partner’s situation is very different. He or she is starting with a mind that’s chemically impaired to the point where, presumably, normal mindful awareness is difficult or impossible to sustain, and the intention is to return to something approaching so-called normality by taking anti-depressants.

My own view is that this is fine. Sometimes there are simply chemical imbalances in the brain that arise from misfiring genes, lack of sunlight, hypothyroidism, etc. And in these cases (and others) anti-depressants may be necessary.

Buddhism has long recognized that there are different levels of conditionality that may affect the mind. Depression is not just a matter of “thinking the wrong kind of thoughts” (although that can play a part) but may be chemically or organically induced.

Now there are meditative ways, like Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression, which can help as well, by helping us to identify and let go of unhelpful ways of thinking, although thse techniques are used generally to prevent relapse after a period of depression is over, and not to “treat” depression.

So once your partner is feeling more stable perhaps he or she could consider this as an extra tool to help remain in a non-depressed state.

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Comment from SS
Time: February 11, 2008, 9:08 am

I just stumbled across your site, and am eagerly learning from it. I suffer from depression and am trying to learn how to change my negative thought patterns to cope. I am particularly trying to learn metta bhavana. But I wonder where the line is drawn between metta and not being able to stand up for oneself? Today, my special needs son accidentally pulled another little girl’s hair in kindergarten. She was crying. The teachers dealt with it appropriately, and my son apologized. But the girl’s mother was angry and spoke too roughly to my son. I was there, and could not say anything to her, and she did not acknowledge my presence or my apology. I have been miserable and crying all afternoon, and I have tried metta bhavana directed at myself and at the other mother, but cannot get past the sorrow, shame, and anxiety. Please help?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: February 11, 2008, 2:57 pm

Hello SS,

Thanks for writing. That does sound like a very painful experience and one that could be a trigger for depression.

To deal with the core question you asked, there really isn’t any inherent conflict between metta and standing up for oneself. Having metta for others doesn’t mean that we allow ourselves to be a doormat for them, and in fact ideally our concern for their wellbeing in an extension of our lovingkindness for ourselves.

(OK, I think you might want to pause here and watch for any signs of beating yourself up as you continue reading. When we’re experiencing depression we often make unfair comparisons between ourselves and some idea of how we should be).

Certainly the traditional view is that we can’t actually have metta for others until we’ve developed metta for ourselves. I’m not entirely sure that’s true, actually, but it’s what the tradition says. Let’s just assume that it is true, however. What this would mean then is that when we allow others to trample over us we’re actually confusing something else with metta, or at least there’s something else mixed in with our metta.

I think often that the extra element (or the element that we confuse with metta) is a desire to be liked by the other person. We may have been brought up to believe that people will like us if we don’t impose ourselves on them. Or we may have a mistaken view that the universe is a fair place and that if we’re nice to others then they’ll be nice back to us. So we can have these kinds of things going on and we think we’re being mettaful but actually we’re acting out of fear or from deluded views.

If we’re really being mettaful (and that’s quite a hard thing to do, often) we take ourselves into account as well as the other person. So someone may speak to your son in a way that you consider harsh, and when you see that happening you feel pain because you know that your son is suffering. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t say anything to the other mother.

You said that you apologized, and I’m curious to know what you meant by that. When we say “sorry” we can mean two different things, and they often get confused. On the one hand saying “sorry” can mean admitting that you did something wrong. So your son apologized and presumably that meant that he was admitting that he should have been more careful. The other way we can use the word sorry is to say “i feel sorrow” and that’s the only healthy way in which you could have said you were sorry. You didn’t pull the girl’s hair, and so you can’t say that you did something wrong! But you can feel sorrow that the girl was hurt by your son’s actions.

So I’d ask you to recall, without judgment, what you meant when you said you were sorry. Were you taking responsibility for something you weren’t responsible for, or were you just expressing that the situation was painful? If it was the latter, then it would be useful to bear in mind these two ways of meaning “sorry” and to resolve to cultivate an awareness of when you inappropriately want to apologize.

The other thing that strikes me is the other woman not acknowledging your presence or your communication with her. There could have been all kinds of things going on here, from her being confused by the situation to her wanting to hurt you to her having acknowledged you ibut not realizing she was doing so. But the important thing is that you felt something (hurt? confusion? frustration? anger?) and that you needed something (acknowledgment). Both of those things are healthy parts of being human — it’s what you do next that’s crucial. And I don’t know what you did. Perhaps you froze, waiting for the other woman to say something? Many be you tried to be nice to her?

What you could do in that kind of situation, and what would be very helpful to you, is to express both your feeling and your need. So you could say something like “When I said I was sorry my son pulled your daughter’s hair, I didn’t
hear you say anything. I feel hurt because my need for recognition wasn’t met.”

This is a “clean” expression of both your feeling and your need because there’s no blame involved and you’re not judging the other person. (You might want to look into Non-Violent Communication, or NVC, to find out more about communicating mettafully — there’s lots of info on the web although a course would no doubt be most helpful).

Anyway, by expressing how you feel you’re acting mettafully towards yourself. You’re also acting with self-metta because you’re expressing what need isn’t being met. And you’re treating the other person with metta as well because you’re inviting them to connect with you, heart to heart, with their humanity able to resonate with yours, and because you’re not placing any judgments on them (“I don’t like that you ignored me”).

For now, though, you’re experiencing sorrow, shame, and anxiety, and that’s primarily what you need to deal with. I’d suggest that you treat any of those painful emotions like you would (ideally) treat your son if he were hurt — with love. It’s easy for us to slip into thinking that our hurt is an enemy (after all we’d often rather it was absent!). So instead of treating painful emotions as enemies, treat them as beloved children. All they need is your love and compassion, and to be accepted. And they will pass, given those things and given time.

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Comment from SS
Time: February 11, 2008, 10:55 pm

Thank you so much for your reply. To answer your question, what I meant by saying ‘I am sorry’ to the other mother, was a desire to acknowledge that something bad had happened to her child, which my son was responsible for (though accidentally). So, when she spoke roughly to my son and ignored me, I felt that my ‘olive branch’ had been rudely refused; that we were ‘unforgiven'; and have somehow been judged as ‘bad people’ unworthy of redemption from a mistake.
I am still in the grip of crying fits. It is now the next morning (we are in a different country, in case you are wondering about the time discrepancy) and if I see the other mom I will try what you suggested.
I tried very hard last night to practice ‘breathing mindfulness’ and some more ‘metta’, but kept re-living the bad experience and all its associated negativity. So I haven’t moved forward out of it as yet.

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Comment from SS
Time: February 12, 2008, 1:46 am

Update:

I had typed an answer to your questions earlier, but do see that posted, so please excuse me if this is a duplicate.

Overall, I wanted to thank you for your thoughtful and detailed answer.

1. To answer your question, yesterday I apologized to the other mother to say I was sorry her daughter had been hurt, and also because my son had hurt her, though accidentally, I should apologize. Thus, I was very hurt in turn when my attempt at an olive branch was rejected.

2. I have just returned from dropping my children off at school (we are in another country in case you are wondering about the time discrepancy), and the sequel to the story is even worse. I heard from the teacher that the teaching staff had approached the other mother yesterday and gently let her know that how she had handled the situation (yelling at my son instead of talking with me) was inappropriate. So when I saw her this morning, I went up to her and tried to validate her feelings while at the same time expressing mine.

So, very gently I said that in her place I too would have been very angry, but how she handled it with my son was not the best way to move forward from an accident. She burst into a tirade railing at me (among other things):
a) it was not an accident in her view (though the teachers did confirm it was)
b) she will do anything and everything to protect her children
c) she has raised three children with total non violence and they never have such accidents or incidents
d) something is “wrong with my son”

I felt like someone has thrown acid in my face. I went straight back to the class teacher; who clarified:
a) it was an accident
b) this mother is known to be over protective of her children.

The other assistant teachers etc. all commiserated with me quietly about how awful the whole episode was, and in their view the other mother was not justified in her words and actions.

But if I was upset yesterday, I am feeling a thousand times worse today. My thoughts and feelings are thrashing around like wounded animals, and any attempt on my part at some form of right thinking is futile.

My husband has tried to tell me:
“this other woman sounds like a piece of work; do not give her this power over yourself”.

But you cannot imagine the agony I am in at this time.

What steps can I take?

Thanks in advance

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: February 12, 2008, 10:16 am

Hello again, SS.

Our comments are moderated, which means that they get help up for approval before they appear on the website. That’s not very clear, unfortunately, and I’m sorry for the confusion! Anyway, that means we have some duplication, but that’s no matter since you’ve ended up supplying lots of interesting detail.

What an unpleasant situation in which to find yourself! It does sounds like the other mother’s actions are very unhelpful, and I’m glad that you have the staff on your side.

You asked what to do. In a similar situation I would:

First, as I suggested yesterday, cultivate compassion for my own pain.

Second, I’d visualize myself protected by a sphere of light that provides comfort and love but which prevents any harmful feelings from entering.

Then third, I’d cultivate empathy and compassion for the other mother. She acted inappropriately, but at the same time it’s worth bearing in mind that her motivation was to protect her child. That desire is a noble one, even if the way she tried to go about it was very misguided. I think we can empathize with her need for security, even while disagreeing with her actions.

She’s also very isolated because you have the staff on your side. In her mind she has to use her anger to compensate for the fact that she’s alone in thinking that your son it at fault. Also, she’s suffering. She’s suffering because she can’t protect her child from harm and she’s afraid. And she’s suffering because of her isolation and because her back’s against the wall. These are things I think that as parents we can all empathize with.

So I’d suggest doing things in that order — cultivate compassion towards your own sense of hurt, protect yourself by visualizing a psychic “force field” around you, and then cultivate empathy for the other woman. Empathy and compassion can do a lot to free ourselves from being caught up in our own pain.

Incidentally, we also have a contact form where you can ask questions. I’m happy to discuss this in public as long as you are, but I just wanted to let you know that there is an alternative.

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Comment from Cahalil
Time: March 23, 2008, 9:34 pm

This a really interesting article. As a Muslim who occasionally experiences bouts of depression, I’ve found the meditative invocation of the Supreme Divine Name to do wonders. That, and exercise, seems to be the best combination.

There was a study done in Germany a few years which explored the pscyhological healing power of repeating the name of God — Allah. It wouldn’t surprise me if the medical profession more seriously considers the healing power of century old religious meditative practices of the world’s great religions. But it might take some time for the profession to open itself up to non-conventional ways of psychological healing. The only danger is that some of these meditative practices can do more harm than good if they aren’t undertaken under the supervision of an experienced guide.

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Comment from Karam Minjur
Time: May 16, 2008, 3:43 am

My lama says that you should allow your subjective pain to awaken compassion for others that also suffer from whatever condition you are suffering with. Then take the medicine!

I no longer need to take antidepressants and I put this down to many years of practice. But Buddhist meditation is not therapy: it’s goal is enlightenment. This is why the Dharma is taught.

That said, calming meditation really helps to clear the mind of that nagging negative voice that informs depression and damages your chances of happiness in this life. I did this by learning to recognise it and then prevent it gaining energy and starting a loop in my mind. My personal experience is that it is like having a constant noise in your mind that spoils everything and makes it very hard to think and feel anything but despair that it will never end. Eventually you move on past it. Or I did, anyway. I also found the first Noble Truth, impermanence, a great help, because it meant that the was a light at the end of the tunnel and my pain would end.

A friend said (probably a quote somewhere), “if you are going through hell keep going until you get to the end”. Good advice I think.

Hope this helps Dharma friends.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: May 16, 2008, 11:56 am

Hi Karam,

I agree of course that ultimately Buddhist meditation is aimed at enlightenment. Enlightenment however is something that not all people have an interest in, and for them meditation may be something that they take up as a therapy to deal with pain so that they can go about their lives in a relatively normal way. That’s a limited perspective, but understandable.

I like the point that your lama makes. Turning our attention outwards by being more aware of the sufferings of others is a potent way for us to reduce our own suffering. When we become obsessed with our own pain it intensifies.

Anyway, I’m glad you’re on the path until the end and not just exploring the first stretch!

Take care,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Donald Fleck
Time: June 3, 2008, 7:46 pm

I have used meditation for depression, as it can help to focus onto the pain rather than try to avoid it. Recently I have begun teaching Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression (MBCT), and found that students did pretty well. This is not strictly Buddhist, so I’m not sure if it fits here, but more and more meditators are teaching it through their sanghas or meditation centers, particularly in England. Details are on my web site, DonaldFleck.com, under the Mindfulness tab. I’m interested in questions and comments, of course.

Sincerely, Donald Fleck DCSW

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Comment from Karma Minjur
Time: June 4, 2008, 3:07 am

Donald – I don’t need to focus on the pain – it’s always there, constantly. I just don’t give it any energy any more. I recommend the Tibetan practice of lo johng (not sure of spelling) – “sending and taking”, which the Dalai Lama describes in one of the “Essential Teachings” series – need to track the proper reference.

I also wouldn’t embark on this without some instruction from a qualified teacher.

Another thing that came to mind recently – and sending and taking starts with this – is to forgive and love yourself first, before you try to give things to others. If you hate yourself the taint of the hatred will devalue whatever you give to others, and make it hurt more too!

Strongly recommend “The Art of Happiness” too, wonderful gentle book.

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Comment from ML
Time: July 1, 2008, 3:30 pm

I found this page while searching for ‘depression and meditation’ in Google. I’ve been dealing with depression of varying severity much of my adult life and have recently tried to start meditating daily in addition to some other approaches, including an antidepressant supplement and therapy. And what a coincidence for me to find that this site is run by Bodhipaksa — the very same gentle guider of the meditations whose CD I’ve been using.

I can say that meditation sometimes helps me with the feelings of depression. Other times, when depressed, it’s difficult for me to meditate at all. On the whole, I would recommend it. It can calm one’s mind from those swirling, sometimes harmful, thoughts, if only to provide some short-lived relief.

Thank you, Bodhipaksa, for the recordings and for this site. I’m grateful for your compassion and willingness to reach out to those who are suffering.

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Pingback from links for 2008-07-14 « The Adventures of Geekgirl
Time: July 13, 2008, 11:59 pm

[...] Meditation and depression | Wildmind Buddhist Meditation (tags: depression meditation mindfulness) [...]

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Comment from Charles Pitt
Time: August 25, 2008, 5:39 am

I was researching meditation and depression to see if there was any research to suggest that regular meditation actually had the effect of delaying a persons recover from a period of ‘major depression’ I have been a meditator of some years
and have recently been suspicious about a causal link between the two. Meditation sends me into a very deep and somewhat hypnotic state
which makes engagement in the world a double experience – it calms but leaves me flat and disengaged. This may be a necessary
period of dissengagement so that the body can recover and repair but I wonder if I am assisting my long term recovery
from depression or prolonging it. I would appreciate anyones honest comments or experiences.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 25, 2008, 5:56 am

Hi Charles,

All the evidence I’ve seen points in the direction of meditation preventing relapse, but I guess what happens in an individual’s experience depends on what they are actually doing in meditation.

The results you’re describing suggest to me that you need to change whatever it is you do when you’re meditating. Perhaps at present you place too much emphasis on relaxation and not enough on alertness. Or perhaps you’re not paying attention to your emotions or cultivating positive emotion. But the end result of meditation shouldn’t be that you feel flat and disengaged — quite the opposite in fact.

I’d be happy to deal with any follow-up questions you may have.

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Comment from Karma Minjur
Time: August 25, 2008, 8:24 am

I agree wholeheartedly with Bodhipaksa’s comment. You can also find yourself sinking or scattering within your meditation and there are specific remedies for this, it sounds like Charles is experiencing sinking.

Despite this, I wouldn’t recommend just digging around on the net for the remedies and trying them. I think you need some instruction from a teacher who can get to know you and understand your situation. If you know the remedies and use them without guidance you can end up with a meditation practice that is bouncing between states and not the steady, deep calm of calm abiding. You will know when you find it. I also wonder if you are withdrawing from your medication, if any? I remember that this did some odd things to my perceptions while I did it. Please withdraw under medical supervision if you are, I did and it was necessary.

Earlier I posted about the technique of “sending and taking” and I think this helped me a lot with my depression because it took me out of myself and my petty concerns. But again, you need to discuss it with a qualified teacher who holds the lineage for it. Good teachers are happy to discuss their qualifications and what they are empowered to teach, don’t be afraid to ask, it’s part of the tradition.

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Comment from alana
Time: August 31, 2008, 5:37 pm

hi just wondering if u think that meditation could help me to be happy again. i have been suffering from which i think is depression now for nearly a year and has got to the point where my family are feeling it and my marriage is at risk. it all started when i had my last knee operation acl reconstruction which to my horror as not gone as well as should have. i was quite fit and used the gym and went running regular and work in a gym too! but now i cant even barely ride the bike i feel so fat ugly tired and very unhappy and dont know why this is the only thing i could think of the reason being! ive been to the docs which have suggested i have councilling cos i dont want to take anti-depressants but i would like to think some kind of meditation could help could you please advice me thanks as i do love my family but at the same time i think im hurting them cos im not happy and sometimes just feel like running away from everything and everybody!

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Comment from Sunada
Time: September 1, 2008, 1:35 pm

Dear Alana,

I’m so sorry to hear about your knee injury and all the effects it’s had on you. It sounds as though a major part of your life really depended on your being fit and active, and I know this must be a huge loss.

You asked whether meditation could help you be happy again. Yes it absolutely can. As a recovering depressive myself, I strongly feel that meditation is among the few things we can do that can create lasting change. However, it’s not like taking a pill where you’ll see instant results. What meditation does is create a mental framework for us gradually to become more self-aware and train us to redirect those habitual thought patterns that get us stuck in unhappy places. It does take time and effort, but I can personally say that it is well worth it.

It sounds as though counseling could be helpful, too, especially since it sounds as though your depression is more the result of your life situation, and not necessarily a brain chemical imbalance. I’m guessing that a combination of counseling and meditation might work well for you, and help you through this difficult period.

I wish you the best, and that you find your way back to happiness. It really is possible! I am living proof.

Best wishes,
Sunada
http://www.mindfulpurpose.com

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Comment from Jennifer
Time: October 6, 2008, 8:47 am

I have suffered from depression most of my life and in the mid-90s I finally tried medications that were a big help. I am still taking meds, but find that 9 years into my marriage, I am severely depressed and hopeless. Everything seems to have gone downhill since I had twins 5 years ago (I also have a single child who is 7). My husband and I dated for 5 years and saw a therapist together even before we married, but the same issues of his emotional distance and his tendency to lash out when I express my feelings (since he always takes them a attacks) continue to plague our relationship. I am feeling like I want out. I have read Ticht Nat Hahn on “Anger” and am currently reading “The Power of Now” — I am wondering how I can stop “ruminating” and if I can use meditation to achieve some kind of forgiveness of myself and my spouse. I have so much anger and sorrow… How do I know I am meditating in a healthy way by being in the now and not doing unhealthy suppression of my true feelings? Sometimes following Tolle’s suggestion to observe my feelings instead of “being” them seems like a fancy way of repressing.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: October 7, 2008, 3:02 pm

Hi Jennifer,

You don’t say why it is that observing your feelings rather than being caught up in them seems like repression.

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Comment from Jennifer
Time: October 7, 2008, 8:18 pm

I guess I don’t know where to draw the line when it comes too letting my spouse know what I’m feeling. If there are things that are bothering me and I just “acknowledge” the frustration or anger or whatever in my mind but don’t say anything, then there isn’t a chance of it changing. I don’t find that “observing” my feelings — sort of saying to myself “I am feeling depression” — is mitigating them. Isn’t it healthy to release feelings of sorrow or anger rather than hope they dissipate by observing them? Isn’t it better for the relationship to communicate feelings rather than think to oneself? I suppose I am doubting the ability of meditating to lessen the emotion. Also, there is still the problem of dealing with the action that resulted in the emotional reaction…

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: October 9, 2008, 9:34 am

Thanks, that’s helpful, Jennifer. What you’re describing is one of the big misconceptions about the place of mindfulness in spiritual practice — a misconception that’s encouraged by some teaching styles. Sometimes the role of mindfulness is over-emphasized, to the extent that it’s seen as the be-all and end-all of what we do in our lives. There’s a nice story about this, where one monk is visiting another, only to find him sitting meditating under a leak in his hut — the rain is dripping directly on the meditator’s head. When he’s finished meditating the visitor asks him what he was doing, and he says he was just being mindful of the sensations of the water hitting his head and running down his body. “Ah!” says the visitor. “Lots of mindfulness — not so much wisdom.”

So mindfulness isn’t the only spiritual faculty. Wisdom (which includes knowing when to act and when not to) and “virya” (energy — or actually acting) are also faculties that have to be exercised. As you’re correctly intuiting, if you experience frustration with the way someone is acting, then it’s going to create more suffering for you if you don’t express this in some way. Otherwise you’re just sitting under a dripping roof. Wisdom suggests that you fix the leak, and virya impels you to do something. So I’d suggest you do something, which is what your instincts (your natural wisdom) is telling you to do.

Of course it’s important that we communicate as mindfully as we can, with honesty but also with as much kindness and respect towards the other person as we can muster. This becomes more tricky to do when we’ve bottled up our resentments, unfortunately, because there’s a lot of energy waiting to get out! But you’ll just have to work with that as best as possible. Better out than in!

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Comment from Shamash
Time: November 7, 2008, 11:20 am

I think mindfulness meditation is wonderful for people who suffer from depression. I teach the 8 week mindfulness course in south west London, and it can be very effective for those suffering from depression as it helps to disengage with the constant rumination in the mind. See http://www.learnmindfulness.co.uk for videos and articles about the benefits of mindfulness meditation and the 8 week MBCT course, which is used now by the NHS in the United Kingdom to treat some patient who suffer repeated from depression.
Best wishes,
Shamash

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Comment from Rose
Time: November 17, 2008, 2:51 pm

I was wandering if meditation could help me in dealing with my suffering for being extremely shy. It has been a real problem
for me my whole life. The feelings of being inferior or the comparisons with other people are really painful. excuse me for my english, I am not a native speaker. Thank you for the comments.
Rose

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Comment from Shamash
Time: November 17, 2008, 6:01 pm

Hi Rose,

I would say yes, but it’s not the only way. Have you tried counselling, psychotherapy or cognitive behaviour therapy? These can all be helpful. Meditation would be a good compliment to all of these approaches and it would make you feel calmer. If you’ve never tried meditation before, you could try some of the meditations on this website. In the end, it’s best to find a teacher in your area.

Best wishes,
Shamash
learnmindfulness.co.uk

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 18, 2008, 11:08 am

Hi Rose. I agree with Shamash that meditation could be helpful, and also that it would be worth exploring the other options he mentioned. Cognitive therapy seems to work particularly well with meditation — both involve becoming aware of how we think, help us to become aware that we have choices, and (with some forms of meditation) help us to channel our thoughts in more productive directions.

Both mindfulness meditation and lovingkindness meditation would likley be beneficial. Mindfulness meditation, as I mentioned, helps us to let go of unhelpful patterns of thinking. And lovingkindness meditation not only helps us feel better about ourselves (more appreciative and confident) it also helps us take our attention away from ourselves and onto other people (in a helpful way). We become more interested in other people as people rather than as potential judges who may like or dislike us.

Your English is excellent, by the way: better than many native speakers in fact.

Good luck!

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Comment from Matthew Brown
Time: November 18, 2008, 3:42 pm

Bodhipaksa, first, I want to thank you for your guided meditation CD, which has been so helpful to me as I battle my own depressions. I was on Paxil for 11 years, and developed alcohol dependency during the last 5 years. I went for therapy and have managed to quit both the alcohol and the Paxil, but I am separated from my wife and family and unemployed, and so suffering the symptoms of depression again. My sister is a Buddhist (and a professor of eastern religion) and she has been a great help in pointing the way for me to develop a practice.

I am entering therapy again, and with luck I will have a therapist objective enough to refrain from giving advice that will lead me to rash decisions while I am dealing with so many difficult issues (I left my wife thinking I was coming back, given the advice of my therapist, only to find the door not open on my return. I am still hoping to reconcile with her, but that may not happen). The path of Buddhism continues to be a way for me to deal with the vicissitudes of life. Again, thank you.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 18, 2008, 8:49 pm

Hi Matthew,

Good luck with working through your current bout. May it pass quickly.

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Comment from Matthew Brown
Time: November 18, 2008, 9:01 pm

I have been wondering, after my experience with Paxil, if the effects of the drug over time diminished my capacity for empathy, and therefore my compassion. I am certainly struggling with more sadness now; but wonder if that doesn’t make me keener to understand and appreciate the sadness, grief and loss of others.

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Comment from Rose
Time: November 19, 2008, 2:54 pm

… I only wanted to say thanks to you and to Shamash for you answers and support. I am attending to a course in a Brahmna Kumaris centre, is about Raja Yoga, I think is very helpful. Mindfulness meditation and lovingkindness meditation seems good for shyness, I’ve never tried them before.
Thanks for your comment about my English, it is very encouraging for me.
Best wishes.

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Comment from Donald Fleck DCSW
Time: November 19, 2008, 3:14 pm

I am a mental health professional. I see you are having an important dialog.

I am working on a definition of what a mindful psychotherapist really is, and put my thoughts up on my blog, Mindfulness and Psythotherapy. Perhaps you or your readers would have a look at what I wrote, and and any comments for my benefit. The blog is at http://www.DonaldFleck.com.

Thank you very much,

Donald Fleck DCSW

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Comment from aniol
Time: February 16, 2009, 9:22 am

hi I have been wondering, after my experience with Paxil, if the effects of the drug over time diminished my capacity for empathy, and therefore my compassion. I am certainly struggling with more sadness now; but wonder if that doesn’t make me keener to understand and appreciate the sadness, grief and loss of others.

anil.

Manic Depression News and Discussion Forum

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Comment from Matthew Brown
Time: February 22, 2009, 8:53 pm

aniol, I have been wondering the same thing. Right now, I am more depressed than ever, and it is a distraction from my work on lovingkindness. I resonate deeply when i hear of tragedy or another’s sadness, yet my own suffering from sorrow leads me into repetitive thoughts that are no help at all to anyone. I work on metta, but often it seems quite empty, and I don’t know if it is because of my depression.

I don’t miss taking Paxil, because on one level I think I was deluded — for one thing, it was part of the reason I became such a heavy drinker for awhile– but it did keep me from the depths of depression.

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Comment from antimatter
Time: March 9, 2009, 9:55 pm

for depressed people like myself i have found a very happy combination: my therapist is present in such a way that her energy embraces me; and mindful attention to how i am feeling and who i am with, helps me to sustain a kind of energy that disables depression. in my darkest period, i latched onto this blues line “baby, you can choose despair, or you can be happy, if you dare.” (thank you, Ian McEwan). i think practicing with a good zen mentor is a bonus–not the only way though–unless you don’t have so many monsters under the bed. avoid phonies. Buddha, true therapists, &c say only you have the answers. the answers change. anything that helps slow down the mind chatter is all to the good. if you are a parent of relentless children, make time for yourself. it is crucial to move from your center. bless the depressed–m*w

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Comment from Eric
Time: June 23, 2009, 1:53 am

Hello all.
I believe that I have meditated myself into extinction. One of the comments I read referred to a disengagement from life. It feels as though I have “become” the observer, however, I don’t think this is quite true. Having been trained in Psychology, I’m afraid that I tend to dissociate. I starting meditating after reading “The Power of Now”. It occured to me, intellectually, that if I am unable to be still and to know what is happening within me, then all of the external activities are fruitless. Thus, I decided to stop working in the mental health field and began to meditate quite a bit. I have, it seems, lost my sense of humor, have developed strange sensations throughout the body that it seems have probably always been there but with all of the “movement” and general activity, I didn’t even know what was happening in my body- what I was feeling. I have been depressed since my first long-term relationship broke up and despite brief periods of respite, I cannot seem to find joy. I remember reading Osho’s discussion on facial expressions and his comments about not smiling when the feeling is otherwise as this will mess up the whole mechanism. I have therefore allowed anger to show on my face (quite scary and uncomfortable) and have tried to accept it and let it pass. It is quite hot in my throat, chest and stomach. There is great tension in the head. I have been treated with Reiki, Re-birthing, I Vision-Quested, took an Aryuvedic retreat and have had much therapy and drug trials. My meditation was mindfully based, where i watched the breath. It has become such that the body feels quite tense and I can feel it always- especially from the throat through the head. Quite painful. I know that has dragged on but I’m at my wits end and I feel that if I could find a place to be taught and “retreat”, I may again have something of value to offer. I find myself quite frightened and socially distant though still able to “act the part”, but this feels quite tenuous. I know that a psychiatrist will only medicate me and I fear that my journey would be thwarted.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Especially, specific techniques for dealing with energy blocks in the body. I have tried to dissolve that which Ken Wilber calls “mini-boundaries” by allowing tension to become tighter, but it seems that I cannot locate the muscles causing my incredible tension. I scream periodically, but it never seems enough.

I was physically and emotionally abused as child and I recall being unable to be still even back then. Now, even the ego-enhancing behaviors that I used to engage in and seem to enjoy seem– ridiculous.

Help!

Thanks for listening (reading) and for any advice.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: June 24, 2009, 9:59 am

Hi Eric,

I’m sorry to hear about the difficult experiences you’ve been having. What comes to my mind is that although some people can do only mindfulness meditation, it’s generally preferable to employ complementary approaches — especially lovingkindness meditation.

Mindfulness meditation does lead to non-attachment, but when there’s a lack of appreciation and warmth accompanying our observation of our experience this non-attachment can turn into detachment, which is much less healthy. We can in fact become rather alienated and cut off from our emotions. When mindfulness and lovingkindness are integrated we can observe our experience in an loving, appreciative, inquisitive way.

I’d suggest that you take up lovingkindness meditation as a complement to your mindfulness practice. Although I’d generally suggest balancing the two forms of practice by doing them on alternate days, in your case, since you’re redressing an imbalance, I’d suggest doing much more lovingkindness than mindfulness meditation. Early in my meditation career I was a rather hostile and critical person, and someone told me “You can’t do too much lovingkindness meditation.” That turned out to be true. For a long time I did virtually nothing but metta bhavana, and it had a profound effect on me. I hope you’ll notice the same effect.

All the best with your practice.
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Scottknick
Time: November 8, 2009, 8:45 am

Thanks for this important discussion. I have been on medication for depression and anxiety for eight years, and have been meditating daily for the last two. I have found that meditation has made me more aware of the triggers of my depression, and of the core beliefs that underlie it. It has also given me small glimpses of the great field of unconditioned awareness in which all perceptions and mental formations are held, and this has made me more tranquil and serene even in times of depression and anxiety.

I have never had qualms about depression medications, (I was on Paxil and now take venlafaxine and naltrexone), primarily because I have never found them to be intoxicating or even mood altering in the gross sense. I don’t entertain any feelings that I should somehow be dealing with my mood disorders “by myself,” because I recognize that my self in any given moment is merely an aggregate of a universe of factors, one of which happens to be the levels of seratonin and norepinephrine floating around in my synapses.

What’s more, I think the meds have helped my meditation by making it a little easier to accept and be with negative emotions and memories that arise. They have also made it a little easier to practice metta for myself and others with less anxiety. Overall I have found meditation to be an irreplaceable adjunct to (but not a replacement for) therapy, medication and 12-step work.

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Comment from denis
Time: December 2, 2009, 11:09 pm

Namaste All,
Interesting and close to my experiences. Regarding energy blockages in the body especialy when trying to meditate, if origin of blockage is self induced through wrong thinking defilement, and has now manifested pinched nerve in neck and between shoulders, this now causing fatigue and depression.
How then dose this relate with deeper understanding of dukha’s “unsatisfactoryness” and suffering?
Hampered will as cause of suffering.
Also Budhist views “Abandon all hope of fruition”
“Aimlessness”
The problems that acompany egos demand for things to be other than they are!
Eish!
On a last humourous note check out “STOP IT!” Bob Newhart on You tube.
Love n Grattitude Denis
Hogsback South Africa

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Comment from Ramesh kumar
Time: December 3, 2009, 11:50 am

Hi Bodhipaksa Sir,My name is ramesh,age 26,my father was expired four years back,from that time my psycological problem started like starting dizzy has been coming for every hour and then i started thinking that i may die and then started thinking that i may go mad..i am suffering with that problems.last year i cannot controlled my thoughts then i went to psycologist.he prescribed me medications,starting i was happy,again i am facing same problems.can this will be solved by meditation.and no one knows that i am in such type of depression.i will meet my friends daily,and i will be happy with my friends and when i am alone i am facing psycological problems.so please give me the solution

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: December 4, 2009, 9:53 am

Hi Ramesh,

I’m sorry to hear about the distress you’ve been experiencing. It sounds more like anxiety than depression, but whatever is going on I’m sure meditation can help. Meditating helps us to recognize that our thoughts are just stories we tell ourselves and that we don’t need to believe those stories. It can also help to reduce the amount of thinking, and to calm down our emotions. Since you’re in India (I presume) I’d suggest you look out for one of the 10 day Vipassana retreats led by Mr. Goenka or his disciples. They include a thorough training in observing the mind and standing back from our thinking.

I do hope you find peace.
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Ivone Leme
Time: April 24, 2010, 9:32 pm

Eu não conhecia esse site, e por ocasião de uma dúvida, acabei entrando nele por acaso.
Na semana passada fui diagnosticada com Síndrome do Pânico, estou em tratamento farmacológico. Mas creio que o Universo, a Vida, não permitirão que este quadro piore.
Você teria alguma meditação a qual eu pudesse fazer, prá aceitar as minhas limitações, queimar as barreiras das coisas e pessoas que me fazem sofrer, e principalmente expressar, falar o que sinto. Se piedade, e sem rodeios. Existe essa formula?

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Comment from Manjupriya (Stephen Little)
Time: April 26, 2010, 9:00 am

Olá Ivone,
Sou um instrutor do método “Atenção Plena” (Mindfulness, em inglês) aqui em São Paulo, Brasil. Fiquei curioso sobre a sua pergunta, porque existem, sim, princípios práticos que pessoas que tem pânico podem utilizar no dia-a-dia. E, trabalhando com vários médicos ligados ao Hospital Albert Einstein, posso até indicar pesquisas sobre as evidências dos benefícios dessas práticas, se quiser. O segredo é: aprende e estabeleça uma prática diária em que você está cultivando uma consciência maior do aqui e agora – o momento presente. Essa prática é sutil, e conselho que você procura um bom profissional que pode ajudar você. Se quiser, pode entrar no meu site: http://www.atencaoplena.com.br para ver as opções. Posso mandar para você uma gravação de uma meditação que usamos nos nossos cursos para você ver como funciona, Abraço, Stephen

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Comment from Tanaya
Time: June 14, 2010, 3:57 am

Dear Bodhipaksa,

I am requesting your advice on how to help my boyfriend.Since the last couple months, he was
diagnosed with clinical depression and was prescribed antidepressants.
When he ran out of medicine, he experienced twitching and a broad
spectrum of emotions. He was crying but did not know why he was
crying. He was always on top of things and very in control of his
life and emotions. Right now, he feels like he can not control what he feels or be on top of things. He says he does not have a reason to be depressed. He just feels sad and down. He told me later that sometimes twitching happens with certain emotions.Before he was diagnosed, it seemed like he showed signs of depression but I was not exactly sure. He wants to feel happy but he says his feelings just seem blocked. At the moment, we have a long distance relationship because I have a summer semester at a college away from home. I was wondering if seeing him would be therapeutic as well. He also opens up to me the most about his feelings. I am studying medicine but my knowledge of depression is not enough to help him. I have told a couple of my friends, and they have been trying to help me help him. He is back on his antidepressants. I heard meditation can help the mind with one who has depression. I would appreciate it if you could please tell me what type of meditation can help depression and the Buddhism views behind it so that I can help him. I would be very grateful.

Thank you,

Tanaya

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: June 14, 2010, 9:41 am

Hi Tanaya,

I’m sorry to hear about your boyfriend’s profound depression. I understand that coming off antidepressants can be very rough in its own right — there are withdrawal symptoms on top of the symptoms of the depression. You don’t say why he stopped his meds or whether he did this on medical advice, but he really should be talking with his doctor throughout this time.

As far as meditation goes, mostly it’s been shown to be effective in preventing relapse in people who are not currently depressed. It’s unlikely that meditating would be helpful at the moment. In fact it would probably just give him further opportunities for deepening his depression. He needs to get well, first, and so the best thing you could do is to encourage him to get treatment.

Seeing you might well help him. Depressed people can become very isolated, and that can deepen the depression. But often men are ashamed by being ill and see it as a sign of weakness, and sympathy can be interpreted as confirmation that they’re being seen as weak. So if you do go and see him, I wouldn’t go with the assumption that smothering him in sympathy is going to make things better. It might well do the opposite. Practical help — creating a pleasant environment around him, making sure he eats decent food, helping him get to the doctor — might be the best expression of your concern for him.

I wish both of you all the best.

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Comment from Dr solmaz Aliyari
Time: June 24, 2010, 5:11 am

I am a general practitioner from IRAN and read your comments right now these are very useful and I sure every body can use meditation for have a more happy life,unfortunately these metods are not used in persian culture and consulting with psycotherapist makes social problems,so people have not trend to consult without when they have deeply mental problem,and think use of meditation is JUST for mentaly sick people!!!

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Comment from Marie
Time: June 29, 2010, 6:51 am

Bodhipaksa your comments to SS back in Feb 2008 resonated with me now as I read it. I have faced bouts of depression and low selfesteem all my life. It more and more manifests itself as irrational angry outbursts towards people I do not feel validated by. Today I was served by a shop assistant who did not respond to my attempts to connect with her with casual over-the-counter conversation. I tried again, commenting that the vouchers I was purchasing were more attractive than another store, still no response. I could feel the annoyance welling up inside as my need to have my attempts at communication were denied. I tried to draw back to myself and take a metta like approach to the situation, but this calm state lasted only the minute or two until I asked if all the vouchers had been loaded with the amounts and checked, when I received her blunt answer with little eye contact which I perceived has blatant rudeness, I snatched the bag from the counter and made to leave with an expression of extreme dissatisfaction on my face.
This happens a lot…I am the common denominator here. I know it’s me, when my expectations to be treated well or even just ‘my way’ are not met, I react the same way each time. I now expect the situation to arise, and therefore bring it to myself I suspect.

What might be the best approach to relieving myself and the neighbourhood stores of this attitude.

I also want to say thank you for this site. It is becoming invaluable to me.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: July 1, 2010, 1:55 pm

Hi Marie,

You sound like me, 20-some years ago!

I’d suggest that when you encounter a frustrating experience, you become aware of the fact that you are suffering. Notice the pain you feel (it may be in your heart or your solar plexus, or somewhere else), and send it lovingkindness by repeating phrases like “May you be well, may you be happy.” The first thing you have to do is to empathize with your pain and to develop self-compassion. Only then can you become more empathetic to the people around you.

At least, this has worked for me.

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Comment from andrew
Time: September 1, 2010, 5:33 pm

This forum seems to be a place where practitioners of meditation and/or Buddha-way can get some advice on dealing with emotional issues. I am coming to believe that my main problem is perfectionism. So I continually evaluate every detail about my life and find that most of the time it is lacking in being completely ‘correct’. I am even disgusted with my own flesh-constructed body (its not shaped as I would like) as well as, ultimately, most other flesh-made bodies (I know what is inside them now). Nothing in this world seems clean and nice other than the forest and the clean air after a good rain (though I realize this is an illusion also – there is much decay and death going on there too). But my repulsion does not arise from wisdom, but from ‘wanting to get rid of’ (vibhava tanha). I seem to be very aversive in temperament.

I was going well in meditation, calming the mind somewhat, came to the door of near-absorbtion but could not enter, have seen impermanence in a limilted way in the mind. Now, those states are gone. My meditation is crappy at present. I still sit every day but I am learning not to expect too much. ‘So much for me having any wisdom’, a tormenting thought says.

yep, Im about as depressed as ever, because the one thing that gave me the most happiness – my daily meditation sitting in the morning – is not ‘working’ at present. Perfectionism again! But what should I do? It is a habit of 30 or so years.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 3, 2010, 8:34 pm

Hi Andrew,

I’ glad you feel this is a place you can come for suggestions about practice.

I’ve written about perfectionism before, and you may want to read that article to see how I’ve talked about the subject.

I’ve also written about self-aversion, and how we can deal with that using lovingkindness meditation. Believe me, I’ve been there!

Why not read both those articles, try putting some of what I’ve said into practice, and then let me know how you get on?

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Katy
Time: October 1, 2010, 8:08 am

Hi Bodhipaksa

I was wondering what you’d suggest for someone who’s just come back from a weekend retreat on compassion, doing lots of metta meditations (though probably not enough :-) ), also a lot of mindfulness and insight meditation.. I feel as though the retreat allowed me to open up to some very painful obsessions, feelings, emotions, thoughts etc that have troubled me for several years of my adult life (I’m 26). In opening up to these thoughts and emotions I’m feeling very disoriented, confused, depressed and sometimes very very tearful and emotional. I have felt unable to go to work the last couple of days because I’ve felt so bad. I’ve suffered depressive episodes, as well as obsessions and anxiety-related stuff, for the last few years, and I feel as though opening up to this stuff, questioning and looking at myself, as well as showing myself some kindness, has precipitated the start of another depressive episode.

I’ve also been reading lots of stuff on the net about meditation-induced psychosis, as well as lots of scary stuff that people say has happened to them in meditation (sensations of ants crawling all over their faces, shaking, twitching, uncontrollable bursts of emotion, visions of past lives etc) and that all that stuff is part of the path. All that stuff scared the living daylights out of me and makes me feel as though meditation could be dangerous for my mental health…

Arggghhh. What do you think?

Thanks for your reply in advance.

Best wishes

Katy

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: October 2, 2010, 11:04 pm

Hi Katy,

In short, what I’d suggest is self-compassion. It can be hard coming out of very supportive conditions and peaceful surroundings, having opened ourselves up. We can end up very jarred and confused.

First up, there can be thoughts along the lines that we’re failing because we’re experiencing suffering. In fact, it’s not failure at all. It’s a normal part of human experience to suffer. So we have to begin with accepting our suffering, and not seeing it as a sign that something is wrong, or as unwelcome.

I find it’s best to locate the suffering in the body, and to have a sense of its size, shape, and texture. And I hold it in my awareness tenderly, like the hurt thing it is, and wish it well by using the phrases from lovingkindness meditation that I’m sure you’re familiar with. Just wish your pain well. It doesn’t matter if you don’t actually feel any lovingkindness at first, or even for a long while. We just need to step back, stop thinking there’s something wrong, and drop those thoughts of lovingkindness into the mind. Things will change eventually.

I very much doubt that there’s anything dangerous about meditation for people who are not already psychotic or schizophrenic. Those sensations etc you describe are not harmful or even limited to meditation. I mean, don’t you get an itchy nose sometimes when you’re carrying furniture or otherwise are unable to scratch the itch? That can happen in meditation as well! I’ve sometimes experienced twitching, rushes of energy, or the arising of strong emotion. These are just normal experiences in meditation (I’ve never had visions of past lives not have I heard of that happening). In the long run they’re good things. Tensions get released, we get to know parts of ourselves that we’ve forgotten to experience. This is good. Sometimes uncomfortable, but good.

But mostly meditation is just work: follow the breath, get distracted, come back to the breath — repeat a million times.

It may be that you should hold off from the meditation if you’re becoming very depressed. Meditation can be helpful in preventing depression, but when people are actually depressed they can use the introversion of meditation to “wallow” in unpleasant feelings and thoughts. It might be best to do some walking meditation, get out in nature, or get lost in a good book — basically break the cycle of feeling bad and then feeling bad about feeling bad.

I’d be very interested to hear how you get on. I wish you well.

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Comment from Mal
Time: November 1, 2010, 1:54 pm

Need some help! I’ve been depressed most of my life. I was sexually abused as a child and was promiscuous as a teen. I met my husband when I was 17 and we’ve been together for 23 years. I had some acting out behaviors (which he participated in) while we were married. I sought help and fixed myself. Now he says he wants a divorce and I am crushed. I suspect he has found someone more positive. I can’t stop ruminating and hating myself as I always I have. I love my husband desperatly and can’t imagine life without him, even though he’s been emotionally abusive and unavailable.

I have 2 beautiful children and my economic future looks bleak. I don’t have any real job skills and I am 40 years old. I am so scared. How can I move on? Do you think lovingkindness meditation will even help me?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 1, 2010, 3:36 pm

Hi Kim,

I’m sorry to hear about the situation you find yourself in. This is the kind of case where meditation can help, but it can’t possibly be sufficient. So I’d say — yes, definitely practice not just lovingkindness meditation, but mindfulness meditation as well. At the same time, however, I think you should talk to a counsellor or therapist to help you work through your fear, and you probably need legal advice as well. Your husband can walk away from your family, but he can’t legally walk away from his responsibilities to you all.

All I can add about the fear is that fear comes and goes, and we remain (usually standing). I’ve had periods in my past where I’ve been deeply distressed by financial problems, but when I look back at those times, although I can remember the anxiety I can no longer feel it. And I’ve got to the point now where mainly I don’t get caught up in that thinking because I recognize it never helped in the past. In fact rather than helping me, fear always added to my problems.

I wish you all the best.

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Comment from Jim McGovern
Time: November 29, 2010, 11:19 pm

my first post here – but I just read some of your experience with meditation and depression and I believe in it fully. And actually I was writing a little story/comment and the last line had me go ON-line to find some scientific folk who do beleive it can help.

Science. Depression. Seratonin levels.
Funny everything I read about the relation between serotonin levels and depression, has ‘it is believed’ when offering explanations of the relationship of the two. All due respect to Captain Kirk, the last frontier, I believe is the brain.
Neurons firing badly; receptors not receiving…these are the scientific, anatomical reasons they give for people who are depressed. Seratonin enhances the connecting of the neurons to the receptors and thus they believe it relieves depression. In essence it seems to be about communication and the lack of it bringing on the depression.
My question has always been – what is it that causes the serotonin levels to be lowered. And could communicating or more exactly, receiving the qi, or grace, or essence of the Universe, increase our levels?
Not very scientific though talking about qi, graces, or essences…you can’t put it in a petri dish. You can’t measure or pour it. Yet there’s a lot of folk, and scientific folk who do indeed believe in it.

so I then turned to you on-line. Now I am a meditator (actually a Yan Xin Qigong practitioner) for near 13 years now and it has been part of the process where I desisted relapsing into my substance addiction for 10 years and 4 months now.
But my journey, including my strong belief that the meditation part of the
11th ‘sought thru prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God praying only for his will for us and the power to carry that out’ of the 12 steps (and the essence of what the steps are guiding us to – ie God’s will or our Destiny) is very under-emphasized. has also led me to beleive that the 12 steps, prominently including the meditation cannot only help EVERYONE , it can save our world. i have a website ’12stepsforall.com’ and would love to hear back from you.

peace always,

Jim McGovern

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Comment from lmg333
Time: February 2, 2011, 11:51 pm

Hello Everyone!

Last frontier is the brain (haha), fortunately or otherwise…
I believe Buddhist Meditation has saved my life. I was desperate with problems of both depression and addiction, and of course the concept of higher power. This last period of ‘clean time’ I knew I needed something other than just ‘medication and meetings’. I flooded myself with books, audiobooks, and guided meditation as soon as my journey began. It all made so much sense and I slowly stopped hating myself. ‘Transform Your Life’ by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso is a great place for beginners to start exploring the fundamentals of Buddhism in a practical way. It has been 4 years now and I cannot go a day without meditating and if I do I feel as though I am missing that quiet time. If the day is not so stellar and thoughts are racing I begin with a guided meditation just to settle down and re-focus. It was a challenge in the beginning, but I have already begun to feel the long term effects. I can ‘catch myself’ now before falling into a depression, have learned the signs and triggers. I also have the ability to control my temper and other untoward feelings. It’s far from ‘perfect’ but so much better than ever before and have learned how to be mindful and aware of the present moments.
I do go to meetings as well, and the experience there is so much more rewarding than before now that I am more open.
Thank You For All the Comments!

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Comment from joanne
Time: March 4, 2011, 3:21 pm

Hi,
I live in Saigon, and am having a severe bout of depression, anxiety and insomnia. I cannot fall apart as I have to work every day as a teacher. Unfortunately, my work is starting to be affected. I have tried meditation, but I am afraid right now it just makes things worse. I’m afraid I don’t know where to look for counseling services, and feel quite frightened at the moment.’

Thanks for any kind words of advice.
Joanne

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Comment from Wani
Time: March 11, 2011, 8:31 pm

The body and mind are made up of very intricate systems. Sometimes depression can be brought on through periods of prolonged strain (both physical and mental).

Yes absolutely meditation can help balance the emotional state thereby bringing about altered chemical balances.

I believe that through sheer willpower alone we cannot break some of the cycles. We carry heavy weights, become sleep deprived and worry, we also infiltrate our systems with toxins and poisons thereby causing our complex systems to work according to a different balance.

Vitamins and minerals are important in our diet. How often do those extra late nights lessen our serotonin levels, depressing our emotions. Mega B vitamins are great to boost energy and can be used during times of prolonged stress. It helps the nervous system. I have actually found pain relief through taking them. Cortisone is a chemical that is released under duress. We need to physically get rid of this chemical (exert). Are our bodies not working as they should? I had a stressful – but seated job which I had to leave to gain better health. Sometimes the cycles continue because we choose them to continue.

Magnesium aids our system’s ability to get rid of toxins. Unfortunately our diets (western) are lacking in magnesium. It is used to improve heart disorders, avoid diabetes. I have found that it helps with my allergies – and I swear by it.

Meditation is very important. Nutrition and meditation I feel go hand in hand with optimum functions.

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Comment from joanne
Time: March 12, 2011, 1:54 am

Thank you for your reply. I’m feeling a bit better and am trying to do several things, including diet, exercise, meditation, and, for the moment, medication. I don’t eat a western diet and I think my diet (mostly Vietnamese and other Asian) is pretty healthy. I’ll check out the magnesium.

This board is great support and comfort. Thank you.

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Comment from linka
Time: June 18, 2011, 1:15 am

Your suggestions and replies are so thorough, how wonderful. I am dealing with a situtation that has brought me into a terrible place that I cannot seem to get out of. I feel angry and frustrated and confused as to why my higher self led me into this mess.

I am currently in Nepal, I flew over here to work as a volunteer at an Arts Collective, to teach classes in photography and such. I was living at the so called collective for 5 weeks. The entire time I felt depressed and disrespected. I left the place a few days ago, because my room was previously rented, but next weekend I was supposed to teach a class there.

However, yesterday I wrote a very direct and pretty harsh letter to the girl that founded the collective, letting her know that I won’t be teaching for her for free. I also told her everything I think of her. Which was nothing pleasant.

She charges quite a lot of money for the classes and then expects her volunteer’s to pay rent and pay for everything, and then the money supposedly goes into the collective. But there is no collective, it is just her, and she has another intern. She is competitive, un-supportive, jealous and unkind.

The last volunteer and I met, she said she felt exactly as I did and that the previous one before her did too. Thankfully knowing this makes me realize I am not crazy.

However, I have flown over here to Nepal and spent all this money to volunteer, to feel like I accomplished something and frankly I feel just used and exhausted and I just want out of here.

Now I am trying to stop walking around grumpy and depressed. I thought writing the letter would help. Strangely, I saw the girl out last night and she said hello, like nothing had occurred. I am pretty sure she didn’t read my email yet. If she did, she is much crazier than I previously thought.

My head is just in a terrible place. I feel like I can’t let go. Can you suggest a good downloadable guided meditation?

I try to clear me head every night, but I have been here now 7 weeks and the entire time I have felt awful. I am starting to get concerned about what this is doing to me and how I can once and for all come out of this funk.

Thanks so much for your support.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: June 18, 2011, 1:31 pm

Hi, Linka.

From what you say it does sounds like this woman who runs the “collective” isn’t very pleasant. Dwelling on what she’s done wrong isn’t going to do anything to make her change, but it will cause you suffering. As they say, ill will is like swallowing rat poison and expecting the rat to die. I’d suggest letting go and moving on. Make the best use of your time and do what you really love. Nepal’s a great place for photography, and you can work on simply appreciating the time you have left there, and make beautiful images.

If I was to recommend one meditation, it would be on Being in the Moment. You made a decision. It didn’t work out. Embrace life and move on, rather than agonizing over the past.

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Comment from linka
Time: June 18, 2011, 2:18 pm

Thank you for your response. I know you are right.

One problem was that I haven’t felt like photographing, no inspiration, and I couldn’t pull myself back into my core and get myself out of my room, to go see Kathmandu.

This is just one of many times that I have found myself dwelling on things, which is why I wrote. It’s just one example out of many more, in which I find myself focusing too much on feeling frustrated and angry. I sometimes feel like I am moving beyond this issue, which I have carried around my entire life, but then something occurs and I am back in this anger.

I have always been an angry person, sort of a family inheritance. I am now looking into lovingkindness meditation now that I have read this post. I surely sympathize with everyone here. I used to have a lot of issues with depression and somehow I have managed to pull myself out of that recurring problem. I feel like if I can finally get this anger out of my system, then I will have truly come a long way.

Great thing is that today, even though I woke up depressed, I forced myself to start a photo project and while I am photographing everything disappears, I feel completely happy.

What a great resource you have here. Namaste!!

Linka

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Comment from sonam
Time: July 8, 2011, 2:01 am

first i was abuse by a man. i could not ask for help that time as i knew if people new about this, my family reputation will be gone. Hence i choose to make this man fall in love with me. so i starting dating him for about 2 months. Later i found out that this guy has a wife and a kid and everythiing he told me was all lie. I entered depression and went on for 7months. after that again the problem came up and this time this man and women filed case against me to police.

so this time i feel more pain then ever. i feel worthless, hopeless and life looks meaningless.

Doctor gave me anti-depression but i stop taking it as i thought it might have side effects. what do you suggest me to do. i have lost interest in everything. do you think i should go to new place and start new life. i really hope to hear from you. constant thought of suciding is cming in my mind as the pain is unbearable.

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Pingback from I find it all so depressing – Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Atheism, God, Universe, Science, Spirituality, Faith, Evidence – City-Data Forum
Time: July 31, 2011, 10:47 am

[...] thoughts start to crowd in on me. This link on meditation for depression was helpful: Meditation and depression | Wildmind Buddhist Meditation Beyond that, as to the questions of the existence of God, purpose in life, and an afterlife, as a [...]

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Comment from myr
Time: October 26, 2011, 1:08 pm

hi! Do you know if depression can cause you to become sensitive to your surroundings? I started feeling strange after being so depressed, feeling unusual things around me and hearing creepy sounds, like ghosts… I feel that a part of me or something has been triggered to sense such supernatural things but just slight … I havent experience seeing one and I dont want to…

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: October 26, 2011, 3:40 pm

Hi, Myr.

I can imagine that anxiety — which is often tangled up with depression — could cause you to be more sensitized to sounds around you. When we’re anxious we’re more on the lookout for threats. And one of the things that depression does is to assume bad things from limited information, so I can see how a creepy sound, picked up in an anxious state, could be interpreted as something supernatural.

I’d suggest that when you hear something that your mind interprets as creepy, you recognize that this is just anxiety talking, and smile.

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Comment from Jimmy Maestro
Time: December 27, 2011, 12:09 pm

My wife is 1000% into this meditation thing lately. She wants to use meditation to energy heal people in her acupuncture practice.

She is up every morning at 5AM doing meditation. I think she does meditation several hours a day now. I’m at work so am not sure exactly.

Should I encourage/discourage her to continue or stay on the sidelines?

Regards,

Jimmy

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: December 29, 2011, 8:54 pm

Hi, Jimmy.

If you wife seems happy, balanced, and sane, then I’d say encourage her. The only times I’ve known meditation to be unhelpful are where the person has had a mental illness, in which case meditating can intensify the disconnect from external reality.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from varun
Time: January 8, 2012, 8:45 am

Hi,
i have been suffering from depression.i used 2 hav these depressive thoughts,not major though since i was 14.but i was okay then.i’m 19 now nd since past 4 months it has got way too intense-insomnia,pulsating headaches,emotionally sensitive and hardcore pessimism,poor vocabulary ,aloofness,instable appetite,fear of socializing,inability to control thoughts etc.just 5 days back i consultated a psychologist who has prescribed medicine nd said wud take a month to show effect.
I’m nt convinced it would bring back me to totally normal state.i hav immence pressure in terms of my studies and attending lectures which i can’t because of social fear and almost no ability to concentrate.i suddenly break down in tears and my physical and mental health is getting worst.
Keeping little faith in medication can you advice me ‘meditaion tips’ for keeping me at peace and regaining my mental health?

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Comment from Donald
Time: January 8, 2012, 4:47 pm

Hi Varun, from what you write, it is good you have sought out a professional. You mention seeing a psychologist. Perhaps you mean a psychiatrist…. it is usually psychiatrists who prescribe medications. You should follow-up with that person if you are feeling distress. You are more important than just email. That person can see you individually, or refer you to an additional source of care and support.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: January 9, 2012, 10:16 am

Hi, Varun.

I’m sorry to hear about the distress you’re experiencing. Donald is right in saying that you should follow up with your psychiatrist if you have worries about your medication. You should also talk to him/her about meditation as well. If he/she thinks this a good idea, then I’d suggest starting with mindfulness of breathing. In theory, the development of lovingkindness would be beneficial too, but this can be a challenging meditation for people who are depressed and anxious. I’d stick with mindfulness of breathing for a while, at least.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Wani
Time: January 16, 2012, 1:31 am

Experiencing emotions and feelings are a very normal, human experience. When we get to the point where our bodies start to react physically, like insomnia or breaking down in tears we know we need to support ourselves somehow.

Our nervous systems are very complex – under stress and long term hardship cortisol takes it’s toll. Cortisol is responsible for our fight or flight responses – a natural stress hormone secreted by the adrenal gland. Cortisol can affect how we sleep (which in turn encourages more cortisol release) it can affect our immunity, short term memory and the capacity to talk.

Some people try to deal with stress purely from an emotional or mind over matter focus. Granted it can work in some instances, tackling core sources of conflict (internal and external), understanding our reactions to stressful situations and people, supporting ourselves and helping ourselves to improve our lives are important also.

If under stress our bodies use up reserves of vital nutrients – some vitamins and minerals cannot be stored (unlike fat) in our bodies and so our bodies may have increased requirements at certain times. A mega vitamin B complex can help to increase energy levels, support the nervous system in times of stress. There may be many other natural products which can be taken to help us deal with the effect of stress more efficiently (to support our body perspective). In reality, information can be empowering.

Ways to decrease cortisol levels include massage (my favourite), of course meditation (my chosen line relates to spiritual connection to higher power), music (vibrational therapy is one line of thought – soul music is what I like), dancing… etc.

Try not to be so hard on yourself, always look to learn from our experiences and forgive yourself if you make mistakes.

I thought I would share several pages from my book of life. I hope this helps.

Link to cortisol information follows: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cortisol

Link to my website follows. http://heartlandprc.vpweb.com.au/

I am a massage therapist but also work with Spirit (psychic – which is a label to describe an experience – not the only label by far). This could be described as meditation or self hypnosis which I use for guidance and healing purposes. Everyone has the ability to tap into source. Anyway, I’m jabberin on…

By leaving no stone unturned you may suddenly find a gem of most beauty.

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Comment from Chris Herbert
Time: January 26, 2012, 10:38 pm

Meditation can be a big help for depression. It helps me recognize the crazy thoughts that run through my head for what they are, just thoughts, and get back on track.

Here’s a somewhat humorous description of what happens when I meditate…

http://www.herbietown.com/blog/2012/01/26/sometimes-my-brain-attacks-me/

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: January 26, 2012, 11:24 pm

That’s quite a ride! Kudos to you for sticking with your practice.

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Pingback from Day 1 of the rest day of my life « Becoming who I should be – One day at a time!
Time: February 7, 2012, 4:28 am

[...] no nicotine, no caffeine and no other dodgy substances. I want to look after my brain. I want to meditate. When I meditate my mind is peaceful and it works correctly. I want to feel like there is a reason [...]

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Comment from Jude
Time: February 11, 2012, 11:45 am

Hi – i’m 58 and have suffered from anxiety and some form of depression for many decades, though not always as bad. I don’t recall a time when I felt OK about myself as a child. When we had our children I was focused on family almost completely, (though I did teach part time and co authored a book) esp as our younger daughter had serious health issues and an undiagnosed congenital syndrome. She has serious mental health problems herself, and has self harmed and made several suicide attempts despite our constant attempts to help her to feel loved, cherished and valued (the world seemed to act otherwise).
Now she is doing much better, has a lovely and loving partner and is working at building her career in freelance journalism. Our elder daughter also lives with a long term partner and has just got her Ph D.
What upsets me is that I feel by now I ought to have sorted myself out. At a time in my life when I should be able to anjoy a more relaxed life with my recently retired husband, I am struggling with worsening depression and anxiety. I feel so guilty that others have hard lives and yet cope better and feel happier than I do. I feel constantly inferior and inadequate. I find it hard to feel happy for others’ good fortune and that makes me feel worse as I feel sub human because of it. I have tried various self help procedures including meditation but I don’t think I was doing it properly – I can’t have been otherwise it would have helped me, right? I’ve had psychotherapy (useless) and CBT(ditto) and just long to feel OK in my own skin. I don’t ask for delirious happiness, just to feel OK and grateful for what I have already and instead I am a selfish and ungrateful monster or a human being.
I am constantly struggling to provemyself to others and myself and fail almost all the time. I started learning Russian because it sounded impressive and I thought my father would be pleased, but I am finding it a struggle. I booked into other courses when I felt better, only to find now that I dread them and don’t feel I can cope. In the last week or so my depression has worsened. I often wake feeling either low or very anxious and recently I’ve found myself even more exhausted and have to force myself to get up. Antidepressant meds aren’t helping and they might be contributing to my morning tiredness which I have had for ages but it’s only recently it’s got so much more marked.
I know this sounds a very big ask, but is there any mileage in me re-starting mindfulness meditation? It’s the only thing which made any sense to me in the past and I was upset to read that you thought it might be harmful if you’re suffering from depression – I thought it was meant to help you deal with it. I do have a tendency to judge myself (constantly) but I don’t know how I can change that. I would like to be able to function better and feel a part of the world rather than an inadequate alien. Any advice welcome! xxxx

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: February 11, 2012, 12:22 pm

Hi, Jude.

I’m sorry to hear about your depression, and to hear that it’s getting worse again.

It’s possible that meditating — mindfulness and lovingkindness practice — could be helpful, but you’d really have to work under close supervision with someone who was very experienced, otherwise it’s just another opportunity for you to beat yourself up. You might want to look into finding a Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression, program, although they tend only to work with people who are between episodes of depression.

I think there’s one key thing you have to do before any therapy or program will be useful for you, however, and that’s to let go of the on/off thinking you seem to do. I had a bipolar friend who I lived with at one time, and it was very interesting being with him in a car. When it was too warm he’d turn the heat right off. Then when it got too cold he’d turn the heat up full. There was no in-between. It was similar with speed. He’d slow to a crawl going around bends in the road, annoying all the drivers behind us, and then when he got to a straight bit of road he’d floor the accelerator (inadvertently preventing those annoyed drivers from passing). He was either “on” or “off.”

So I don’t believe that psychotherapy or CBT were “useless” for example. I think you wanted something that was going to switch your happiness “on” and when it didn’t do that you put those approaches in the “useless” category and turned off your efforts. I suspect that if you look at your experience of those therapies you’ll find that there were things that you learned about yourself, and that there were small changes in your level of wellbeing. But — and this is a very common thing with people who are depressed — a small change in the happiness setting doesn’t match your expectations, and so it registers as no change. And so you stop trying. We’ve all been there, one way or another.

Similarly with your self-view. I have an uncle who used to lock his young daughters in a closet for days at a time, siting in their own shit, with no food or water. His children were forced to watch him systematically breaking the ribs of their stepmother. I’d say he was a “monster.” If you do that kind of thing, then feel free to call yourself a monster. If you don’t do that kind of thing, then drop the over-lay dramatic labeling. You’re just a normal human being with normal failings, who happens to be in the habit of giving herself a harder than normal time over those failings.

When I notice my own judgements (which are more often about others than they are about myself) I say “Thanks for your input, Heinrich. I’ll get back to you on that.” (Heinrich is my pet name for my inner critic.) You might want to pick a pet name for your inner critic and give that a go.

If you want to feel more appreciative, then say “thank you.” Say it out loud. Look around at what you have, and say “thank you.” You’re in a house. Look at it and say “thank you.” (There are many people who don’t have houses.) You have electricity? “Thank you.” You have gas? “Thank you.” You have internet access? “Thank you.” Furniture? “Thank you.” (It doesn’t matter who you’re thanking. It’s just an attitude of thankfulness that you’re cultivating.) Your arms and legs work? “Thank you.” Your eyes work? “Thank you.” Your ears? “Thank you.” Your heart is beating? “Thank you.” Your lungs are functioning? “Thank you.” And so on, and so, on.

Try that for a while. It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel gratitude. Just do the practice. It doesn’t matter if you (or your equivalent of Heinrich) tells you it’s “useless.” Just do the practice.

Small steps.

Small steps can take us a long way.

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Comment from Eli
Time: February 17, 2012, 11:09 am

Hello,
I hope this message finds you well. I am writing to ask if the Vipassana 10 days retreat can harm me negative if I am not in the best moment in my life :)

I have always been a very sensible person and taken thing too seriously and personally. Also, I tend to stress, but I have learnt to control it and calm myself and put things into perspective.

In the last couple of months my job was terminated, it was a big adventure and risk, so I am disappointed, but that was an option. And I am positive I have other options waiting for me. Also, one week ago my boyfriend seeing that I was too negative and down, decided to take some time appart and make his ideas clear… So I left… He practiced meditation Vipassana before in one of these 10 days retreats… So i am reading now that probably i was too negative to be around, I dont know… Anyway, I am ok, but a bit disappointed about losind my job and my boyfriend and some dreams in a couple of months… So I am joining a friend who is travelling in India, taking some holiday time to put things in perspective and relax before going back to life decision making and work and rutine life… And I was reading about Vipassana and sounds very interesting… But some people tell me it is hard and maybe after my life events I will not be able to handle it… I am a very strong person, hardworking and commited. And though I feel sad for all that happened, I just want to understand, accept and move on.. I had been thinking for some time now that I wanted to find some way to organize my thoughts, calm down and think better… I am not religious, so Vipassana sounds like something that could work for me… I just want to find my inner peace and take things easier…

But I wonder, I really would like to try the Vipassana 10 day retreat, in India or Thailand ( I move freely around Asia for 8 years now) but I fear maybe I will have too many expectations? Or maybe the feeling sad for a breakup will affect me and will not be able to concentrate? I feel ok usually, sad sometimes, but I know life goes on and if we were not meant to be, we were not and if we were, we will…

But I really feel like the Vipassana can be a path I can use to learn to think better and be happier… I have never done meditation before though…. I use breathing to relax my self, but I have never done meditation and I would like to learn….

What do you think? Should I do for a 10 day retreat?

Any advice of opinion is appreciated :)
Thank you very much in advance and take care.
eli

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: February 17, 2012, 12:03 pm

If you’re not severely depressed you should be fine, although you can expect to go through some tearfulness during the retreat. But it’s best to discuss these concerns with the retreat organizers…

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Comment from Eli
Time: February 19, 2012, 9:01 am

Thank you, I will make sure I mention my mind state.

Take care,
eli

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Comment from isadora
Time: April 1, 2012, 7:52 am

ta mais eu queria em portugues e não englis

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Comment from Jude
Time: May 8, 2012, 4:01 am

Hi again – I posted a while back when I was feeling very low and your reply made me think a great deal about how I see myself. You are quite right in what you said about on-off thinking especially. I am awaiting a referral for further diagnosis – possible Borderline has been discussed, which I’ve suspected for a while as my emotions have always been unstable (by that I mean ever since my teens, to varying degrees).
I am trying to get back into the meditation habit and I want to practise well. I realise that my recent attempts weren’t doing me much good because I was meditating in bed first thing in the morning, lying down, and I am reading a book of yours which discusses the importance of correct posture.
However, I’m confused about a few points and wondered if you could clarify?
1. I have several guided meditations on my ipod. Is it valid/ok/appropriate to use those on a regular basis or should I wean myself off using them? I have read something on one website which worried me – that listening to a guided meditation isn’t ‘real’ meditation. I am now concerned that my efforts will be for nothing!
2. If posture is important, is it OK to meditate in the car (where you can’t really sit in an ideal posture), train, etc? I like to practise on long journeys sometimes especially as it calms my over-anxious mind.
3. I suffer from depression and anxiety, but it’s never been severe enough for hospitalisation. I do ruminate – it’s a bad habit and an automatic one with me which I am trying to address. You warned against using meditation if you have severe depression, but mine varies and I don’t take medication now to control it as it didn’t help and I think made things worse at times. I want to learn and know what is me. Is it safe for me to meditate? I did attend a course a few years back which was wonderful, and the only contra-indication was that participants shouldn’t be in the middle of a severe episode. Mine fluctuate, but I do cope enough to get on with life as best I can, on the whole.

I am sorry this rambles a bit and is rather long but I would appreciate some guidance on these points. I find the website really helpful – thank you:)

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Comment from Sean
Time: May 19, 2012, 6:34 am

Dear bodhipaksa,
As per your advice for my obsessive thoughts I learned the acceptance and surrender approach but I have become a bit too good in watching my mind , it’s a devil and watching it non stop is scary and sometimes I feel that hounding images even when they are not there because of my habit of watching them over and over again , any suggestions plz and lastly one of my mate is under depression , is using medication as crutch harmful for the time being , thx a ton

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: May 19, 2012, 12:53 pm

Hi Sean.

(And Jude, apologies for the delayed reply, but I’ve been off on retreat. I’ll respond soon).

I have one thing to say: Lovingkindness Meditation. It’s an indispensable complement to mindfulness. I would never recommend practicing mindfulness in isolation, unless you have a very good personal teacher who integrates the principles of lovingkindness practice into the mindfulness techniques they teach. Even then, I think it’s best to have dedicated sessions of lovingkindness practice.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: May 19, 2012, 1:05 pm

Hi, Jude.

I’m glad you’ve sought a diagnosis, and I hope that works out well.

To take your points one at a time:

1. Listening to a guided meditation is indeed a “real” meditation. It changes the way your mind functions and helps yo rewire your brain. What meditation’s about is learning new skills for working with our experience. To learn new skills we do need new input, and guided meditations do that for us. However, we need to make sure we’re internalizing those skills, so it is advisable also to “fly solo.” You’ll probably find that those meditations are more scattered, and you’ll want to alternate between guided sits and solo sits. Eventually you might do all, or almost all, of your sits with no guidance. How long that takes varies from person to person.

2. You can meditate fine in a car, although I wouldn’t make that my only place to meditate! It’s not a question of “bad” and “good” in an absolute sense, but more like “less supportive conditions” and “more supportive conditions.” Meditating in a car is probably better than lying down, not as supportive as sitting on cushions (assuming you have a good, comfortable posture), but a heck of a lot better and more supportive than nothing at all.

3. I think you answered that question yourself! Yes, if you’re not in an acute episode of depression, you should be fine. I’d recommend trying to balance mindfulness of breathing, lovingkindness, walking meditation, and anything else (exercise, spending time with friends, for example) that helps you maintain an even keel.

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Comment from BecomingwhoIam
Time: July 28, 2012, 4:39 pm

Dear Bodhipaksa
I have done mindfulness-of-breathing-meditation on and off for the past two years and it has been very beneficial. I have depression on and off, and have often changed my workplaces and even countries in the past years. Meditation has made me more positive and calm and less anxious a lot more focused. In fact, meditation makes me so positive that I tend to overlook toxic people. I read what Jennifer said above about her relationship with her husband and I liked your answer about the story with the monk. I have always had seriously trouble with my family of origin, I broke up contact with my brother 7 years ago, and once did the same with my sister for two years. Things with her have improved over the years and I thought she really changed. In fact,she has not and her behaviour triggers a lot of the stuff I went through when I was growing up. It is similar to what Jennifer said about her husband being emotionally unavailable, commanding, critical, cautioning. Two of my siblings have always been like that. The depression often is because people do not allow me to express anger. I have left several relationships, too, because of this. Sometimes I feel the further away I am from the people and the language I grew up with, the better for me. I have always had trouble making friends. I once read in a book that meditation can help you listen to your inner voice and strengthen your intuition. So you learn what is good for you and what is not.

Best wishes
BecomingwhoIam

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 14, 2012, 4:44 pm

Hi, BecomingwhoIam.

I’m sorry for the long delay in replying. My in box has just been swamped.

I’m glad to hear that meditation has helped you become more calm. The question of avoiding toxic people is an interesting one. The fact that you’ve found meditation helpful in other ways, but not in this, is a reminder that in some ways (although not all) inter-personal skills can be very different from intra-personal skills.

But there is a cross-over between the inter-personal and mindfulness of our inner states. A lot of our intuitive sense of whether or not someone is potentially harmful for us comes from being mindful of our gut feelings. Some people simply do not notice these, and so don’t pick up on any indications their mind is giving them about others’ toxicity. Some people sense these feelings but override them, often because they want to be liked, or to be “nice.” It’s a very valuable skill to be able to recognize the physical signs, in your own body, that you’re in the presence of someone who is psychologically dangerous for you.

Loving-kindness and compassion meditation can be helpful with the interpersonal stuff, and with helping you to stand up for yourself. Lovingkindness practice starts with us valuing ourselves, and valuing others over ourselves is one of the main ways people get into relationships where they become victimized.

I’d be interested, by the way, to know in what way people “do not allow” you to express anger. It’s hard to see how they could stop you expressing this. They can disapprove, but you can always override their disapproval, I would have thought. Anyway, I’d love to hear more.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Learning to breathe again
Time: March 5, 2013, 10:31 am

Hello. I really love reading your page. This seems to be, but would you recommend this type of meditation for bouts of anxiety/depression? When I’m in these states I experience feelings of detachment (depersonalization) which to me is probably the most undesirable as it leaves me feeling like an empty shell of my former self. In the past year or so (I’m 34) I’ve worried about and attributed these feelings to some drug experimentation in college (ecstacy). Its this thought (sometimes obsession) that triggers a cascade of anxiety and intensifies the feelings that much more. Dr’s have told me not to worry, as it was a long time ago and any imbalances have long since corrected. I guess its more for me about letting go of the past and forgiving myself of past indiscretions. Some days I feel great, yet anytime I’m hit with the blues I always seem to revert back to the “college drug theory”. Its as if I use my present state as a means to justify my theory (as in, “see! I knew it!). I appreciate you letting me ramble on, thank you for listening. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you very much.

Sincerely,

Learning to breathe again

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 5, 2013, 10:56 am

There have been clinical trials done with meditation which have shown it to be more effective than medication in preventing relapse into depression, but these studies have involved participants who were not experiencing depression at the time they learned to meditate. It’s hard for people who are seriously depressed to approach anything in a creative way, although I think that with close guidance many people can work with depression through meditation.

Depersonalization isn’t something I know much about, and I haven’t seen any studies on depersonalization and meditation. I have anecdotal reports that some “Insight Meditation” approaches to meditation can be depersonalizing, especially when there is intensive “noting” (naming) or experiences. But the more heart-centered insight approaches taken by jon Kabat-Zinn and others are, I’d imagine, quite healing.

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Comment from Learning to breathe again
Time: March 5, 2013, 12:17 pm

Thank you for getting back to me so fast. Depersonalization is just an off-shoot of anxiety. Its one of the minds ways of protecting you from unpleasant feelings, however, one can start to find the feeling of detachment unpleasant as well. It can be brought about by too much ruminating and essentially “living” in ones own head. I have noticed in the last few weeks from meditating that I seem to be much more in the moment, so I believe it is helping. I guess I get a little overwhelmed at times with how many different types and styles of practices there are out there. I’d like to know I’m doing “the right one”. In my heart of hearts, I realize how foolish and unhealthy it is to worry about something from so long ago, but my worrying, analytical nature sometimes leads me there. I’ve read that people will often search endlessly for the reason they’re feelings anxious or depressed, and the moderate drug use from over a decade ago suddenly became my tormentor. I lead a much healthier lifestyle now and have gotten better at putting that behind me, but the fact I’m writing this right now is proof I still think about it from time to time. I guess I’m asking what is the best way to forgive oneself and move forward rather than existing in the past. Thank you, your insight is very helpful and calming.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 5, 2013, 1:21 pm

Oh, I think lovingkindness meditation is essential. I recommend that everyone does both some form of mindfulness of breathing as well as lovingkindness meditation. It’s great for self-forgiveness, especially when we do it as a compassion meditation, which basically involves simply cultivating lovingkindness while being aware of suffering. So you can call to mind your earlier self, be aware of his suffering, and wish him well.

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Comment from Vrajesh
Time: March 17, 2013, 11:33 pm

Hello,

I am depressed. I have fears. I feel hopeless sometimes. Sometimes i have those “dark” thoughts. I have tried meditation for one month, i felt better but i stopped it… believing some thought that i had about it….mainly due to spirituality and some other thoughts like “i cant commit to this”….”meditation is like a crutch”. I redefine ‘rock bottom’ emotionally every night or every few weeks…if you know what i mean? I am just at a point where i dont want to feel like this, i dont wnat to worry…it hurts to look into the future as it seems impossible…cant really quit school… because i have loans to pay for….dating and other stuff is out of the question due to my current state. Forget social drinking etc….I am willing to live a simple life….as my mind always tries to complicate it.
I have tried all i could that i thought could work, tried being present but its so hard to just observe every thought without getting caught up in it.

Even attempting to find a meditation posture seems impossible for me…all i see in my mind is pain, struggle and failing…. Dont know if this is depression or lazyness….

Maybe now i can just really listen.

What do you suggest?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 18, 2013, 3:46 pm

Hi, Vrajesh.

The thoughts you describe — “I can’t commit to this” … ”meditation is like a crutch” — are what we call the “hindrance of doubt.” Doubt in this context is a lack of confidence, accompanied by “stories” that limit us in some way. So you end up not doing the things that you know will help you. Doubt is very hard to recognize, but it’s vital to do so, otherwise it can suck us down into depression and hopelessness. When you hear these self-limiting stories, say “Oh, that’s just doubt” and keep on with your practice.

There’s something you can do for yourself right now. And that is to say to yourself, “It’s OK to feel this.” It doesn’t matter what you’re feeling, say to yourself, over and over, “It’s OK to feel this.” The most painful part of depression is not wanting to be depressed. It’s the aversion. And when we drop the aversion to depression, we are able to feel more comfortable with the discomfort we’re experiencing. The aversion manifests as thoughts like “I can’t stand this for another moment.” But actually you’ve “stood it” for many moments so far and will for many moments to come. And dropping the aversion and accepting that it’s OK to feel bad will help you to feel less bad!

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Comment from enkidu
Time: April 27, 2013, 11:21 am

I keep going back to this followyourbreathing meditation but it seems to be making my depression and anxiety worse!
What am I doing wrong, please?

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Comment from enkidu
Time: April 27, 2013, 11:25 am

I also wanted to ask – as I really mean business with all this – the point of following ‘breath’ is presumably the same as the point of feeling or being aware of your ‘body’ – both are means for helping to focus away from relentless thinking. So, does it matter what the ‘object’ is – so long as it is something internally experienced?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: April 29, 2013, 10:02 am

Well, being aware of the breathing is being aware of the body :)

You’re right, that in some ways it doesn’t matter exactly what we’re paying attention to if we simply want to quiet the mind. It wouldn’t even strictly have to be something internal.

But the Buddha taught “four foundations” of mindfulness, with the body being the most accessible and concrete. It’s harder to pay attention to feelings unless we’ve developed the ability to pay attention to the body first. And feelings, after all, are rooted in the body…

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: April 29, 2013, 10:05 am

It’s hard to know without hearing a fuller description of what you’re doing, and what your experience is like. Can you say more?

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Comment from jayden
Time: May 2, 2013, 1:33 pm

im not a buddhist but i meditate it help me with anger and depression im 14 i nearly did
suicide and i hate pills so i look to new things and ive been bullied for 7 years from 1st grade up till now(8th grade) and i really need help i dont have many friends(only 4 friends) and im been lonly what can i do with meditation also i may have forgot my email pass word so please contact me on facebook thank you for helpin me with this article

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: May 3, 2013, 10:21 am

Hi, Jayden.

I can’t contact you on Facebook, but hopefully you’ll see this message. I’m sorry to hear that you’re experiencing the pain of anger and depression, and that you’ve been bullied. It pains me to think of the cruelty people show each other.

Meditation is a very useful tool that can help you with both anger and depression, and I hope you’ll dig around in the meditation guides here and start practicing. I also hope you’re able to find help closer to home, from school counsellors or friends.

I wish you all the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from jayden
Time: May 3, 2013, 1:15 pm

thank you bodhipaksa i been looking and finding it more helpfull

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Comment from Mario Augusto
Time: December 30, 2013, 9:34 pm

Good evening, I live in São Paulo – Brazil, and Buddhism that which you are part.
I would love to know if you have here in São Paulo, wanted to attend.
‘m Nichiren Buddhist. But I wanted to know a deeper Buddhism. With meditations, Why am I adapt the Sakyamuni. And in my budsimo is talk little about it. I appreciate your generosity. Stay in peace. PS: Excuse me for bad English I am translating in goolge

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: January 1, 2014, 8:44 pm

If I understand your question, then I can put you in touch with my friend Manjupriya in São Paulo: http://www.budismosaopaulo.com.br/bsp/AOBO.html

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Comment from EuropeanGuy
Time: January 13, 2014, 7:40 pm

Hi,

I have what could be described as mild to moderate anxiety and depression.(Especially public speaking is a problem for me, virtually impossible)

I’m currently not on any meds.

Got into meditation 2 years ago and started practising mindfulness of breathing. Did only that for more than a year, then found about vipassana and loving-kindness.

1. I really don’t know how I should divide my time between samatha, vipassana and loving kindness. Do you have any thoughts on this?

Three weeks ago I decided to spend all formal practise on doing loving-kindness and I must say that the results are quite positive so far. Loving kindness seem to be really powerful.

2. So right now my meditation practise consists of 45 min formal practise loving kindness everyday AND being mindful all the time in everyday life(noting thoughts and feelings etc.). Do you think this “program” sounds good given my current situation? (I know eventually I’ll have to do more formal vipassana practise)

3. Lastly, how would you recommend working with desire? (which is the one of the five hindrances that is most prevalent in my mind).

I would also like to thank you for your great and informative site!

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Comment from NorthernEuropeanMale
Time: January 23, 2014, 2:42 pm

Hi,

I made a comment a while ago but it seems the moderator never put it on here.

Anyway, here are my questions.

I suffer from mild to moderate anxiety/depression. I meditated for about 2 years, and only recently have I begun doing metta meditation. It has really improved my mood.

1. My current practise consists of 45 min formal metta meditation every day and everyday mindfulness througout the day(i.e. labeling thoughts, feelings, sensations etc). Do you think this “program” sounds good given my current situation? (I know eventually I’ll have to bring in formal insight meditation in my practise)

2. I read somewhere that a good way of cultivating metta before you begin your practise would be to think of someone who loves you, a family member, one’s mother for example to create the feeling of loving-kindness before starting to send it out to oneself. Do you agree on this approach?

By the way thanks for a great site

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: January 24, 2014, 8:23 pm

Hi. Sorry your comment didn’t make it through last time you posted it. Sometimes we get rather swamped and we prefer not to post comments when I don’t have time to reply, and not to keep comments in moderation forever.

Your practice sounds good, and I’m glad to hear that your metta practice has improved your mood. Another thing that might help is what I call “power standing” (it was one of my students who came up with the term). It’s basically the kind of posture that Amy Cuddy recommends in her famous TEDx talk. It’s very good for boosting confidence and overcoming anxiety.

And I think your approach to the metta practice is fine. I’ve never done it that way myself, but it seems to work for many people.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: January 28, 2014, 11:23 am

Hi, EuropeanGuy. Apologies for the delayed reply, but at times I get very busy with teaching and with family stuff.

1. I generally suggest roughly alternating mindfulness of breathing (as a samatha practice) and lovingkindness meditation on a daily basis. The practices are complementary, and alternating them daily means that there’s less opportunity to neglect the practice you find more difficult. And then once things are going smoothly, then from time to time replace one of the practices with some form of insight meditation. The vipassana you’ve been doing sounds good.

2. I think your program sounds wonderful. There have been times I’ve done nothing but lovingkindness practice months or even a year. As I suggested above, though, there is a complementarity between mindfulness of breathing and metta bhavana that makes the two practices together more powerful.

3. My main recommendation for desire is, in meditation, to allow yourself to relax more, get more deeply into the sensations in the body, and enjoy them. When you don’t appreciate the pleasure that’s already potentially there in your experience, the mind goes wandering off to seek it elsewhere. Outside of meditation I’d suggest slowing down and appreciating ordinary experiences more. And count your blessings. Reflect on what a blessing it is to have all the things you take for granted, like shelter, electricity, clean air, a relatively law-abiding society to live in, etc. And as you think of all these things, say “thank you.” Again, when you feel that you’re living surrounded by an abundance of blessings, you’re less likely to need to crave anything. Craving is often an attempt to replace a sense of “lack,” and really we don’t lack much.

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Comment from Fennie Somerville
Time: February 9, 2014, 2:49 pm

Hi,
Several times now over several years I have started to meditate with the object of relaxing and relieving stress. But after a week or two I find I am experiencing bouts of depression. If I stop meditating I no longer get the bouts of depression. The depression is relatively short lived – I am depressed for about 12 hours or so and a tablet of St John’s Wort and a couple of aspirin help to make me feel better, but the feeling is horrible while it lasts. I haven’t ever met anyone who has experienced a similar side effect but I can’t believe I am unique. When I tried Yoga the same thing happened and I had to give it up. Am I doing something wrong? Or have I the equivalent of a mental allergy? I find the meditation itself useful and relaxing, no strain at all and a pleasant experience, and I would like to continue. I practice a simple sort of meditation for about 15 minutes at a time, twice a day, just concentrating on my breathing with some visualisation or chanting. But after about two weeks or so, the depression starts to kick in and I have to give up. As soon as I stop meditating the depression disappears. Any help you can offer would be much appreciated. I am 67 years old.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: February 19, 2014, 9:57 pm

I just don’t know, Fennie. The answer is probably more in the psychological realm than anywhere else. Are you aware of any particular thought patterns accompanying the depression? Are there any fears or expectations accompanying your meditation practice?

It would be interesting to hear what happens when you try lovingkindness meditation.

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Comment from Fennie Somerville
Time: February 23, 2014, 11:15 am

Thanks you.

No particular thought patterns. No abnormal fears or expectations. It’s the same as the switch that occurs with an overexcited and overtired child who one minute is exuberant and the next in tears. There is some chemical trigger, probably a build-up or a shortfall of some neuro-transmitter. I’ll look at the loving kindness meditation.

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Pingback from DP Week 8: Meditation and mental training | Room of Roots
Time: June 15, 2014, 8:50 am

[…] this is the week I’ve been most dreading. While I have read some fascinating articles, including scholarly journals, about the way meditation can help alleviate […]

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Comment from John
Time: July 24, 2014, 1:03 pm

I can recommend the work of Amy Weintraub on Yoga for Depression. It includes yoga, meditations, and breathing in various combinations. She works from personal experience and a deep knowledge base. I found the pranayama exercises particularly helpful for myself.

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Comment from Tins
Time: August 6, 2014, 3:10 pm

Hi. I use to feel so much joy, love and compassion. Then a couple of years ago my husband was being very mentally and verbally abusive and I got really stressed out. I ended up having a mental breakdown, psychosis and am now labeled bipolar. I’m taking medications. Since the breakdown I can no longer feel any joy, happiness, love or compassion, not even for my children. I am having a hard time living like this and feel like I cannot contribute to my children or to the world if I can no longer feel any emotions. How do I practice loving kindness if I am unable to feel anything and is it still beneficial for others. Can you give me any advice in how to live like this.

Sincerely,
Tina

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 30, 2014, 1:42 pm

Hi, Tins.

First, I’m sorry to hear that you had this experience and are still suffering from its effects. And second, many apologies for the delayed reply, but I had a busy summer and couldn’t keep up with the volume of comments here. I’m just getting caught up now.

I’m sure you have more metta for yourself and your children than you acknowledge. I presume you feed and take care of your children and yourself, and seek medical care when it’s needed. Metta is an intention to benefit others — the feeling is secondary. So probably the metta is there, and you’re acting on it, but you’re not feeling it. Possibly you learned to cut off from your feelings, or if you’re on medications this may be affecting your ability to feel.

I’d suggest that you notice and appreciate your mettaful actions — the simple forms of caring included — and recognize that the metta is there. In time I’m sure you’ll reconnect with the feelings again.

In the meantime, I’d suggest keeping your attention around the heart area, for example when you’re meditating, but also in daily life. The vagus nerve, which runs past the heart, is what produces the feelings that are associated with metta. By keeping your attention in the heart area, you make it more likely that the vagus will be active, and that you’ll notice its effects. This may be uncomfortable at times, because it can be painful to reconnect with repressed feelings, but stick with it.

With much metta,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Ian
Time: September 5, 2014, 7:54 pm

I’ve experienced depression for most of my life but managed to be highly successful academically and professionally until I was in my 30’s; then I lost all motivation and sense of direction. I’ve tried dozens of medications and therapies, been hospitalized for ECT, and tried a newer treatment called TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation). I’m doing better, but my procrastination behavior is detrimental to transitioning back to a “normal” life. Worse, only a few close friends know about my illness and that I have been on Social Security disability, and others frequently tell me how positive and put together I am since I am vague about my source of income and I look healthy.

I’ve done half a dozen meditation retreats, and they help my symptoms. I am now preparing for a three week retreat which will consist of 19 days of silence; other retreats I’ve attended have been half that long.

My questions are:
1) Do you have any advice on how to keep up my practice when I return home (I live alone)? I know what is good for me – eating lots of fruits and vegetables, not spending too much time in bed escaping reality, and meditating – but I can’t implement and maintain these habits.

2) Shortly after this prolonged and deep episode began 14 years ago, I did a meditation course for the first time. When the body scanning part began on Day Four, I felt intense and incredibly rapid currents of electricity zooming down and out of my arms. It was scary for a few seconds and then I just went with it, enjoying it. I try not to crave a repeat episode, which is difficult since it was such a beautiful experience. Do you think that it somehow was a catalyst to this prolonged depression since before that I could manage the symptoms better? I find comfort in the memory of such a profound experience but I want to hear your thoughts.

3) In the last two years at retreats I feel best when I am applying myself even if no highly mystical sensations appear, but certain blogs discourage people with depression and anxiety to attend retreats. Since the upcoming retreat will be so much longer, should I try not to work hard and instead use the time to relax and not concentrate too much?

4) My intention in not disclosing my mental health history to the retreat organizers was that I didn’t want my application to be rejected. In doing so, I am lying and not practicing Noble Speech. On the other hand, I’ve benefitted from past retreats and perhaps a longer one is just what I need to get better. If I had more energy and focus, I could benefit society more besides alleviating some of my own suffering. Is my justification reasonable in your opinion?

5) Is it possible that the best thing for me to do is accept that treatment resistant depression is just part of who I am and that I should resist craving a more pleasurable life?

Thank you for this website-

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 10, 2014, 11:26 am

Hi, Ian.

Thanks for writing. Apologies for the delayed reply, but the last few days have been busy (I’m about to head off on retreat myself) and I sometimes find long comments daunting and put them off in favor of more easily manageable tasks!

1) Do you have any advice on how to keep up my practice when I return home (I live alone)? I know what is good for me – eating lots of fruits and vegetables, not spending too much time in bed escaping reality, and meditating – but I can’t implement and maintain these habits.

Developing healthy eating habits is not a field I’m very familiar with, I’m afraid. The most useful thing I’ve found personally is to think about how I’m going to feel after I eat unhealthy food. And I suppose making sure I have time to shop for healthy food is important as well. If that kind of food is on hand, I tend to eat it. But as I said, this isn’t my field, so you should look elsewhere for advice.

2) Shortly after this prolonged and deep episode began 14 years ago, I did a meditation course for the first time. When the body scanning part began on Day Four, I felt intense and incredibly rapid currents of electricity zooming down and out of my arms. It was scary for a few seconds and then I just went with it, enjoying it. I try not to crave a repeat episode, which is difficult since it was such a beautiful experience. Do you think that it somehow was a catalyst to this prolonged depression since before that I could manage the symptoms better? I find comfort in the memory of such a profound experience but I want to hear your thoughts.

That’s an experience of what’s called “piti,” which is a very normal and not uncommon occurrence in meditation. It arises when we’re in touch with the body, relaxing deeply, and at peace emotionally, and so you’re right not trying to crave a repeat experience, since the “trying” is actually counter-productive. I doubt that it was directly the catalyst for your depression.

3) In the last two years at retreats I feel best when I am applying myself even if no highly mystical sensations appear, but certain blogs discourage people with depression and anxiety to attend retreats. Since the upcoming retreat will be so much longer, should I try not to work hard and instead use the time to relax and not concentrate too much?

Well, any work you do should be done gently and with kindness. That’s how we should always approach meditation. Just keep being friendly with yourself. This has to be recursive, so that if check to see if you’re being friendly with yourself you realize you’re not, this doesn’t become an excuse to beat yourself up, but becomes a reason to be gentle and patient.

I don’t know if you do lovingkindness meditation, or whether that’s something you’ve found helpful, but it can, when approached with the right understanding, be very beneficial. For some people with depression it can be a nightmare because they think the point of the practice is to “feel love,” (which it isn’t) and they think that if they don’t have some lovely glowy feeling of love then they don’t have any love and that there’s something horribly wrong. And all of that is based on a misunderstanding of the practice, and of what metta is.

4) My intention in not disclosing my mental health history to the retreat organizers was that I didn’t want my application to be rejected. In doing so, I am lying and not practicing Noble Speech. On the other hand, I’ve benefitted from past retreats and perhaps a longer one is just what I need to get better. If I had more energy and focus, I could benefit society more besides alleviating some of my own suffering. Is my justification reasonable in your opinion?

I don’t think the deception was helpful for either you or the organizers. They probably would have let you go anyway. It’s better if you’re honest with yourself and with them. I’d suggest getting in touch before the retreat starts and “fessing up.” If possible, have a chat with one of the teachers and see what they think. They’ll be well aware that meditation can be helpful for depression.

5) Is it possible that the best thing for me to do is accept that treatment resistant depression is just part of who I am and that I should resist craving a more pleasurable life?

I’m uncomfortable with the expression, “treatment-resistant depression.” I think it concretizes the problem. Your experience of depression is simply one you’re still finding ways to work with.

And I’m also uncomfortable with the idea of depression being “part of who you are.” It’s a part of your experience, yes, and it’s something to be accepted while it’s there, but it doesn’t define you. You are not your depression, and your depression isn’t you.

But you should definitely resist the craving for a more pleasant life. Craving causes pain (and depression). It’s OK to want and aspire to have a more pleasant life, but wanting and aspiring don’t have to include craving. Craving has an air of desperation about it, and when we don’t have what we crave, we suffer. Simply aspiring to happiness can and should include a complete acceptance of whatever you’re feeling right now, whether or not that’s pleasant or joyful.

Anyway, I hope you have a good retreat, where you accept whatever pain arises, and where you’re kind to yourself.

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Comment from alex
Time: September 28, 2014, 8:37 pm

I have feel anxiety and loneliness for most of my life as I am single and don’t have many family members and although I have quite a few friends in different stage of my life, most of them are superficial level.
Not sure whether my negative emotion(anxiety, fear of loneliness) are consider as depression but it sometime paralyze my life and I am at loss what to do.
Self compassion meditation does help a while but the feeling and emotion state keep on coming back. Sometime I try to seek out friends and relationship as a escape from my anxiety and loneliness but in my heart I know that It will not work as I think I have difficulties opening my heart. I was still trying to practice and understand what “aloneness” mean. Hope you can give me some advise.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 29, 2014, 1:57 pm

Hi, Alex.

Social isolation is very painful. I sympathize. But I have to say that I’m not a life coach or a relationship coach.

One thing that’s working against you is your assumption that connecting with other people “will not work.” That kind of mindset becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, because with those thoughts in mind we give off signals to other people that we don’t want to be approached. So I’d suggest dropping those thoughts as they arise. And take actions that scare you — like walking up to someone in a social situation and introducing yourself, and asking them questions about themselves.

What you do have working for you is that you have friends. Even if you regard those connections as superficial, they’re a place to start, and they suggest that there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with you. Friendship is largely a question of spending time with others and developing the trust and openness that comes from doing that. Perhaps also you can reflect more on what it is that you fear about being open.

Most of us, I think, end up making connections more easily with people who share our interests. For me, that comes from being part of meditation and Buddhism groups. It took me a long time to really connect with people, so you need to persist. And practices like lovingkindness meditation help us to feel more confident in ourselves, and to feel more able to express how we feel. I’m assuming that you have an interest in Buddhism or meditation since you’re on this site, so perhaps that’s a way forward for you. Some Buddhist groups are more “chatty” than others, though. There are some where there’s little or no discussion. So you might want to check around.

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Comment from Alex
Time: September 29, 2014, 8:54 pm

Thanks for the reply, My “depression” (more like constant anxiety) derived from conflicting emotion. As human, we try to look for love and partner but afraid that it does not work out as we are looking for sensual pleasure. Fear and Hope paralyze me. I am not sure going into a relationship with a companion will help as I understand that is a temporary but staying alone sometime make me crazy. Meditation helps but once I leave the couch and start to interact socially during work, the painful emotion come back again.
Sorry for all my rumbling but I am really confuse and thanks for listening to me!

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