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.

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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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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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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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Depression and meditation-is it safe? | Poppyposts
January 16, 2011 9:32 am

[…] Wildmind […]

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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I find it all so depressing - Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Atheism, God, Universe, Science, Spirituality, Faith, Evidence - City-Data Forum
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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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That’s quite a ride! Kudos to you for sticking with your practice.

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Day 1 of the rest day of my life « Becoming who I should be – One day at a 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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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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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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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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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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Thank you, I will make sure I mention my mind state.

Take care,
eli

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ta mais eu queria em portugues e não englis

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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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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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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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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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BecomingwhoIam
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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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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Learning to breathe again
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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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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Learning to breathe again
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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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thank you bodhipaksa i been looking and finding it more helpfull

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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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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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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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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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NorthernEuropeanMale
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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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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Fennie Somerville
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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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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Fennie Somerville
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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DP Week 8: Meditation and mental training | Room of Roots
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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Hi, It has been 15 years, since my boyfriend left me for another girl, he stopped taking my phone calls and replying to my emails ( we had a distance relationship ), right after leaving me.
He did not give me the reason of leaving me ( that he fell for another girl ) and dumping me. and actually he did not inform me that he is leaving me, i had to figure it out my selves, after sending endless emails and not hearing from him. It broke me – my self esteem, my confidence fully. After an year, a friend of his told me the reason, of him leaving me.

After 2 years I met a great guy, he truly immensely loved me, and i loved him too, we got married and now we have a child together. We are very happy in our marriage. But that rejection 15 years before is still like a unhealed wound. I have been doing great in my Career, travelling internationally and having a great loving family, looks like a perfect life. But when ever there comes a reference of a broken heart, dumped person, or a movie where such a thing happens with someone else, I get very sad, all emotions starts coming over, of being rejected and dumped, moreover dealing rejection that happened as a shock.

in addition to this, when something great happens to me, like if i look great, or if i share an important proud moment with my husband or son, I feel like – he ( my ex) should be watching this, to see what he lost and can not have because of leaving me.

What i want at my end to get this wound healed completely, so that I do not think of that incident again in my life, also my urge to show off to him, that i am leaving a great life ( we are not in touch since then , its just i imagine showing off to him ). I am very happy in my present, i want all these past memories to leave my mind and also i want to stop my selves to keep proving to him ( virtually)

please help

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Hi, “Fairy.”

Sorry for the long delay in my replying. Sometimes my life gets very busy (moving house, surgery, having my websites hacked) the the comments here get neglected.

This cycle of hurt and humiliation reappearing over and over is quite common. I suspect what’s happening is that you’re not giving the part of you that’s in pain your compassion. It keeps coming up, looking for your compassionate attention, and something you’re doing is causing it to be pushed away again. So it’s worth deliberately calling to mind something about this situation that will evoke a sense of hurt, noticing exactly where in the body that hurt manifests, and then sending your hurt love by saying things like “May you be happy; may you be at ease,” or “I love you and I want you to be happy.”

The other thing that’s probably going on is that you’re identifying with your hurt. You’re seeing it as being a reflection on you — perhaps a failure of a sort. And you’re taking your ex’s rejection as being a sign that there’s something fundamentally wrong with you. But your ex is not you. His actions aren’t you. Try telling yourself that. And when hurt arises, tell yourself also that this isn’t you: “This isn’t me. It’s not mine. It’s not who I am.” Right now you’re clinging like crazy to this hurt, even though you don’t want it!

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