I would like to know what this work has to say about despair. In our inquiries together, we don’t seem to deal with it but I think many of us experience despair.
I think all of us experience despair at times. Let’s agree on what despair means. (Group member consults telephone internet). Ok, according to the dictionary, it means to be entirely without hope, to have no confidence in the possibility that circumstances can change for the better. Can we begin with this?
This view says that despair is the result of circumstances…that there is cause and effect. This seems clear. Can we carefully separate them so that we are able to look at them individually? Despair is not in the circumstances, it is a state of mind and body sensation that is a reaction to the circumstances. This distinction opens up the possibility that my reaction can be different. But in despair, I see my state as an inevitable consequence of my circumstances, I justify my despair and that helps to make the situation seem hopeless.
Is it ever really true that circumstances cannot change? But having invested in the circumstances as a valid explanation of my state, I no longer see the possibility of change. I leave no room for the universe to move in another direction from the one I have identified and adopted. So, to address my despair, I first must see how I have accepted this state, helped to create and sustain it by my thinking, and that it may now support some habitual function in my psyche, perhaps justifying self-pity, inaction, victimization and defeat. Can I see that despair is my state? Can I observe it impartially?
Please understand that I do not make light of the circumstances that can bring us to despair. There are situations in life that can be absolutely horrific and there is seemingly no way out. But I know from my own experience that, most of the time, it is not nearly as dire as that. The circumstances have turned against what I want for myself or others and my worst imaginings have taken hold of my mind. But that is because my vision is partial and my wants are based on limited understanding.
Thankfulness is a wonderful antidote for despair if I am capable of it, thankfulness for my life and what I have been given. Spending time with other people doing simple things may be helpful. Doing something no matter how small to improve the situation can also shift my state.
However, I think there is also a deeper despair than the one provoked by personal circumstances. There is despair at my limitations, the cruel things I have done and the unspeakable cruelty of life on this planet. In any real spiritual work, this despair must arise and it is irrefutable. If this despair remains objective, not supporting psychic habits or identities or political causes, it may invite an experience of redemption in which the beautiful and the sweet, the overwhelming feeling of love, are gifted to you, lifting you out of despair. This kind of despair is a link to the divine. It’s an objective feeling which connects to higher states. Ecstasy and suffering combine and the profusion capsizes reason.
Isn’t forgiveness the answer when I despair about the things I have done?
Perhaps for you it is and may it be so. For myself, I have not found an end through forgiveness. My trespasses live on.