I find that I am fighting depression a lot of the time and it makes it impossible to do this work.
Depression is the end point of a chain of causation. You may think that you know why you are depressed but the reason that you repeat to yourself in the thought loop at the end point of depression may be more the result of the depression rather than the cause.
There are always completely rational reasons to be depressed but we are not always depressed. So, my point is that you need to get behind the obvious reasons you give yourself for depression states and observe the chain. Noting the beginning point is one key.
Perhaps for you the beginning is some form of self-judgment or criticism. Perhaps there is a particular situation you are unable to respond to effectively and this failure sets you on a downward path. At the end point, you may be saying to yourself that life is not worth living but you probably did not start there. When you have reached the end point, you will probably not be able to find a reason that would make life worth living because the state of depression is sufficiently closed and lacking in energy that your thoughts are not reliable.
It seems to me that depression is inextricably linked to expectation. It reflects an inability to accept what is. It’s a triumph of “woulda, coulda, shoulda” over the possibilities of the moment. I failed in the past and I will fail in the future. I am a failure. This is depressing, is it not?
In our work, the method of dealing with these fixations is impartial observation of our postures, gestures and sensations. Perhaps this is not yet possible, due in large part to judgmental thinking. So, let’s start with that.
An old business acquaintance once advised me: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Many of us hold ourselves and others to a standard that cannot be met. Too many expectations. We do not accept good. Good is not good enough.
My Buddhist teacher once said that, without respecting samsara, the world of confusion, one cannot possibly discover the awakened state of mind. Samsara is the entrance, samsara is the vehicle for nirvana. In the words of our work, my ordinary life, my sleeping life, is the means of my awakening. Therefore, Rinpoche said, one can say that a violent character is good. It is a wonderful thing, it is something positive. Although at first I may be perplexed and wonder what is good in it, if I somehow get beyond the fascination part of it, I begin to feel good; I begin to realize that I am not just a “sinner” but that there is something good in me.
It is exactly the same thing when one practices meditation. A person may begin to detect his own weaknesses. It may be in a mild form, such as a wandering mind or planning for one’s future, but do not oppose what is occurring, accept it, see it as good, as though one were sitting precisely in order to think these things over rather than to practice meditation. Seeing it as good provides a wonderful opportunity.
If I am meditating at home and I happen to live in the middle of a busy street, I cannot stop the traffic just because I want peace and quiet. But I can stop myself, I can accept the noise. The noise also contains silence. We must put ourselves into it and expect nothing different from outside, just as Buddha did. I must accept whatever situation arises. As long as I do not retreat from the situation, it will present itself as a vehicle I can make use of it. It says in the Buddhist scriptures: “The dharma is good in the beginning; the dharma is good in the middle; and the dharma is good at the end.” The dharma is not a vehicle for self-criticism.
It is the same with our work. Observe what is, not to find fault or to improve upon it, but just to see it. Good will come of this.