The first thing I did was to daily return to a meditation practice that I had come to trust as a something that seemed to create order in my life. I can’t tell you why or how, though. While employed in the 80’s, it became a desire to sit quietly during my lunch hours once a week. I found it helped me de-stress and to be more peaceful. Today even the medical model is suggesting meditation for people with different illness such as high blood pressure, pain management and anxiety, but in all my years of enlisting the aid of social workers and psychiatrists, never was it suggested that I put meditation as an option of managing depression into practice.
People cringe at the word “meditation” for many reasons, I know, but I absolutely believe a good and compassionate God led me to it. Of my faith tradition, meditation is a prayer practice. Practicing meditation at least once a week for many years I knew it positively affected my life; I went back to college though I was fearful, I made a significant change in employment, though I was a workaholic and, as a woman, I began to make decisions for my life independent of someone who didn’t have my best interest as a priority. I began to connect the dots and realized that from the practice of meditation it seemed to follow that a new pathway in life presented for me to follow. It had happened enough times that I did not question the cause and effect of meditation having significant bearings on life changes when I needed to “do life differently”. Rational thought; increase meditation from weekly to daily.
The full story of how meditation played a part of career changes, new decisions and new avenues is covered in my book, Dancing with Depression, so I won’t go into it here. I will emphasize that not only from my experience of healing depression, but I would later discover much of the literature from the medical field of psychiatry and from spiritual writings to secular, all sing the praises of the advantages of meditation. So just trust us.
I want to say something to those who don’t consider themselves “religious” or “spiritual”. I want to encourage you as you seek something better to make a difference in your depression, to just keep an open mind. While those many years of weekly meditation made a difference, it was not a “religious” experience. It was a spiritual experience. Spirituality is about relationships; to something higher than the self, to the self and to other (people, places, things, illness, work, drugs, shopping, eating, etc.)
While I had grown up in a mainline denomination, I can say it was not that religion that healed me of depression. In fact, I never considered while I struggled with depression and suicide ideation to even go talk to the priest. Why? Maybe I anticipated no one really understood. Or that I would be told it was “wrong” when it felt compulsive, beyond will, to me. Or someone would tell me all the reason I should want to live… Well, I just didn’t so I didn’t want to risk misunderstanding or ignorance. (There’s a lot of that going around.).
Honestly, while my denomination had specific beliefs, traditions and teachings, in those times of returning to deep daily meditation, I lost all names for God that had been familiar. I just experienced deep compassion. That’s my best descriptive name for God or Higher Power now – compassion. I have no doubt I have been cared for, delivered, helped and resurrected by Something that made no big deal about “It’s” name… Though I tried, scriptures seemed to go dormant and dry. Prayers I had been used to praying seemed insignificant.
I was definitely in a new place spiritually. Maybe it’s like being so close to someone, a family member or friend, that you no longer need to call them by a name as you are heart and soul connected. I think God came so close to me that the names disappeared and only presence remained. I’ve come to understand all I described above isn’t about what some would call, “losing faith” but it was the deep experience beyond words of being scooped up, absorbed, rescued by Grace.
Initially with meditation, I didn’t expect much. I just wanted peace of mind. I just wanted my brain to quite screaming at me. I was trying to connect to the peaceful place of meditation, the process of quieting the mind, to stop the thinking, the ruminating and the anguish. It was a desperate realization there nothing more I nor could do about depression and that everything anyone had done with and for me was not enough. There was nowhere else to go. Nothing more I could do. I could not imagine what else could be factored in. I had no clue as to what “doing life differently” would entail. All the suggestions for managing depression weren’t enough. I had nothing left to try. All I had was a simple desire from within.