If I was creating my own reality, it was a crappy one. Things looked good from the outside, but inside it was depressing as a bologna sandwich. Even though I couldn’t afford the luxury of negative thoughts, they kept multiplying. It was like playing Whack-a-Mole.
There are many very good reasons for temporary spiritual depression. One is that the spiritual quest puts us on a collision course with a vast and mysterious unconscious that lies far outside the ego’s control. It can be just plain scary and overwhelming. Ancient spiritual traditions barred entry to those who were not carefully prepared and guided, but today we lack these support systems and are left to wander through a house of mirrors on our own.
Even though the spiritual quest can put us in touch with ecstasy, this temporary transcendence can be painfully at odds with everyday life, causing feelings of abandonment and grief. Though challenging, this is a normal and very real stage of spiritual growth that is designed to prod us into searching even deeper within for what is missing.
Encountering the unknown also means risking the demise of our old self without any guarantees as to the nature of the new. Because the truly novel lies beyond our present understanding and experience, moving toward mystery inevitably leads through the chaos of not knowing – a very uncomfortable place to hang out.
There is an aspect of our being that is in direct contact with the unconscious – the soul. Lacking words, the soul often uses emotion, even depression, to alert us that something of infinite importance is brewing.
There are many more reasons for spiritual depression, but they don’t need to be the last word. There is a way out of the thistles and thorns. It is through the heart.
The brain is inherently dualistic. It has two halves that are forever in a push-me-pull-you tug of war. That’s depressing and exhausting in itself, especially since we live in a brain-obsessed culture.
But the heart is the great unifier. To move attention from the surging tempest of the brain into the stillness of the heart is to enter serenity. It is a calm where all things are included, for the heart is in direct communion with all that is.
This discovery was stunning to me because I had failed so miserably in trying to control my thoughts. Now for the first time it was easy, precisely because I was no longer operating at the level of thinking.
As I combined this focus on the heart with relaxation just before falling asleep, my dreams took on a new vibrancy. Characters came forth as guides, dream interpreters, and mentors and my nighttime activity became interwoven with waking life to form a whole.
The heart, in concert with the soul, provided direct access to the unconscious and I was given a front row seat to a really fascinating show. As I’ve discovered, dreams are an invaluable resource available to virtually everyone, and a lot more fun than Whack-a-Mole.
Paul is the author of A Spiritual Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe and CEO of Lucid Greening, a crowdfunding site for spirituality projects.