There’s a talk (I can’t remember which one) where someone asks Pema Chodron what non-attachment (a fundamental of Buddha’s teaching) gives someone, and Pema Chodron answers that you recover more quickly. She hesitates as she says it – almost as if wondering to herself ‘is that it?’ ‘is that all?’
But it’s so much.
I recently had another phase of poor mental health, and I can now testify that her answer is true. Sometimes life can take us back to a place (with our health, emotionally, whatever) and it can feel like we have stepped backwards in time; reliving situations we thought we’d left behind.
But it’s really true that when this happens, the fact is we are not ‘in that last time’; we are somewhere new. Now is not then. We’re somewhere new because we know more now than we did before. We have knowledge, and with knowledge comes some power over a situation.
Instead of giving up this time, I decided to fight. But it’s a strange kind of fighting. In order to ‘win against’ anxiety and depression, I had to surrender to it completely. I had to learn what the gift of anxiety had come to tell me about. Once that information became clear, the anxiety started to evaporate. Not immediately, but over a few days.
I also wanted to manage this time without anti-depressants. I haven’t managed that, but you know what? It doesn’t matter. I’m back in a job, and I’ve bounced back so quickly this time that it’s almost miraculous.
I couldn’t have done that without the learning which came as a gift from all of those previous tough experiences. Those previous lows. And yes, some help from therapists and doctors, friends, family, and so on.
Mindfulness and meditation were key too, of course. Years of meditating is indeed a ‘storehouse’, and if one is well enough to meditate one can give space for strong emotions to surface and learn from what those strong emotions came to say and then process that information. (Brandon Bays is good on this topic in my opinion.)
It’s exhausting of course. But this time that process took a matter of hours rather than weeks or months. Quite astonishing.
So yes I fought. But I fought by surrendering completely. I had no attachment to my drama, to past pain, to current pain, to my sense of the world. I dropped them all and surrendered to the pit of darkness and there I found the answers I was looking for, and then came light and love.