I am receiving more and more emails and reports from people who are suffering from depression. Most people think that it is a disease and that they have to change something. It is a phenomenon that was not around when I grew up. The WHO believes that in a few years 25% of health costs will be incurred by depression. I believe that our society is now breeding and producing depression. I consider depression the healthy and natural response of a mature (if slightly sensitive) integrated adult to the imbalance that we have created through our from nature estranged civilization. Starting with the age of Enlightenment humanity believed itself to be above nature. We have been taught that we are flesh-robots, powered by selfish genes pursuing their own selfish interests. We are taught to outmaneuver similar organisms (other people) that are competing with us for limited resources. If we are lucky we are training our offspring better than they do theirs and so our genes continue to exist in this ongoing survival of the fittest while ‘theirs’ will hopefully die out. Talking about ‘theirs’: Our civilization suffers because it teaches that there is this ‘other’ that we have to conquer whether in the disguise of competitors, Islamist terrorists, immigrants, war on drugs, war on poverty, war on illiteracy, war on cancer, war on infectious disease, war on I-don’t know what and now its war on depression. All of these are nothing but externalized conflicts that our society does not solve. It is our state of being in constant war against everything that causes this depression. It is depressing to live in a hostile or at best indifferent universe in which I constantly have to combat against millions of other organisms that have nothing in mind but to replace me.
Considering all of the above we should be depressed. A healthy human being should in fact be depressed facing all of this unease, disharmony and disease that our society has created. Since all of humanity has one common mind depression will be felt by all of its more sensitive members. However, it stands to reason that we all should be feeling it. There is nothing wrong with depression. The fact that it has become ubiquitous is just a sign, a symptom how much is wrong. So firstly, I think that every person who is feeling it is to be commended for having the sensitivity because you guys are really feeling it for all of us. The truth is, I should be feeling it myself but I have been a rather robust apocaloptimist. An apocaloptimist is a person that knows that the world is going down the gurgler but thinks that miraculously it will turn out all right. I don’t’ say that with a sense of pride but almost with a sense of embarrassment. But there is not much evidence to believe that things will turn out all right. Species become extinct every day, the amount of fresh air and clean water decreases rapidly. The forests are retreating, the pole caps are melting, and so is the tundra, releasing its giant deposits of methane gas. On top of that, we, the supposed crown of creation or only intelligent animals, have nothing better to do than being in constant warfare and in brief moments of military peace at least in legal, economic and domestic squabbles with each other.
All you depressed people out there, you do have a right to a better world and a right to a better society and every depressed person in the world is crying out that we cannot continue like this. In order to put an end to global depression we have to create a society that is more just, more compassionate, we have to teach gratitude, forgiveness and love in our schools rather than competitiveness, preparing our children for the rat race and a depressing future.
What you are feeling is a symptom of a humanity struggling to evolve from the power chakra (manipulation, exploitation, coercion, destruction of our mother planet) to the heart chakra. Humanity has to take this step or otherwise it will not survive. Depression is nothing but an evolutionary motor, a symptom of our crisis that pokes us into the back and tells us to evolve. This is not to say that you, personally, do not evolve but it means that all of us are connected and are in truth forming one universal being. As long as this universal being is not evolving fast enough, depression is felt by many of its members. Another symptom is terrorism. Because we are externalizing auto-aggression we are projecting it onto the Islamists who are mirroring it back to us as terrorism. Truth is all of us are the terrorists. We have terrorized this planet for thousands of years, slaughtered its indigenous cultures, hell, we are still doing it today destroying their final vestiges with our bulldozers! Do we have the right to cut down the forests, to poison the air and the water? Is that not terrorism what we do? It is our denial to deal with our own darkness that the terrorists express on a global scale back to us. Why are we so mesmerized with Islamic State if it did not address something deeply within us? They fascinate us, don’t they? They even look like a hybrid between Darth Vader and the Dark Lord Sauron.
But back to depression: I could write many things how we could tackle it from a yogic viewpoint. It’s an excess of tamas, so we would increase the inhalation to make you more rajasic. We could use Kapalabhati to kick the brain into gear, use Bhastrika to break the granthis (pranic knots) or employ Nauli to ignite the fire of intelligence and creativity. How about a few arm-balances to increase the feeling of personal power. But I want to write none of that. Isn’t that exactly what psychiatry does, they patch you up with chemicals so that you can run along in the rat race a bit longer and continue living in the empty and meaningless world that we have created?
No, let me start somewhere completely different. In the Gita is a stanza where Krishna talks of him “to which friend and foe is alike, who is the same in shame and glory and who treats with equanimity a clod of earth and a lump of gold.” Who is he? According to yoga, our life (or more precisely the karmic forces set in motion by none but ourselves) supplies us with exactly the right cocktail of pleasure and pain that we need to wake up. So the goal is not an endless supply of pleasure (which would make us insensitive, conceited and hard-hearted) but to awaken. So the question, when we are suffering is not so much how do we get out of it because life is constant flux and the next moment might present something entirely different. The point is who is it that the suffering occurs to? Who is it that is aware of the suffering? If you keep asking this question with great intensity you will find that there is an underlying current that is aware of whatever happens in your life, such as depression. These phenomena, however, leave no imprint on this current. It is the eternally un-depressed, un-impressed, unchanged and unchangeable.
In yoga we call that the pure consciousness (purusha). It is that what cannot be cut by blades, nor pierced by thorns, nor drowned by water, nor burned by fire. This pure consciousness was there prior to depression, it now witnesses depression and it will still be there when depression has long subsided. This our deepest strata is entirely changed in the process of depression morphing from the seed state to the manifest state and then to the residue state. This strata is the true you. It cannot be touched neither by glory nor depression.
This consciousness is so-called because it is that what is conscious. We are conscious because we are the embodied self (atman). But the scriptures teach that there is only one atman. While being embodied (that is while living in a body), the body gives us the impression that there are many consciousnesses (purushas) and that’s why Patanjali (the author of the Yoga Sutra) accepts their plurality. But when identification with the body is surrendered (the earlier the better) and the self (atman) is recognized, we will see that there is only one. You and me and all of us share the same self.
When we realize that it will be the end of conflict, first with ourselves, and resulting from that, with each other. Then competition and ambition will end and with it selfish genes, survival of the fittest, conquering nature and competing for limited resources. Because we will finally realize that there is no ‘other’. As we share the same self whoever I am defeating or vanquishing out there, will always be myself and all pain out there will always return to my own doorstep. Depression means that we are not living with or for each other but against each other. When we realize that together as a community, that then will be the end of depression.
- Pincha Mayurasana - August 4, 2017
- The Two Meanings of the Term “Yoga” - July 21, 2017
- Leg-behind-head postures: importance and warm-ups - June 24, 2017
- Rotation pattern of the Primary Series - May 26, 2017
- Kapotasana - April 15, 2017
- Getting the most out of Baddha Konasana - March 18, 2017
- Save Your Neck – Taking Your Head Back - March 3, 2017
- Janushirshasana the Key to Lotus and Baddhakonasana - February 18, 2017
- Back Bending (Urdhva Dhanurasana) - January 7, 2017
- Learning from Indigenous Nations and victory for the Sioux at Standing Rock (at least for now) - December 9, 2016