Friday, 21 October 2011

Depression: Definition, Cause and Cure


Today I found out about someone who is suffering from depression. I sincerely wished I could see them in person and help them come out of it. Since that may not be possible considering my physical location, I am choosing this blog to convey my message.

I have known many people who have suffered from depression; some were affected so severely that they quit their jobs and virtually locked themselves in their homes, almost like solitary confinement. With some I spent tens of hours spanning over months to assist them in coming out of it successfully. When one is affected by depression, the kith and kin experience it too. But all the others in the family have to cope because if they start to express their depressed state, the patient suffers even more. In this post, I am going to focus on the definition of depression, its cause and cure. It is a challenge to cover the topic in detail in a blog post, I must try nevertheless. Embrace yourself for a long post.

Before I offer you my point of view, I would like to draw your attention to certain important details. As follows:

Please remember that I am not a medical but a meditation specialist. My viewpoint here is based on my years of yogic practices (kriyā), meditation and many months of very intense practice. The sole purpose of such meditation was to experience the true nature of mind, its natural state that resultantly unravels the mysteries of mind; not brain, not body, just mind.

The information in this post is primarily and directly based on the knowledge that gushes forth when I am in a state of meditational equipoise. To better illustrate my point, I have drawn on information from vedic texts, hence my use of Sanskrit terms, as well as from my experiences in dealing with those who went through depression during the course of their own lives. If you can see the world through my eyes, the scenery will change instantly. And to have my vision, you just have to do what I do; everything else will follow in tow. Please read this post several times to understand the message.


What is Depression?
Depression is a state of mind. It is not a physical ailment; it is not a neurological disorder and it is certainly not a malfunctioning of the brain. It is strictly a condition of the mind. And mind pervades your whole body and beyond. It is for this reason that pacification of the mind calms the whole body just like its restlessness upsets the whole system. Severity of depression can be ascertained from the symptoms of the patient. While I am using the term patient, that truly is an oxymoron. There really cannot be a "patient" for depression because it is not a "disease" that one can suffer from. It is simply a mismatch of the colliding psychic imprints (vāsanā) also known tendencies of the mind. Mind cannot malfunction for the true nature of mind is pure bliss (ānanda) and beyond all subjective characterizations and dualities (dvanda). Good-bad, right-wrong, true-false and so forth are examples of such designations and dualities.

In order to correctly adjudge the severity of depression, please go through the following section carefully and patiently. I will try to simplify but we are dealing with a complex subject. So, reread as many times as required to fully absorb the meaning.

You have three bodies, namely, gross body (sthūla śarīra), subtle body (sūkṣma śarīra) and causal body (kāraṇa śarīra). Your gross body is your physical body made from flesh and bones etc. Your subtle body is made from your consciousness and an amalgamation of your emotions. And the causal body is made from your soul (read Self or Mind). On the causal body rests both the gross and subtle body. These three bodies operate in conjunction with five sheaths (koṣa), namely, gross (annamaya koṣa), mind (manomaya koṣa), life force (prāṇamaya koṣa), wisdom (vijñānamaya kosha) and bliss (ānandamaya koṣa). These collectively affect the five fundamental energies (vāyu) in your body, namely, vital life energy (prāṇa vayu), descending energy (apāna vāyu), ascending energy (udāna vāyu), thermal energy (samāna vāyu), and diffusive energy (vyāna vāyu).

Manipulation of the energies can affect the state of the sheaths as well as the three bodies, and vice-versa. Everything, absolutely everything that happens in your body is directly linked to the aforesaid. I will not elucidate the energies and sheaths in this post, lest this becomes a book. I will, however, briefly explain the three bodies and their link to all bodily and mental conditions that require medication for their cure.

Gross body (Physical body):
According to Ayurveda and many other yogic texts, your physical body is made from seven key elements. They are saliva (rasa), blood (rakta), flesh (māṁsa), fat (meda), bones (asthi), marrow (majjā) and the creative fluid (śukra). The composition of three humors: wind (vāta), bile (pitta) and phlegm (kapha) determine how your body treats intake of any food from the air you breathe to the fatty desserts you may enjoy. The five energies affect such factors as digestion and metabolism. That is purely from the perspective of the gross body. Once the gross body has processed the food, the subtle body (read Consciousness), depending on its own state determines how such food affects your physical body. It is for this reason some eat very little but accumulate a lot of fat and some eat lot more but do not put on any weight.

Subtle body (Consciousness):
In simple terms, subtle body is another name for your state of consciousness. At any point in time, your consciousness can be in one of the five states namely, conscious (caitanya), subconscious (upacaitanya), unconscious (anācaitanya), non conscious (acaitanya) and superconscious (parācaitanya). Further more, you could be in dreaming (svapana), waking (jāgrat), sleeping (suṣupta) or transcendental (turīya) state. Once again, to preserve brevity, I will elaborate on these terms another time. For now, I just want you to be aware of the terms to gain a holistic view. This is where all your emotions live, in the subtle body that is. All involuntary functions of the body, including heart beat, pulse, blood pressure and the like are impacted by the subtle body. Control of the subtle body can give you direct control over all the involuntary functions of the body. I say this from first-hand experience I can demonstrate under laboratory conditions.

Causal body (Soul):
Your causal body is directly responsible for your consciousness and bodily existence. Many yogic texts state that upon death the soul travels from one body to another just like we discard sullied clothes for fresh ones. But that is not all; the soul does not travel alone. Along with it go the tendencies of the mind (citta vṛtti). Such tendencies that have been strengthened by experiencing the world as an external phenomena through the perception of sound (śabda), touch (sparśa), taste (rasa), form (rūpa), and smell (gandha) with the aid of ears, skin, tongue, eyes, and nose. Causal body, in a way, is your true nature. It is your unconditioned Self, natural state of your mind. But just like rusted iron is a poor conductor of electricity, conditioned Self is a poor conductor of bliss. All tendencies of the mind live in your causal body.

Life Cycle of a Disease
Most physical diseases are not the causes but the symptoms. They are symptoms of a conditioned consciousness that is now polluted. When subtle body is stressed, the signs of disease will emerge in the physical body. It is possible to curb certain diseases of the gross body with treatment and therapy but complete healing only occurs when the root cause is eliminated from the subtle body. Imagine a cancer patient who gets operated for a tumor in the stomach. Whatever be the nature of his tumor, if he does not change his lifestyle — directly affecting his gross body, and does not change his outlook towards life — directly affecting his subtle body, his tumor is likely to come back. If he can get in touch with his causal body, either by way of meditation (dhyāna) or deep devotional absorption (mahābhāva), he can flush the disease out of his system, forever that is.

Some diseases originate in the gross body and traveling through the subtle (consciousness), affect the causal body (soul). Such diseases affect one's physical, mental and spiritual health. These ones are easier and quicker to fix compared to those that are due to the diseased causal body. Those ailments that occur in the subtle body, directly from polluted consciousness, grow into resident diseases in the physical body. An emotional imbalance, therefore an ill subtle body, is the primary cause of all chronic ailments. The ones originating from the causal body take the longest to heal and often end up being terminal conditions of the physical body.

The state of your conditioned soul has a direct impact on your consciousness which in turn affects your physical body. Those who live a stress free life tend to enjoy a longer life in a healthier body. Functions of the physical body are affected by the state of the consciousness and soul. For example, a patient administered with general anesthesia cannot move as his consciousness (subtle body) has been influenced. And someone proclaimed dead, therefore signifying absence of causal body (soul), is unable to ever get back his state of consciousness or body movements.

Causes of Depression
A pertinent question: what causes depression? Depression is a state of mind. It originates in the causal body. The mind has become a victim of its own latent tendencies. It can happen from curbing your desires or an unfulfilling life, both of which are caused by ignorance of the conditioned mind. A lot of people lead an unfulfilling life; some choose to ignore the voice of the soul while many others drown it in material pursuits. But, one day it catches up.

There can be no external medication for the sick causal body. Before we can get to the cure for depression, it is important to ascertain the type of depression.

Severe Depression:
If your body is now unwell because of the depression and you have developed hypertension, high blood pressure, loss of appetite or irregular appetite or similar problems, your depression has already traveled to the physical body. Chances are you suffer from constipation as well. To label your depression as severe, in addition to the aforesaid physical symptoms, you must also have all the signs outlaid under "Mild Depression" and "Illusory Depression". You are at this stage because of a stressful life, emotional turmoil and because your soul went through a long period of starvation somehow managing to survive the spiritual famine. This does not mean that your depression cannot be cured; it merely signals that you will need to work at all three levels. I shall cover this in a bit more detail under the "Cure" section.

Mild Depression:
If your body is fit but you simply have lost taste in most things you used to enjoy and you find yourself indecisive as well as indifferent, chances are your depression has risen to the level of the subtle body but has not yet touched your physical body. It is still at the level of the consciousness. It can be cured with discipline and effort.

Illusory Depression:
If your signs of depression are limited to great boredom, sluggishness, stupor, insomnia, phobia, and restlessness, your depression is at the initial level. You are still in the green zone and can get back to your original mental health in a short time frame.

Cure for Depression

For the cure to work, you must be in agreement with my aforesaid thesis. If after reading the above, you find yourself nodding affirmatively, continue reading.

Before you get to the actual cure, please be aware that your depression is not the result of some overnight act and therefore cannot be fixed overnight. You must not get depressed about not being able to quickly get rid of your depression. Be patient. You can surely come out of it as easily as you went into such depression at the first place. But be very patient and relaxed about it. Know that it is your mind playing tricks and if you catch it red handed, it will stop.

Let us get to the cure:
If you are not taking anti-depressants currently, half the job is already done. Please do not start taking such pills. They are soporific substances designed to artificially pacify your brain creating the illusion of a calm mind. Gradually, their dosage needs increasing as your brain gets used to it.

To not only completely get rid of depression but feel fitter than you have ever been, you need to cover all three aspects: body, consciousness, and the soul.

Gross body (Physical):
Do the following, or some of the following, to regain fitness of your gross body:
  1. Tire your body out a little. Go work out in the gym or play some sport.
  2. Eat vegetarian foods that are alkaline in nature. Avoid acidic foods. Increase intake of whole meals. Avoid starchy foods and spices.
  3. Eat at strictly the same time every day. Do not keep large gaps between your meals. That prompts the body to use stored energy raising insulin levels.
  4. Go to bed at exactly the same time every day. Do not get stressed about not being able to sleep. Just hit the sack as a matter of discipline.
  5. Get up at exactly the same time.
  6. Avoid watching TV. It really dulls the body and mind.
Subtle Body (Consciousness):
To purify the subtle body and therefore your emotional health, do the following:
  1. Do some selfless service or engage in an emotionally fulfilling social or spiritual cause.
  2. Do what makes you happy. If you like going outdoors, painting, cooking, reading or whatever it may be, do it. Do NOT read up on depression and other people's stories.
  3. Do not talk to those who drain you out emotionally. Reduce phone calls and pointless conversations.
  4. Do not mention to anyone that you are under depression. Most people will say there is nothing to worry and that you are just stressed, and all the others cannot do a thing about it.
  5. Even the physicians, after you pay them a few visits and keep complaining of depression, they will diagnose you with it putting you on some ludicrous prescription plan. I even suggest that depression is probably a trick condition, a highly profitable one, created by the pharmaceutical companies.
Depression is not a type of fear that you need to face it to decimate it. It is just a state of mind, albeit not the desirable one. Just like you think of ice cream but may not have it, you can choose to let go off depression exactly like that. It is impossible to know or feel that you have depression till you entertain the thought of actually having it.

Causal Body (Soul): 
Give at least thirty minutes of your time every day doing the following and watch depression disappearing miraculously before long:
  1. Meditate for fifteen minutes in the morning and fifteen minutes just before going to bed. Doing for longer duration will be even better. Before you can meditate you need to build concentration. In order to do that, light a candle, keep it at your eye level and at a distance of about two feet from you and watch it unblinking. It will take some effort to not blink but do it for as long as comfortable. It is a deviation from the standard concentration practice of Trataka where eyes are just not blinked.
  2. Listen to some devotional songs or pleasant music to take your mind off worldly thoughts.
  3. Sleep on your right side whenever possible. This activates the lunar channel (ida nadi), left breath and brings down body temperature. There is a reason why meditational practices flourish in cold places. Discriminating faculties of the mind calm down significantly when in cold and breathing through the left nostril.
  4. Try to maintain a happy disposition. Know that you are an instrument in the hands of the Divine and that He is looking after you. To the one who seeks His sanctuary (śaraṇāgati), he basks in His Grace unconditionally. Harbour no doubts on that front.
  5. And smile! Try it. Do not let that smile leave your face.
The practice of meditation stills the five energies and pierces through the five sheaths.

Oversimplifying, there is no more to you than the three bodies, five sheaths and five energies. If you work on the three aspects, that is — body, consciousness and soul, you will see tangible results within a period of twenty eight days.

Doing it continuously for forty days will stabilize the energies. Most yogic practices take six months to show their full effect. So, doing it for the full six months will completely get rid of your depression all the while transforming your state of consciousness and the spin of your chakras. You will be completely healed. Six months. No medication.

Art is long and time is fleeting as Robert Frost would say. There is much I want to write and share on this. This post has become heinously long already. I hope that you can put in the effort and feel better by following the approach.

May all sentient beings experience bliss and live a life free of diseases, poverty and hunger.
(Image credit: Kimo Toyama)

Peace.
Swami

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