Consciousness

The Absolute Worst Thing You Can Do When You Feel Down or Depressed

Over the course of the past 5 years I have read a lot of books on emotions, depression, peak performance, anxiety and overall cognitive functioning. Through my aikido, meditation and several other practices have begun to understand these things on an experiential level. I have been to the lowest of lows (a deep depression) and the highest of highs. And after enough time spent in both places, I have come to some level of observation and self awareness with what goes on during each of those experiences. Today, I want to present to you a simple strategy for dealing with a down moment or a bout of depression that takes you under and engulfs you. 

I am speaking from my own experience in a depressed state as well as several other people who report a similar experience. In an emotional state of depression, everything looks bleak. I feel lonely, disconnected from society, helpless and hopeless. I see absolutely zero potential for anything positive to happen in my future whether it be in terms of relationships, money, experiences, work- whatever. I literally feel like a “shit-magnet”. Bad shit seems to stick to me. Everyone I encounter is a selfish jerk. The best way I can describe depression is a complete and overwhelming tunnel vision for everything negative. And as Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania has affirmed, the bleak perception of our reality feels permanent (like it’s going to last forever), pervasive (like every aspect of our life is fucked) and highly personal (like we as a person are majorly defective). 

 I have noticed that when I have been depressed, I will freeze frame my current “shitty” reality and conceptualize it in my mind that it is going to be this way forever. It makes me not even want to live anymore. I feel like giving up. I then begin to ask myself questions like, “what is wrong with me?” and “what’s the point anyway?”. I try to go up in my head and think my way out of the problem.  If there is one thing to take away from the lesson today it is this:

Intellectualizing and trying to rationally think your way out of a troubling emotional state is the worst thing you can possibly be doing to feel better. Your trying to solve a problem from a impaired level of thinking. It makes no sense, however we as humans love to see ourselves as smart creatures who can think our way out of shit. 

Einstein nailed it right on the head when he said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them”. And this quote is quite applicable to depression.  When we are in a low level of consciousness, it is impossible to get ourselves out of it by thinking more. 

Instead what needs to be understood is that our feelings are a signal. And this powerful signal of “I feel like death” is telling us that our thinking is off!  Way off. Therefore, the only thing you have to do when you start feeling like absolute crap is begin to not believe in the thoughts that are creeping into your mind. I just read Garrett Kramer’s peak performance books Stillpower and The Path of No Resistance and I really love his paradigm regarding this. He asserts that you should “feel what you feel, but don’t believe what you think”. Our terrible feelings are a powerful signal- to disregard and be disbelieving of our thoughts- not to cling to them and try to rationally joust with them. 

The more you can begin to simply sit with your feelings and not try to create a story around them about why you’re feeling the way you’re feeling- this is when you will escape the grips of your depression. What keeps the depression in place is the constant thinking that ‘this event’ or ‘that person’ is to blame for my depression. This type of thinking is not going to get you out of your depression, it is only going to ensure that you stay in that state of mind longer. If you just sit still and begin to quietly retreat to the silent confines of your mind- you will start to notice that your depression will begin to subside and eventually drift away. Our brains and bodies have the natural tendency to self-correct. There is a built auto-pilot mechanism built into our nervous system if we simply let go of needing to control every process along the way. 

When we try to think our way of our depression- we are trying to “will” it and control every step in the process. This absolutely shuts off our self-corrective mechanism in our brain that is the skeleton key to our emotional regulation. The less energy and power you give your depressing thoughts- the sooner you will start to see your emotional state rise. And then pretty soon thereafter your perception will begin to broaden. You will start to see things in brighter color, see the hopeful (and realistic) future and get out the blame-game you’ve been playing with yourself. 

This process takes a keen level of self awareness. Most people get into a depressed state and they try to fight it- but that just gives it more energy. Think about depression like your little brother or that neighbor of yours who is a shit-grinning twerp. The more you engage with your little brother, the more he is going to try to annoy you and rattle you. However when you laugh at him and not let what he is doing bother you- he goes away because it is no fun for him anymore. Depression is the same way. Begin to watch your hopeless thoughts come into your awareness. Don’t let them hook you, just watch them and be accepting of them. Sit there through the painful experience and become an outstanding observer of your own mind. This is the secret to mastering your inner world- becoming a master observer of your own mind and it’s default patterns and tendencies. 

Once you begin to observe and not absorb or attach to these negative thoughts- your consciousness will begin to rise and the heavy feelings will start to lighten drastically. It will feel like a exhilarating experience. The more you can practice this, the better you will get. As Garrett Kramer loves to say, it’s all about STAYING IN THE GAME. If you hang around long enough and don’t fight the negative thoughts and bleak perspective- it will all turn around. It always does. But the minute you begin to try to understand why you are feeling like crap and begin to create some narrative about your depression- you have lost the game. 

We all have a unique inner life force. I believe it is God within us, others call it a whole lot of different things. However, this force is the very thing that guides us intuitively and if given the freedom to work for us- can produce miracles. I know relinquishing control and not engaging with the depressing thoughts is a major challenge that most will probably fail at their first few times. Yet, all it takes is one breakthrough and it will change your life forever. One experience of letting your inner guide take over and guide you out of your depression will allow you to never be a hostage to this crippling condition ever again. It’s amazing. 

So you have 2 choices. You can either be a victim and continue to fight with your annoying shit-grinning little brother (depressive thoughts) and continue to feel agitated (depression). Or you can begin to observe and allow your annoying little brother to “try” to bother you, but never actually bite the hook (depressive thoughts)- therefore making him disinterested and leaving you alone so that you can be in peace (free of depression).

 If you tend to fall down the “rabbit hole” of depression, I suggest hanging two signs around your place as a reminder. One is from Kramer’s book:

“STAY IN THE GAME”

And the other is from the Navy Seal movie Lone Survivor:

“No matter how much it hurts, how dark it gets or no matter how far you fall, you are never out of the fight.”

The second quote is what gave me the hope to carry on in the darkest of my depression a couple years ago. Though I really had no where to turn and felt almost entirely hopeless- I kept looking at that quote and it kept me looking for another way- another answer. I’d read another book, I’d watch another youtube video, I just kept going. Until pretty soon, I was guided to meet my mentor. And that was the moment that changed everything. So I suggest you adopt this belief. If you believe there is always a way- you will find a way. People, when their either going to die or succeed- they tend to succeed. Hunger is your greatest asset. Plain and simple. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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BOOK OF THE WEEK: The Eye of the I: From Which Nothing is Hidden, by David Hawkins

Last week I highlighted David Hawkins’ most popular book- Power vs. Force, this week we will look at the second book of the Power vs. Force trilogy entitled The Eye of I: From Which Nothing is Hidden.  While Power vs. Force is a great appetizer on the subject of human consciousness, this book is definitely the entrée. It goes into much greater depth about the nature of duality and how our ego misperceives the world and is the cause of our suffering. I recommend this book for anyone who wants more peace, love and compassion in their life. I do think it is probably best to read this trilogy in order because they do build on each other. 

The aspect I love most about Hawkins’ writing is how it shifts the reader at an emotional level while they are reading. Similar to meditation or a martial art- how you get in that flow or zen-like state of love, peace and joy- the same thing occurs when you read Hawkins. I found this elevation in consciousness to be particularly profound in this book of his. This is not a book to be read in a weekend. I believe one will get the most out of reading this book if they take one chapter a day and spend about 3 weeks to a month with this book.  Thus, one’s consciousness will be elevated throughout the 3-4 weeks of reading it. I also found it particularly helpful to read a chapter of this book, then immediately spend 30 minutes to an hour in quiet meditation. This book is meditative in nature, so adding a formal meditative practice along with this book adds another element to it. 

When I started my journey into the personal development years ago, I didn’t intend to get into books on spirituality and consciousness. Yet, in hindsight I now understand why my journey has led me to reading books by authors like David Hawkins, Eckhart Tolle and David Singer. These books all address the ego. The ego is the part of ourselves as humans which is responsible for our suffering. By gaining a greater understanding of what our ego is and how it works, we can learn to cultivate a friendlier relationship with it and reduce and eliminate much of the suffering that plagues our lives. After reading numerous books on the ego, I believe The Eye of the I and the third book in the trilogy (I: Reality & Subjectivity) to be the two best books in regards to explaining the ego. 

And as always, here are the passages that I highlighted during my reading of the book. These really spoke to me and are a great daily reminder for me.

 

“One becomes enamored of this precious ‘self’, which then becomes an obsession and the subjective focus of languaging and thought. The self becomes glamorized as the hero of one’s life story and drama. This requires that the self be defended and that its survival become all important. This includes the necessity to be right at any cost.”

“The value of memory also becomes diminished by the realization that only does the mind misperceive in the present, but it routinely does so in the past, and what one is remembering is really the record of past illusions. All past actions were based on the illusion of what one thought one was at the time.”

“The relinquishment of the ego self as one’s central focus involves letting go of all these layers of attachments and vanities, and one eventually comes face to face with the ego’s primary function of control to ensure continuance and survival. Therefore the ego clings to all its faculties because their basic purpose, to ensure its survival, is the reason behind its obsession with gain, winning, learning, alliances, and accumulation of possessions, data and skills. The ego has endless schemes for enhancing survival- some gross, some obvious, others subtle and hidden”

“The only simple task to be accomplished is to let go of the identification with the ego as one’s real self!”

“Sometimes the ego misidentifies itself more specifically as the personality. It thinks, “I am such-and-such a person.” And it says, “Well, that’s who I am”. From this illusion arises the fear that one will lose one’s personality if the ego is relinquished. This is feared as the death of ‘who I am’.”

“The modern trend toward ‘political correctness’ is a great source of conflict, strife and suffering.  It is based on the imaginary ‘rights’. In reality there are no such things as rights. These are all social imaginings. Nothing in the universe has any rights. The whole area of ‘rights’ leads to a ‘chip on the shoulder’ attitude, victim, illusions of causality and revenge. All this displaces personal responsibility for one’s own experience of life.”

“The problem with the ego is not that it is wrong; it is just that it is limited and distorted. To conceive of the ego as an enemy is to become polarized, bringing forth conflict, guilt, anger and shame. Positionalities support the ego. By enlarging context, opposites are transcended and problems are dissolved. Humility removes the ego’s underpinnings of judgmentalism, positionality and moralizing.”

“in a system of considerable complexity, there is a very precise point where even a small amount of energy applied brings about a major change. A giant clockworks has a vulnerable point at which even a slight pressure stops the whole works. A giant locomotive can be halted in you know exactly where to place your finger.  The great clockwork of human society likewise has points where major change can occur as a result of a slight amount of pressure.”

“Love is misunderstood to be an emotion; actually, it is a state of awareness, a way of being in the world, a way of seeing oneself and others.  Love for God or nature or even one’s pets opens the door to spiritual inspiration. The desire to make others happy overrides selfishness. The more we give love, the greater our capacity to do so. It is a good beginning practice to merely mentally wish others well in the course of the day. Love blossoms into lovingness which becomes progressively more intense, nonselective and joyful. There comes a time one ‘falls in love’ with everything and everyone they meet. This tendency to be intensely loving has to be curtailed because love, curiously enough, frightens many people. Many people cannot look fully into another person’s eyes for more than a brief second, if at all. 

“Our society is one of excesses; it swings like a pendulum too far in one direction and then too far in the opposite because it gets caught in the duality of either/or and this and that. Maturity results in a middle way that allows for both ends of the spectrum of human behavior.” 

“Pride is at the core of the ego beyond all else. Pride in the form of the vanity of thought, mentation, concepts and opinions are all the basis of ignorance. The antidote is radical humility, which undoes the domination of perception. Ask for the truth to be revealed instead of assuming that you already know it.”

“One can enjoy beautiful music without the ego’s claiming authorship for the origination of the music itself. If one claims authorship for music, then many anxieties and feelings arise which have to do with belief systems about perfection, approval, desirability and acceptance.”

BOOK OF THE WEEK: Power vs. Force by David Hawkins

I first got hooked on David Hawkins’ work a couple years ago when I read his book Letting Go: The Pathway to Surrender (which is one of my favorite books and something I look forward reading again this year at some point). Power vs. Force is a seminal text for understanding the nature of human consciousness. I must say that it is best if you have read your fair share of self help and spiritual books before trying to dig into this one.  I remember trying to read Power vs. Force about a decade ago when I was just beginning my journey into the personal development world. It was completely over my head and I think I put it down after the first 15 or 20 pages.  If you are new to reading self help or spiritual books, I highly recommend you start with Michael Singer’s Untethered Soul or any of Eckhart Tolle’s work. Reading these should help to prime the pump so that you can really get the most out of Hawkins’ work. 

 I believe the findings in the book to be a revolutionary way of understanding human consciousness. By understanding these different levels of consciousness, you can begin to shift your own way of being and where you stand in the world. Listed below is Hawkins’ scale that he provides in the book:

 Level of Consciousness Scale

 Enlightenment 700-1000

 Peace 600

 Joy 540 (also unconditional love)

 Love 500

 Reason 400

 Acceptance 350

 Willingness 310

 Neutrality 250

 Courage 200

 Below 200

(Below the critical level of integrity):

 Pride 175

 Anger 150

 Desire 125

 Fear 100

 Grief 75

 Apathy 50

 Guilt 30

 Hawkins himself has said that just by reading this book, it raises the ‘level of consciousness’ of each reader by roughly 10-15 points, which is huge considering most human beings only advance by 5 points in their entire lifetime.  You might be asking yourself “why in the world I would want to raise my level of consciousness?” Imagine the greatest emotions you’ve experienced in your life- love, joy, peace, etc- and think about how it would feel to be living in those emotions 95-100% of your time on earth. What would that do for your life? What could you accomplish? What would your relationships look like? Who would you become? This is precisely the benefit to raising your level of consciousness. He also provides great references where people like Mother Teresa, Einstein and Ghandhi fall in terms of their level of consciousness. If you want more peace, joy and love in your life, I believe consciousness work is the way to get there. It is a process and patience and persistence is paramount.  What Power vs. Force really did for me is it challenged my paradigm and belief system about how the world works.  Anyone who wants a higher quality of life should spend time with this book- really grappling with what Hawkins is presenting to us.

 It should also be noted that Power vs. Force is the first of a trilogy. The second book in the trilogy is The Eye of I: From Which Nothing is Hidden and the third book is I: Reality and Subjectivity. I will be writing more about these books in the future, though I must say that Hawkins writes the next one better than the last. Though Power vs. Force is undoubtedly the most popular of the three, each book is progressively more profound than the previous one.  

 Here are some notable quotes from the book that I found to be very helpful distinctions and key points:

 “the body can discern, to the finest degree, the difference between that which is supportive of life and that which is not.” 

 “Living things all react to what is life-supportive and what is not; this is the fundamental mechanism of survival. Inherent in all life forms is the capacity to detect change and react correctively—thus, trees become smaller at higher elevations as the oxygen in the atmosphere becomes scarcer. Human protoplasm is far more sensitive than that of a tree.” 

 “By taking responsibility for the consequences of his own perceptions, the observer can transcend the role of victim to an understanding that ‘nothing out there has power over you.'”

 “Relatively few people are genuinely committed to peace as a realistic goal, for in their private lives, most people prefer being ‘right’ at whatever cost to their relationships or themselves.”

 “At the lower levels of consciousness, propositions are accepted as true even when they’re illogical, unfounded, and express tenets neither intellectually provable nor practically demonstrable.”

 “Facts are accumulated with great effort, but truth reveals itself effortlessly.”