“Depression is the Most Dignified Energy of All.” ~Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche
Now, the normal things that used to bring me inspiration or just regular old contentedness seem dull and pointless. A great workout, being in the sun, eating good food… it all just adds to my state, reminding me that the things that usually bring joy, in this moment, no longer do.
It’s not even that the things I used to love seem bad, they just seem empty… nihilism empty, not shunyata empty.
I discovered a passage from a talk by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche that I found helpful. It’s no cure, but it has brought me some relief. In it, he describes depression in depth, and somehow his accuracy is comforting. To know that what I’m experiencing is common, workable, dignified, intelligent, and even buddhamind endows my experience with a kind of sacredness. It shifts the landscape of my dull, muted mind and injects it with a little bit of sparkling inspiration.
If you’re feeling depressed, I hope this helps you too…
The following talk is adapted from the seminar “Buddhadharma Without Credentials,” and was held at the New York Dharmadhatu in March, 1973. You can find the whole talk online here.
Student: What about depression? All the things you are talking about seem to be energies, emotions of energies, but a state of depression seems to be a negative energy, or absence of energy.
Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche: Depression is one of the very powerful energies, one of the most common energies that we have. It is energy. Depression is like an oxygen tank which wants to burst, but is still bottled. It is a fantastic bank of energies, much more so than aggression and passion which are kind of developed and then let out. They are in some sense frivolous, whereas depression is the most dignified energy of all.
Student: I’m not quite satisfied. You say it’s a bank of energy. How do you take the money out of the bank or does it just stay in the vault?
CTR: Well, try to relate to the texture of the energy in the depression situation. Depression is not just a blank, it has all kinds of intelligent things happening within it. I mean, basically depression is extraordinarily interesting and a highly intelligent state of being. That is why you are depressed. Depression is an unsatisfied state of mind in which you feel that you have no outlet. So work with the dissatisfaction of that depression. Whatever is in it is extraordinarily powerful. It has all kinds of answers in it, but the answers are hidden. So, in fact I think depression is one of the most powerful of all energies. It is extraordinarily awake energy, although you might feel sleepy.
Student: Is that because it wipes everything away? Could it be a kind of emptiness, a sort of doorway to meditation. I mean, in that kind of depression there is the feeling that nothlng is happening at all.
CTR: Well, that’s it. That’s quite a profound thing. It has its own textures. Let’s say that you feel extraordinarily depressed, and there is no point in doing anything. You seem to be doing the same thing all over again. You give up the whole thing but you can’t. And on the whole, you are extremely depressed and trying to do something is repetitious. And trying not to do something is also irritating. Why should you do something? The whole thing is absolutely meaningless. You feel extremely down. Trying to get into the things that used to inspire you makes more depression, because you used to get off on them and you can’t anymore. That’s very depressing and everything is really ordinary, extremely ordinary and really real, and you don’t really want to do anything with it. It’s an extraordinarily heavy weight pushing down. You begin to experience that your ceilings are much heavier than they used to be, and the floor becomes much heavier than it used to be. There is a whole wall made out of lead, compressing you all over the place; there is no outlet at all. Even the air you breathe is metallic, or lead, or very thick. There is no freshness at all. Everything that depression brings is really, really real and very heavy. And you can’t really get out of it because the idea of getting out of it itself brings further depression, so you are constantly bottled and pushed in that situation and you would like to just purely sit around.
Student: Well, if the whole thing gets worse, then just trying to step out, which seems to be the only answer, is a suicidal approach. Things get very heavy and very slow. Meeting inspiring friends, who used to be inspiring friends, becomes depressing. When you try to put on a record of the music that used to inspire you, it also brings depression. Still nothing ever moves. The whole thing is black, absolute black.
CTR: But, at the same time, you are experiencing tremendous texture, the texture of how the stagnation of samsara works, which is fantastic. You feel the texture of something. That entertainment didn’t work. This entertainment didn’t work. Referring back to the past didn’t work; projecting into the future didn’t work. Everything is made out of texture, so you could experience depression in a very intelligent way. You could relate with it completely, fully. And once you begin to relate with it as texture of some kind, as a real and solid situation which contains tremendous texture, tremendous smell, then depression becomes a beautiful walkway. We can’t discuss it really. We have to actually get into heavy depression and then feel about that.
Student: Unite with the depression.
CTR: Yeah, you become the depression.
Student: What about extreme physical panic or discomfort, the nausea, the headache, thinking you’re going to pass right out, and sometimes the sweat, the cold sweat, the shortness of breath where you can’t catch your breath.
CTR: It seems to be psychosomatic. According to the Buddhist way of viewing physical health, any sickness that comes up is a hundred per cent, if not two hundred, psychosomatic. Always.
Student: So you just keep going back to that point?
CTR: Yeah, back to mind, back to the heart. There is a Zen writing called “Trust in the Heart.” You should read that.
Student: So what you’re saying is that everything that I experience and everything that I think as “I-experience” is really buddhamind, experiencing itself?
CTR: Yeah, without fear. That’s the lion’s roar. That is lion’s roar*.
*According to Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the lion’s roar is the fearless proclamation that whatever comes up in our state of mind, including powerful emotions, is workable.
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originally found on Elephant Journal