Worldwide over 120 million people suffer from serious depression.
Most of them live in the richest countries in the world where, one would think, people have less reason to be depressed. In the US alone over 27 million people are on antidepressant drugs, more than 10% of the population.
What’s going on?
What the statistics don’t tell us is that many of these people are not depressed, even though they have many of the symptoms of depression, possibly all the way to suicidal ideas. They suffer from something completely different: disillusionment with the world. They sense, in some vague manner, that what they have counted on to give happiness and meaning to their lives is unable to do so, and will always betray them. Materialistic values are too small for them. They have unmasked them as hopeless, and therefore they themselves have become hopeless.
Far from being an illness, such disillusionment is the root of the aspiration for spiritual emancipation. It is a difficult but necessary phase; it is the Dark Night of the Soul, the “eye of the needle,” through which every spiritual seeker has to pass. After all, “dis-illusioned” means to become free of illusion. In order to live in the next paradigm, you first have to be dis-illusioned by the old one.
Unfortunately, most physicians and psychologists are unable to recognize this condition. They are unfamiliar with the spiritual dimension and are therefore unable to lead people to an effective spiritual practice, which alone is able to resolve this state. “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” If you’re disillusioned with illusion and you’re hit with a label of “illness” and medicated, that can be enough to terminate the beginning of a meaningful transformation. How disillusionment is often treated can be truly depressing. The solutions offered can treat depression, but make disillusionment worse.
When the flame of a higher aspiration is kindled in the heart, dis-illusionment is the dawning of wisdom. It is difficult, essential and precious. It points out the truth, that all things in this world are fleeting and transient, and that what we have hoped will make us happy and give meaning to our lives can never fulfill us. It robs us of the illusion that gratifying the ego works. Everything we have put stake in turns out to be useless.
In the midst of this pain, a subtle intellect begins to emerge, capable of grasping ideas that seemed unthinkable before. Any amount of temporary pleasures, whether it be power, money, sex or other experiences can bring us what we really want. In this critical moment, as we begin to sense how shallow or misguided some aspects of our life have been, we need guidance to a way of life that can make sense to us, that can actually fill our emptiness. However, we are instead told that our brains are not functioning, or that the only hope for us is to take pills to become compliant once more. And if we submit, we are again locked in the old paradigm of despair, the jail in our head.
But those in whom the spiritual flame has been kindled in a stronger way will be allowed to break this unintended conspiracy. They recognize that this world is filled with sorrows, and does not keep what it appears to promise. They will not submit, but out of hopelessness their hearts will become alive. They may turn to the examples of those who have travelled the path to spiritual freedom before us. They will seek a liberation that is indestructible.
They will seek the bliss of the Self.
Going through the symptoms of disillusionment is not a distraction on this path. It is the path. The journey goes through this crisis to freedom, and as we get dis-illusioned, many times we come to experience progressively higher states of grace.
The great scripture of India, the Yoga Vasistha, begins with the aspirant brooding over the vanity of all things. He becomes tormented by worries and anxieties. He then gets dejected and becomes very thin, then is indifferent to sense pleasures. The whole world becomes painful to him and he contemplates ending his life.
Many pages describe the multiple aspects of disillusionment; how the world of the senses is unfulfilling and empty. A paradigm shift is desperately needed. In the end of this chapter, the sages, who see the true and positive significance of this state of mind, praise him:
“He alone is called a ‘human’ who has the light of spiritual aspiration burning in his heart. Others are not fit to be called ‘human.’ They are nothing but animals revolving in the wheel of birth and death, driven by attachment, infatuation, and ignorance… They are blessed who aspire to realize the essential Self through their existence in this world of illusory objects and perishable pleasures.”
If you feel down, hopeless, or disoriented, and if you identify with what I am saying, you most likely are in the midst of disillusionment. This is the development of a new state of mind that carries in it vast promise. It is the first step to true freedom and the profound happiness of enlightenment. Again, congratulations to you!
The most important first step is to realize the difference between disillusionment and depression. Cease to think of yourself as ill, but realize you are in a positive process of spiritual awakening. Next begin to seek the most effective ways you can further this awakening through your self-effort. And here already is the first trap: most of the offerings in the spiritual marketplace offer you comfort. Don’t settle for that; a happier illusion won’t be enough for you.
Instead, define the ultimate, timeless goal you seek. Perhaps it will be the exact opposite of your depression: freedom from suffering, unconditional love, lasting peace, Self-realization, whatever words appeal to you. This may seem infinitely far off when you look for it from the valley you’re in. But it is not. In fact, you’re destined to reach it. To inspire you to this journey is the secret purpose of all your suffering.
With your eye on that goal, focus your will and set a powerful intention to do whatever it takes to reach your high destiny. If you feel this deeply in your heart, then you will in time notice a miracle: everything you encounter, good or bad, will serve your highest intention.
In this context, whatever spiritual path or teacher attracts you deeply, that is the one for you. Seek the ways that are particularly capable of dissolving suffering at the root. In my experience, these are the ways of opening the heart; first to self-love and then to recognize that love is everywhere, of questioning our thinking to find a deeper truth, and of embracing our emotions so they can melt away.
If your aim is true, I trust that the awakening consciousness of your heart will guide your way perfectly. You already possess the two wings of wisdom and love. Now learn to use them. You are the architect of your destiny.
Ram Giri is a spiritual teacher, innovator, accomplished yogi and psychologist. He offers down-to-earth help in overcoming the challenges of life to create profound, quick and lasting solutions. Whether you are dealing with depression, anxiety, addictions, relationship conflicts, or more, his Skills for Awakening® can guide you in the most direct way to joy, courage, inner peace and unconditional love—the true antidote to all pain and confusion. Ram Giri’s direct guidance, in groups or personally one-on-one, is a unique service to spiritual seekers world-wide who struggle with personal challenges. You can reach him at 305-567-1406 or at www.ramgiri.org. Follow him on FaceBook.