November 13, 2013

The Quiet Gifts of Depression. ~ Polina Smith

“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.”

~ Pema Chödrön

A piece I wrote while struggling with depression one year ago-recognizing the gifts of depression, rather than simply pathologizing it, was instrumental in helping me find my way back to happiness.

For the last two months, I seem to have fallen into a funk that comes without many thoughts or explanations. I am reminded of what an invisible force depression can be, that on the surface we can be smiling and seemingly bright, but on the inside, doing everything in our power to hold back tears and just “keep it together.” I am reminded how little we know of what is really happening for someone and how important is to treat our strangers with empathy and care, for who knows where they have been or where they are going, and what feelings lie just underneath the surface.

These are just a few of the gentle lessons I have been reminded of during this period of melancholy.

For underneath my tears and the hallow feelings, is a deep intrinsic knowing that our sadness is always here to teach us something, to help us grow and lead us to a deeper evolution of ourselves. I know that once I have moved through the darkness, I will be very grateful for the lessons learned along the way. In the meanwhile, I thought it could be helpful to take some notes—If you are inspired, I’d love to hear your thoughts, your own learnings and what periods of sadness have opened up for you.

The Gift of Vulnerability.

I’ve heard it said so many times, being vulnerable is a pathway to deeper connections, a richer life, healing and a profound experience of Aliveness.

But how easy is it to be vulnerable when we have jobs to keep up, social statuses to maintain, teeth to brush and lives to live? Yet, a gift of this depression is that at times I have no choice but to be vulnerable. It doesn’t matter if it’s a co-worker I barely know, my Tai Chi teacher or a newly found friend, if the tears are getting too much to hold in, then they will come out, no stopping them.

And there I am, cheeks wet, gasping for breath, gently apologizing, as the person across from me reaches for my hand, asks if I need anything or if I’d like to talk. While moments before  we may have been  small chatting about the weather, all of a sudden my tears abolish the walls of social formalities and we are left relating in the realm of Vulnerability. There is no turning back, a new found depth has been discovered and changed the nature of our relationship forever.

The Gift of Community.

Riding on the back of Vulnerability, I have seen how much community has emerged from unfiltered sadness.

As I’ve had episodes of tears  in various settings (it’s almost embarrassing the amount!) I have had new found friends and teachers say, “Polina, why don’t you come for lunch tomorrow and we’ll talk more, if you want a place to stay tonight, our home is always open…” In the past two months, my relationships with the communities I am surrounded by have exponentially deepened and it is the doorway of sadness that has provided access.

The Gift of Discovering New Modalities and Teachers.

It’s part of my personality and I think quite natural, for us to seek out new systems of support, when things feel out of balance.

It was, after all, during a depression in my early twenties that I discovered exercise as a pathway to deep healing and started my career path. In this current period of depression, I’m realizing that my “old tricks,” so to speak, (i.e. exercise, good food, spiritual work, spending time with friends) aren’t quite pulling me all the way through, though they are providing an incredible foundation. So, I have begun exploring new practices that would have otherwise gone untouched.

Last week, I attended a beautiful Native American Prayer Circle, I went to a meditation group and have sought counsel from elders. Each of these things have opened me up in new ways and are becoming integral parts of my life. We can never truly say what will fully pull us through, but I know I will not stop seeking until I find it.

The Gift of Being Taken out of our Comfort Zone.

Buddhist Teacher Pema Chodron writes, “To be fully alive, fully human and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.”

As a caterpillar turns into a butterfly, it goes through a period of great discomfort. As our body grows taller, it goes through growing pains and as athletes train for the Olympics, they are continually taken out of their comfort zones so that they can perform better than ever before. Transformation, it seems, is no walk in the park. Sometimes we don’t voluntarily take ourselves out of our comfort zone—it is taken out of us.

So here I am, tears trickling down my face, at times wondering if it really can get more intense than this, but all the while knowing that something inside of me is growing, shifting, evolving, and when it chooses to reveal itself in ways I cannot yet predict, I will know and I will be all the more grateful for it.

 So here’s to riding through the darkness with gratitude and ease…may it serve as a pathway to the light.

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Assistant Editor: Gabriela Magana/Editor: Bryonie Wise

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