August 15, 2014

Compassion is the Cure in a Culture of Depression.


I am inspired today to spill some words onto the page, by the news of Robin Williams’ apparent suicide.

I thought I would digress, but as many of you have felt, the story is nagging at me trying to resolve itself in my mind. I’ve seen a lot of posts on the web about how we need to reach out to those that are depressed and suffering.

I can’t help but see the dualism in this approach and that we have it a little backwards. I believe the reason the story has gone so media crazy is because this story is about us. It leaves a pit in our stomach because we know. We have been there.

We have seen the genius of someone riding the waves of life as a passionate expression of joy, and the wave that crashes on the shore before it’s time.

Three words have been on my mind since the news: passion, dispassion, and compassion.

From what I saw of Robin Williams, he had a passion for life that lit up everything around him. We all desire a passion like his, that flowed forth from every opening.

The definition of passion is strong and barely controllable emotion. This is great as long as we are on top of the crest, but what happens when we hit bottom?

Yoga instructs us to have dispassion. Not in the sense of indifference like we may think, but to not have attachments. This may be a difficult concept to grasp at first. For me, it has become not having an agenda. Not to chase the next high moment. When I don’t have an agenda I stop objectifying myself through addictions to soothe my cravings of being someone or someplace else. The result? We can show up wholly (holy).

The final word I have been contemplating is compassion. Compassion is to be able to witness suffering. Over all the qualities we are losing in our industrialized era, compassion is the most dangerous. Like a muscle, if we don’t use it we will lose it, even if it is our true nature. We are in danger of losing ourselves.

Almost 1/3 of the population 12 and over are on medications for anxiety or depression. This is an epidemic. We are anxiety ridden because we can’t handle our attachments, and depressed because we are not reaching out to others in an authentic way.

We are like virtual gods designing our lives on Facebook, emailing the co-worker next to us, even coffee shops (which used to be a place to discuss ethics and life) are now laden with tables for two, PC and me. We no longer “drop in” on our beloved neighbors and friends because that would be an invasion of privacy.

I long for the days when my grandmothers would sit around the table for hours talking sense and nonsense around cups of coffee and cigarettes. It may not have been green juice and yoga but they were strengthening their ability to sit with someone and witness each others’ lives, the true namaste.

How hard has it become for you to look someone in the eye and let them spill their sh*t?

I preach it because I live here too. As a yoga therapist, my compassion muscle has become really strong and it is healing me. I say healing because while we are here we still have work to do. If you want to be happy, be a witness to someone else’s struggles without judgement. When we sit together with all the good and the bad we become entwined, not entangled.

Nobody can save the passionate soul that decided to extinguish his own flame, but we can remove the smoke and mirrors obscuring ours. Reach out to someone and notice that the person being healed is not them, it is you, and them and you. We are all in this together.

Having the courage to love without expecting anything in return is the most healing action we can offer to ourselves. Long live compassion!



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Editor: Travis May

Photo: Imgur

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