© by Ernesto Ortiz
Considering the state of the world and what is stored in the minds of people makes me think of the levels of stress that most people carry around. I just found out about the tragic suicide of Robin Williams, a wonderful actor and comedian that for many years battled depression.
Robin was one celebrity that the world knows about, however there is millions of people suffering just like Robin did, that unfortunately commit suicide and we never hear about them. They are the little people working every day, or not if they lost their job and have been looking for one for months, people that are overwhelmed with stress from family, society, people that want to maintain the status quo, those that from the outside look pretty good but their insides are churning. Stop for a moment and think about your life, maybe the life of someone you know, and look at the stressors in your life.
The children are screaming non-stop, your boss is angry and after you because you did not turn in the report on time, the IRS is after you because you have not filed your taxes in three years, your relationship is in trouble, your husband is cheating, you are unhappy at work and now you are afraid you may lose your job, your mom or dad are 84 years old and his health is bad and he may have to move in with you, maybe something that is out of your control happened, like a flood, hurricane or fire and you just lost everything, should I continue with the list….. I think you get the picture by now.
We put on a mask and pretend; the mask that we wear is different for every occasion, the one at work, the one with friends and family, with our children. And this mask tells the world, I am ok, I have it under control. But the truth is that you don’t and when we can find a moment alone is when the real mask appears, the real self that is telling us, the temperature is going up, the thermometer is going to blow up, the pressure inside the pressure cooker is building up and the danger is that it will explode sooner or later if we do nothing about it.
This is a real tragedy and most people unfortunately fall into depression and with that looking for an escape out of it. So here comes addictions to the rescue, we think that alcohol will do it, or drugs, gambling or any other type of addiction that will numb the pain and suffering from the stress we are under.
What every person that is alive is looking for is Happiness, acceptance and love. When we don’t get this from the outside we fall in a deep depression. But happiness is not the opposite of depression, resilience is!! Acceptance and love must come from within.
What is resilience? Resilience is the ability to bounce back from tragedy, to regain a healthy sense of perspective after traumatic or stressful experiences.
I have not been free from stress and depression in my life; I know what is to feel anxiety, I have experience the dark night of the soul, not once but three times in my life, where I could not see the end of the tunnel, where I felt I was thrown into a dark and deep hole and I could not find my way out. That is an incredible feeling of impotence, knowing that there is no one or anything that I could do but to be resilient. To use the tools and follow the example that others have set for me. To find the calm in the middle of the storm and to be at peace knowing that I did not know how long the storm was going to last.
Have you ever lied in bed thinking I want merely to enjoy a good night’s sleep and an evening without negative intrusive thoughts? Have you ever said to yourself; I want to let my emotions take a back seat to rational though? Can I possibly do that? How do I tame my mind, calm it down, stop thinking all of these negative thoughts that are consuming me.
In my book “The Akashic Records” I wrote: I firmly believe that ten percent of life is what happens to us and ninety percent is the way we react to life itself. Our attitude and the way we react is what shapes our way of being. All of this is connected to a belief system. Many times that belief system is wrong and it is passed down to us from generation to generation; in many ways it is attached to our genealogy.
It doesn’t mean that it has to be this way!!! We have teachers, mentors that have walked this path before or they are here being the example, showing us the way. We have to be disciplined and create new belief systems that can support a healthier mind, a mind that is not drowning in depression and confusion; a mind that is peaceful, accepting, compassionate, tolerant, the mind of equanimity.
If we think of depression as darkness we soon will come to realize that it is not the amount of darkness in the world that matters. It is not even the amount of darkness in our country, family, circle of friends, or even in our selves that matters. It is how we stand in that darkness, that makes the crucial difference!!!
When we gain, maintain, or regain a healthy perspective, when we develop a strong spiritual practice, the situation we are in hasn’t changed but how we view it has. I wish I could tell you that I have a magic wand that I could give you, unfortunately there isn’t one.
There is no magic to having or getting a healthy perspective — it takes not simply hard work, but also doing the work the right way. It is having the examples in your teachers, Gurus, Masters that you can trust. It is like jumping of a cliff and knowing that you will spread your wings and fly and that there is a safety net in case you fall. If you have a strong spiritual practice you have to believe that is your safety net. If you take the right steps and have the right attitude, you can jump trusting and knowing that the darkness will make you wiser, stronger, and healthier person.
I have outlined Six Steps to find balance before, during and after the storm.
Step One: Perseverance, Patience and Courage.
Know that facing the challenges of life takes patience, we set a goal and as long as we continue working hard to obtain it, we will. Know that you have a choice to feed the wolf of depression or the wolf of happiness. The choice is yours. The one you don’t feed eventually will grow weak and eventually will fade away. The one that you feed will become stronger and eventually your allied.
Thomas Merton a Catholic monk, mystic, writer and advocate of Contemplative practices tells us a story. He was once passing a dayroom in his monastery when he saw an old monk looking very depressed. He opened the door, walked in, and asked, “Brother, are you all right?” The elderly monk said, “No, I’m not. I think I am losing my spirit, my positive attitude…maybe even my faith!” Rather than becoming alarmed, Merton simply leaned back from the emotional scene, gently put his hand on the man’s shoulder, smiled at him, and said, “Brother, courage comes and goes. Hold on for the next supply.” We need patience, perseverance, and courage to face the dark times in our life.
Step Two: Don’t Run Away from Yourself
Appreciate solo time, alone time. This can give you huge inside information about you. Do you like the company you keep when you are by yourself? Or when you are alone you have to have the TV on, the radio, music playing in every room, you run to the computer or to Facebook instead of being in contemplation. Devotion is number one, a strong spiritual practice and a deep connection with the Divine. Learn how to dialog with yourself, with the help of proven meditation techniques that will help you look deep within and discover the peace that you are seeking.
If you think about it most people in these modern societies are running all day long. They go from place to place without stopping to take a deep breath and think; by this I mean consciously think. The average adult thinks between 50 and 60 thousand thoughts a day. The question is what are you thinking? And how many of those thoughts are conscious?
Let me share with you a short story: Once a young man asked a Zen master, “If I enter your community, how long will it take me to gain enlightenment?” The master responded, “Ten years.” The aspirant then asked, “Well, what if I work really hard?” “Ahh then, the Master replied, it will take twenty years.” In our culture we are so programmed to get everything fast, is the quick fix, that even if we are pursuing happiness and pleasure, we often move so fast that the opportunity passes bye and we never stop to enjoy it. We need to learn how to listen, to take alone time, and not rush so much that we get to our grave sooner that we have too. Learn in meditation to be mindful, present and always look or create the opportunities in your day to stop, breath and reflect.
Step Three: Take the time to reflect at the end of the day
Create a mindful practice every day without missing a day to take stock of yourself. Again learn the practice of Mind observing Mind, a powerful practice that helps you see your life as the witness. Taking stock of yourself or debrief your day is quite simple: Start looking at your day from the moment you woke up to the moment you are sitting or lying down in bed. Look at your day objectively (what happened) and subjectively (how did I feel about it); look at the emotional peaks and valleys, the highs and the lows of your day. As you do this be aware of these enemies, which are the projections of the ego and they will bring you to a dead end in your pursuit of self-awareness.
- Arrogance, the tendency to blame everyone else for your problems instead of taking personal responsibility.
- Ignorance, condemning yourself for not knowing it all. Instead of beating yourself up, go get the knowledge, and in time that knowledge will turn into wisdom if you develop a practical application for it.
- Discouragement, the ego talks loud and clear with this one and it is a huge trap. The ego is going to tell you, you are not good enough, you are to old, to young, you don’t have enough schooling or ???? In discouragement you want immediate answers, you want to see immediate change, you become anxious and careless. Develop a sense of respect to the opposites and know they are always present in your life; the positive and the negative are always there, two polarities that you should know about. Have a sense of wonderment about your life.
Step Four: Be aware of the tendency to Check Out
This is a huge escape for many people, they are simply not present, they go through the motions of living without being aware that they are actually alive and that they are creating at every moment of the day. This can be close to a disease that we can call Spiritual Alzheimer’s. Be mindful and aware of this tendency, it is a big trap and your mind will get used to it easily. This is in fact a leaned coping mechanism that leads many people to addiction. Pause during the day, take a deep breath and acknowledge that you are alive, that you are living a life in this extraordinary planet. Connect with nature everyday, even if you live in a city where concrete is king. Feel the wind, the rain, connect with the clouds and flowers. Develop a sense of respect for nature and creation and most of all be grateful and tolerant.
Many of us go out of the house with a list of To Do’s, imagine that you can create a list of To Do’s that reads; be grateful for everything! Be kind and tolerant, be compassionate and loving, smile at others and love without expecting anything in return. Be grateful for all the people that cross your path, including your nagging boss, or your husband, because they are giving you a huge lesson, an opportunity to know yourself better and overcome all emotional entrapments from that relationship.
Step Five: Praise is a high commodity, blame is a dime a dozen
I can say this differently; remember not to hear praise in a whisper and negative things like a loud thunder. Learn to be humble but open, do not discount when people say to you; that was great, you did a fantastic job, you look beautiful, what a nice outfit. Own it!! But don’t let the alter ego come in and take possession of the praise.
We must look at ourselves in a balanced way, in a way that we give ourselves permission to appreciate our talents and gifts. Take a full inventory of your gifts, and everyone has gifts or talents. Gifts such as enthusiasm or your ability to talk and express, these can become problematic or intrusive, so we can appreciate what is good about ourselves but don’t let those gifts become a burden to yourself and others.
Step Six: Develop a sincere spiritual practice
What I mean by sincere practice is one that you do because you know you are feeding yourself, because it’s about you, and you don’t do it to satisfy others, you don’t do it because it is one of the masks that you wear with your social group or because by posting it on Facebook is going to make you look and feel good.
You do the practice with discipline, and your main objective is to know yourself, you discover who you really are and what you hide within. You explore the condition of your mind, you learn how to communicate with depression, with fears, and learn from them so you can apply what you learn in your daily life. The key word here is discipline, without it you are not going to gain much merit.
I often ask my students, how many of you are meditators? In a group of 20-30 people a good 90% say they are. Then I ask how many of you have the discipline to meditate every day? And unfortunately the answer is always the same a good 60 + percent, say they don’t have the time to do it everyday but they do it at least once or twice a week. That is not going to bring any significant change and you will not see results. Your practice should be every day no matter what, and if one day you cannot do it, don’t beat yourself up, accept the circumstances and do it the next day.
There are many different styles of meditation, the Buddha taught five styles, number one, which is the one I am sharing here, and it is by far the most important is; the meditation of Stabilizing thought and unattached contemplation of the mind.
I leave you with some of my favorite words by St. Francis of Asisi
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy Peace
Where there is hatred . . . . let me sow love.
Where there is injury . . . . pardon.
Where there is discord . . . . unity.
Where there is doubt . . . . faith.
Where there is error . . . . truth.
Where there is despair . . . . hope.
Where there is sadness . . . . joy.
Where there is darkness . . . . light.
Oh Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled . . . . as to console.
To be understood . . . . as to understand.
To be loved . . . . as to love.
For it is in giving . . . . that we receive.
It is in pardoning . . . . that we are pardoned.
It is in dying . . . . that we are born to Eternal Life.
I interpret the last line in two ways. The first is literal death and the opportunity of the soul to enter into a space of Nirvana.
I also interpret it as the aspects of the self that must die as we enter deeper into our spirituality, the aspects, patterns, addictions and co-dependencies that must die in order for us to continue moving in the direction of spiritual enlightenment.
May love always abide in your heart, may peace walk side by side with you and may you always have happiness and the causes of happiness in your life.
Om Shanti Om