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There was always a Today,|
Even before time began,
Today has the power
To always be itself
And it always will
Even were the world to end.
But it cannot end.
Today overpowers it
Whenever it tries. (Stymen Karlen)
I would rather trust myself
Than judge myself.
Trust allows me
To be all I can,
Whereas I as judge
Would not know what that is. (Stymen Karlen)
Every day millions of pills are swallowed by people, the majority of them women suffering from the now fashionable syndrome, clinical depression. This illness the medical doctors treat with tranquilisers or stimulants and hope it will pass. The tragedy is the symptomatic approach of both the patient and the practitioner to the unpleasant symptoms, both physical and emotional that accompany this illness. There may be marked changes in sleep patterns, in appetite, in respiration and in heart action. There may be bowel upsets, impairment of reproductive functions, with changes in period pattern in women and loss of normal sex drive. Sometimes depression can prevent women from conceiving and cause impotence in men.
Depression is, in a sense, the price we pay for emotional imbalance. It may be also the result of the human attributes of vivid imagination, acquisitiveness and a sensitive nervous system.
As for physical causes they are legion: lack of sleep and rest lack of exercise, a lopsided diet with predominance of sugar and starch causing the sugar blues, lack of fresh foods full of vitamins and minerals and nerve building elements and the general pattern of city civilisation.
On the psychological side, to function well the mind or ego needs:
Depression is like all illnesses, self-limiting. Depression like all acute illnesses will get better by itself, in most cases, in time.
Depression affects people in different ways. Some become flattened. They withdraw from their misery, and the whole mind and body seem to slow down. They are said to be underaroused.
Others, however become overaroused. They become edgy, overactive, restless. Some people lapse from one state to another showing a variety of mixed symptoms.
The Hygienic practitioner's first duty is to make the person with depression realise that it is within his or her own power to jump out of this vicious circle. It can be done without resort to drugs, which will ultimately make him or her addicted to them, and will do nothing to normalise the blood and brain chemistry essential in overcoming this problem, nor help him or her to a positive approach to life and living through learning self-awareness.
Taking the physical approach first to this problem. A depressed person usually has no appetite and therefore a fast short or long is advisable. The fast helps in normalising the body chemistry, especially sugar metabolism that is often at fault Eating highly concentrated sweet foods, espeially refined sugar concoctions leaches the body of essential vitamins (especially the B complex) and minerals, thus unstabilising the nervous system.
A Hygienic diet of plenty of raw salads and vegetables, fresh fruit, nuts, seeds, and whole grains will not only provide all the essentials of nutritive material, but will help in breaking the sugar habit.
Modern day researchers like Dr. Gloria Litman of the Maudsley Hospital in London and Dr. Richard MacKarness, author of the book, "Not All in the Mind", are beginning to accept the Hygienic approach to the question of depression. Dr. Alan Cott and others are beginning to stress the importance of fasting in cases of manic depressives. Slowly the tide is swinging to the more humane and realistic approach to people suffering from "nerves".
Apart from fasting and a Hygienic diet, another very important physical factor, which is of immense importance is that of physical activity. A case on the files of the President's Council on Fitness and Sports in the United States provides a rather amusing illustration of just how much a physical discipline can change a person's mental and emotional attitude, as well as raising his or her energy levels:
A middle-aged executive, who suffered from constant fatigue and was discouraged about his life to the point of suicide, had read all the fitness advice which has been publicised widely in recent years. He knew, for instance, that it was dangerous for someone as overweight and out of condition as he was, to take up strenuous exercise at his age, as it was likely that he would have a heart attack. Being of an unusual turn of mind he decided it would be the most convenient way of committing suicide. He borrowed a tracksuit and went for what he thought was his last run. In spite of chest pains, there was no heart attack. He tried again another day and again, but no heart attack. After a week he realised he felt quite different about his life. All thoughts of suicide had vanished and he had more energy than he ever remembered. He decided he wanted to live.
An extreme case perhaps, but this kind of experience is by no means unique. Several studies have shown how regular physical activity has the effect of releasing energy and overcoming depression and fatigue.
An American psychologist, Richard Driscoll, made a study of university students suffering from fatigue and stress caused anxiety. Dividing them into groups, he gave one group standard forms of psychotherapy, another drug therapy and made another go running every day. At the end of the term he reassessed the groups and found that the runners showed most improvement in symptoms, and achieved the highest examination results. Similar follow up studies have shown similar results.
Deeper and fuller breathing through physical activity like running, jumping, bicycling, weight training, hill walking, helps to oxygenate the blood.
And the results of such a discipline are improved general health, an increased sense of psychological wellbeing, and an apparently endless supply of energy.
On the mental and emotional side, a person who is depressed must learn to do whatever he does with total involvement. If he is totally immersed in what he is doing, even as mundane as copy typing, if he is fully engrossed in what he does, he is for that moment of time distracted from depression. When the mind is empty, i.e., in a state of relaxation, depression also goes out of the window.
Total commitment, involving living in the moment, the now, dispenses the blues, e.g., when you are riding a horse or a bicycle and you are totally immersed in whatever you are doing, so that the riding is effortless and easy and the various moves fall into place naturally, you are no longer aware of your anxiety or depression, it has passed you by.
A few favourite poems of mine by Stymen Karlen depict this in poetic form:
No matter what
I have used all my doubt
And created with it
I have used all my pain
And created with it
I have used all my anxiety
And created with it.
I plan to use my death
And create with it,
No matter what
Are for me.
The wonder of arrival
Of whatever it is.
The wonder of departure
Of whatever it was.
The wonder of being inbetween
These great wonders.
I can only do
What I have done.
Will I do the next one?
I cannot tell.
I only know
I trust myself
And that is most
So what is needed by a depressed person is not the fact that he is depressed because of this, that or any other reason. It is not something from outside, a stimulant, a pep talk, a psychiatrist's couch, a sunny day, etc., will remove his depression.
It is the realisation that depression is what he is carrying in his head. When he loses his head, his ego and begins to have faith and trust in the very nature of his being, in just being alive and meeting life, facing it, without fear or prejudice, not judging, not condemning, not coming to conclusions, but meeting life as an experience, he will then realise that happiness and depression are but part and parcel of the same coin, life. He will see and experience one or the other, depending on which side of the coin his mind is focused on. if he sees life as life to be lived and experienced, he will jump out of this duality, this abyss of dichotomy.
Being one with life and totally involved, he experiences life as life and not as depression or happiness. When approached in such a way, life becomes a huge joke, a big laugh. This laughter of life will then lift you out of your depression.
There is a story about a king who asked his wise men to make him a talisman, at his coronation, which would help him in all circumstances. The wise men got together and made up a ring in which they inscribed a few words. They told the king, "Here is our magic spell, but mind you, have only two chances. A spell is written on each side of the ring. you are in great difficulty look to what is written on the right side of the ring. When you are in a state of bliss look on the left side of the ring. But, wait till you are sure that you can no longer go on and we assure you you will be a splendid king."
After some years of a very happy and prosperous reign, surfeited many victories over his enemies, the king could not contain his joy and felt he would burst with bliss with all that life had given him. Prudently he looked at one side of the ring, read the message and became depressed and melancholy. Taking advantage of his state of mind, his enemies made a joint effort and marched upon the king and destroyed his army. Defeated and dejected and almost at the end of his tether, on the verge of committing suicide, he remembered the ring and looked at the inscription on the other side. Instantly he cheered up, hid himself to gather his thoughts, then gathered together another army and led them victoriously gaining back his kingdom.
The cryptic message written on both sides of the ring was, "This too shall pass."
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