We are coming to the end of our time in India and our minds are turning to home. With today’s great communications it is easy for us to connect to news channels. Top of the bill is the shifting sands of Brexit and where that is going is any one’s guess, but having been birthed in fear, bigotry and opportunism its legacy will most likely be a bit messy. The other article that caught our eye was all about depression, stress and burnout. It speaks of this hidden epidemic which so many people live with on a daily basis. The news rejoices each time we find a new coping mechanism, a new drug or new therapy to hold back the symptoms.
Socrates said, “an unexamined life is not worth living”, and yet we do little if any serious self-examination. Equally we have a pretty poor attitude to change; we so often want things to be different but we resist change. It seems like we are waiting for someone or something to come to the rescue and this feeds our collective belief that the answers lie somewhere outside ourselves. This will never work; a cursory dip into the mountain of books, teachings and spiritual paths reveals lesson after lesson about what we can do to change, yet as humanity we only make very small steps. We witness time and time again man’s inhumanity to man whether in day to day relationships or on a national and international scale. Many of us might sit back and remark on how we are not part of this, but when we examine our lack of happiness and joy in life we could ask why we have deprived ourselves of such relatively easily available states.
Whenever we are experiencing problems it is helpful for us to start the undoing process with ourselves, to take the time and energy to self-examine. This is always the best place to start no matter in what area of our lives; it is the recognition that when we are caught in a web of unhappiness, or ill health, or lack of any kind then we have to recognize we have taken a wrong turn at some point in our lives. We need to retrace our steps back to that crossroads and make another choice, and we know when we have done that better because our lives get better. There is this great barometer that basically goes, the greater your suffering the further off track your life is, and so if you want things to get better then you need to change.
We commonly have people approach us for help with awful relationships and great unhappiness, however they often have conditions attached to their request. A frequent one is that they don’t want anything spiritual let alone religious. This is the essence of control and therefore the belief that there is nothing greater than themselves. A simple test of holding your breath for 5 minutes will demonstrate that you are not insular but actually connected to a whole, a whole with billions of moving parts but still a whole. There is loads of research to show that if you have two groups, one group of loners and another with a belief in something greater than themselves, the loners will always have more problems and suffer more than the second group.
The essence of depression and burnout is the belief that there is no one greater than us. It is as if we are caught in a massive divide, on one hand we have to do everything and on the other we feel so powerless. When we hold no belief in anything greater than ourselves then we have to manage everything, make sure the sun comes up every morning and see that all is as it should be. In our relationships, it is the others who need to change; in our world, the overwhelm is just another panic away. If we believe there is no one out there to help, and we’re in trouble, who or what do we turn to? Pills are the first port of call . . . and the promise they offer that we can manage once more.
We are certainly not powerless, and equally we are also not the ruler of the universe. Yet we are responsible. Take responsibility today for your life and every aspect of it and ask for help. Not the going to a doctor asking them to take away your symptoms kind of help; suppressing your suffering is not asking for help, this is developing a coping mechanism, and certainly not taking responsibility. In depression your problem is abstract and underlying it is the unwillingness to change. Firstly you must recognize your situation, take responsibility for it then start learning, get truly willing to change and the results will follow.
Our common purpose in this life is to be happy and if we are not happy then it sets up our second common purpose – to heal, to change within – until we find happiness again. Or you can succumb, compromise and JUST live. The choice is ours.