The Hidden Truth of Depression

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Like many, I have experienced depression at different times in my life. I have never felt the “I cannot get out of bed depression” or the “I cannot go on” depression, but I have experienced those feelings of emptiness, loneliness, loss of appetite, interest and connection.

If you experienced the devastating effects of deep depression, medication can be a life saver. It can give you the space you need to be able to even receive what I am saying or to be able to think differently about your situation. This is the moment, where I remind you that I am not a doctor. And if you think you need help for your depression, there is no shame in reaching out.

Very often, I receive very strong messages that come to me at times during meditation or when I least expect it. Yesterday, I was given the awareness we need to view depression, not as an inconvenience or detriment, but as a gift. Stay with me.

Depression is a space that is left when our ego has begun to unravel. This can happen from a loss, a change in routine, or during ongoing self-awareness. Our ego is there to help us – to keep track of time and space, and our daily lives. But egos can be very inflexible, and change is a part of being human, and living our lives. Change causes our ego to release its grip upon our psyche, and this can feel uncomfortable and empty. Imagine a person hugging tightly to you, and then they back away. While freeing, it can feel different, uncomfortable, empty. You are very aware of the space that is now there. All those patterns, routines and security are now gone.

Loss of loved one or job. Divorce. Life Change (children moving out). Therapy. Illness. Awareness and insight. Even a change in routine can trigger the space of emptiness. Your yoga teacher cancels, your child gets in trouble at school, you become demoted – can all lead to emptiness.

If we rush to fill that space with food, drugs, alcohol or technology, we never move beyond it. It is then, we can become stuck. We have now just become “addicted”, in addition to  “depressed.”

What if we allow that space to unfold, and treat ourselves kindly, like we are dancing into new territory, one that can feel strange, but also exciting. If we name this space of emptiness as a “time out” and don’t try to rush it away, self-medicate it. If we allow it to just be, for as long as it needs. We will change! It will not go on forever, even if it feels like it will. But we cannot force it to go, for then like an unwanted house guest, it will stay well beyond its welcome.

It is not about rehashing, but healing. It is not about running away from, but allowing. It is about becoming comfortable with uncomfortable empty spaces, and the feelings that may come and go.

I am not only relaying what I intuitively received – I have done all of this. It is always just beyond my actions that the awareness comes in. It has become my practice to do something as intuitively guided, and then the understanding follows.  I know from experience, it is not easy, but allowing the space to just “be” allows for not only a deeper understanding of our selves, but so much more.

Sometimes, it can get rough – as dark feelings can move in and out of that emptiness. Shadow feelings of grief, anger, resentment, and sadness can move in. Don’t raise the rent, allow them to linger until they move on. Their stay is temporary, I promise. This too shall pass, and in its place will come everything you can imagine.

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While allowing the space, it is important to also practice self-care. Picture your self in a new place, a new room, with an open door. Feelings can come in and out, as they need, no appointment is necessary. Make that room as comfortable as you can – put in a fireplace, a warm couch with a soft blanket, some ice-cold water to keep you hydrated, or hot tea to warm you. Hang some beautiful pictures on the wall. Even bring in a soft big teddy bear. Think comfort and safety. Make it all about you, and what you need. This is what self-care is about, and it needs to happen even more when we are moving into that space of emptiness, so that we can withstand the discomfort.

What does this self-care look like in real life? Releasing toxic relationships, saying no, putting up boundaries, a hot bath, a good book, a warm nourishing meal, a funny movie, or even just letting someone know how you feel. It is whatever you need in any given moment without judgement.

Just on the other side of the depression is a life you have always dreamed about. The confidence to move away from addiction, and into awareness. Our minds can benefit along with our hearts. The release of all those egoic and competitive needs – to be right, better, higher than others. Obsessions, fears and bad habits, can fade as we move into a more open-hearted way of living and loving. Everything we ever wanted – all the joy, peace and self-love – is bestowed upon us.

It gets easier, I promise. Many years ago, I would have done whatever I could to rid myself of any feelings of emptiness – run, eat, drink – you name it. Today, I become excited when I sense it because I know what is happening, and how I am continuing to move along my life journey. I am about to embark on something new, and release a piece of old conditioning that is no longer serving me.

So let’s stop calling it “depression” and call it “a time out.” Let’s view it as a gift, and if we can see it as such, we can unwrap our self, unwind our ego. Inside, we find the beauty of our true self. Rest in the beauty of that emptiness, take a pregnant pause and allow it to unfold as we are guided through the uncomfortable feelings, we move into a life we can only imagine. Everything we ever wanted is just outside of this discomfort zone.

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In the wake of the Orlando Shootings, the latest massacre of innocent victims, I turn my attention not to the victims, but the shooter. The person who was so filled with hatred, that he opened fired upon unsuspecting human beings who were simply out to enjoy themselves. How does one go from an innocent baby to a mass murderer? How does one acquire so much hatred in his heart that he unleashes his fury upon not just one, but hundreds of others? These are the question we need to keep asking ourselves.

Most can not help but focus on the victims.  They are the ones who suffered.  They are the ones whose families are going through shock, disbelief and unbelievable grief.  It is the same way, I turn my attention towards my son when he has been bullied on and off this year.  It is natural to turn our attention and our hearts to the victims, not to the offender who somehow, someway, turned his feelings of worthlessness, powerlessness, loneliness, self-hatred, anger and self loathing upon others. So why am I focusing on someone who committed such a horrendous act?  Why would I want to help a bully?

It is a not a new saying that “hurt people, hurt people.” And there are a lot of “hurt people” walking around our world.  Thankfully most of them do not unleash their pain on others with semi automatic rifles.  But all we need to do is to look around to see the pain in another’s eyes, the disconnect and loneliness so many people feel who walk upon this earth. Forget loving ourselves, most people don’t even like themselves.  Is this shooter just an extreme example of how many people feel in this world?

In order to stop the hurting, we need to face our own feelings of self-hatred. So many of us search for so much in this life. We search for money, fame, relationships and achievements, yet all of this leads us down a path away from ourselves. So we keep searching and we don’t even know what we are searching for.  And when we come up empty. We drink, we work too much, we become addicted to pain killers, we worry about our weight or how we are aging. We dye, nip, tuck, and hide. And we still come up empty.

What we are searching for cannot be had, obtained or kept. It cannot be stolen. It cannot be taken. It cannot be felt by hurting another.  What we are searching for is love.  More specifically, self-love.

You do not need to be religious or to be in a relationship to understand what it means to feel loved. This is temporary love, the kind that disappears when the person or object goes away. Most never know what that feels like – to love themselves.

What does that even look like?

I saw a post the other day by Anita Moorjani , a woman who became physically sick with cancer, and was given a few days to live. That was ten years ago. The post read, “How well does love thy neighbor as thyself work, if you don’t even love yourself?” How Anita is still alive today? The lymphoma had spread throughout her body, and on the eve of her inevitable passing, she had a near death experience. You can read about it in more detail here, in her book, Dying To Be Me.  Anita defied all medical knowledge. Within weeks her cancer was 50% resolved, and within months, not a trace of cancer found within her body.  The message she received was “Love yourself like your life depends on it, because it does!” She speaks today about the importance of loving ourselves. That is why she is still here.

And I cannot agree more. We need to love ourselves beyond what we think we deserve.  And then when we are spilling over with love, well beyond our expectations, then we give this love away to others, well beyond their wildest expectations.

This is not about becoming self-centered, but performing self-care.  What is the difference? Self-care is about taking good care of our own feelings so we don’t project them onto others, act badly, or cause problems in relationships. Being in touch with our own feelings and embracing them is the healthiest thing we can do. Being honest when we feel jealous, angry or sad. Feel them all and allow them to come and go without lashing out. Self care is about taking care of our hearts, bodies and soul on the deepest level imaginable. Self centeredness or narcissism is an inflated sense of someone’s own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. There is a big difference.

Are we loving ourselves enough?

Enough to find time to meditate so we can feel the rhythm of our own breath?

Enough to feed our bodies nutritious foods?

Enough to find balance between work, play and family?

Enough to say no when we are asked to stray from our truth?

Enough to stand up for what we believe even in the face of opposition?

Enough to come out of the closet?

Enough to set boundaries with others, especially those we love?

Enough to be honest with our how feel?

Enough to speak kindly to ourselves?

Enough to realize that we are good enough, just the way we are?

Enough to listen to our bodies when we are thirsty, hungry or tired?

Enough to say to ourselves what we never heard from another?

Enough to love ourselves no matter what we have done, said, or thought?

We Matter.

You Matter.

I Matter.

If we all loved ourselves beyond our expectations, our hearts would be transformed; our lives would be transformed; our world would be transformed.

This is dedicated to anyone who never felt they were good enough. Even those that pulled the trigger.

 

Moment by Moment

 

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Moment by moment.

The moment when you stop trying to be somebody else, and begin to just be yourself.

The moment when you stop caring what others think.

The moment when you realize it is okay to ask for help.

The moment when you realize if you stop running away from fear, it stops chasing you.

The moment when you remember that laughter is fun, and smiling is contagious.

The moment when you know you are being guided by something greater.

The moment when you find your voice.

The moment when you are touched so deeply, your heart feels like it will split open, and this feels so raw, yet so incredibly human.

The moment when you realize endings are just the next step in whatever life will bring.

The moment when you realize love is all that matters.

The moment when you understand that everything in life is a gift, no matter how it is wrapped.

The moment when competition comes in second place to cooperation.

The moment when whispering words of wisdom has more impact than shouting words of hate.

The moment when the fight for your religion is not going to matter.

The moment that you realize that being prettier, smarter, faster, is not going to matter.

The moment when you realize you are perfect just the way you are.

The moment when you realize that being the answer to someone else’s prayer, is far more rewarding than getting your way.

We live.

We learn.

We love.

Moment by Moment.

 

Endless Moments, Endless Chances

 

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As I sit here on a Sunday morning, the rain falling mindlessly outside, I think about this moment.  There are so many moments in our lives, and what we choose to do with them determines the path we take, our next adventure, even the happiness or suffering, we may feel.

In this moment, we can become angry at the insensitivity of an ignorant politician, remembering his hateful words that hurt, like darts to our hearts.  Or we can even make it more personal.  We can become lost in our head about something that happened yesterday, last year, or twenty years ago.  Dwelling in the unfairness of the situation or blaming another for the pain we were caused.  We can even worry about the future, allowing the unknown to stall within depths of our motor, throwing obsessions at us for free.

We have all done all of these scenarios.  We know how to do them.  It is a habit. We know how to get lost in another time, another feeling, but we do not quite know how to stay in the moment, how to just be. We become anxious, fearful, angry or depressed. We have become so caught up in our lives – doing, achieving, acting – that we do not know why we are here, or care to find out. We do not know how to create peace in our lives and the world around us.

This realization truly hit home the other day, when I walked into the nail salon and there was a girl in a wheel chair, living out her life with a physical disability. She was having a conversation with a woman about how she felt.  She was loud, without a care as to who heard.  I smiled.  Her words were muffled as her mouth did not quite work as efficiently as ours, but we all got her point. While she was trapped in a body that did not work as well as most other humans, she was free to be who she was, acknowledge how she felt at any given moment without regret, fear of judgement or guilt.

These examples are all around us.  Each week that I bring my son Drew to child therapy, there is a boy who is always there.  After Drew goes inside the playroom, the boy looks up and says, “You always go shopping.” The first time, I was taken aback, but looked at him, and replied, “Yes, I do.”  The boy continued, “Why do you always leave?”  I told him that there are stores nearby and it is a good time to do my shopping.  He smiled.  I smiled.  And now my heart melts a little more each time I see this boy.  He does not care that I am a stranger. Most special needs children have this wonderful gift of forgoing small talk. They have their own way of being, and it is more than refreshing, we can learn a great deal from them.  They live from their hearts, often with no filter.  They say what is on their minds, cutting through the chains we so often place on ourselves. They live in the moment.

We have so much to learn from those who are not like us.  We can often feel sorry for those who are different, but they have so much to teach us.  How to love without fear, speak without lies, and live each and every moment just as we feel.We see others who have a disability or special needs, as a liability, yet it feels as though, we are the ones trapped in a world with rules that often stuff the truth, choke the spontaneousness right out of us, cause us to live anywhere other than right here in this moment.

Yet, we do not need a disability, nor a developmental diagnoses to live in the moment.  We can take back our hearts from our minds that so often leads us so often away from the moment.  We can do this by becoming aware when we are anywhere but the moment.  We can spend time in nature, walking, observing, breathing.

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And with practice, we gain back our power.  We are no longer reacting to life, but living consciously.  We can begin to choose each and every moment to be in the moment.  We only need to remember to breathe, and just be.  We can see when we are off in another place, and gently bring ourselves back to the moment.  For it is in the moment, that we find who we are and why we are here.

In the moment, it does not matter what we do – sit alone or find company, cry or laugh, dance or sing.  It only matters that we open our hearts, and honor ourselves in every moment.

And when we do this, something magical happens.  For it is in the moment that the fear disappears, the blame evaporates and the truth emerges.  It is here that we find peace, forgiveness, forgo addictions, release hate, and find compassion for who we are, as we would a child.  We begin to stop caring what others say or think, for loving ourselves, outweighs another’s judgement, a million to one.

If we want something out of our life, whether it be happiness, peace, a soul mate, even greater financial abundance, then the way to receive everything you desire, is to go back to the moment.  Everything we want, every question we have, every emotion we feel is right there, inside of us, ready to be loved.

All we really need, is this moment.  Lucky for us, our lives are made up of endless moments, endless chances. So if you miss one, remember, there will always be another, waiting just for you.

 

The Light of Darkness

How easy is it to love and feel good about a random act of kindness?  But what about extending our hearts to those that want to do us harm?  Those who open fire on innocent victims? Those that abuse, rape, and display actions of bigotry and hatred?  It is not easy to open our hearts in these times on our earth, but that is what is asked of us as human beings.  To love those that seem unloveable.  And if we start with our own hearts, our own transgressions, love ourselves no matter what, we can begin to change the world.

Loving our own hearts is like lighting a candle.   At first, we are all walking around in the dark, fumbling because we cannot see.   We hold our unlit candle tightly in our fist, gripping it with all we have.  For some of us, the wick is not visible and we need to peel back some layers of the candle. This takes patience.  When we have the candle with a wick, we need to find a match, a spark.  We need to seek out what inspires our passion, lights the fire in our bellies. We need to find the light in the darkness. In our search for a match, we somehow stumble upon the dimmest light at the other end of the darkened room.  While this may seem like a coincidence, it is our destiny dressed up as a random occurrence.

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Now, we are faced with a choice.  We can welcome another into our world, whose candle has already been lit. This is the quickest and most direct path in finding a way to light our own, or we can judge and turn away.  When we choose the help of another, we form a bond of unity that is stronger than each of us as individuals.

Now our candle is lit, yet, the room, feels dark still because the light of two candles does not illuminate such a vast space.  So we wander with our lit candle, often bumping into things and others whose candles are not lit.  We ask others if they want their candle lit, and when they say no, we continue on, sometimes wondering why we are carrying a lit candle at all.  We continue to bump and stumble and there is a tendency to give up, but then we suddenly are asked for a light.  We share our candle as we share our love.  And the more we help others light their candle, the more we notice that the room looks a bit brighter. For everyone whose candle is lit is sharing their light. Soon, if we are patient, the room begins to fully illuminate. Even those that did not want their candle lit, cannot resist the brightness, and ask for a light.  The more candles that are lit, the more we see the unlit ones still milling around in the dark. Yet it is hard to stay in the darkness with so much light surrounding us.  Those that candles are not yet lit will eventually ask for help, or leave the room.  Both is fine.  Both is divine.  Both is perfect.  This is how we find the light of darkness.

We have a choice everyday to turn away from those who need our love the most.  We have all come here to light our candles.  And to help others who cannot find theirs.  When we see an act of violence, do we want to retaliate?  Do we want to meet hatred with hatred, darkness with darkness?  Or do we offer our light to anyone who needs it?  Do we scorn those who are in such fear and pain or do we offer another way?  When we offer guidance without judgement, we light another’s candle.  When we help an elderly person across the street, we light their candle.  And yes, when we send compassion and love to those that hate, we light their candle.  Whether or not they accept it, their hatred fades, if only for a moment.

When faced with adversity, as what is happening across our planet, our light may flicker, and we may even wonder if it will burn out.  But it is not adversity that blows out our candles, it is the closing of our hearts.  An open heart will always shine brightly.

I am an Angel

I am an angel. I live amongst you. But if you look for my wings, you won’t see them. But I am here. I am everywhere. I sit beside you on the subway. I stand in front of you in line at the grocery store. I idle behind you in traffic.

I am a teacher.  I am a waiter.  I manage your money. I pick up your garbage.

I am a wife.  I am a brother. I am a child.

I am heartbroken. I am homeless. I am distracted. I am in physical pain. I am paralyzed. I am an addict. I am diabetic. I have ended my life by suicide. I live alone in the woods. I am medicated. I am mentally ill. I am divorced. I have lost a child, a friend, a pet. I am a refugee. I undergo biopsies. I miss game winning passes. I am a monk. I am adopted. I have a disease.  I am infertile. I am jobless. I have been abused. I have been raped. I am penniless. I am you.

Because of all that I am, I cry. I scream. I blame. I curse the injustices of life. I am impatient, frustrated and jealous. I lash out. I gossip. I hate.

And then I remember, I am an angel. I know that everything I experience is here to help me find my wings. And when I am no longer afraid of the depths of my grief, and the waves of my anger. When I forgive, release blame and judgment, I realize my higher purpose, and find my wings.

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How will you know me?

When adversity strikes, you may most easily recognize me. I am the one flapping my wings, allowing all my feelings to both gracefully emerge, and leave when they are ready. I welcome all that arises in my life to stay as long as it wishes, knowing that chasing or wishing it away, is but an invitation to linger.

Written on my wings is the saying, All is Well. When life goes my way, and also when it does not. I am at peace in the face of war. I am curious, not fearful. I am aware, not asleep. I pray. I light candles. I volunteer. I love without borders. Fate guides my minutes, hours and days. I walk the path from breath to breath, from beginning to end, allowing whatever is in my heart to arise. I understand my choices will not dictate my life, but will impact how little or greatly I will suffer.

As the wind increases and remits, as do the tides, I allow life to unfold as it is meant, and this is when you will see my wings spread far and wide. For I know, all that I go through is for a higher purpose. And I begin to see life in all its beauty – the depth of love, the glorious colors of autumn, the awesomeness of the human heart that sheds tears as it heals. I share. I help others. I let all the angels whose wings are hidden, know that all is well.

I look like you. I act like you. And that is because you are an angel, too. Until you find your wings, I will share mine.

 

Inspired by the teachings of Matt Kahn.

My Forever Moment

My Forever Moment

En route to Yankee Stadium, I was involved in a head on collision with life. The day had begun like every other Saturday with coffee brewing, cartoons blaring, dog barking and teenagers sleeping through it all. Soon enough, we found ourselves humming along the Cross Bronx Expressway, the tires of our SUV mindlessly dipping and swerving between potholes. Stuffed in the back of the car, along with our children, were snacks, oversized bottles of water, and an air of excitement. My husband helped the radio dance between channels, finding the right song to keep the mood up beat, while I set up our lunch of chicken salad.

I glanced out the front windshield to assess the traffic, and that was when I saw him. Had I been thinking about my grocery list or wondering whether I had answered all my emails, I might have missed him. There, on the side of the road, stood a man. He was dirty and frail, his fingers gripping a sign, too sloppy to read. Car after car passed him by, their windows firmly closed, shutting out the possibility to make a connection. I do not judge them. Homeless people on the side of the road are as common as deer grazing suburban neighborhoods. I have walked by many myself. But this time, I noticed him. It seemed that my passion for introspection, meditation and spiritual teachings had made its mark. I needed to give this man something, anything.

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The contrast was not lost on me that through the open window, we handed him expensive, organic, health food store bought, chicken salad. Our worlds, this man and ours, were colliding, giving way to a shame that reddened my cheeks; a contrast so stark for all we had, and all he did not. Our eyes met. I felt his desperation pass through me as chills. The moment felt like forever. Through a toothless smile, he nodded in thanks. The entire interaction took less than 15 seconds, yet a moment I will remember forever.

After the game, exhausted and satisfied, we filed quietly into our home, plunging into the security of our warm beds. Everyone slept, except for me. I thought about the man. His face etched in my mind like the dirt beneath his fingernails. Where is he sleeping? Is he insane or just unlucky? How do we teach our children who have so many luxuries, to have compassion for those that have so little? Eventually sleep came, although it was restless.

The next morning, with a mouthful of syrup drenched, home made, pancakes, my son uttered, “Why did we give that man our food?” My forever moment continued.

As parents, we spend hours teaching our children right and from wrong, trying to find a balance between guiding, redirecting and reassuring. Some of what we say sticks, but most flies out the window. No sooner as the words leave our lips, our children are on to look at the next Instagram post or Facebook friend request. If the average attention span for the general population is now eight seconds, for children living in the technological age, it must be half that. Telling our children to “Clean up your room” has the same vibrational frequency as, “Say thank you and please.” Or, “Don’t be mean to anyone.” It all becomes white noise until that one moment in life where we act without thinking; that moment when life puts someone in our path to remind us that our actions mean more than words. And when it comes from the heart, it just sticks.

And these opportunities come every day, from all walks of life. Some are obvious, far reaching and heart wrenching, like 9/11. While others seem less obvious, as easy to miss as the holding of a door for the person behind you. But when we follow our own heart in everyday life, this penetrates deeply into the souls of our children. When we say no to an invitation because we are tired, we are teaching our children how to take care of themselves. Standing up to a friend who takes advantage, shows them what it means to have self-respect. Including others in our circle of life, regardless of where they go to University and what they do for a living. Speaking kindly to the waiter in a restaurant because he is as important as the financial advisor who invests our money – all expressions of unconditional love. And to be able to help someone in need because this is what generosity and compassion is all about.

Perhaps it was just chicken salad. Or maybe for a moment, this man felt like someone saw him; that he mattered. Maybe we all just want to know that we matter. When we see the beauty of the sun crying farewell tears against the nighttime sky, we feel something. But how often do we do this? We are all so busy; there is barely time to breathe. If we slow down, we will find we have endless opportunities to make a difference, to follow our heart because this is what we are supposed to do; this is how we are designed. There are so many forever moments, dressed up as ordinary life. And if we stop listening to the voices in our head, we will all hear our hearts.

I can still feel the deafening silence that circulated within our car after we drove away that day. I want to believe our children were taking in what occurred, and storing it in a part of their brain under how to live in this often perplexing, confusing and unfair world. Or maybe they felt it too, just an auspicious moment that held a greater importance than we all could ever understand.

I have always admired the road less travelled, but perhaps it does not matter what route you take as long as you bring your heart along for the ride.