The universe is full of polarities: ying & yang, positive & negative, male & female, night & day. They are different aspects of the same thing. One could not exist without the other so how could one be better than the other?
Yet in western society, we categorise negative emotions as bad, which makes us want to run away from or deny them. If they do catch up with us, we fight them away by anaesthetising them or trying to analyse their source, which only takes us deeper into despair. The last thing we do is talk openly about it, as depression is still considered something of a taboo. But when we suffer in silence, feelings can fester giving us a distorted perception of the world and our place in it.
'Whatever we do not bring into the light, whatever we keep in the darkness, ends up controlling us' Dr Henry Cloud
But if we did not experience low moods, we would not be human. They are actually an essential part of our human experience and have a variety of purposes such as waking us up to unresolved issues in our lives or making us realise there is more to life than we are currently experiencing. Depression is a powerful way to make us pay attention. It can also be a gift as it is often followed by expanded states of consciousness - enlightenment.
‘The wound is the place where the light enters you’ Rumi
So should negativity not be considered our friend rather than the enemy? If we brought it into the light and thought of it as a guide, rather than a deserter, would we be able to embrace it, realising it comes bearing gifts? If we were more accepting and open about how we felt, would the frequency and severity of depression lessen to a degree?
The answers to these questions can be found in the practice of Mindfulness. By bringing our awareness into the present moment, we are invited us to accept every emotion and experience in each moment without judgement. By being fully present with total awareness, we free ourselves of the ruminating thoughts that fuel depression and open ourselves to its gifts. Without resistance, suffering is alleviated and life begins to flow, allowing us to experience the full range of emotions in our human experience.
Mindfulness can be practiced every day of your life and in every single moment. No extra time is needed as it can be incorporated into your daily routine. It is practiced by being fully present, moment by moment and by keeping your mind on the task at hand. When you are eating your breakfast, think ‘I am eating my breakfast’. Using your senses, enjoy each mouthful, which also makes it taste better and provides greater nutritional value. When your mind wanders, which it inevitably will, keep bringing it back to the smell, taste and look of your food, mouthful by mouthful.
When you feel emotional, notice the pattern of your breath. The mind follows the breath, so by slowing down your breath, you can bring your thoughts into awareness. Tell yourself over and over: ‘It’s ok, let me feel it’. Notice how those feelings lose their intensity as they are brought into the light - into a space of acceptance.
Whilst practicing yoga, keep your mind on the movement of your body and the journey of your breath. Your yoga practice is valuable time for you to break free from the stresses and obligations of everyday life. Giving yourself that space increases the benefits of the practice and also allows you to return to your life feeling refreshed and renewed with greater clarity of mind.
But above all, do not judge yourself for finding these tasks challenging. It is expected. Accept your challenges non-judgementally and watch them dissolve. Be kind to yourself and know that each moment is a new opportunity to start afresh.
Try this meditation to: Create Self-Love
One of the best books I've read on alleviating negative thought patterns:
'Stop Thinking, Start Living' Richard Carlson Ph.D
Another book I've read recently that is also wonderful:
'I Love Me' David R Hamilton Ph.D