Working with Depression

its important to see things in the mind in terms of intentional acts (kamma), the results if past intentional acts (vipaka), and events which are mere activity (kiriya) and the obsessive thoughts (papanca) of an agitated mind.

—its important to avoid getting tangled up in what the mind is always pointing to in the world, what its representing.

we do this by becoming very observational of what's going on moment by moment: the way we discern what's what is clear from how events arise.

karma always has an intentional element to it, its suffused with goals and agendas that we're aware of; whereas it begins with contact and vedana, gut feelings, almost immediately there's vitakka or purposeful thinking present.

incoming results of previous mind states, vipaka, arise as vedana, gut reactions to what's occuring.

—vipaka starts off as Sukha-vedana (feeling good about what's occuring and wanting more); Dukkha-vedana (stress & gut discomfort with what's occuring, wanting it to go away) and Upekkha-vedana (neutral feelings).

—vedana can be present for quite a long time, in the form of underlying feelings, before we become aware, or we can sense it immediately.

the problem isn't so much these underlying moods, as opposed to the way we react to them.

our reactions to sadness or discomfort or agitation can turn what might be a passing state (vedana-dukkha) into a lasting, persistent dis-ease (kiriya and papanca retriggering vedana).

—sadness, frustration, etc are the inevitables of life, especially lay practitioner life; its not reasonable to wish ourselves free of feelings.

—what is problematic is the way we react, taking our moods personally, adding stress and storytelling to the entire affair.

a large part of the problem is that we take it all personally (papanca), believing that are sadness or disappointment means there's something wrong; our lives in the world, our minds, etc.

we turn what's natural into a problem.

—we add aversion to the mix.

the next inevitable stage is we believe the problem needs to be solved out there in the world, while we become increasingly uncomfortable with what's occuring in here.

—the reactions are habitually ingrained; they're not the result of free thinking, but they plant the seeds of future mind states nevertheless (samsara has a largely unconscious reptetitiveness to it)

the cycle solidifies into a habitual response (karma, vipaka, kiriya and papanca as karma, etc); sadness arises, we become upset, thinking there's something wrong with life, which in turn gives rise to more sadness

afraid of the gut sensations, we increasingly try to either think our way out of our sadness or do more and more distracting external events, trying to make it all go away.

—we run from the feelings into our thought worlds and external dramas

there's no way to think our way out of sadness or confusion or unmotivation.

—we need an entirely new state of mind

yoniso manasikara, attention must be paid

observing: we take a new approach to our underlying moods as they arise. rather than react by adding aversion and storytelling, we practice watching the feelings as they arise, watching as they pass.

—we might even learn to see what previous actions and thoughts give birth to the stress

—being more aware of the underlying states of body and feelings, before acting via habitual responses, without labelling it as something wrong, means we'll become more efficient in our choices of what to act on.

we learn how emotions change our breath, where our emotions arise in the body, how they spread throughout, and at which point they turn into thoughts.

—the face itself can be a barometer to underlying feelings

—as can the stomach, jaw, shoulders, etc

once we've discovered the central area of feelings, then we move about, noticing the outer areas.

— we can practice breathing through the areas we hold our feelings

—we can practice moving to and from areas that are neutral or pleasant

we shift from trying to ignore or make feelings go away to a state of curious exploration

we develop trust in our ability to be with unpleasant feelings and our ability to take care of ourselves without worrying and planning ahead of time

attention and mindfulness is by nature experiential. we don't ruminate or try to figure things out; we develop the ability to sit with uncomfortable states without reactiveness.

attention and mindfulness does not take things personally. it doesn't believe that anything that arises is specifically ours only or particularly unique. it's the anthropologist from Mars approach, seeing what its like being in a human body and life before judging it or thinking there's something terribly wrong.

—learn to treat our emotions, and the thoughts they give rise to, as signals and messages that may or may not be true

If out of habit thoughts start to proliferate (papanca) ("im no good, there's something wrong, etc) we see these reactions as mental events that don't need to be given credence. we don't need to identify with them.

—we see what these reactions, or thought patterns, are promising us, what they offer (the sense that we can have a perfect life without feelings?)