(This blog recently appeared in Medium.com).
It can feel a little scary to acknowledge what might appear to be failure, but being willing to explore the nature of that so-called failure revealed something that changed my entire way of seeing the world. And if that can be true for me, it can for you, too.
It took me a long time to make the connection between unmet goals that I had set for myself (to say nothing of the ones that were never even begun) with the feelings of depression and self-doubt that used to consume me.
In searching for the “reasons” why I went through periods of depression, I assumed some of the cause had to do with the fact that my father had his first heart attack when I was 10 and after 4 consecutive years of more heart attacks, died from a stroke when I was 15.
I also factored into the equation the fact that my mother shared too much of her own emotional trauma with me.
Those events colored my perspective, as you might imagine. Beyond my personal history, I also assumed that there were other factors at play: my circumstances, my genes, my voracious self-judgment or maybe even karma.
To find a “cure” for my depression, I studied spirituality, psychology, energy medicine, and several other disciplines.
I collected a lot of practices designed to minimize my all-too-frequent giving up or never following through on dreams that I harbored in secret.
I ended up with plenty of certificates and credentials but the fundamental cause of my lack of follow-through still remained elusive.
My life was far from a failure: I had some great jobs with talented people and exciting opportunities. Sometimes I amazed myself and accomplished things I never thought possible.
Other times, I could hardly get off my couch and everything that I wanted to do seemed hopelessly out of reach.
It wasn’t until many years later that I realized why all those practices and affirmations didn’t help me in the way I’d hoped for.
I was attributing the cause of my suffering to the wrong source. This recurring depression was a result of my own thoughts and the feelings that went with them.
My depression wasn’t due to external causes like people or genes or circumstances or personal history. For all those years, I had believed that those depressing thoughts and feelings were the truth. I believed that they meant something bad or wrong about me.
I had somehow managed to overlook the fact shared in the spiritual traditions that my true nature (prior to all that noise in my head) is one of happiness, peace, and possibility. In more psychological terms, it’s referred to as innate well-being or innate mental health.
This ground of being is beneath all the thinking and feeling that passes through us.
When we’re not hijacked by our thoughts and feelings, we naturally return to this peaceful, at-rest state within ourselves.
This is true for every single human on the planet. We all have this experience, often without knowing it for what it is.
The more I was able to settle into this natural state, I saw how I’d been creating a self-fulfilling prophecy by believing those dark thoughts. All those techniques that I’d learned gave “my” depression a solidity that required doing something about — like improve, replace or get rid of them.
But the miraculous fact that our true nature exists means that when I put my attention there I don’t need to do anything to the dark cloud of thoughts and feelings I referred to as depression.
I can acknowledge their coming and going and the mood that goes with them without identifying with them and without losing my sense of wholeness and well-being.