SAD, Depression, and Woogity Support

2017/01/03

Clinical depression is one of the most common mental health conditions. Close in numbers would be Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and of course there is some overlap. (If you’re unfamiliar SAD is essentially a temporary form of depression brought on by reduced sunlight in winter months)

Before I go farther I’d like to make two things clear. Depression is a mental health condition, it is an umbrella for a variety of neurological conditions where the brain cannot produce or process certain neurotransmitters most commonly associated with happy moods and motivation. Depression isn’t feeling bad or sad, it’s not just an emotional funk to snap out of, it’s a literal physical condition in the brain. You can no more cure depression with thinking happy thoughts than you can cure anemia by thinking iron-laden thoughts. Secondly what I will be discussing is not, in any way, meant to supplant medical treatment. What I discuss can help manage depression in some cases, deal with the edge of it, but it will not cure it, and shouldn’t be assumed to be a replacement for proper medical treatment. Like any medical condition you can do magickal workings to help support it and the medical treatment, but a serious condition will not be cured by magick alone.

I’m part of this statistical group. I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, and have for almost 20 years. I deal with it better now than I did even a decade ago due to three things: light therapy, medication, and woogity. I want to share what techniques I’ve found work the best for me, and while these are more specifically how I manage SAD, I believe they may be of some relevance to people with depression.

First and foremost the best technique for managing depression I have is my meditation practice. Specifically anapana/vipassana meditation. While part of a bigger rant, let me say that all meditations are not equal, and not useful, and in this situation anapana has what we’re looking for. Anapana has a variety of benefits not found in more generic meditations but this is overlooked by pop-science articles that claim colouring books are just as good, as they they measure things like heartrate and brain waves, ignoring the point of the meditation. Relevant to SAD/Depression anapana helps you identify thoughts, chains of thoughts, and where they come from. This is very important because sometimes when in a depressive episode it’s hard to know where a thought comes from, do you really not want to go to that party cause you won’t have fun, or are you thinking that cause you’re depressed? Anapana can help you see where that thought comes from. Anapana also teaches you to catch distractions and thoughts as they form and redirect your focus. Again this is useful for a depressive episode because it is common to get caught in depressive loops, and not necessarily realize it or be able to break it. This helps you learn to catch the mind, and redirect, if only for a little bit. There are a lot of great resources to learn about anapana, I’ve written about it before and there are of course youtube tutorials.

The second technique I use is Pore Breathing and Compacting. This goes to the cause of SAD, a lack of sunlight. Sit comfortably somewhere you can see sunlight, if you can sit in the sun that’s best, and in a pinch you can do this with artificial lights and connect to the Sun energetically, but doesn’t seem to be nearly as potent. Perceive your body as empty and hollow, it’s like a clear crystal vase, no muscles, skeletons, or organs inside, no channels or energy centres, just a clear crystal surface in the shape of your body. Now as you breathe in, draw the light into your body, it travels in with the breath but also through the surface, it remains inside on the outbreath held in by the crystal and your will. Repeat this, increasing the intensity of the light until after several minutes you are as radiant as the sun yourself. For you first few times, I recommend stopping here, just breathe normally for a bit, and open your eyes and go about your day.

For a more advanced version once you’re radiant it is time to compact that light. On each in breath the light contracts, pulling into the centre of your chest a little, staying there, slightly smaller, as you breathe out. Each breath pulls it a little bit more into the heart centre, and a few minutes you should have a radiant brilliant pearl in your heart centre. Leave it there, and over the day it will dissipate slowly letting solar energy into your body.

A small warning with this technique though, Solar Energy can make it a bit hard to sleep, at least until you get used to it. So you’re better off doing this in the morning or early afternoon.

As said, these are in no way replacements for proper medical treatments, but I’ve found these very useful to supplement my medical work around my health, and perhaps they can be beneficial to some of you.

If you have any recommended supplementary techniques that have worked for you, I would love to hear them, and I’m sure they might benefit other readers.


Welcome to Your Mind (Part I)

2012/06/24

(This entry is based on a recent workshop I presented with a friend of mine. It is partially written from my notes, and partially transcribed. While my friend’s section of the workshop on Zen was fascinating I’ve left out his section as it is his intellectual property and I am not a Zen Buddhist so would feel ill-equipped to discuss it)

It seems no matter where you are in the spiritual/occult community one piece of advice always comes up: meditate. “I don’t know what to do about this.” Meditate. “I can’t see or hear the angels clearly.” Meditate. “My energy is unfocused.” Meditate. “Who is my spirit guide?” Meditate. “I keep getting distracted from my practice.” Meditate. Meditate, meditate, meditate. This is the piece of advice I see over and over and over and over again. Pretty much whatever the problem is, someone will suggest meditation. Don’t know how to meditate and you ask them? Their response? Meditate!

What is meditation? People toss around that word, and they don’t explain what this is, how to meditate, and it gets really frustrating to watch as it’s repeated like a mindless mantra. It’s counterproductive to toss out this advice repeatedly. So while there are many reasons to meditate, one of the reasons I wanted to teach this workshop was to actually share how to meditate in some different forms. Not all meditations do the same thing, or appeal in the same way, that’s why I’m presenting a variety of forms.

Taken from http://www.children.dhamma.org/en/teens/what-is-anapana.shtmlTo start off with I’ll be discussing anapana meditation, which is the earliest documented form of meditation within Buddhism. Mythically according to Theravadan sects it is considered the form of meditation that Siddhartha Gautama used to achieve enlightenment and become the Buddha. The name just means breathing, as that is the focus of the meditation, and it is sometimes called anapanasati meaning awareness of breathing.

The basic theory behind anapana meditation is that we’re a bundle of corrupted karma and sankara, in modern terms you could roughly say neurosis and conditioning, which isn’t to remove the spiritual aspect of karma/sankara but more explain how they affect our life. They interfere with our emotional and mental well being, and when we let them interfere we actually reinforce them and increase them. By becoming aware of them we can let them occur without feeding them. It is as if they are fuel to a fire, every time we act on this karma/sankara we toss more fuel into the fire, but if we just observe them at let it occur then the fire consumes the fuel rather than being fed more. Anapana is a very grounded meditation, it works off the idea that we can’t meditate on abstract ideas, so we meditate on the body and sensations because those are relatively concrete. Instead of meditating on our emotions, we focus on where and how the emotions interface with our body. Karma/sankara act as conditioned responses, and the majority of our actions are based in them, but by releasing them we develop a greater ability to choose how to act, rather than reacting.

To perform anapana sit comfortably. Any seated posture will do as long as it can be maintained and is comfortable. Picture a triangle starting at the top of your nose between your brows, going down to the corners of your mouth, this is the arena that we use for anapana. Breathe normally, don’t try to breathe deeply, or slowly, let breath happen. Now observe physical sensations within that triangle, what do you feel? The subtle shift in temperature as you breathe in and out? The soft rush against your nostrils? An itch on the top of your nose? At first you may not feel anything, that isn’t because there is no sensation there, only that your mind is too unfocused to feel something so subtle. Don’t count the breaths, or think “In-Out,” just let them happen. This entire meditation is about observing and letting happen. If your nose itches don’t scratch it, don’t get annoyed, just “watch” the itch with your awareness. Any sensation you have, don’t reject it, don’t accept it, don’t react, only observe it until it fades away. As you gain greater focus change the arena, only do from the nostrils down, or eventual just observing the nostrils.

Now rather quickly you’ll realize you stopped paying attention to your breath and that’s okay, simply note that you are distracted and resume the focus on your breathing. To keep the mind focused on the breath for a while is a challenge, you may not even make it ten seconds, and that’s fine, as long as you realize you got distracted and bring your attention back. Like physical sensations don’t judge these distracting thoughts, or the act of distraction, don’t get upset you’re failing, because you’re not, simply bring your focus back to the breath. A teacher once told me “true meditation isn’t the ability to control focus, but the moment you realize you’ve lost focus and regain it.” You will get distracted, a lot, but when it happens bring your focus back to your breath, and you’ll find after a while you’ll get distracted less, and catch your wandering mind sooner, it just takes practice.

There is an advanced “sibling” of anapana called vipassana, but you can’t perform vipassana without having a really good handle on anapana. Vipassana means clear-seeing, and if you’re proficient at anapana, you can move onto it. Much like you focused on just your nostrils in anapana, in vipassana you pick a general area of the body (scalp, face, neck) and observe the bodily sensations there. Then as you become more proficient you shrink the area of focus until you’re watching your body in segments as small as a finger nail, and seeing what sensations arise there. To give a sense of how proficient one should be to begin vipassana, if you attend a retreat at a Vipassana Centre run by S.N. Goenka, for three days straight, over twelve hours a day, you practice anapana, only after that intensive (and it is intense) can you even struggle to begin vipassana. So don’t think you can jump into vipassana right away, and if you think you can and have, you’re deceiving yourself about the level of focus and awareness you have developed.

Next entry we jump ahead a few centuries and start spreading the love.


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