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Buddhadharma : Summer 2015
summer 2 0 1 5 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 15 it isn’t all in your head According to Tibetan Buddhist teachings, explains Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel, depression is intimately connected with the subtle body. I have thought a lot about depression. It seems that people describe it in different ways. You may feel like your nervous sys- tem is overfiring or that you’re petrified with fear. You may get caught in a cycle in which everything seems to arise as your enemy—things that ordinarily wouldn’t bother you start to haunt and disturb you. Depression can also express itself as a feel- ing of heaviness and a lack of motivation or direction. It can arise at specific times of the day. I myself have had the experience of feeling stirred up in the morning. Many have. Others feel anxious all day and calm down when the sun gets low and soft. Oth- ers begin to feel anxious or lonely at dusk. I’m not sure why. But whatever its expression, depression seems to have a strong physical compo- nent. Something gets stirred up physically. I don’t think you can separate your state of mind from your physical body. When the body relaxes, the mind will also relax, and also the other way around. In the system of Tibetan medicine, they talk about lhung disturbance, which basically means that the flow of the breath and energy is blocked in the subtle body or energy channels. You don’t have to know exactly what that means—you can feel it. In the morning, or whenever the depres- sion seems to arise, you can sit (or lie down in a relaxed way or even sit in nature) and bring your awareness to your body. You can start at the top of your head and really let yourself experience the sensation of each part of your body: your eyelids, the pores of your skin, your ears, and so on. Keep moving your awareness all the way down to your feet and then back up. Notice where you contract, how you stop breathing, and where you block sensation. If you find an area of blockage or pain, look at that area and see if there is any singular “thing” there you can call “depres- sion.” If you investigate, you will only find a flurry of sensation. Don’t judge anything. Let “it” express itself. Not wanting “it” to be there is the biggest impediment to find- ing ease. Blocking is a form of aggression toward the natural vitality of the mind and body. Something is expressing itself through causes and conditions. Can you let it work itself out? All things—joy, despair, boredom, clarity—arise based on causes and condi- tions. You may not even know what all of these causes and conditions are. But try not to hold a narrow ideal of what you consider good or comfortable. The point of practice is to allow everything to arise and dissipate, to give all of it room to move. FROM ELIZABETh MATTIS NAMGyEL’S BLOG, MARCh 6, 2015 contemplating dying is actually very helpful and even pleasant, because it helps us see our true nature of no-birth and no-death and reminds us we have nothing to fear. —Thich Nhat Hanh in Love Letter to the Earth, Parallax Press, 2013 1 • The DALAI LAMA COLLECTOR’S EDITION SHAMBHALA SUN FROM THE Celebrating the Dalai Lama on his 80th birthday • Teacher, leader, man of peace • My religion is kindness.” “ Available on select newsstands June 23 Reserve your copy today for home delivery lionsroar.com/HHDL FEATURES INCLUDE: • An exclusive Shambhala Sun interview with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, conducted in March 2015 • A stunning visual biography— from his childhood in remote Tibet to his role as global statesman • Fascinating looks at the Dalai Lama from those who know him best––including writings from bestselling author Dan Goleman, Pico Iyer, Senator Dianne Feinstein, and preeminent figures in science, Buddhism, interfaith dialogue, moral leadership, and world politics The DALAI LAMA A special keepsake edition honoring the Dalai Lama on his 80th birthday FROM THE PUBLISHERS OF