METTA MIND JOURNAL WITH CYNIC’S PAUL MASVIDAL: “A BRIDGE TO THE VIEW”
Journal entry, twelve years ago:
“Today I am sad. It hurts to be human. The walls are closing in on my peace and I go deeper into a sadness all too familiar. The tears from my formative years when I would cry incessantly because of psychic pain have arisen again. A resurgence of that old pain is in my body like a parasite I can’t control. I’m a suffering child. The human experience can be very trying and today I am tested. Today I am broken. All hope is lost. I am exhausted. Where does my fervor for life come from?”
…after that journal entry, I wrote this poem:
Black bones in me
They’re floating free in my eyes
You say I’m losing my sight
Don’t rescue me
I don’t plan on getting out
I’ve lost the key
Hug me I’m a cactus
I was on the edge that day.
Reading through old journal entries, those words struck me like a person from a past life—a person who’s not around anymore. I see in those words someone who didn’t know what to do with his pain. I spent many years in that place of sinking into my own sadness. My depression was insidious…and slow, like a turtle. It kept me in bed for days at a time. It was like a deep sleep that I couldn’t shake. Eventually the walls began to close in. If I didn’t put myself back together and find some way to engage with life again, I was going to end my story.
For the thing which
I greatly feared is come upon me,
and that which I was afraid of
Is come unto me. I was not in safety, neither
had I rest, neither was I quiet;
Yet trouble came.
This epigraph appears in Darkness Visible, William Styron’s true account of his descent into major depression. Since I was meditating even during this period, what I discovered was that the depression was in my biology and in my bones like a genetic disposition. Beneath this biology I found a lot of psychic pain that wasn’t my own, but like an empath (and all humans are empaths), I had been taking on the “life” sadness of my family, our collective history, and the environment around me.
(Chicken or egg conundrum: Does depression begin in the mind and spread to the body? Or, is the physical body weighted down, depressed, and suppressed by ancient human history / DNA…and this (ill)informs the mind? And, in all cases, the human spirit remains “untouched,” quietly cheering you on, until the mind or body, or both, give out and then that’s all you wrote?)
I was always able to reference a spiritual perspective throughout my period of major depression, but none of that mattered. And that’s why I return to the biological and psychic perspective. It was deeper and larger than me. The sadness overcame my entire being. On the other side of that sadness, I discovered courage. The courage to suffer with dignity and grace. The courage to look straight into the darkness and not be afraid. I realized that this sadness was actually powerful and beautiful, and it didn’t have to be debilitating. I could wield it and make it work for me, like an energy that gets channeled into something constructive. I had the courage to be sad and not push it away any longer. I accepted things as they were, and that was when the healing took place.
Whatever series of life events it was that initially triggered the depression now seems inconsequential. What’s crucial is that it acted as the “bridge to the view.” I was finally able to see the wealth of sadness and depression that I had been holding for so many years. This gigantic black whole finally gave me a vantage point to access the underworld of my deepest fears and quiet childlike pain that I’d been carrying around my entire life. I finally got intimate with this monstrous empty space and gave it a big hug, cactus thorns and all. I’d been a prisoner of my mind, my conditioning, my whole being, for all of my life, until that moment.
Today, depression still arises, but it doesn’t have the same charge. It’s a softer blow now, and familiar enough that I’m able to see it as though it’s someone else’s pain. I don’t have to embody it the way I used to, and I no longer care for it and feed it in the way that I had grown accustomed. Instead, I just let it move through me like a wind, and I’m better now at taking care of myself when the confusion appears. I see how transient these emotional energies are and I trust that they’re going to change and transform into something else. I don’t know if it’s years of sitting on the cushion and meditating that caused the shift. Maybe all these years of songwriting saved my life. I’d guess it’s a combination of the two that helped?
Life experiences rise and fall like the ocean’s tide, so I now choose to see depression as a big, unknown space that invites me in for a specific transformational purpose. Nightmares usually end, or “come to light,” when we face our fears and hang out in that space, waiting for our eyes to adjust to the darkness. When that happens, we begin to see into and through the darkness, making friends with our enemies or our own shadows that aren’t fully integrated into our personalities. They appear like phantoms that almost have a mind of their own, but once we become still enough to take a look at these “dark” parts of ourselves, we find that the monster was our own creation. We made it up in order to cope with life.
Life doesn’t require us to do anything except show up, but we try so hard to give it purpose with our stories of what we think life should be. We love to play god and think we’re running the show, but the show runs itself without our help at all. One could say depression, or darkness, in general, is not really negative at all, and that it’s more closely related to clarity. It could be an opportunity to slow down, take a long, good look, and get to know ourselves a bit better.
NOTE: Do you ever get into bed ready for a good night’s sleep, but all that happens is… nothing? You just lie there in the dark with your eyes open? A friend gave me a relaxation / sleep mask called “Mindfold,” that blocks out all light but allows you to keep your eyes open comfortably. It’s interesting to discover that after awhile, you’ll notice that you’re able to penetrate the darkness and see within it. It’s like using your eyes in a new way. Because my eyes are no longer receiving and processing visual information, one of two things happens: (1) the mind comes in and starts to turn the darkness into a movie screen for my monkey-mind thoughts, or (2) I relax into the emptiness and find a sense of ease in this unknown space. It’s like moving straight into a void of blackness and into “Darkness Visible.” Maybe the “Mindfold” returns me to the womb experience again and that’s why I like using it. I invite you to revisit your ideas of darkness and see where it takes you.