Why You Cannot Be Depressed and Fully Present in the Now
"You cannot be both unhappy and fully present in the now."
I remember when I first read Echkart Tolle in 2008. I was miserable at the time, having just moved from Connecticut to the Midwest. I was new to attempting to heal my own depression through spiritual means, and I remember thinking as I read the book, what is he talking about? I’m clearly unhappy and depressed at this moment which is why I’m reading this book.
I struggled with trying to make sense of his words while at the same time listening to my own thoughts that kept telling me that he apparently did not know what REAL depression feels like. Ultimately I put the book down and went back to seeing therapists and taking medications.
Forward ten years and I’m now teaching this same wisdom to my clients and consider Eckhart one of my most influential teachers. If you are thinking the same as I did all those years ago that you are being unhappy and depressed in the now, and that all of this spiritual stuff doesn’t make sense or if you believe that your depression is chemical and only medication will help it, read on! I’m not suggesting in this article that there isn’t a chemical component to depression, or that medicine should not be used, but I want to encourage you to incorporate some spiritual components also. I believe that at the very core of depression is the disconnection from our soul, our inherent joy and our spirituality. I believe that through traditional therapy we can uncover the reasons for our depression. Through medication, we can alter the chemicals in our brain that produce our symptoms. Behavior modification will help us break the habitual response to the chemicals, but if you want to get to the core of depression and heal it from its source, you have to be willing to incorporate some spiritual and energetic healing.
One of the very first steps that I teach all of my clients is to start becoming intimately familiar with their thoughts. Check in with yourself frequently throughout the day. What are you telling yourself? What you will start noticing right away, is that there is a constant stream of thoughts running through your head. Most of those thoughts flow by rather unconsciously. We don't even notice them at all. Once you start becoming aware of these thoughts though, you will start noticing how your thoughts are impacting your feelings.
We tend to think that we feel sad, therefore our thoughts are sad. That is simply not true. Start paying attention to your thoughts and you will notice that every time you are feeling bad it’s because you are telling yourself something that is making you sad. Our feelings are there as a guidance system. They are our spiritual super tool. If you are feeling bad, you are telling yourself something that is insulting the core of you. If you are feeling hopeful or happy, it’s because you’re telling yourself an empowering story.
Once you start becoming familiar with your thoughts, you will also start noticing that thinking and being present in the moment are mutually exclusive. You cannot do both at the same time. This is a powerful truth, so I want to say it again. You cannot think and be fully here in the present moment. If like me when I first heard this you are thinking “baloney”, let me say this…if you are depressed at this moment, it’s because you are thinking about a past event or worrying about a future event. Either way, your thoughts are pulling you out of the present moment. When we are fully present, we experience the moment. We don’t think about the moment. As soon as there is thought, you’re not present again. Being present is felt with your senses. Your sight, hearing, and touch, bring you into the moment. Thoughts pull you out.
Being fully present and experiencing the moment, precludes thought. Since it is your thoughts that make you feel sad in the first place, you can now see how being present and depressed cannot happen at the same time. The great news is, that becoming more present and mindful can be learned. There are powerful behavioral tools that can be taught to stop the incessant negative thoughts and there are techniques to learn meditation for even the most prolific thinkers.
We have all been taught that we are helpless over our depression. That is simply not true. We have tremendous power over depression. That should be very encouraging news for you!