There’s a tendency to avoid dealing with the subject of mental health in some spiritual traditions and teachings. To poo poo inner work and growth, to try to meditate away ‘negative’ emotions, reactions, thought patterns and conditioning. But spirituality and spiritual awakening is not a panacea, it is many things and in some ways a lot of the “problems” of the mind do in fact disappear. But in some ways post awakening the work and cleanup becomes intensified and it can become even more important to address and give attention to anything that’s still arising. This can be when some of the true work begins, because the strategies that have stopped you from looking beneath the covers of the mind dissolve.
It is the embracing not the running away that allows one to look at where the stored traumas, memories, reactions, conditioning and energetic imprints are having an impact on the current moment, your current experience of life. So in some ways it’s only then that you can truly move through and on from the issues or patterns that may have plagued your life.
We all know someone, or maybe ourselves that have experienced mental health issues, and yet it’s still so hard for society as a whole to acknowledge, embrace and talk about. Why do you think we even need to have a ‘World Mental Health Day’. We’re too quick to try and fix, instead of taking the cues that are being shown. Those cue want to be heard, want to be seen. Not fixed or forgotten about, or covered up, or shoved under the carpet; but instead seen and heard and embraced like a small child looking for love.
There is no manual about how to live life. It’s difficult and there are no singular right or wrong answers that apply to all. But especially when we pay too much attention to what those around us, and society are saying about how we should feel and act and be in life. Often the first thing to go when we try and fit into something that we feel we should be fitting into, is our sense of internal well-being and peace.
The term mental health is a catchall for many experiences and often comes measured against a theoretical blueprint about what it is to be ‘normal’. This is massively problematic, particularly as from everything I can gather, there is no normal. And beyond that… often these things that we fear are ‘abnormal’ about ourselves are actually experiences that our friend, our neighbour, our family member, the stranger on the bus are also feeling and experiencing too.
The mental suffering comes in when we falsely accept that our experience is wrong – that we ‘shouldn’t’ be experiencing x, y & z. I’ve often said to people that I encounter along the road of life who tell me that what they are experiencing is wrong or broken, that what if they were an alien who had just arrived on Earth and were told x, y & z is completely correct to feel, what then? What would their relationship to x, y & z be? Would they think it wrong? No.
So it’s often our relationship to how we perceive what we’re experiencing that causes it to be wrong or right, to suffer it or not. What if we were taught happy is bad, sad is good? It’s our labelling of experiences that determines their value and therefore where we derive our sense of value in life. What if we were to drop these labels and sit in the pocket with our experiences. To not run away from the ‘bad’ and towards the ‘good. But to feel all.
I feel this is true mental health. To attend to all that’s arising with awareness and compassion, without labels and judgements of right or wrong.
Mental health assumes there is a good health and a bad health. It measures this good and bad against the idea (or ideal) of normal. But show me normal, find me who it looks like? We have to face facts, there is no one-size fits all. There is no ‘normal’, just life playing out as it does with all its colour and variety, shapes and sizes, all its seeming paradoxes and diversities.
When we experience a strong emotion or felt response to life there is a call to be present, a call to sink into it. It’s not the moment to run away and avoid. It’s not the moment to reject and try with all your might to change the course of life. Life is giving you a gift, an opening, the natural call to Self, the great unknowing by which all becomes known, accepted and loved. Don’t be afraid, the call into the unknown is the call home, the call to the ground of your Being, it’s the natural call of freedom and peace. In this moment attention is your true power, your place of healing. The only doing is the seeing, is the accepting. Tender loving attention embracing the aliveness of life.
Life is such and unbelievable gift, how often do you stop and smell the roses? Appreciate the little simple ordinary moments? Without reference to the past or thoughts to the future.
We miss the beauty of the moment so easily. Ordinary life has become so throwaway, so undesirable. Instead marked with the next glamorous instagram shot, the next big ‘experience’, the next enviable goal. Next next next. We miss the sheer joy of this extraordinary, but divinely ordinary moment.
Whether that moment be filled with anger, joy, sadness or bliss it doesn’t matter. Just the fact we are alive, that we bear witness to all of this. Oh the magnificence that
This morning I came across a beautifully articulated post on Facebook by Unmani (one of many I might add). She recently unexpectedly lost her husband and has been sharing openly her journey/processing throughout this difficult time – it’s beautiful, raw and brave and I see that this is very much what she is being called to do, for the benefit of herself and for all those who read what she writes.
The image of relationships and enlightenment don’t normally go hand in hand. The stereotyped image of the ‘enlightened monk’, shunning the material householder life is something that’s been around in spiritual traditions for a long time. So out of this there comes the common misconception that you can’t be in a relationship and be successful on the ‘spiritual path’. But being in a relationship doesn’t necessarily mean that awakening can’t be there too. The relationship doesn’t have to go, only the attachment to the relationship has to go. Don’t get me wrong, the result of that dropped attachment may actually be that the relationship ends. Ultimately that’s what was meant to happen, and all attachments do eventually fall away – what’s left is what’s left, maybe the relationship will be there, maybe not.
I feel your pain, your suffering.
If I could, I’d tell you that this will pass,
just as the clouds pass in the sky,
just as the ripples of the dropped stone disappear,
just as the passing wind that rustles the tree leaves,
just as the forgotten pain of yesterdays cut finger,
just as the heartbreak of first loves breakup,
just as the treasured childhood wellington’s long outgrown,
just as the wishes of birthday candles past.
Don’t hold on, for this too shall pass.
There’s nothing more than this…. and yet people spend their lives convinced that they’re missing something, not getting something, not where they’re supposed to be, not doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Pretty much focused on everything BUT This, what IS, the present-moment experience.
There’s something in the mind that’s compelled to go with the seeking energy for that ‘greener grass’ over yonder. This constant looking/seeking motion that pulls your attention out of the very now is derived from the attachment to the idea of how life ‘should’ look. Ultimately this is where suffering shows up, where there’s a disparity between how life should look, i.e. your expectations, and the reality of what is actually happening. But if for a moment you can set aside this seeking, this outward searching movement to fulfill expectations and desires, and look to your own experience prior to words and descriptions in this very moment – is there anything lacking here?
I had a recent conversation that brought into focus how important it is for someone who overthinks to get out of their head, and allow whatever feeling or sensation that occurs to arise and to just feel it. Don’t analyse it, don’t name it, don’t judge it – just feel it.
The very act of focusing in on the thought to try and ‘figure it out’ tends to perpetuate the suffering that’s being felt. What is being ‘felt’ is literally a feeling or energetic sensation arising within you that is being interpreted by the mind.