Together, we’ll delve into three crucial aspects of sadness and depression. Firstly, we’ll gain clarity on their root causes, understanding their fundamental underpinnings. Secondly, we’ll explore the dynamics behind the experience of sadness itself, unraveling what sadness truly is. Lastly, we’ll chart a path toward emotional well-being.
Setting the Stage for Sadness and Depression:
The foundation of sadness and depression is created through the work of the ego. The ego is a trickster. This trickster deceives us into understanding our true nature to be something other than what it really is. The ego makes us feel that we are other than consciousness – that we are only the body, mind, feelings and roles. It gives us a false identity as a separate individual. This misperception has its consequences, and they are severe.
What exactly is this culprit? Ego is one aspect of our mind that creates identity and relationship. That is useful and necessary. In its pure state, ego identifies as the witness of our body, thoughts and actions. A pure ego always remembers and identifies as pure consciousness, the pure “I” awareness.
For the majority of us, the ego fosters the belief that we exist as individuals, tethered to our distinct bodies, thoughts, emotions, and societal roles. Ego forms a recognition and attaches our identification to that – it recognizes the body and attaches our identification to that form. Then it recognizes our thoughts, feelings and roles and attaches our identification to those forms. This creates a limited identity.
Initially, our identification is with the body. The body, by its nature, moves inevitably towards aging, illness, and ultimately, death. We vehemently resist and struggle against this natural progression. We identify as vessels, as outer coverings, thinking they are us. Throughout our lives, we live under the assumption that we are this physical form containing consciousness, forgetting the essence of that consciousness itself.
When illness strikes, we start identifying ourselves solely with the ailing body. As we confront wrinkles, frailty, and the declining vigor of the body, we identify with this deteriorating shell. Then, when we confront the inevitable end of the body’s journey, we grapple with identifying ourselves as the dying body, succumbing to immense fear as we dwell in a state of utter confusion and attachment to this vessel that is slowly fading away.
But this fear is only the beginning. The ego leads us to associate our identity with our thoughts. For most, experiencing a quiet or silent mind is rare, and feeling in command of the countless thoughts flooding our mind seems elusive. Consequently, when we begin to perceive ourselves as our thoughts, we inadvertently believe that we are something beyond our control. It’s no wonder that at times we might feel overwhelmed or bewildered.
The majority of these thoughts tend to stem from a foundation of fear. When the ego binds our identity to these thoughts, it introduces a state of confusion because deep down, intuitively, we recognize this attachment as a distortion – even while the ego insists that these thoughts define us. In this disorienting state, instead of observing our thoughts, we involuntarily become them. The relentless stream of thoughts incessantly emerges and fades away, generating narratives, problems, judgments, resistance, and more. Astonishingly, this is what we often accept as our identity—the incessant chatter of the “monkey mind.”
Then the ego causes us to identify as our feelings, our emotions. It is so painful. When this ego identifies with something, we experience the quality of the thing. We feel the name and form which we attach ourselves to. We create our individual world through this feeling and then we live in it, as it. The greatest part of our mind is taken up by feeling and emotion and these feelings dominate our experience as positive or negative inner experiences. The egoic mind ‘thinks’ it is the ‘feeling’. We deceive ourselves and believe we are the sadness, the anger, the loneliness and the worry.
We could almost be grateful if the ego had stopped there, but there’s more. It then attaches our identification to our roles. We all assume roles. We are actors playing our part. Sometimes we are the mother, the teacher, the doctor, the street sweeper, the homeless person. Sometimes we are the introvert or life of the party. Even as we are simply watching ourselves play out a part, the ego says we are the part. When we identify as our roles, we are riding a roller coaster of success and failure, judgment and justification. We attach a judgment to every role we identify as. We are a good or bad mother. We judge being a doctor in the play as successful and a homeless person as a failure. We become superior or insufficient, greater or lesser, precious or worthless. We live in a manic-depressive mind and we wonder why somedays we just don’t feel good. Because of the judgments we deceive ourselves into identifying as a feeling of being useless, worthless and not enough!
Part Two: What is This Sadness?
After the ego attaches our identity to all these ever-changing aspects of ourselves, it then takes that attachment further. Thinking we are separate individuals, we now become attached to specific outcomes, possessions, or beliefs. Attachment fosters desires, cravings, and a sense of ownership over things, relationships, and ideas.
Indeed, we often carry an expectation of perpetual happiness. When this expectation, this attachment to a certain outcome, remains unfulfilled, we encounter feelings of loss, anger, disappointment, and a subtle realization that everything we’ve anchored our identity and happiness to is letting us down. We anticipate that the body should provide pleasure, the mind should offer intelligence and insight, emotions should bring joy, and our roles should lead to success.
Yet, the dilemma arises as we attach our identity to numerous transient elements, each subject to constant change. One moment, something seems to fulfill our desired outcome, and the next moment, it transforms. Pleasure morphs into pain, happiness into sorrow, gain into loss, success into failure. Subsequently, the ego interjects, insisting that we are the pain, the sorrow, the loss, the failure.
The body undergoes experiences of aging and illness, the mind oscillates between serenity and chaos, while roles vacillate between ease and burden. Consequently, the ego proclaims that we are the feeble body, the turbulent mind, and the weight of our roles. We feel insufficient.
In our pursuit of relief and happiness through these identifications, we become self-absorbed. We grasp for joy sourced from external sources. Though we might momentarily experience pleasure, success, or relief, it inevitably shifts and alters. This relative world operates on a structure of opposites, where whatever we possess tends to transform into its contrasting counterpart. Thus, the very nature of this constructed reality as pairs of opposites ensures that whatever happiness or contentment we attain remains transient and elusive in its permanence when attached to ever-changing sources. We remain ever disappointed.
Sadness is being despondent, desolate, gloomy, sorrowful, in a low place. Of course, we feel despondent thinking we are a very limited aspect of what we really are, forgetting we are the vast awareness Of course we are desolate when we try living in a self-absorbed and grasping state as we try to obtain a trace of happiness in an ever-shifting world. When we feel our mis-identified, self-absorbed, self-cherishing and grasping mind, it expresses as a feeling of sadness.
Our experience of sadness often emerges as our awareness begins to broaden, signifying a stirring recognition that perhaps what we perceive isn’t the entirety of our existence. Sadness, in essence, embodies an awakening – a revelation. Initially, it might not be entirely clear what this awakening entails; it’s more of an intuitive feeling that prompts the thought: “There must be more to life than this.”
This ambiguous disappointment arising from the realization that our attachments to people, places, material possessions, and circumstances fail to deliver the expected happiness contributes to this sense of sadness. However, it’s crucial to recognize that this sadness is fundamentally an expansion and a revelation – an indication that our consciousness is seeking a deeper understanding beyond what we’ve held onto. It serves as a catalyst for growth and transformation, urging us to explore beyond the superficial aspects of our existence.
The initial encounter with sadness presents us with a critical choice: to expand our understanding or to sidestep the signpost and persist in familiar patterns. Unfortunately, opting for distraction, doubling down on a search for outer pleasure, or repression tend to exacerbate the sadness, potentially leading us into deeper states of depression. Sadness is a call for expansion. If that call is misunderstood or ignored, it will deepen.
Everyone is on a path of expansion. For some it is unconscious and for others it is conscious. For those who are moved by their pain and suffering, a quest for a way out begins. This quest manifests in various forms – physical, mental, emotional or spiritual – and all paths ultimately converge towards the same destination: the recollection of our true nature. Yet, even on the spiritual journey towards remembrance and realization, the ego persists as a crafty deceiver.
As we tread the spiritual path in pursuit of remembrance and realization, we grapple with an inherent conflict. We attempt to confine the vastness of consciousness within the confines of our egoic, individualized “self.” This internal struggle initiates a tug-of-war where we simultaneously defend our individuality and limitations while yearning for peace, happiness, and enlightenment. We experience the anguish of comprehending immense possibilities while grappling with the constraints of containing the vast ocean of consciousness within our limited, egoic individuality.
Until the barriers of separation, differentiation, and individuality dissolve, this discomfort persists. Throughout the journey of dissolving the ego and embracing the entirety of our consciousness, this struggle between safeguarding our individuality and surrendering into our vast consciousness is our constant companion.
Finding a Way Out:
This is simply a process of moving power and attention from the ego and putting energy and attention on awareness. We hold onto the feeling of separation and limited identification the ego is creating. In reality, it is not holding onto us. It’s like holding onto a branch of a tree for some kind of stability. Our friend says it’s time to go and we say we can’t leave until the branch lets us go.
The spiritual path is actually very simple. When we are involved with the ego, we are in bondage to our limited identification, grasping selfishly for happiness. When we are done with ego, we are liberated and know our Self. It is only because of this ego that we feel like individuals and separate. It is only because of this ego that we feel a veil of fear between the individual egoic self and the vast Self that is our consciousness. We fear losing the small self, our limited sense of individuality. Yet, when this limited identification and the fear dissolve, we become love, bliss, and the vastness of consciousness. Real love and permanent joy only become possible when this limitation imposed by ego vanishes.
- Sadness is telling us something. It is a messenger.
- Sadness is an expansion, an awakening, a call to know our true identity as awareness.
- Look at what we are attaching our identification to.
- Look at where we are looking for relief and happiness.
- Turn within and decouple from the limited identifications. Meditate.
- Watch, witness and observe – but don’t become the sadness – don’t identify as the depression. Hold sadness in neutral, non-judgmental awareness.
- See deeply that it is telling us we are not the body, mind, feeling and roles. We are the awareness that is watching them.
- Help others and expand compassion to begin to dissolve self-absorption, grasping and self-cherishing.
- Realize the limitation of outside people, places, things and circumstances to deliver permanent happiness. Happiness is a state of mind, not a thing.
I’m not a licensed medical professional. Information provided here is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider for any medical concerns.
by James Pesavento
A profoundly enhanced understanding and a completely novel lens through which to perceive our lives and our true Self.