This blog post is the last issue of The Healing Journey, the letter I send out to subscribers. You may subscribe here to receive the email.

Dearest Readers,

Language is meaningful and I’m careful about the words I choose, whether I’m posting them online or pronouncing them in speech. Watching my words is a mindful practice requiring constant awareness and committed intention. For example, I used to swear like trucker and I hated a lot of things. Now, refraining from saying “I hate” something is a way for me to transcend and transform the judging mind and not swearing upholds ahimsa or the practice of non-violence.

I can still drop the F-bomb on occasion and my mind still judges but the Healing Journey has given me a better understanding of where my feelings are really coming from and why I react harshly to certain people or situations. Looking directly at my fears and attachments has helped me to untangle them and recognize how they will continually motivate my actions if left unchecked. This inner work has naturally resulted in a more intentional way of speaking and behaving.

Finding alternative words to shift my attitude and energy has meant that I would never say I was ‘depressed’ even if I was. Instead I might tell you that my energy was very low (or completely depleted) or that my spiritual condition was not at peak. This refusal to name ‘depression’ as such felt like a way to conquer it or rise high above its lowly depths. But it never made it go away. So, recently, after a stretch of working hard to overcome the funk, something in me decided to call a spade a spade. “I’m depressed,” I said to a friend. It was freeing to finally name it with such frankness.

Years ago, I watched a TV movie adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge. The Mayor, played by Ciarán Hinds, has made some terrible decisions, most of them while drinking. His protégé, Donald Farfrae, on the other hand, seems to have had all the luck in the world. One evening, the Mayor confides in Farfrae and shares honestly with the younger man about his deeper troubles.

 “…I sank into one of those gloomy fits I sometimes suffer from… when the world seems to have the blackness of hell, and, like Job, I could curse the day that gave me birth.”

Because I knew exactly what the Mayor was talking about I fully expected his friend to answer him with a knowing “aye, mate, I hear ye.” But Farfrae has no idea what the Mayor is talking about.

“Ah, now, I never feel like it,” said Farfrae.

His response knocked me over. You mean some people actually have no idea what the blackness of hell feels like? What it is to experience utter hopelessness? To wish for death to come swiftly and end it all finally and forever?

“Then pray to God that you never may, young man.”

The Mayor’s retort is right on because no one who knows that kind of mental suffering would ever want anyone else to go through it. It’s brutal.

“So what are you using to overcome it?” my own friend asked me.

“All my tools,” I told her. “I pray, meditate, do the next right thing, change the thought, watch it, repeat a mantra, have mercy on myself, share it, help someone else to get out of myself, work on my defects and assets, whatever it takes, WHATEVER IT TAKES to not succumb to the pit of despair and to move through it and beyond. In short, whatever I am capable of in the moment.”

“Wow,” she replied. This sounds very effortful.”

Well, it is. And it’s effective, too.

One of the least effortful and most effective tools on that list is to ‘watch it’. While requiring a certain level of vigilance, watching the mind doesn’t require a lot of effort. Stepping back from what the mind is doing (or not doing, as the case may be) has taught me that I am, in fact, not my thoughts. I am not the D-word. I am not even the brain, which seems to be misfiring and malfunctioning in the D-state. Like watching my words, watching my thinking creates a shift in energy. Eckhart Tolle has cornered the market on this idea and it’s life-changing.

That life-changing shift in energy enables me to respond to the D in a more enlightened capacity. I can even welcome it, saying, “Hello! You again. Thanks for the visit! Off you go.” I can also view D as a brilliant spiritual teacher who has led me down the path of humility, shown me how to surrender and how to soften, how to respond with compassion to myself and others and forced me continually let go of my attachment to what I think so that I may dwell more comfortably in That Which the Mind Cannot Grasp.

What is That Which the Mind Cannot Grasp? It is the Energy Behind All Things. It is God. It is no god. It is Light and it is Dark. It is depression and it is freedom from the D word. There is no thing that It is Not. I like Maya Angelou’s word for It: All.

So this is what I rely on to overcome the blackness of hell. I rely on ALL. And it works. For me. And whatever works for you is good, too. If you are working with D then I am with you. And if you’re not, I pray to ALL that you never may.

May we continue to watch what we say and how we say it. And may we each learn to tell the truth about ourselves to others without shame.

From the fires of love,