How I found my way out of the struggle with depression and back to my childhood enlightenment

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Okay we all know that really it's not about suddenly finding enlightenment. It's rather finding the moments in our life where we can use spiritual keys, techniques and meditations that open us to our natural state. The state or enlightenment.  A client once asked my, "Are you enlightened?" "Sometimes," I said, "Like everyone else." 

How I found my way out of depression

Most of my childhood was lived in an inner place of comfort and happiness, on a farm in South Africa. There was a knowing that I was good and right and accepted. Then at 8 we moved to Australia and I went to school. Slowly sitting behind a desk that felt like a prison, with teachers who spoke to us harshly and who beat children, I began to disappear. A crawling depression took me over which lasted for over twenty years. I searched and quested, looking for a way back, but I only found glimpses of that feeling of lightness and ease. After college I travelled the world searching. In the Himalayas of Nepal, I waited for a teacher to come down and say, “Aha at last I’ve found you.” Someone who could show me the way back, but no one came. I even felt alone in my relationships.

Finally after twenty years of searching, trying all sorts of techniques and studying with many spiritual teachers, I realized the depression was gone. When did it go? What date had it left, I couldn’t remember. Here is the beginning of that journey.

I grew up in the northern part of South Africa, my parents were anti Apartheid political activists (Mom was in the Black Sash and Dad was a part of organizing political rallies). They had a farm way out in the ‘bush’ and Dad who was a naturalist, wrote about nature for the London Times. Life was gentle on the farm and I felt easy and happy most of the time. I knew I was loved and accepted. Although we knew there were dangers, (we were to run and hide if we saw a strange car coming. The authorities might be coming to get us, because we were Home Schooled and I guess we were supposed to be in regular school) life felt pretty safe. Really I don’t remember all of the ins and outs, except we left because of the dangers of recriminations for their political work. I was eight when we left and emigrated to Australia.

The journey was for me amazing, so many new sights, new people, new tastes and new feelings. My family was with me and even though I could feel that they were sad sometimes, we were still together. I sat on the decks of the ship and watched the ocean, it was so beautiful and made me feel very light and happy. After a trip from Perth to Adelaide in a train and having my first delicious milkshake (strawberry), my parents purchased camping gear and a car and we drove around Australia. We sang and told stories as we travelled the east coast looking at towns, to see which one suited us.

Finally deciding on Adelaide, our parents purchased an old stone house, with a wonderful almond tree that was over the leaky septic. There was a huge fig tree in the back and a field of oxalis or sour sobs as we called them. The pretty yellow flowers danced in the wind and we lay in them watching them dance above our heads.

Relatives told my parents to send us to a private school, so off my sister and I went to school for the first time. She was 13 and I was still 8, for a bit neither of us understood what was happening. We had never been spoken to like this before, had never seen people hitting children before and it terrified me. Our family was splintering, my parents had to work and start a new life at over 50, not being able to take much money out of South Africa. My sisters 11 and 13 years older also needed to work. I began sinking inside to escape, for awhile, in the beginning I could still find the place of happiness and ease inside. Then it got covered up completely, with a deep impenetrable ocean of depression.

A quest began, a search, to discover how to return. Traveling all over the world, I searched, looking for teachers who could lead me, looking for ways to remember. Depression still hung over my mind like a tornado of emotions that I couldn’t get through. Nature was a haven, for a little while I could touch the place and then the tornado returned and it was gone.

After twenty years or more of questing and searching, practicing, trying to find the way back, I found that I was able to consciously return to the place I had in Africa. What I found was that it wasn’t through trying, or struggling.

Here are a few ways I discovered, a few keys or pathways that really helped. In the next blog, I’ll go into them in more detail and share a bit more of the story.

MEDITATION: didn’t help when I did it for long periods. In fact it made the separation between the two a chasm. Worse depression. The space between the vastness of the world beyond the outside world, my inner joy and peace and the crazy outside world seemed greater…but when I took moments of mediation I began to lift out more and more.

NATURE: Has always been a key for me. Taking time to be with nature first thing in the morning, a cloud outside an apartment, a little flower growing in the cement, a tree an animal. These bring me for a little while back to the joy of life

QUESTIONING MY THOUGHTS: We think thoughts are real…did you know that you change your thought each time you return to it as Dr Hansen, in “Hardwiring Happiness” tells us. Byron Katie came out of massive depression through just questioning her thoughts. Your thoughts are just thoughts, question them.

MINDFULNESS: Take time today to be with everything you do when you remember and be present in what you do. Feel the water on your hand when you wash them, feel the tea slipping down your throat as you drink it, be with the moments of your life.

SET YOUR DAY UP: Before you get out of bed decide how you want to feel today, then remember a time when you felt this. I sit outside with the dogs and watch the sun rise each morning. when I set up the day, it usually goes well, or better.

In the next blog I’ll explore how to navigate relationships. Listen to our podcasts.