Posts Tagged ‘depression’

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What I think happens in life and thereafter.

There is no supporting evidence for this. None. But I think this photo depicts what happens to us in our life and afterwards.

Firstly, the sign.
The concept that life ends when we die is a man-made concept. Take that away and the picture takes on a different meaning
In the foreground, the road and painted line shows the direction that has been mapped out for us. We may have painted the line or we might be following a line painted by others. It’s still a direction we follow. Life is reliable if we walk this way. No surprises.

The end of the painted line.
Notice that the line stops but the road continues. At some point in our lives we don’t need to follow a direction. We just know which side of the road is the safest and the direction we should be travelling in. It’s still a direction followed by most but we don’t need as many rules to guide us. We brush our teeth, save some money and have the weekend off without thinking about it. Admittedly, doing these things does save you some heartache later but really it’s your choice. There are consequences for everything. Even if you stop in the middle of the road there is a consequence.

The gravel.
The end of the road and start of the dirt shows our partial return to the way things should be as we age. We can start to connect with the natural way of life and appreciate the little things. Like being outside. Feeling the wind. Listening to our own thoughts. All these experiences becomes more comfortable as we realise that all things pass. We end up walking our own path regardless of others. The realisation that happiness and contentment is up to us makes it much easier to live.
The decisions we have made, passage we have taken, and where it has lead us finally shows what really matters. Material gain and credit for our performance loses its lustre. The knowledge that others are struggling now seems to drive us to a point where we are rewarded with a deep contentment that only service to another living being can give.

The sign.
It may be the latest theory to explain death but it really just shows a transition. In science, nothing disappears, it changes state. Ice melts and become water; water boils and becomes steam; the steam seems to disappear but really spreads out to become, well, everything.

Afterwards.
Just because we can’t see something doesn’t mean it isn’t there. There is a continuation of us but as the picture shows, things change.
It seems to me there is a natural beauty thereafter. No roads, no directions, no hazards. Still in existence but a more natural one that allows us freedom that we haven’t experienced beforehand. Whether we continue into the trees or the sky is up to you. All we do is move forward into a new experience.

I sit here at 7:30 PM, at the table eating dinner by myself.
For this blog, I usually commit my thoughts to paper and talk about our attitude to the world. Change that, MY attitude to the world.
But my writing tonight concerns the life of a child in another part of the world. I haven’t met him or her yet. But I am about to change his/her life.

You see, I have created a system in my business that contributes a specific percentage of income to World Vision. Every time our client base grows by 10 people, we sponsor another child. The difference this time is that my current clients are choosing the next child.
Funny thing is, they are struggling.
They are realising that you can’t help everyone. For every child that you help, there are dozens that you can’t. Dozens of faces staring back at you from their website, dozens that will stay outside your reach.

So I sit here, sharing this dilemma with you. I have announced to the customers I have that at 9 PM I will make a choice.
Right now, I look over the list of suggestions. One lady has chosen a child because that child has the same birthday as her son. Another has chosen a child in Sri Lanka because she travelled there. Others have forwarded names of children all over the world for reasons not shared with me.

Before I sit down and make my final choice, I wish to share how this all came about.
I once read that for a person to be truly compassionate about others, they should give a percentage of their income to charity every month. The amount offered in that book was 10%. This prompted me to find my percentage. At that time, as a family, we had 2 World Vision children. That amounted to 1% of our income on a monthly basis. As I live in one of the most affluent countries in the world, my level of giving shamed me.
At 9pm, that number should move to approximately 3%.
Still not much.
But better than most.

Finally, I am reminded by writing about this, the story of a man’s experience walking along a beach. Strewn across the sand, were thousands of starfish that had washed up and were slowly drying out and dying in the sun. The beach stretched on and on. Just ahead of him he noticed a small boy picking up one starfish at a time, carefully tossing it into the ocean. The man reached the boy and asked what he was doing.
“I’m saving these starfish”, was the reply.
The man queried, “There are thousands of them. How can you possibly make a difference?”
The small boy bent over, picked up a starfish and tossed it into the ocean.
“I bet I made a difference to that one”, he replied.

Many kids will not receive my money tonight.
But one will.

The Pororoca lives in my memory now. In Brazil however, twice a year, the wave rolls on. Sometimes ridden by an inquisitive surfer, sometimes with no one to watch it.

Every time it builds up, it passes São Luis – the bustling town that lies near the mouth of the river.

It rumbles through the region of Maranhao where population dwindles and buildings become huts. As it approaches narrow banks and shallow water it builds up and passes by the lives of local Brazilians regardless of their problems.

It twists as the river curves and finally nears Arari, the town I used as my base for the expedition that put my problems into perspective.

You see, nature continues as we experience the events that seem to matter so much. As each full moon waxes and wanes, the lives of every person on the banks of the river wax and wane too. As I write this, the full moon tonight is the same one that greeted me in my early morning trips up river to meet the wave of my lifetime. Tonight’s full moon however greets a different me. I’ve changed. I look different. I think different. I’ve grown.

But I’ve changed because I wanted to. I could have returned to my life and struggled but as Robert Frost said, I took, “the road less travelled”.

And like Frost, it did make all the difference.

Now I don’t try to beat the world’s longest wave. In many ways I took the Pororoca home with me. I’ve made decisions since then that have allowed me to ride more waves. I moved so that I am minutes away from nature and waves and forest. I watch the ocean, the wind, the swell and yes, the tide.

I’m happy doing that. I found that the waves I dreamt of as a teenager do exist. I went to the end of the world and found that happiness is under my feet. Do I still struggle? Yes, but that is just part of being human. 40 years of wanting to do something better than before led me back to the place where I don’t feel bad about standing still.

I went from a human doing to a human being. Feels better.

 

Choosing a surfboard for a wave in a river is difficult.

As a river is freshwater it is not as buoyant as seawater. A surfer needs more foam underneath him to keep him moving. This newly made surfboard was now sitting in the cargo area of a plane flight that had just delivered me to São Luis, a town near the banks of the mouth of the Amazon river. Although the exact time of the wave’s arrival was known, 7 AM on Saturday, exactly how it would break was not known. We would have to travel up river the day before with a stick to test the depth as the sand bar shifts as the river curves through the Amazon jungle.

The adrenaline was pumping and I was full of the wonder of being in a new country and preparing myself for the experience of a lifetime. Even though I didn’t speak the language I was learning Portuguese
bit by bit. One conversation I will never forget. As we were moving up river in the early morning before the wave, one of the tour guides taps me on the shoulder and points to the river bank and says ‘Jacare’. I followed his direction to a three meter crocodile lying on the muddy bank. My eyes open wide. I turn to him. All that comes out of my mouth is, “Crocodile”.

He smiles and looks at me nodding and repeats, “Crocodile”.

Even thought the wave is due at 7am, we can hear it at 6.45am. Standing knee deep in mud on the banks of a river, waiting for a wave is not something you would expect on a Saturday morning.

The surreal nature of surfing in a river with crocodiles, piranha and anaconda hit me full force. You see, it’s not the experiences we have in life that changes us. It is the moments in between the experiences when things sink in. Therapists call them ‘teachable moments’. Only problem is that they usually occur when there is not a therapist in sight. That leaves just one person to make sense of it. You.

The wave itself is a sight that leaves even the tour guides initially speechless. The water is the colour of iced coffee. Branches and debris are pushed in front of the wave making it twice as hard for the surfer to negotiate his line.

In the event of falling off, I am instructed to wave my board over my head as the Jacare may wander over to see this new Australian addition to their menu.

The wave lasts about 2 hours. It is rideable most of that time which means the time you stand on your board – when added up – means you surf for nearly an hour. This probably equates to a 10 kilometre wave. A novice could learn to surf in just one wave.

At one stage we are told to get in the boat as we have to negotiate around a whirlpool that has developed on the bend of the river. A whirlpool? No one told me about that.

I ride the wave past towns and local people who have lined up on the bank to see the twice yearly sight. I lift my hand above my head to wave. They wave back. I surf on. They return to their lives.

Rising early

Final part comes out tomorrow…

Ridding yourself of negative thoughts is impossible. As parents we know this when our child is crying. We make them laugh or show them something that interests them and within moments they are laughing. They have at least forgotten the trauma.Real mud

As adults we must replace negative distractions with positive obsessions. You see, by concentrating on defeating something like depression your focus increases the subject of your thoughts. That is, depression. It’s like trying not to think of your father. Instantly his face springs to mind.

To combat depression all you need is an idealistic goal to chase. Victor Frankl, the psychiatrist who found himself in a concentration camp, accepted his place in the world, he just didn’t focus on it. He focused on the difference he wanted to make. He looked at how he could make a difference even though he was confined to Auschwitz with death all around him.

Okay, you are not in a concentration camp. But as the saying goes, “Man can make a hell of heaven or a heaven of hell”. So it’s up to you. It’s up to what you concentrate on.

Mud

Do you see burnt trees or new growth? If you have read this far, you know that the intended answer is new growth. The trick is realising that the fire caused the new growth.

It’s all about perspective.

The way to make a massive difference in someone’s life is to give them good advice and to show you care.
Here’s an example…
I was witness to a serious case of bullying last year. Actually it was more of a full blown assault than simple bullying really. As I was the witness I was standing in the Principal’s office with the main offender. He had been caught red-handed. I expected the principal to show him the consequence of such a serious breach of school rules. I expected a dose of old fashioned discipline. 

What happened next showed me the power of personal relationships. The Principal looked at the boy and said, “Has your mum had the baby yet?” (He knew the boy’s mother was expecting.) The answer was, ‘Yes – yesterday.’ 
The Principal’s next reply was classic. He said, “When you leave for home today, take some roses from the school garden for your Mum.” 
The boy nodded. 
He then said, “Now, tell me what happened.”
Call this compassion, call this a pattern break, call it what you like. It worked. The boys tough exterior melted and he told the truth.

The Dalai Lama was right.

Nothing beats compassion.

“Learning is to a man as the leaves and branches are to a tree, and it should be said that he simply should not be without it.” So said Takeda Shingen, one of Japan’s best known generals who lived in the 1500’s. At age 52 he was hit by a bullet and died, but not before his legacy of knowledge had been recorded for all those who wished to see what a life of warfare had taught.

So it seems that a warrior can steel himself for battle not only by hard physical training but also by improving his academic abilities. If this logic holds, we can therefore create a life that rewards us more by following the same path. We can create happiness more easily than by just ‘trying harder’ – as our well meaning friends and relatives urge. If we research and see how others have dealt with difficulty, we find the same thing. Not only does it transport us to a higher level, we actually feel less alone. We realise that others who have come before us have also struggled (sometimes more than we have.) Our pain becomes more palatable purely through comparison with the trauma of others.

The question now becomes where do we look for guidance?

If the Samurai looked to the victors of the past, so should we. We should look to those who have left a record of actions that created a fulfilling life. Surely someone else has met with similar difficulty and has triumphed through a series of actions that will allow us to experience similar results.

The Samurai knew that attention to detail on a daily basis would lead to victory in a range of activities. They would not miss their regular training as they knew that hardening their resolve in battle came through defeating common human weaknesses. They knew that each time they didn’t attend to trivial household duties left them with the knowledge that they had chipped away at their level of discipline.

‘A nine storey tower begins with the foundation’ is a saying accredited to the ancient Samurai. In this same way, our foundation of attention to seemingly little things is the foundation upon which we build a character strong enough to withstand anxiety, panic, despondency and depression.

Quite often this can be as simple as rising earlier than normal and getting organised. It can then be improved upon by a short period of reading every day. Reading for a small period of time every day will bring about more emotional intelligence than 10 hours of last minute research when confronted with psychological pain.

At that point, it is often too late.

Rising early

Justin is 54. When he was 12 years of age he started competitive swimming. This lasted throughout his teens. Five days a week, up at 5 AM to do an hour in the pool.

You remember those kids. Wet hair at school at 8:30am.

When Justin’s competitive years finished in his late teens he kept up the early morning ritual. He still does it today.

He says that the early morning ritual sets him up physically and mentally for the rest of the day.

The point is not that swimming is the answer. The point is that the ritual is the answer.

A Ritual Gives You Perspective.

Ever notice that you can see things clearly when you are distant from them? Holidays in remote locations give us the clarity that is absent when we are in the thick of things. Early morning rituals provide a snapshot and the same result.

But perspective of what? It is sometimes called a helicopter to the ceiling. It means separating yourself from your day to day life and stepping back.

Leadership

Psycho hygiene.

Victor Frankl, author of  “Man’s Search For Meaning” talks about psycho hygiene. As author of one of the most interesting books around which is an account of his experiences in a Nazi concentration camp, Frankl coins the term psycho hygiene. As we all know, physical hygiene means small things done on a daily basis to contribute to glowing health. Psycho hygiene would therefore mean the same thing. Small things done on a regular basis that contribute to good mental health. A good routine every morning is one of the many things that contribute to solid mental health.

Mine is simple. Meditation, Goal writing in a journal and 15 minutes on a personal project. (The actual project isn’t important)

That’s it.

Simple and effective.

Keeps me balanced and happy.

The number of people who blame their childhood on their problems is huge. They say, “If I had a better start in life I wouldn’t have all these problems”. Well, every day you get a fresh start but it isn’t that easy. Our childhood trauma lingers in the form of memories that trigger the original feelings that we experienced. 
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In writing a book on Depression I have been comparing ancient wisdom – that of Buddhism, Bushido and Red Indian philosophy, with current wisdom from the last 100 years. The following section, compares the quest for happiness (Freud) with the search for meaning (Frankl). At this point, I turn the draft over to you for feedback. Sometimes the best ideas are yours as they rebound back at you. Please use the comment bar below to offer your response. (more…)