Friday, March 5, 2010

Radical Gratitude & Being Thankful for Depression

(I love squash but will be glad when they are replaced with summer veg.)

There is that very famous and popular Mesiter Eckhart quote where he says, "If the only prayer you ever say is Thank You, that is enough."

I wonder how seriously we take this. It sounds pretty easy, doesn't it? Just say thank you. But for what? Just the good stuff? Just the pretty stuff?

I don't think a Mystical Mastermind meant to let us off the hook like that. I think, perhaps, he meant something a lot harder, something more along the lines of, "Love your enemy."

It took reading some Anthony DeMello to wake me up to the all-encompassing, radical, change-the-world Awesome that is the Eckhart quote.

I can feel the veil of my recent black hole experience beginning to lift, thanks to a lot of dance and talk and taking care and noticing and all of that. Last night, I was reading before bed, and DeMello was telling me that at the end of the day, I should sit down and remember every little thing that happened (or just the big things...whatev) and say "thank you."

For all of it. Sure, thank you for the lovely card I got in the mail. Thank you for the sun. Thank you for my safe and healthy family...

Thank you for that annoyingly slow driver who made me late.

Thank you for the boss who yelled at me.

Thank you for the call from my mother-in-law.

You get the idea, but what about this: Thank you for my depression. What?! This is considerably more difficult, but it's exactly what DeMello and Eckhart mean. This depression is teaching me something if I am willing to listen. This depression that I have experienced even in my youth has made my life what it is today.

Let me clarify here: I am not talking about being a martyr to pain or allowing people to continue to hurt us because we want to "accept it all." I am talking about how we internally react to these things and what we do with them after the fact.

This is complicated stuff. many of us have spent countless hours asking "Why?" This turning it around, this Radical Gratitude, shifts something for me. It lightens my load, because when I say thank you, that Thing that was getting in my way suddenly is smaller, suddenly steps to the side.


Debra She Who Seeks said...

I understand what you mean. The worst experiences of our lives are often our greatest teachers and source of rich learning. Doesn't seem that way at the time though! Usually only in retrospect can we see and appreciate that.

Susan said...

True story here; when I was able to begin to let go of the "why" and rumination of the stories I was able to focus on "it is" and asking "what am I to learn from this".

Acceptance is a way cool place to be :)

nesscake said...

I just read your fantastic post here. It seems like we share the attitude that "Gratitude is good for you." Grateful Nation is an online community that gives grateful people like you the opportunity & resources to connect, give back, and be thankful. Follow GN or jump into the unending cycle of gratitude here at Grateful Nation Thank you, Vanessa

Ellen said...

I think I kind of know what you mean Christine. With depression and anxiety, the impulse is to push it away, and try frantically to find relief. But that's not the way it's going to transform. We have to pay attention to it, and allow it to be, so that it can transform and pass away. That's how I've experienced it, and I had to learn this. Paying attention is a kind of gratitude perhaps. This too is here.

It's an odd thing, because we can't help wishing to feel better. And at the same time we have to allow the depression room to be there.

Glad you now feel better, however grateful you may be for depression!

tinkerbell the bipolar faerie said...

I know the sentiment you're trying to convey thru this post ... but, I wouldn't exactly call it feeling grateful, when it comes to depression. It's true, a journey thru life or parts thereof with depression does change an individual. Just the same as mourning the loss of a loved one.

I could go so far as to say ... grateful for having survived what felt like a journey thru hell. But, I just cannot wrap my head around feeling grateful for something that leaves me feeling like death is the only escape escape. Know what I mean?

Lemme make my point using a similar example. Losing my 10 year-old son 10 years ago changed, changed, changed me. Indeed, thousands of lessons learned with each single teardrop of grief. Now, here's where I gasp ~ the concept of feeling gratitude for such an gaping loss.

Also, I feel somewhat uneasy at the notion of suffering having a larger purpose, in God's so-called lesson plan. It seems to diminish the harrowing experienced, the thing mourned. Just sayin' ....

Perhaps what Richard Rohr says about pain makes sense here: If you don't tranform you''re pain, you will surely transmit it.

I'd just add that sometimes, gratitude exercises, such as a journal or a photographic challenge, have helped me pull myself from the minor shadows of depression.

Christine Claire Reed said...

This is truly one of the hardest things to express...

It's not gratitude for the thing that caused the pain.

Let's see...

It's being grateful that we are alive and feeling and aware and awake enough to even have this experience at all.

To know life is to know death; to know light is to know darkness. They are inextricably entwined, and we can't pick and choose what we say "yes" to or we are simply saying "no" to it all.

It just keeps coming back to "love your enemy."

I think Christ perhaps was not just referring to people, but to our own internal enemies, including seeing things as "good," "bad," etc. and not seeing the oneness of it all.

organicsyes said...

...thank you...

claire said...

I find you simply precious, in what you say, in what your are, in what you do, in what you show us is possible.
Thank you for sharing your graced transparency.

belladawn said...


Kyla said...

Very, Well said~ :) thank you for this thought

Anonymous said...

"paying attention" does not make depression "transform and pass away." Sadness maybe, but depression is a disease that will eat you alive and years of your life if you do that.

This is a twisted and cruel attitude. It's just a more "philosophical" version of telling depressed people to just smile and lighten up.

Christine Claire Reed said...


As someone who has, at many times in her life, wanted to (and tried to) die, I would never belittle the experience or seriousness of depression.

BUT I refuse to believe that I am NOT the one in control. I refuse to be defeated.

If that is cruel, so be it, but I think it is only actually cruel to the disease.

Please do not assume you have any idea of what I have been through -- just as I would not assume for you.

Susan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I had thought I was replying to Ellen.

No, I certainly don't know you or what you've gone through. I'm very glad that sort of thing works for you.

It doesn't work for everybody. I'm really tired of people telling me I'm less enlightened (or magickal, or whatever) then they are or I'm just not trying hard enough or just need to adjust my attitude, because I can't do a better job controlling the chemicals in my brain.

I guess I've gotten used to overreacting -- I'm sorry for offending.

Anonymous said...

I had thought I was replying to Ellen.

No, I certainly don't know you or what you've gone through. I'm very glad that sort of thing works for you.

It doesn't work for everybody. I'm really tired of people telling me I'm less enlightened (or magickal, or whatever) then they are or I'm just not trying hard enough or just need to adjust my attitude, because I can't do a better job controlling the chemicals in my brain.

I guess I've gotten used to overreacting -- I'm sorry for offending.

tinkerbell the bipolar faerie said...

Anon ... I get you, what you mean. Having been in the psych ward ... having come so close to wanting to take my own life, that it required strangers to "incarcerate" me in order to save me from myself ... having endured all that ... I do, as you say, tire of hearing how some sort of new-fangled enlightment exercise will cure me. I think because those pieces of advice, while well intended, sort of come off as blame-the-victim.

I appreciate and am so glad that this has helped others ... but, some understanding of the chemistry, the physiology of mood disorders would go a long way to relieving that feeling that we get from others ... c'mon. snap out of it.

I guess I just want to point out what I feel unsure that people get. Those of us who need those awful admissions to the psych ward, those of us who need the care of a shrink, those of us that need pharmaceutical just to be able to function ... we are not weak, or necessarily lacking enlightenment. Each mind requires a specific recipe of care.

I hope I don't come off as too overreactive, or petulant. I just feel that the biggest disabling thing about depression is peoples' failure to really get it.

Christine Claire Reed said...

Usually when I write these posts, I have a "disclaimer" at the head. I didn't think I needed that any more but will not make that mistake again.

As someone who has spent time cutting herself and starving herself and all manner of things, I am certainly not insensitive to people's need for "outside" help.

I have just worked this in my own way, knowing that (FOR ME) the chemicals came because of REAL THINGS that HAPPENED. Those things had to be dealt with and once they were/are, I am able to process and have finally, finally, finally moved on after an entire life of trying to do so.

I would never, ever blame the victim. It sickens me how quickly our culture does that, actually. We expect children to stay with abusive parents and tell adults to forgive the people who, basically, perpetrated crimes against them.

***** said...

Yes, I hear you. The reason I found this post is that I have been searching for confirmation of my own thoughts. I suffer from dsepression and I forget things, greatly. I came to point of not knowing how to go on. And than I begun to thank God or Universe or Life for my condition. No reasoning why, or so on. What I have realised is that not only I have to be thankfull for it, but I have to be happy about it. When I can do it, it is mirracle in real life. I can not concentrate allways, it takes practice, but it is possible. You are cured, automaticly. Couse how can illness be something you feel good about. Hope this helps someone.