For many of us, ambiguity is uncomfortable. As a result, we as humans tend to go to any lengths to find answers to our problems, regardless of emotional or physical cost. Unfortunately, this stance typically leads to unmet expectations, which in turn, can lead to depression. In a society driven by results, it’s no wonder that many turn to antidepressants to help them to get back on track.
Mark Epstein, in this recent Yoga Journal post, considers the use of pharmaceuticals versus meditation to help alleviate depression. According to Epstein, it’s not that antidepressants don’t work. Rather, that for deeper healing to occur, it becomes necessary for a person to go more deeply into their problems. One caveat: more deeply doesn’t necessarily mean figuring out the solution to one’s problems, but an ability to use meditation to learn to detangle one’s mind from them.
Rather than going more deeply into his problems, Shantideva learned how to disentangle his mind from them. This is an approach that Western therapy has little experience with, but it is the foundation of Eastern wisdom. The contents of the mental stream are not as important as the consciousness that knows them. The mind softens in meditation through the assumption of a particular mental posture called “bare attention,” in which impartial, nonjudgmental awareness is trained on whatever there is to observe. Problems are not distinguished from solutions; the mind learns how to be with ambiguity.
Read more from Epstein on using meditative awareness to transcend ambiguity and depression here.