Fear and Depression
Negative emotions can descend on us like mist or fog. When we are assailed by them, what was clear becomes suddenly obscure, and we find ourselves wandering through a world of uncertainty, questioning ourselves and doubting our capacity for success.
There are two negative emotions in particular that present many of us with difficulties, namely fear and depression.
Fear can range from mild anxiety and apprehension to full-blown panic-attacks and paralyzing terror. We can fear being alone, being old, poor or ill; and we can fear death. Most of these fears boil down to fear of the unknown. Where there is a lack of clarity or security, fear may follow.
Depression is somewhat different. In some it can be an actual disease of the brain, the result of a chemical imbalance, but often it is caused by insecurity, feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, or ill health. Both fear and depression are states of mind where the joy and light of the sun are obscured and familiar landmarks lose their clarity and reliability. They can both be crippling and devastating when uncontrolled.
Is there an antidote for such negativity? Can those of us who are prone to it find a way to experience ongoing security and joy? We can, but it is unlikely to be either easy or quick. It’s no good simply trying to suppress negativity. If insecurity is at the root of most fears, then the Master and his teachings offer us the most extraordinary source of strength, security, and reliability.
When we were initiated, we became part of the Master’s flock. He assumed responsibility for us. We need to find refuge in him, to turn to him when anxieties invade. It’s no good relying on the world, because it is fundamentally unreliable.
Everything in this world is transitory, including our bodies. The only constant is change. Consequently, we may experience anxiety, because nothing here is truly secure and reliable – with the exception of the Master. The spiritual path may seem full of new and scary scenarios, but we are never alone on this journey. Our guide and protector is not weak and flawed as we are.
This knowledge can take the sting out of many fears. There is nothing that we will have to face alone, not even death. We just need to go through our destiny with a positive mindset – our attitude is something we have the power to change.
If we consciously and conscientiously use the tools that the Master has given us, if we constantly grasp the lifeline that moors us to him, then we have our refuge. We will have increasing access to him within and will therefore start to feel more secure. Life’s storms may rage, but our boat will be firmly anchored. The Master is always with us, guarding and guiding us at every step of the way.
The method he urges us to use is meditation. This is the task he asks of us, knowing that it will eventually bring about a shift in our thought patterns. Through our spiritual practice we will learn to turn away from the world and increasingly rely on the Master and his boundless strength.
However, when we don’t get what we want, when we want it, we get frustrated, discontented and depressed. Some just accept the events of life gratefully and cheerfully, while others sink into the fog of depression. In our worldly life we have been conditioned to expect results from our efforts. So we might think, after many years of effort on the path, what do we have to show for it? Where is that light and sound? Some may have accessed it, but many may not have, despite diligent and sincere efforts. This can lead to frustration, depression and impatience. And this apparent lack of “progress” often leads to the thought: “Am I disappointing my Master or letting him down?”
These negative thoughts are probably unfounded: firstly, because the Master is completely non-judgmental; secondly, because we are his children and he loves us unconditionally; and thirdly, because he is with and within us all the time – he knows where we are coming from and what we are going through. He knows the depth of our attachment to this material world of sense pleasures. He knows how many lifetimes have been spent feeding this addiction.
It is hardly reasonable for us to expect the situation to change overnight. We need to think clearly about this, instead of just giving in to the negativity of the mind. In the words inspired by Rumi:
Strive, struggle, grapple and wrestle,
None won the battle by weak-kneed submission.…
When the Master has put a sword in your hands,
He has clearly expressed his wish.
We tend to think of the mind as being huge and powerful – an unseen, unknowable adversary. How can we ever overcome it? The answer: one step at a time. We can do this. Our negative thoughts and mental habits need to be replaced with positive thoughts and attitudes. The Master has given us the weapon of simran. It is up to us to use it.
Strangely, our negative emotions on the path and in meditation can sometimes be good for us. When grief, sadness, longing, and frustration translate into renewed determination to try harder, they are good. But if they lead to inertia and depression, then they are severely inhibiting and counter-productive.
Every time we try to say our simran or try to meditate, we are directing our attention upwards, in Master’s direction. We are trying to create a new and positive habit. These are our successes; this is our progress. Let’s not lose sight of these in the quest for what we think of as results. It is true that the eye centre, the Master’s Radiant Form, and contact with the Shabd are the big goals. The Master wants us to aim for them, to dream big and work accordingly. But we should not get despondent along the way, nor lose sight of our small daily accomplishments.
All of our apparent lack of progress is good for our ego – the source of so many of our ills. It demonstrates to us that our effort achieves nothing, and actually never has. Destiny and grace have given us what we thought our talent and intelligence had achieved. These are big and vital learning curves. Ego holds us down here. We must reduce its hold over us, or risk having to return for yet another birth. Apparent failure is essential to show us how powerless we are without his grace. Struggle is essential, but depression is not.
Negativity is a great stumbling block. Fear and depression can paralyze us. With the Master’s grace and our mindfulness we can turn them around. If we are trying our best, we are definitely making progress.
We need have no fear. We are in the palm of his hand and there is no room for negativity and depression. On this wonderful path, all initiates are going home. Simran and bhajan are our tools. Maharaj Charan Singh says:
I assure you, if we really beg from the heart, he is always ready to give. If we come one step, he comes ten steps to receive us.
Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II
Fear and depression can be overcome with his help, little by little, one step at a time. This battle can be won; negativity can be turned into positivity. Grace, perseverance, and clear thinking are the key. Simran and bhajan are our tools. All we have to do is use them as constantly as possible. The rest is in his loving hands.