Depression – Ayurvedic Understanding
To understand depression from the Ayurvedic standpoint, it is necessary to understand how the mind, emotions, and feelings function. The Ayurvedic view is that thoughts, emotions, and feelings pass through the field of conscious awareness in a continuous flow – they are always changing. Depression occurs when a thought or emotion is chosen and then gets stuck in the mental field and won’t go away. It stays inside and goes around and around, until we go mad, get stressed, get depressed, or have a nervous breakdown.
All mental troubles result from latching on to a single thought, emotion, or feeling and staying in a relationship with it. What also becomes apparent is that you have a choice. You have the ability to choose and then to release any thought that is passing through your mental field of awareness.
Having understood this fact, you have empowered yourself. You have suddenly become a master, when seconds before you were the slave. You now have the ability to choose. You have always had this power, but were not aware of it. By choosing, you take charge of your mind and emotions. Neither the thoughts nor the emotions are problematic, but the relationship we have with them can be. Ayurveda’s suggestion is not to waste time analyzing where this thought or feeling come from but rather attacking the root of the problem and cutting off the relationship with that thought or emotion.
First ask yourself if this activity, thought, emotion, etc. brings your peace. Or does it bring unhappiness and disturbances instead? It is that simple. Either an emotion is calming, or it is disruptive. Either an activity brings fulfillment, or it brings dissatisfaction.
We have the power to choose peace in our lives, or we have the power to choose misery. With effort and time we can change our mental habits and remove thoughts and activities that disturb us and eliminate moods like depression.
I found the following depressive thoughts elimination technique in Atreya’s Ayurvedic Healing for Women (a great book in many aspects; I would highly recommend it for both men and women.)
Removing disturbing thoughts:
Recognize the actual thought that starts depression, for example “No one loves me”. As soon as this thought comes into your mental field and you become aware of it, you have an instant in which you choose to let it go. Simply recognize the thought. “Ah, yes, I know you; I do not want to get into a relationship with you now”. Choose this and divert your attention to something else. The thought may come back in a few minutes or hours or days. Then you must repeat the same steps over and over, until the thought finally gives up and leaves.
At the beginning, you may not be able to catch the troublesome thought in time. Don’t worry if you fall into the old pattern a few times. If a thought gets stuck in your mind, divert your attention using one of two methods: physical activity (running or cleaning the house), or thought substitution. The physical substitute is easier; thoughts substitution is more effective, but requires more practice.
The most effective substitutes are sounds:
There are several key sounds (seed sounds, bija mantras) that are very useful because they vibrate at certain frequencies that have an effect on the nervous system. Different sounds are used for different needs.
HUM (“u” as in “put”) dispels fear and anxiety.
SHRIM (“shreem”) is cooling, creative, and feminine.
RAM (“a” as in “father”) is protecting, calm, and peaceful.
SHAM (shum) brings detachment, peace, and contentment.
Do not wait until you get depressed to use these sounds – they will help somewhat, but the effect will be much greater if you learn to use them before depression sets in. Experiment with the sounds and find one you like. At first pronounce the sound you choose aloud, until it is clear in your mind. Then use it silently. This way, you can use it in public to substitute a sound for a disturbing thought. More information about key sounds can be found in Dr. Frawley’s book Ayurvedic Healing: A Comprehensive Guide
TODAY’S TIP: Enjoy your mind and emotions, but don’t mistake them for yourself. The mind can be a good servant and helper, but it becomes distractive in the role of master. The mind and emotions belong to you and you can decide whenever you want to keep a thought in your mind or not.