It happens. We’re on top of the world, everything is going our way, and then we wake up one day and feel a bit “off.” We can’t quite put our finger on it, but we are definitely not in our groove. There are clouds or nasty weather outdoors. Our food doesn’t taste as good. Family and friends don’t seem as friendly. Our luck is down. There it is: mild depression.
I have to admit, it rarely happens to me. By nature, I have always been an optimist. I see the glass as half full. After my husband went on his “happy pills” years ago, he confessed to me that it used to drive him crazy that I was always happy, and he would think I was being happy just to drive him nuts. Haha! When the happy pills kicked in, he called me that day from work and said excitedly, “Is this how you ALWAYS feel?! I can’t stop smiling!” I had to think about it. Yes, I think that is how I mostly feel. But not always.
For me, it takes one of three issues to bring me down. A spell of many gloomy days in a row can send me into a funk. Being sick for a long period of time can send me in a funk. And losing a close loved one can send me in a funk.
When my dad died, I was in a funk for a few years. I want to say it wasn’t until about eight years afterward that I felt like myself again. Not that each day was a struggle. Those daily struggles lasted for only a couple years. But I didn’t shake out of the big funk until I was about 16 years old. Of course, growing up has enough challenges, so the two major events went hand in hand for me.
When my beloved pets died, first Strike, then Dunny, and quickly following her was Spur, it sent me into a funk for a couple weeks. I’d be moving along pretty good, and then an image of one of the pets would come to me, and tears would build up and I’d feel sad, missing them. A natural and normal part of the grieving process.
I have learned, over the years, that you can’t get caught up in the small stuff. Someone rear ending your car, the kids getting bad grades in school, a disagreement with your spouse, these are small potatoes and not worth holding onto the hurt, anger, or pain. In a week, these issues are forgotten. There is a term I’ve heard used to describe not getting caught up in little disappointments. Detachment. It seems like a strong word to me, but that is the general word used to not getting caught in the negative emotions. It can also mean not getting caught up in the positive emotions, which is why I haven’t fully embraced the concept.
Master yogis and gurus who build their lives around their yoga practice work toward detachment from emotion. Priests and clergy and monks work toward detachment. By staying above the fray, they can experience a higher level of understanding of life itself. Instead of being a part of the flow of river, they watch it from the riverbank.
It takes great practice to be detached. It requires that we stay in the present moment, never going over past events with regret nor worrying about the future. Just being in the now. That is something we can all work toward – staying present, in the moment. This is something we practice in yoga. At the beginning of class, we release our thoughts from the day and check in with our bodies and our emotions. During our yoga practice, while moving through or holding a pose, we are present in that moment. At the end of class, in Savasana (final relaxation), we reflect on our practice and check in with our bodies and emotions, pushing away those lists that start to form until we are through with our practice. For some of us, this is THE only time in our week when we can be fully present in the moment. That is what makes our practice even that much more special.
I don’t aspire to be a monk, a master yogi or a guru. That is too even keel for me, and I like my JOY. But I do continue to work through my funks, observing them from the river bank instead of having to ride each one out. But let me add this disclaimer: before we can be observers of our funks, we have to understand them. We have to have gone into them enough to say, “Ah, this is familiar, and since I have experienced and studied this funk before, I don’t need to experience it anymore.”
After all, shadow work is important too.