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If the mind is quiet are you free of depression?

 
SkepticX
 
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04 August 2016 11:07
 

It seems to me a lot of this is pure neurology—wiring, or whatever. By no effort on my part my mind is quiet and typically calm. It seems to be geared much more toward slow rather fast thinking (I’m not at all sure whether that’s necessarily a good, bad or neutral thing). I often have no internal monologue going on—usually because I’m functioning on a very basic and usually physical level (movement/safety/eating/observing ... ). Unless I’m meditating I’m not aware of it when it’s going on—it’s when it starts back up that I realize it wasn’t there for a while. Sometimes that’s almost startling. I also don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything like clinical depression. What counts as depression for me could maybe be considered a tinge of anhedonia.

I’m not sure these things are directly connected, but it certainly wouldn’t surprise me. Noisy/busy minds usually seem a bit anxious and stressed to me—even if not usually anything major/to a significant degree. In somewhat rare cases some noisy/busy minds don’t strike me as anxious or stressed at all though, which I find interesting, and it seems these somewhat noisy/busy but not at all anxious or stressed minds tend to be some of the sharpest, but that impression is purely experiential—based on pretty limited and non-random data.

I don’t think I could make a meaningful value judgment regarding whether a calm/quiet mind or a busy/noisy but not anxious or stressed mind provides for a better experience of life, but it does seem both are rooted in an interest and quick, passive acceptance of what the world tells us (external data—passive meaning just acceptance rather than much in the way of the infusion of personal additives/baggage). Maybe what I’m perceiving as the busy/noisy but not anxious/stressed mind is just one more geared toward fast rather than slow thinking, or perhaps one geared toward a more balanced thinking posture, and it’s really the inclination toward passive acceptance of what the outside world tells us that gives a mind the basis for their peace with that. Dunno, but that’s the way this topic appears to me in RL.

 
 
sojourner
 
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04 August 2016 13:37
 
RobtHedeen - 29 July 2016 05:35 PM

I have suffered from bouts of severe depression my entire life. About 15 years ago it got so bad I genuinely started to fear for my life, and finally sought medical help. I went on an anti-depressant - Paxil. After a few days, when it kicked in, the first thing I noticed was that my mind became quiet. I was not emotionally numb in any way - just the on-going interior monolog had shut down, and I felt better, happier, smoother. This was a great revelation to me - the cause of my misery was these conflicting thoughts raging through my head. I was not conscious of them but they were surging over me. After a year, I went off Paxil (undesirable sexual side effects), but by then I had understood what was going on. I began a process of meditation where I could examine these depressing thoughts dis-passionately, understand them as weird chemical hic-ups, and push them aside. I still drop into depression occasionally but I am able to control it and emerge beyond by meditation.


Interestingly, the AR model of depression suggests that it might actually give people an advantage when it comes to problem solving. So it may, like many things, not be a bad thing ‘in and of itself’ - more a problem when it becomes a habitual or singular mode of being. I can identify somewhat with this general ‘absent minded professor’ way of being - enjoying honing in on analysis while experiencing what you could call indifference or mild anhedonia regarding the details of life - distinct flavors of food, well orchestrated symphonies or jazz, etc. In the sensory world, my tastes tend to run extremely bland (macaroni and pop music) because it’s not an area where I care to spend a lot of time exploring. I think it’s when this anhedonia gets out of hand that this can become a problem. Mindfulness forces a focus on the sensory world that can be like excruciating exercise for this mindset at first but, like exercise, beneficial overall.


I will say, I think the shadow side of using meditation to work with depression is that depressive and anxious states are often subtly reinforced in spiritual communities. Rumination can, the studies above seem to say, genuinely improve problem solving, which can look like insight and the fruit of analytical meditation. Hyper vigilance can result in more “OMG how did you know that!” moments that, again, also look like insight or connectedness - which, if your self esteem is low and you want a quick way to feel good, is a fast way to gain esteem with people in a yoga class, you know? So then that way of being almost becomes valuable. Last but not least, as people often enter meditation specifically to address depression and anxiety, there’s almost a suggestion that you should be experiencing some level of it (I am a weird mix of Type A and B traits, so I can be a bit flakey and not relate to the constant references to “always pushing yourself, always checking your to do list” advice one tends to hear in DC area dharma talks - but then I’m like “Gawd, I’m failing, everyone else is pushing themselves so hard that they need to be comforted about not pushing themselves! And I haven’t even checked my to do list today, I’ve been musing and pondering! I suck!!”.


So I think meditative practice can be extremely helpful for a range of things, but back in the day in the monastery, you didn’t get to pick and choose which parts of it you were going to do. I think one has to be more careful about the ‘salad bar’ style of spirituality in the west. I have to push myself towards the parts of it that I find less appealing.

 
 
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04 August 2016 17:32
 

Response to the OP title:  NO

 
 
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05 August 2016 06:33
 
unsmoked - 29 June 2015 04:31 PM

If the mind is quiet does depression vanish?  Does depression require thinking?

This question is somewhat ambiguous because quiet mind can mean many things and there are many kinds of thinking. I am going to assume that by “quiet” and “not thinking” the OP is referring to the absence of internal dialog. There are actually various level of internal dialog, but the absence of the murmurings that constitute the lower levels of internal dialog is very pleasant indeed. Not many people have experienced that state, and you will know it if you do, because you will at that point realize that you have never experienced silence before.

More generally, I cured my own lifelong dysphoria/depression with meditation. However, in order to do that will usually requires sitting at least 90 minutes a day consistently for some period of months.

 
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16 August 2016 11:13
 
saralynn - 30 June 2015 12:58 PM

The problem is that when you are depressed, meditation seems like too much of an effort.

Is it possible for the mind to watch itself to see if it can manifest a state of no effort?  Possible for a few seconds?  If possible for a few seconds . . . a minute or two?  The brain not trying to achieve anything or experience anything.  No meditation, just letting go.

Zen master Foyan comments, “Only when you actually get to the state where there is neither delusion nor enlightenment are you finally comfortable and conserving the most energy.  But for this you have to be someone who has neither delusion nor enlightenment.  During the twenty-four hours of the day, what is there deluding you?  You should make a truthful assessment of yourself.”

(Foyan quoted from the book, ‘ZEN ESSENCE - The Science of Freedom’ - translated and edited by Thomas Cleary)

 
 
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19 August 2016 14:56
 
unsmoked - 16 August 2016 11:13 AM

Is it possible for the mind to watch itself to see if it can manifest a state of no effort?  Possible for a few seconds?  If possible for a few seconds . . . a minute or two?  The brain not trying to achieve anything or experience anything.  No meditation, just letting go.


This is why I think the kind of ‘quiet mind’ you are describing is somewhat paradoxical in practice and almost has to happen by accident (although you can create better or worse conditions for that to happen, of course.) Ironically, there is something very reifying about making a conscious choice to meditate, or to let go, or to experience ‘no-self’, or to simply observe openly, or whatever one has in mind. This in and of itself is a goal-oriented activity, a choice made by an ego. So long as the activity is maintained, so is the conscious, “I’m in the director’s chair here” decision to maintain it. Otherwise you would just wander off when the next fleeting impulse crossed your mind (This is why I prefer walking meditation - because I like taking walks, I am kind of letting my body just do what it wants to do and so there’s slightly less sense of it being a controlled choice in the way it might be when I make myself sit in an uncomfortable cross-legged position unmoving. I would probably be walking in nature regardless of whether I wanted to meditate or not, unlikely I would ever choose to sit cross-legged on a pillow for long periods absent any other motivation.)


Even the idea of “letting go” is paradoxical, I think. If you tell yourself “I should let this go and be in the present moment”, then isn’t that yet another ‘rule’ that you’re stuck on that you should also let go? If ‘letting go’ is always the right thing to do (or openly observing, or whatever,) then it seems to me that this is another piece of rigid semantic programming to get stuck on. This is What I Should Do. In addition, I’ve noticed you can frame this as it’s opposite and it’s still true - to be truly in the present moment, I think one must constantly let go of the past but also let the next moment come rushing in with a sort of joy and love (this may well just be because of my enculturated associations, but I tend to think Buddhism does a better job at describing the former and Christianity does a better job at describing the latter. They will both mention both concepts “it’s God’s will” is more or less “let it go”; the boundless states obviously point to wonderful states - but to my mind, the art, music, ‘works’, inspiring services, fellowship, etc., of Christianity are more geared towards the ‘joy in meeting the next moment’ side; the quiet, solitude, inner exploration, sensory minimalism and simplicity of Buddhist practice are more geared towards the ‘let the last moment go’ side. Funnily, if you are talking about that exact moment - neither past nor present - they both amount to the same thing even if they approach it from opposite ends.)


So again, I think it’s like the paradox of a Magic Eye picture, where they tell you to relax your eyes and to not ‘try’ to see the picture. I mean you have to try to some degree - if you’re not facing the picture you ain’t gonna see it no matter how relaxed your eyes are. But when it comes to ‘trying to not try’, I think you set up the conditions and it kinda happens when it happens.

[ Edited: 19 August 2016 15:05 by sojourner]
 
 
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20 August 2016 09:40
 
NL. - 19 August 2016 02:56 PM

Even the idea of “letting go” is paradoxical, I think. If you tell yourself “I should let this go and be in the present moment”, then isn’t that yet another ‘rule’ that you’re stuck on that you should also let go?

So again, I think it’s like the paradox of a Magic Eye picture, where they tell you to relax your eyes and to not ‘try’ to see the picture. I mean you have to try to some degree - if you’re not facing the picture you ain’t gonna see it no matter how relaxed your eyes are. But when it comes to ‘trying to not try’, I think you set up the conditions and it kinda happens when it happens.

Zen master Yuanwu comments: 

The venerable Yanyang asked Zhaozhou, “When one doesn’t bring a single thing, then what?”  Zhaozhou said, “Put it down.”  Yanyang asked, “If I don’t bring a single thing, what should I put down?”  Zhaozhou said, “I see you cannot put it down.” 

At these words, Yanyang was greatly enlightened.

(quoted from the book ‘ZEN LETTERS - Teachings of Yuanwu’ - translated by J.C. Cleary and Thomas Cleary)

 
 
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20 August 2016 19:08
 
unsmoked - 20 August 2016 09:40 AM

[
Zen master Yuanwu comments: 

The venerable Yanyang asked Zhaozhou, “When one doesn’t bring a single thing, then what?”  Zhaozhou said, “Put it down.”  Yanyang asked, “If I don’t bring a single thing, what should I put down?”  Zhaozhou said, “I see you cannot put it down.” 

At these words, Yanyang was greatly enlightened.

(quoted from the book ‘ZEN LETTERS - Teachings of Yuanwu’ - translated by J.C. Cleary and Thomas Cleary)


I think the multitude of ways to “set the stage” for such things is really interesting. I like Zen koans although personally they’re not the best for me as I get hyper analytical trying to figure out a ‘right’ answer and the intellectualism of them - Buddhism minus the element of interdependence, metta, etc. - seems kinda cold. Then again, I think I’ve said before that the teachings of people like Ramakrishna appeal to me but I know the focus on rapture, emotion and spontaneity would be a very unbalanced path for me - he and his followers were always having wild visions, I’d probably get carried away and decide I needed to open a crystal shop in the Himalayas after a week, ha ha. Personally I find various forms of ‘other focus’ to be most helpful - not that that doesn’t come with a lot of potential pitfalls too (taken in the wrong direction one can be controlling, bossy, nosy, etc.) - but since I’m so introverted for me that movement of attention outward - be it through volunteerism, caring for a family member, making an effort to be kinder to people or see friends more, etc. - seems to be most helpful. (Retreats are also tremendously helpful as well, of course, but that’s kinda like saying you want to get in shape by going away to fitness camp all the time - financially, time-wise, travel-wise, and so on, it’s not always the most feasible thing.)

 
 
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22 August 2016 11:14
 
NL. - 20 August 2016 07:08 PM
unsmoked - 20 August 2016 09:40 AM

[
Zen master Yuanwu comments: 

The venerable Yanyang asked Zhaozhou, “When one doesn’t bring a single thing, then what?”  Zhaozhou said, “Put it down.”  Yanyang asked, “If I don’t bring a single thing, what should I put down?”  Zhaozhou said, “I see you cannot put it down.” 

At these words, Yanyang was greatly enlightened.

(quoted from the book ‘ZEN LETTERS - Teachings of Yuanwu’ - translated by J.C. Cleary and Thomas Cleary)


I think the multitude of ways to “set the stage” for such things is really interesting. I like Zen koans although personally they’re not the best for me as I get hyper analytical trying to figure out a ‘right’ answer and the intellectualism of them . . .

Zen master Foyan comments:

“Zen practice requires detachment from thought.  This is the best way to save energy . . .  Once there was a monk who specialized in the Buddhist precepts, and kept to them all his life.  Once, when he was walking in the garden at night without a lantern, he stepped on something.  It made a squishing sound, and he imagined he had stepped on an egg-bearing frog.  This caused him no end of alarm and regret, in view of the Buddhist precept against taking life.  When he finally went to sleep that night he dreamed that hundreds of frogs came to him demanding his life.

“The monk was terribly upset, but when morning came he looked and found that what he had stepped on was an overripe eggplant.  At that moment his feeling of uncertainty suddenly stopped, and for the first time he realized the meaning of the saying that there is no objective world.  Then he finally knew how to practice Zen.”

(Foyan quoted from the book ‘ZEN ESSENCE - The Science of Freedom’ - translated and edited by Thomas Cleary

 

 
 
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22 August 2016 11:42
 
NL. - 20 August 2016 07:08 PM

I think the multitude of ways to “set the stage” for such things is really interesting. I like Zen koans although personally they’re not the best for me as I get hyper analytical trying to figure out a ‘right’ answer and the intellectualism of them ...


Are you sure hyper analytical is a good descriptive term for that?

 
 
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22 August 2016 14:06
 
SkepticX - 22 August 2016 11:42 AM
NL. - 20 August 2016 07:08 PM

I think the multitude of ways to “set the stage” for such things is really interesting. I like Zen koans although personally they’re not the best for me as I get hyper analytical trying to figure out a ‘right’ answer and the intellectualism of them ...


Are you sure hyper analytical is a good descriptive term for that?


Yes, atheist church lady, I am. wink  What about you, are you sure you’ve gotten right with Reason? Do you really know Reason? Do you talk to Reason every day, do you have a personal relationship? Are you sure about that…

 

unsmoked - 22 August 2016 11:14 AM

Zen master Foyan comments:

“Zen practice requires detachment from thought.  This is the best way to save energy . . .  Once there was a monk who specialized in the Buddhist precepts, and kept to them all his life.  Once, when he was walking in the garden at night without a lantern, he stepped on something.  It made a squishing sound, and he imagined he had stepped on an egg-bearing frog.  This caused him no end of alarm and regret, in view of the Buddhist precept against taking life.  When he finally went to sleep that night he dreamed that hundreds of frogs came to him demanding his life.

“The monk was terribly upset, but when morning came he looked and found that what he had stepped on was an overripe eggplant.  At that moment his feeling of uncertainty suddenly stopped, and for the first time he realized the meaning of the saying that there is no objective world.  Then he finally knew how to practice Zen.”

(Foyan quoted from the book ‘ZEN ESSENCE - The Science of Freedom’ - translated and edited by Thomas Cleary


Ok, I’m going to be totally sexist and a bit snarky here, but I feel like that’s such a Man Revelation (“Oh my god I… I… I can be wrong about stuff!” Why yes, yes you can, amazing stuff.) I’m sorry, I mean that in a lighthearted way although admittedly I’m not in the best place with ‘practice’ at the moment, for a bunch of reasons, so perhaps that’s an uncharitable reading. I tend towards the opposite, assuming nothing is ever certain, though, so I think this is a good example of how having insight around whatever it is that blocks clarity - which will differ from person to person - is important. Unfortunately I think once a person reaches some level of clarity or quietness of mind (I think there are many levels, I don’t claim to have experienced more than a mild taste,) there’s the problem of it being like trying to explain the redness of red - it’s almost like “What’s the point in listening to people talk about this any more than listening to people describe a soma holiday or a color I’ve never seen before? What can you say about it other than - ‘So it’s this color. You haven’t seen it. Not red, not orange, not yellow, not green, not… well you get the idea. Some other color. That you haven’t seen.” Not like I’m going to be able to do anything with that information, you know?


One area that I consider an exception to this are creative expressions that seem like behavioral outpourings of such experiences. In those cases, something of the experience is transmitted via the behavior, be it art, music, writing (some accounts of near death experiences really convey the sense of awe and love the person felt at a visceral level, I think,) inspired acts of love and altruism, and so on. But in the absence of that, I think ‘paths’ are so individualized that general wisdom is hard to come by - sort of like if you’re giving directions to the same location to people on the east and west coast, what will be totally helpful for one will land another in the middle of the ocean.

[ Edited: 22 August 2016 14:09 by sojourner]
 
 
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29 August 2016 09:54
 
NL. - 19 August 2016 02:56 PM

Ironically, there is something very reifying about making a conscious choice to meditate, or to let go, or to experience ‘no-self’, or to simply observe openly, or whatever one has in mind. This in and of itself is a goal-oriented activity, a choice made by an ego. So long as the activity is maintained, so is the conscious, “I’m in the director’s chair here” decision to maintain it.

Zen master Wuzu comments:  “It is not permitted for a general to see great peace, but a general may establish great peace.”

(Wuzu quoted from the book ‘ZEN ESSENCE - The Science of Freedom’ - translated and edited by Thomas Cleary)

 
 
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29 August 2016 20:23
 
unsmoked - 29 August 2016 09:54 AM
NL. - 19 August 2016 02:56 PM

Ironically, there is something very reifying about making a conscious choice to meditate, or to let go, or to experience ‘no-self’, or to simply observe openly, or whatever one has in mind. This in and of itself is a goal-oriented activity, a choice made by an ego. So long as the activity is maintained, so is the conscious, “I’m in the director’s chair here” decision to maintain it.

Zen master Wuzu comments:  “It is not permitted for a general to see great peace, but a general may establish great peace.”

(Wuzu quoted from the book ‘ZEN ESSENCE - The Science of Freedom’ - translated and edited by Thomas Cleary)


Le sigh. It always seems to me that there’s something sad in this dynamic. The salt doll that can’t know the ocean once it discovers its depths. The inevitable semi-solitude of experiential life where, as Diana Ross sang, “everybody’s got their (own) life to live”. But I suppose creation can only happen in such a flux.

 
 
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