When my Dad was diagnosed with brain cancer I quit my job to help support him and my family. He died 7 months later. For the 6 months after that I helped my I helped my Mom stabilize and get back on her feet. It’s an understatement to say this process took a lot out of me. When I returned to work I discovered they I no longer knew how to have a “normal” life. My internal compass which had always lead me in the right direction was broken. How could I find meaning in the daily chores of life after what I had been through? How could I come to terms with the emotional rollercoaster of the last year of my life?
Depression and confusion came in and out of my life like the rising and falling tides of the ocean. I didn’t know what current water level but knew that it was impacting my every move. I took my first course within a month of my Dad dying but didn’t commit to a daily practice until returning full time to work. It was hard, isolating, and humbling but my practice was the only thing that I knew was pointing my life in a direction I was happy with.
As my awareness of sensations became deeper I started becoming more aware of my moods. I noticed what activities were helping me come out of depression and what activities were pulling me deeper into depression. Just like the tides, most of the time I’m oblivious to how my choices are impacting my mood, but every once in a while I pick up another clue. Completing projects at work makes me feel good. Staying at home alone for a little while feels good but if it’s too long it becomes bad. Playing free cell on my computer is neutral. Watching too many movies is bad. Eating junk food is bad.
Sometimes I felt bad and didn’t want to be cheered up. I didn’t want people to force me out of the place I was in. Sometimes I did unhealthy things because they matched how I felt. I ate a lot of ice cream and pizza. It was good to let myself be where I was, but it was also important to be working on moving forward. Vipassana was the right tool at the right time in my life.
Practicing Vipassana is especially hard when you know that your pillow time is going to confront you with unpleasant, depressing, and painful sensations but it was only revealing the truth of where I was and I knew it. In order to get back to a place in life that I could be excited about I couldn’t hide or go around these feeling. I needed to go right through them.
I’m back in a genuinely healthy place and I’ve got Vipassana to thank for it. Hopefully this post gives others the confidence to sit on their pillow even when they expect that it’s not going to be pleasant.