There’s the thing that we feel – depression, sadness, despair, loneliness. And there’s the tail that is always attached: these feelings send us into a cocoon, into isolation, an emotional fetal position. The isolation then exacerbates the original feeling. Withdrawn from aliveness, we deaden inside, sometimes building cases against the people who are near, the ecology that surrounds us. It all seems quite real. The information we receive from this environment tends to verify our need for withdrawal. We fall out of relationship with the world. The world responds in kind. We sense this as rejection, not taking into account that we are actually doing the rejecting.
Often we are encouraged to reach out for friends, to join groups, to bust out of the cocoon. “Act as if,” we are told. It’s good advice assuming we can do it. I cannot always. Sometimes the withdrawal is muscular; the cases I build equal those of a skilled lawyer. When this happens, I reach out to energies that do not offer overt consolation or guidance or insight. My own idiosyncrasies lead me to literature, painting, dance. These streams bring me into a larger space by virtue of their mere expression. There is no demand from them. There are gifts unending, which I can accept at my own pace. Almost without realizing it, I let myself enter into conversation with images and rhythms beyond my own, and I feel myself carried by a flow not generated by me. I step back into the stream.
Where you are drawn will be different from where I am drawn, but whether literature, music, dance, theater, or gardening or hiking, running, sailing or prayer, you may, even at the low points, allow that landscape to arise – the one that is free in its ongoing revelation.
Sneaking, at first, just a peak, something begins to reawaken. Slowly allowing my chest to open, welcoming breath, just tiny moments at first; then there I am, in the company of Whitman, Woolf, Chekov, Marquez, or Kandinsky, Turner, and Rothko, and the veil of isolation falls gently around my feet. And nothing is asked by them in return, not even that I feel better. The tail is released.
Eventually, even the original feelings can become softer as I receive from these sources – vast, subtle, powerful. Back in life, I can even begin to look at the original feelings; ask where they come from; open myself to consolation, guidance, insight. First, though, I find my way back to engagement.