Chogyam Trungpa on Depression
Chogyam Trungpa was a Tibetan Buddhist meditation master. At the age of 20, he witnessed the occupation of his homeland and the destruction of his monastery, and had to flee Tibet and travel for nine months by foot to reach safety in India. He ate his shoelaces and watched his friends die on that journey. 13 out of 300 refugees survived. His teacher had a vision that Trungpa would bring meditation to the West, and so he moved to the United States in 1969. He did coke with Joni Mitchell before showing her a breathwork exercise that inspired her to quit coke altogether, and he taught David Bowie how to meditate. He hung out with hippies and made them burn their weed. He slept with lots of white women, and drank so much booze that he died from cirrhosis of the liver before turning 50. The dude could meditate for weeks without eating and then drink you under the table.
A series of Trungpa’s lectures were published in the book, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, where he says things like, “Compassion is a war on want” and “Ego is the monkey of cognition” and “We meditate because clouds are clouds and the sky is blue.” Reading this book during this fuckhole of a year has been an interesting experiment as I oscillate between mindful awareness and wanting to rip my face off. I recommend it. Recently, I came across this answer Trungpa gave regarding how to cope with depression. I found it interesting to think of depression having a kind of ‘texture’, and the idea that there can be great intelligence in the unknowing:
Well, try to relate to the texture of the energy in the depression situation. Depression is not just a blank, it has all kinds of intelligent things happening within it. I mean, basically depression is extraordinarily interesting and a highly intelligent state of being. That is why you are depressed. Depression is an unsatisfied state of mind in which you feel that you have no outlet. So work with the dissatisfaction of that depression. Whatever is in it is extraordinarily powerful. It has all kinds of answers in it, but the answers are hidden. So, in fact I think depression is one of the most powerful of all energies. It is extraordinarily awake energy, although you might feel sleepy.
But, at the same time, you are experiencing tremendous texture, the texture of how the stagnation of samsara works, which is fantastic. You feel the texture of something. That entertainment didn’t work. This entertainment didn’t work. Referring back to the past didn’t work; projecting into the future didn’t work. Everything is made out of texture, so you could experience depression in a very intelligent way. You could relate with it completely, fully. And once you begin to relate with it as texture of some kind, as a real and solid situation which contains tremendous texture, tremendous smell, then depression becomes a beautiful walkway. We can’t discuss it really. We have to actually get into heavy depression and then feel about that.