The mind is such a powerful thing. Perception, or how one views the world and themselves, shapes our sense of reality, and oftentimes, our sense of reality is different from another’s sense of reality. Sure, there are things we all agree on (except if we struggle with psychosis), such as the floor is flat and hard, the sky is blue, or rooms have four walls. But, perception is simply shaded by the lens through which we see the world. (I’ve always loved philosophy!)
I struggled with a bout of depression about eight years ago after it became clear my elderly mother was becoming unable to live independently because of the onset of dementia. My siblings lived in other states not close by. Truly, the realization that dealing with the day-to-day supervision and navigation of my mom‘s life was falling on my shoulders felt wildly overwhelming. She was not an easy woman and was very resistant to receiving help in the form of nursing care or residing in an assisted living community. My fear about all of this was how I was going to be able to juggle my life, my career and my mom and do it all with the apparent effortlessness of a Chinese acrobat!
At the time, a good friend who happened to be a psychiatrist said to me, “Janet, you’re depressed.” I’m smiling as I write this because I remember feeling utterly offended. My first thought was, “I’m a therapist. I’m not depressed,” as if the two things are mutually exclusive. I wanted to whip out my blue tee-shirt that had the big red “T” on it that matched my red cape which also went along with my blue tights! I remember being ashamed to get treatment for my depression because I felt like a failure as a mental health therapist. “Do therapists and psychiatrists have depression, too?” I thought. Of course, I knew better. My friend, the psychiatrist said, “You’d be surprised how many people in our field are getting treatment themselves.” Actually, that gives me some comfort.
Now, eight years later, I look back on that time and marvel at how distorted my thought process with regard to my situation and my outlook on the future had been. Life seemed grim, and I saw no way out of what appeared to be an irreconcilable situation.
The good news is that my siblings came to my assistance, and we three worked together to get our mother the living situation that would best serve her at the time. We, as a team, helped our mother deal with the transition and helped her to sell her condo and move into a new home and a new phase of her life. But, my point about my depression is that it wouldn’t allow me to see that possibility because I viewed the whole event through the eyes of my depression.
Meditation of any form, including yoga, allows us the space to view our situation from a different vantage point than the one that we hold onto so rigidly. It gives us wiggle room. It allows us the possibility of stepping a little to the left…maybe just a little more…and looking at ourselves and our lives from a fresh angle. Through it all, we have the opportunity to breathe and let go of unbending thoughts, feelings, sensations or memories.
My yoga and meditation practice allows me to loosen my grip on perfectionism and the need to control every aspect of my life. My practice firmly grounds me in clear seeing most of the time. This is a daily practice for me (notice the word practice). It’s not just flipping a switch or checking it off a list, and I’m done with it! Perfectionism is my Achilles’ heel. In times of stress, my way of reducing my anxiety is to attempt to control my environment with the utmost precision and flawlessness. So, I’ve learned to breathe and let it go daily.