One of the most indisputable facts about human beings is that they have ‘moods’.
There has never been, nor will there ever be, a person who doesn’t experience the ups and downs of moods. Even the happiest person has them.
Moods are like the tides of the sea. They are constantly changing and shifting. Sometimes moods are very high, sometimes very low, and sometimes they are somewhere in between. And although it may not seem like it when you are feeling low, your moods are always changing, although perhaps only a little at a time.
Your experience in a low mood is exactly the same as your experience in a depression. In fact, except for the duration of the mood, the two are essentially identical. Depression is nothing more than a prolonged and painful low mood. And the problem is that the quality of your thinking suffers greatly when you are in a low mood.
When you feel bad, it is predictable that you will think in a negative way. The lower your mood, the more intense will be your negative thoughts. And what makes understanding moods so difficult is that every time you are low, you will feel justified and certain that the way you are feeling is appropriate and necessary. You will feel a sense of urgency and self-righteousness and you will want so badly to believe in what you are thinking.
The only way out is to see the absolute absurdity of believing in what you are thinking and feeling when you are low, and then making a commitment to yourself to ignore your own thoughts whenever you find yourself in such a state.
You must understand that your thoughts, in a low-feeling state, are not worth paying attention to. They can only hurt you since they contain only gross distortions. They are almost always irrational and inaccurate; therefore, you need to distrust and ignore them, in the same way that you would ignore a mirage in a dessert.
Once you are convinced of this, you will see the application to your life.
The process of waiting out a low mood is no different from trying to survive a strong ocean current. No matter how hard you swim against the force of the current, you just keep ending up where you started.
It may even seem to you that it will never end and that you will drown if you just flow with the pull of the current. But you won’t. If you know what’s happening while it’s happening, you are protected from the effects of your mood. There’s nothing to fear.
The safety of the shore is just around the corner as long as you don’t panic and as long as you don’t waste your energy in fighting the force of the current.
Low moods really aren’t a problem in and of themselves. Of course they’re difficult, and no one likes them, but they can’t harm you if you know what’s going on. The real problem is the thinking and the mental activity that accompany the low mood.
When you are in a low mood, your thoughts are going to be negative, insecure and pessimistic. Your life and everything in it will look bad. You need to realize that you cannot out-think your low mood. Your protection will rather be, that you no longer trust what you are feeling when you are low. So, if you don’t interfere with the natural rhythm of your moods, they will go up and down by themselves.
I mean isn’t it a fact that the thoughts you have about your life when you’re in a low mood are very different from the thoughts you have when you are experiencing a higher mood?
With this another question arises, why do moods come and go for most people, while they hang on in the form of a depression for others? Well, just as I said before; the answer is that some people have certain mental habits that they tend to practise in low moods, without realizing that they are exercising them, or that they are causing any problems.
Unfortunately, if you perpetuate these processes while you are in a low mood, you will remain low. To escape such a negative state of mind, you must begin to recognize when you are in a low mood and avoid the processes that will keep you there.
Understanding the nature and the deceptive power of your moods will help you ease rather than fight your way out of an unhappy state of mind. If you learn to do this, you will find yourself going up and down like everyone else, rather than remaining down in the dumps.
To conclude I would like to tell a Zen story, to highlight the truth of becoming the witness to your moods without buying into them.
A wandering monk passed by the courtyard of a monastery where he heard two groups of monks arguing about the temple flag fluttering in the breeze.
“It is the flag that moves,” one group argued.
“No, it is the wind that moves,” argued the other group.
Back and forth they argued, responding to the logic of the other side, coming up with new rationales for their respective positions. But it just came down to, “It is the wind that moves, it is the flag that moves.”
After listening for a while, the wandering monk interrupted them and said, “If you look more closely you will see that it is neither the flag nor the wind that moves – what moves is your mind.”
This story is a beautiful reminder of how easily we fall into buying into our thinking. It doesn’t matter what the subject is, we are fully capable of taking sides and then feeling the need to prove ourselves “right.” The lesson of “seeing ourselves seeing” is a necessary one if we are to develop the witness awareness that watches habit thoughts, feelings and moods arise automatically.
Remember therefore not to believe your thoughts and feelings when you are in a low mood. So, fight not, go with the flow. And beware of your MIND, for it’s not YOU!
I leave you with the wise words of Hsing Yun: “In time, things will change and the conditions that produced your current desires will be gone. Why then cling to them now?”