Healing is not a linear process. It is rather like trekking up a steep mountainside, along a path with many switchbacks. Each phase of the healing brings with it fresh challenges. The homeopathic law of cure indicates that the mind will often improve faster than the body. The disjunctive pace at which my mind and body are healing means that there is frequently a lag between cognitive improvement and my body’s ability to integrate it. One inevitable consequence of this is periods in which the desires of mind and the capacities of body are misaligned. The result is hopelessness, discontentment and an overwhelming sense of disempowerment.
Hopelessness is a particularly challenging mental state. It has a tamasic quality. It is frustration, grief and rage compressed; like cars on their way to a wrecking yard. If one is able to un-compress what has been flattened, it is possible to examine its different facets and garner some idea of how to move on. Yet this can be difficult. The enervating energy of despair can take mindstates that are dynamic and transmute them into a kind of low-pressure system bearing down upon one’s entire being. As we try to witness this mindstate we notice that just as we become aware of its moment by moment evolution and our hearts are about to relax into recognition of its non-solidity, hopelessness descends and, as it were, thickens the mood once more. While rage or even grief have a great deal of dynamism, hopelessness and despair are generally experienced as a kind of sludge that moves so slowly that such momentum as there is, is beneath the threshold of human perception.
Everything points to a gloomy past, present and future. All signs portend more of the same. There is nothing anyone can say that makes the slightest bit of difference. Even the things that have sustained one in the past feel like cardboard being force fed by a cruel God! It is important in periods like these to redouble one’s spiritual practice. However, given one’s despair, meditation feels like a chore and faith something that once was. If things were not bad enough self-judgement usually pays extended visits during such times! One judges oneself for not being able to lift oneself out of hopelessness. One judges oneself for being ungrateful. One judges oneself for losing perspective. On. And on. And on.
In most instances, despair is not a ‘problem’ to be resolved, although particular material hardships can, of course, be addressed. Like any other mood it eventually loses its grip. Sometimes all one can do is accept it and wait it out. If one can retain one’s sense of wonder under such circumstances, it is possible to witness the mystery of its dissolution. For when hopelessness relates to a chronic situation, its dissipation does not depend upon the end of such suffering. It can disperse for no apparent reason.
The sun breaking through the clouds
a child’s laughter
a cat stretching
a piece of music
a walk out of doors -
any of these can serve to inspire a shift of consciousness
the sense that all is not lost, all is not without hope of change.
And we are grateful once more for the impermanence of things.
From an audio journal I kept in the 1990’s chronicling recovery from a brain injury.