Hi Dr. Saltzman,
I found your webpage by entering keywords such as dharma or satsang + clinical therapists. Anyway, I am writing to you because I don't really know what's going on with my mind.
I have come to know my true nature through various means (mainly teachers), but I always seem to "come down" and find myself in this body once again. I get caught in wondering why, after having such experiences/realizations of my true nature, I find myself acting "human" once again (anger, resentment, depression, etc.). I know I am a human being, but my question is, once one sees their true nature, then why doesn't it stabilize?
From recognizing this lack of stabilization in myself, I go into a deep funk of wondering how I can kill myself (which is an old habitual pattern of mine from childhood). This week it was so bad; I felt as if I should go get some sort of antidepressant medication, but I really don't want to mess with that stuff. I want clarity from within, not from a pill. Yet, I do worry sometimes that I might get so dark that I'll actually do something stupid. My friend told me that she feels that I would never do that because 1) I know that we don't really die and 2) I know if I do die, then I will just keep coming back here, experiencing this existence over and over until I totally wake up. I do see the truth in what she's saying.
The worst of my depression seems to last only a few days per month, but it's pure hell when it's happening. I do remain aware enough during these bouts to remind myself that things will be better once it passes. It's very cyclic. I'm confused if it really is depression, or if it's a hormonal imbalance.
I have another issue that's going on with my relationship and my inability to be intimate. In fact, this is why I found myself online looking for therapists. My husband of ten years told me that I need to figure out for myself why I'm "blocked" intimately, or else he doesn't know if he wants to be in a relationship with me any longer. Throughout the day, I considered his view and realized how there is a lack of intimacy that seems to be tied to this human thing that I'm projecting. So, here I am, reaching out to you since you were the only one I could find who seemed to be awake in this life of ours. Is this too much for an email? Should I come down and see you? I live in Idyllwild, CA (in the mountains above Palm Springs).
(I'd rather you answer me personally, but if you post this, please do not use my name. Thanks again!)
Hello, and thanks for writing--
Since questions of this kind are not uncommon in my therapy work, I have chosen to post my reply on the website so that others can read it too.
To begin with, judging from what you have written (and, as always, with the understanding that without knowing you personally I cannot be confident in making a diagnosis), I believe that you are suffering from a kind of cyclic depression which needs treatment. It doesn't matter if the "cause" is hormonal imbalance, or something else; depression is depression, and needs to be dealt with before you are hurt further by it. You may benefit from antidepressant medication along with psychotherapy, or some good psychotherapy alone may do the job, but in my professional opinion, it is important that you seek help for this immediately. Suicidal ideation is a serious warning sign, and, your friend's opinion, as well as your spiritual ideas notwithstanding, you seem to me to be at risk of suicide. Please take this advice and consult a psychologist for a depression evaluation.
Now to the other side of your question (and please be warned that in matters such as these, I do not hesitate to speak or write as truthfully as I am able, and without beating around the bush). You say that you have come to know your "true nature," but if that were so, you would not have put this question to me. Knowing your true nature, you would have no questions. In fact, you seem to be extremely confused about your true nature, and this is not surprising since, according to your letter, you have been relying on hearsay and a bunch of shopworn, second-hand opinions--words you got from what you call "teachers," (and now are parroting)--to try to comprehend something which is quite beyond words, something which must be experienced first-hand, in this very moment, and without any overlay of idle speculation such as "we never really die," or "we keep coming back until we get it right." Be honest! Beyond what you have read or been told, you know nothing whatsoever about all that. And since you know nothing about all that, you have no basis at all for judging whether the words of a "teacher" relate to anything real, or if they are just more nonsense being foisted on people who want to escape from life and its real demands.
So, are you really willing, as you have been doing, to take another human being's views on such matters as if those views were "truth?" If you are, you never will know the first thing about your true nature, for to know such a thing requires extraordinary skepticism, total independence of mind, and the courage to cut oneself off completely from stale religious and spiritual ideas. In other words, ones true nature is not in the past, not in books, not in "satsang," and not in other people's beliefs, but only now, in the present, never before existing, and never to exist again.
You ask why, having seen your true nature, you are not able to stabilize in it. The answer is simple. You have not seen your true nature, but a fantasy based entirely on hearsay. If you ever do get a glimpse of who and what you really are, it will not be a question of stabilizing in anything, but quite the opposite: things, including "oneself" will just flow like water in an arroyo, from moment to moment, ever-changing, impermanent, and always alive. And that will be OK--including that sometimes one feels depressed.
Regarding your marriage: I advise you to stop thinking that there is some other, better life beyond this very moment. Perhaps if you can accept living in the present for a change instead of always imagining some better future in which you have "stabilized" in your hand-me-down theories, you will have some energy and focus to give to your partner. It sounds as if he needs you.
If you would like to come to Todos Santos to see me, I am willing to meet with you, but I would not want you to travel all that way just to make me the next link in your chain of "teachers." What you think and feel right now, in this very moment is your true nature, obviously! Try to see it without judgment. You don't need me or anyone else to do that. It's all about you.
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