When I lived in India for a year, meditating daily, surrounded by other seekers, and enjoying the relaxed ashram life, I entered a state of happiness I thought would never end. Finally, it seemed I had achieved what I had been reading about for years. It was ecstatic, every single day. I even planned to write a book when I got home: how to heal your depression for good.
Unfortunately, my happiness went away with a THUD when I got back to the West, bringing a depression that was as low as my previous state was high. My chronic depression was perhaps more virulent than ever, now that I was aware of what I had lost. My therapist at the time had never experienced what I had, but he was kind and solid as an oak. “I think your depression is the absence of That,” he said.
I ran around looking for answers, and found some when I was sitting in a small group of seekers surrounding Eli Jaxon-Bear. “I thought it would never go away,” I cried when it was my turn to talk. Everyone in the group started chuckling softly. “You’re chasing the high,” Eli said. “Look at your pattern of addictions.” I didn’t think I still had them, but there they were – addictions to certain ways of thinking, to expectations, to ideas about how things should be — subtler than I had previously been able to detect.
These high states are not supposed to last. They are little tastes of the Ultimate – the carrot at the end of the stick. They are little morsels to keep us on track, to keep us searching for the real stuff.
People who have peak experiences, either through drugs, through meditation, through sex, or through Grace, often imagine that they have now arrived. It is beyond-belief painful when the realization sets in that the peak won’t be permanent. However, it was predictable, because every high is followed by the low, every mountain has its valley; that is, until you reach Everest, or so I’ve been told.
After the taste, the work resumes: the work on oneself to become more aware, more kind, more surrendered. More open to life, to love, to the divine. Like anything else worth having in life, it takes a lot of work to get there. The little tastes of happiness that don’t last can be reminders to not lose heart and to keep going until you’re home.
© 2014 Catherine Auman This article is an excerpt from Catherine’s book Shortcuts to Mindfulness: 100 Ways to Personal and Spiritual Growth