03.1.2012 9 Comments

After the Heart Attack, Who?

About a third or more of people who have bypass surgery, I've heard, struggle with depression. About 5 weeks after having that heart bypass operation, it hit me. Yup, I've become a proud member of that lucky third! 

Now, I am something of an expert on depression, having been clinically depressed for about 3 years in college, and having come out of it, I like to think, wiser. Depression was easily one of my greatest teachers: I discovered  then that I wasn't who I thought I was, and from it came the life long challenge to live in deeper integrity. 

So a bout of depression after this operation? Ach, old hat!  All I need to do is ask, what am I not owning up to in myself?  Piece o' cake!  

Hardly!!  But I could sense that the question haunting me was, do I want to get back into my old life now? I think part of an answer hit me last night; so this epiphany is a day old: I've been thinking about my life all wrong! 

When you're thinking mostly about the sensations in your chest or legs, you get preoccupied with you: your health, the sensations in your chest, your worklife.  And I've not wanted to climb back into to that life of promoting my recent book or our Soul Jazz workshops.

But, I suddenly realized, this is not what my life-work is about!   It's not about me at all, but about something far grander.

What I have been standing for, I just realized, why the Soul Jazz programs really exist (and yes, Virginia, long before a heart attack or bypass sutures) is telling the deep truth.

We all grow up learning social rules, playing the games, creating personas. We cook up worlds and lives for ourselves, mostly from the needs and guidance of our parents and society, and then we jump headling into them like Harold did with his Purple Crayon.

But most of us are not only our personas, our concocted choices.  Some of us are far different than the characters or lives we create.  My life has been, I suddenly remembered, dedicated to learning who I really am, what I really feel, where I honestly struggle and discover, and helping others do the same.  My work has been helping folks learn how to be free — not in some superficial political sense but in the deep psychological, metaphysical or intimate sense that is spiritual growth.

It has been my life-long task to grow, and to help others grow, through the illusions about who we are that leads so many of us to depressions, and beyond being out of alignment.  And to help people be honest about our subconscious biases–towards ethnic groups or races or sexual preferences. 

I have struggled to name, and to help others name, real truth: about fears of being abandoned, of failing, of being successful, of being ugly or unpopular or not rich enough or… And the Soul Jazz programs help people name where we are actually afraid or confident or anxious or lost, and figure out what to do about it. 

And we help folks share their truths with others who wish to do the same. To witness men and women self reflect and drop beneath their lies and self-talk with one another has been, without a question, to listen into spiritual contact of the highest order.  To speak honestly, to discover the really real with others who are themselves discovering the real–this is true intimacy. It is love. And it is a spiritual moment of the highest order!  

Reaching for deeper truth, alone or aloud with others, helps us live under the weight of fewer and fewer of our own lies.  As it says towards the end of Enlightenment Ain't… we come to stand bent under the burdens of fewer and fewer of our own lies. With our planted ever more deeply into the soil of what is so, we become ever more vertical in what we actually are.

Honesty sounds terrifically ordinary.  Such a common virtue!  It even makes it to the 10 Mosaic Commandments (not bearing false witness).  Yet becoming deeply honest with oneself, learning what we actually feel and think and wish and fear — this is neither common nor easy after all!  In fact, I think it is the one challenge that most of us duck.  Yet, when taken on as a life task, it's the one commandment that can actually make us free. 

What the path of ever deeper honesty offers is not unmingled happiness and it is not the conventional. Nor is it camaraderie or ease, though these may come. "What you get in the end is to be increasingly alive, the mystery coursing up your spine. You get to be more awake, more deeply honest, freer, and to stand up straighter and straighter in it." (p. 203)

So this is my epiphany:  It has not been for me that I was travelling around the country.  It was not to promote books or even workshops.  What I am "selling," what I stand for in my life, is the unending and wonderful challenge of becoming ever more real. 

It is not freedom from oppression or the freedom to vote I stand for, though these are not unconnected.  It is the freedom that comes with reaching ever deeper into what is so, with living under the burden of fewer and fewer of our own lies.

It is not me that I have been standing for.  It is the truth. And it will set us free.

9 Responses to “After the Heart Attack, Who?”

  1. March 03, 2012 at 11:02 pm, Janet Sussman said:

    Hi Bob,
    Just thinking of you and moved by what you are going through right now.
    Wishing you great love…Janet


  2. March 04, 2012 at 10:44 am, Peg Parham said:

    Sending love for you and the Truth you are discovering, living, and sharing.  It is a great gift.


  3. March 04, 2012 at 10:44 am, Dr. Dave O'Connell said:

    After 40 years of TM practice,I develpoed clinical depression.I am a psychologist with prescriptive authority in New Mexico.I was in disbelief and furious! I was told that meditating cultures the nervous system to not support a state of poor coherence such as depression.I still can't believe it.Rsearch on heart disease patients clearly shows meditating reduces  depression,even puts it into remission.I have responded well to an antidepressant after seeking help with Ayurveda whch proved worhless.I have had fantastic experiences over the years  meditating and even the presence of the silent witness you discussed in you recent book-which is outstanding.iIt was howvever,not a positive experience witnessing/watching my depressed self-it made the experience worse because I had beautiful memories of the transcendent without the toxic influence of depresion.
    You have a great attitude about this.I am happy for you.I don't have that in me ,even after 4 years on medication.You are pretty amazing.!


  4. March 04, 2012 at 1:06 pm, Larry Dossey said:

    Dear Bob,
    Thanks immensely.  Your profound words brought this old Zen aphorism to mind:  "If you die before you die, then when you die you will not die."
    Much love,


  5. March 04, 2012 at 7:59 pm, Tim Laporte said:

    Your path is very noble and valuable, Robert. Thank you for sharing this with us.


  6. March 05, 2012 at 3:35 am, Christina Svenby said:

    Hi Bob,
    Happy to hear that you are where you are…
    Love Christina


  7. March 06, 2012 at 12:03 am, Tami Dituri said:

    Wow!  I can never get enough of hearing someone speaking from their heart! Thank you. I loved your book by the way.


  8. March 06, 2012 at 1:48 pm, Mike McNally said:

    Bob, you are a voice of truth in a world that is full of delusions. Your work has provided sound arguments for an aspect of our being that is “really real.”  In a society that emphasizes scientific proof (or at least perspectives that have not been falsified), you are a clear voice for the truth of the “spiritual moment of the highest order,” i.e., the true intimacy of love experienced with others and in our meditation.  Your arguments allow us to be comfortable with the truth of our transcendent nature. That has allowed me to validate the mystery I experience “coursing up my spine.” This has allowed me to be  “more awake, more deeply honest, freer, and to stand up straighter and straighter in the presence of the Divine." Thank you for your wonderful dharma and good luck in healing your heart. With love, Mike


  9. May 09, 2012 at 6:35 pm, richard said:

    In my experience depression is a very deep and hard to deal with state. it is a kind of emptyness, but not the emptiness of being.
    I finally managed to come to terms with it while having a series of deep hypnosis regression sessions. The therapist did not understand what I was going through, and I think most therapists do not understand depression. I will try to describe what depression is, at least in my experience and how to deal with it.
    Firstly to have a negative attitude towards depression will guarentee that it will not be dealt with. It must be welcomed. Depression is such a subtle state because is not emotion but rather an atmosphere that comes from the separation from the mother just after birth. The descriptions given by Alexander Lowen of the schizoid state is the best I have come across.  It  is a place of utter greyness and bleakness devoid of any characteristics. There is no hope of anything, ever.
    I found that if I tried in any way to get out of the depression or express the feeling it would simply be an avoidance. It was by sitting in it, completely still, and welcoming it that eventually it transformed into a delightful lightness of being.
    In reply to David O'Connell it is the remembering of the transendental that keeps the depression in place. You are not accepting life as it is, in this moment but refering to memory. Try asking "can I allow this to be here without wanting it to change." Ultimately negative state are your friend.  High states are the invitation to what you have not faced in yourself and lead to higher states.


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