A beautiful word “AVASAADA” is described in ayurveda. Literally it means you are not here. In other words, if you are not aware of the here and now, then you are not mentally healthy. Thinking and living in past leads you to depression while thinking and living in the future lead to anxiety.
Before we inquire into the problem of AVASAADA, let us ask ourselves, what is thinking?
When someone puts to you a question with which you are familiar, your response is immediate; you do not have to think. For example, if someone asks you where you live, you reply without having to think about it. But if a more complicated question is asked, there is hesitation, which indicates that you are looking for an answer; the mind is then seeking an answer in the cupboard of memory. That is what we call thinking.
‘I do not know, but I am trying to find an answer in all my memories … in the knowledge I have accumulated … and then when I find it, I respond.’ Clearly this type of response, which is a reaction of memory, is derived from what we call thinking.
Thought is born of experience and knowledge. Thinking is materialistic; it is a processing of matter. We rely on thinking to solve all our problems. All mental problems are created, psychologically and inwardly, by thought.
Let us follow what is happening. Thought gives rise to the problem, psychologically; the mind is trained to solve problems with further thinking. Thought creates the problem and then tries to solve it. So it is caught in a continuous process, a routine.
We need to find out if it is at all possible to approach life in a different way, other than through thought because thought does not solve our problems; on the contrary thought brings about greater complexity.
It is important to understand the nature of our thinking. Our thinking is based on remembrance of things past - which is thinking about what, happened a week ago, thinking about how it is modified in the present, and how it will be projected into the future. This is actually the movement of our life so knowledge has become all-important to us but knowledge is never complete.
The Ayurvedic word AVASAADA includes the concepts of Depression and Anxiety.
Depression is a generic term that has become so broad as to lose its meaning - that is unless, of course, you are depressed! To understand depression from a mental standpoint, it is necessary to understand how the mind, emotions, and feelings function. Lack of knowledge about how our minds function is called ignorance. Without this understanding, the generic term "depression" cannot be understood or the condition eliminated.
The Ayurvedic perspective is especially interesting for two reasons: old Ayurvedic scholars who perceived the workings of the mind was able to completely disassociate from it and thus had a truly objective view of its functions; and it works.
The primary mistake that people make is in not considering how the mind functions. They thus become trapped by thoughts, moods, and feelings that are transitory. These transient objects - thoughts, emotions, and feelings - are just that: transient. They pass through the field of conscious awareness in a continuous flow.
One thing is certain about the mental function - it is always changing. This is easily observable. Pick any thought that is going through your mind - the new shoes you saw in a shop window this morning - and try to hold onto it. Think of nothing other than the new shoes. Soon that thought will be replaced by another (is it gone already?). Your stomach will grumble, you will think about a handbag that matches the new shoes you saw, your child will call, or another thought will pass through you mind.
In the Ayurvedic sense, "mind" comprises thinking (movement of thought), intellectual reasoning, memory, emotions, and feelings. In Ayurvedic psychology, each of these has a specific name, but they all function together and so can simply be called the "mind". It is interesting to note that the emotions and feelings are considered so intrinsic to mental function they are not classified as being separate from the workings of the mind.
Why is this?
What is it that perceives emotion or feelings? When you say, "I am depressed," what is it that becomes aware of this state? When you say, "I feel bad" or "I feel good," what is it that contains an awareness of these passing states? By the same token, what is it that comprehends the thought of the new shoes passing by? Or the stomach rumbling? Or the needs of your child? Some process occurs that is not only conscious, but is also aware of what is passing - be it a thought, emotion, or feeling. This total functioning we call the "mind" or mental field" in Ayurveda.
Normally, we do not question what passes through this mental field or mind. We are vaguely aware of thoughts or emotions crossing this field of conscious awareness. Occasionally, we grab onto one thought and follow it until, it fizzles out. The mental perception is often so vague that people in general are not aware that there is not a continuous stream of thoughts, but rather many different individual thoughts passing separately.
Just look at the scenarios:-
Depression, according to this explanation, occurs when a thought or emotion is chosen and then gets stuck in the mental field and won't go away. It stays inside and goes around and around, until we go mad, get stressed, get depressed, or have a nervous breakdown.
All mental troubles result from latching on to a single thought, emotion, or feeling and staying in a relationship with it. This prevents the natural flow of thoughts through the mental field.
What also becomes apparent in these figures is that you have a choice. You can pick any thought you like. Verify this, is this true? Test it and see. Do you have the ability to choose and then release any thought that is passing through your mental field of awareness? You do indeed. And when you have confirmed this fact, you have empowered yourself. You have suddenly become the master when seconds before you were the slave.
This drastic shift of power results from a small but critical change. You now have the power to choose. You have always had that power, but you were only vaguely aware of it, or perhaps you were never aware of it. The lack of awareness of this choice enslaves you to anything that passes through your head, good or bad, happy or depressing.
By choosing, you change your life, you take charge of your mind and emotions. Each person has different affinities and attractions. These affinities cause certain feelings, emotions, and thoughts to be chosen by the consciousness.
Your affinities can be of two kinds. The first and most troublesome type of affinity comes from conditioned behaviour - what we learn from society, family and friends. The second comes from latent impressions that are either genetic or are carried from previous incarnations. In fact, both types are what are called latent impressions in Ayurveda, which gives two different names to distinguish between them. SAMSKARAS are conditioned affinities that are picked up in this life, and VASANAS are those impressions that are inherent in the human being.
Examples of the first are already clear; girls wear pink and boys wear blue. Stupid things like that are drilled into us before we can hear or speak. "Girls like clothes and boys like cars." "You are stupid." "You are so bright." "You are beautiful, but so slow to …" And so we are conditioned, for better or worse.
The other kinds of affinities are not as clear and are not at all understood by modern psychologists. The VASANAS are very deep and lie in the unconscious and subconscious mind. The primary VASANAS is actually the source of the mind itself and of both the unconscious and subconscious minds. The primary nature of VASANAS is that "I am limited to the body." This gives rise to the whole physical and mental function. The VASANAS of which we are semiconscious are the ones that propel us through life, making us lawyers, writers, artists, or housewives. These are strong, deep forces in life that can be seen simply as primal affinities that pull us toward different careers, persons, and ideals.
Simply speaking, these two different kinds of affinities are what get us into relationships with the thoughts and emotions that are passing through the mental field. This is where problems begin and when we must assert our choice.
Neither the thoughts nor the emotions are problematic, but the relationship we have with them can be. These relationships are due to affinities that come from both conditioned behaviour and from deep primal sources. The trick here is not to dwell on the reason for the affinities. This is the realm of psychotherapy and psychology. It is useful to a point, but limited in actually bringing peace of mind. It is useful to help understand the sources and causes of the conditioning. This, however, will seldom bring peace and contentment according to Ayurveda.
An example will be beneficial: I get depressed each time I feel my partner is becoming emotionally aggressive. I feel hurt and am unable to express my hurt. I also feel the aggression is unjustified, which adds to my frustration. Because I am unable to express this, I end up feeling depressed.
In this example, the depression is clearly the result of two factors, both of which stem from conditioned behaviour.
Instead of spending several thousand dollars to be able to write your parents hate mail - which can be helpful on a beginning level (provided you don't actually mail the letters!), why not attack the root of the problem? Ayurveda feels that, instead of wasting a lot of time and money on peripheral issues, why not go directly to the primary issue, which is to cut the relationship with the conditioned behaviour that creates the affinity?
This method is not easy. It doesn't come in a box to which you just add water. But the method does work. It works with time and patience, because we have to relearn or change the habitual manner in which we have been taught to deal with things.
It is necessary to understand one other point before the whole Ayurvedic picture falls into place. We have seen that we have a choice, yet what is this choice? Ask yourself if this activity, thought, emotion, or whatever, brings you peace. Or does it bring unhappiness and disturbance? By questioning ourselves like this, things become very simple: either a thought brings peace of mind, or it brings disturbance. Either an emotion is calming, or it is disruptive. Either an activity brings fulfillment, or it brings dissatisfaction.
We have the power to choose peace in our lives, or we have the power to choose misery. More often than not, we are conditioned to choose misery. Therefore, we must change our conditioning or mental habits. This takes some effort and time, but it is infinitely worthwhile.
Peace comes when we eliminate the activities that disturb it or prevent it from coming. Hence, we can see that, just by removing thoughts, emotions, or activities that disturb us, we can find happiness and eliminate moods like depression.
For example, I am depressed because I am alone and I have no one who loves me. The feeling of isolation is depressing to me. After some years, the pattern becomes clear when I think about it; I get very depressed for some weeks. The habits are clear and I can see that it is destructive, yet I continue.
To break out of this, first identify the actual thought that starts the relationship - "no one loves me". When the "no one loves me" thought comes into your mental field and you become aware of it, this is a critical moment. You have an instant in which to choose to let it go out of your head with the other thoughts. Simply recognize the thought. "Ah, yes, I know you, you make me depressed. I do not want to get into a relationship with you now". Choose this and divert your attention to something else. If your attention can be diverted with a firm decision, you have won and the thought will pass on. It may come back in a few minutes, or hours, or days. Then you must repeat these same steps over and over, until the thought finally gives up and leaves.
If I walk into a room where you are sitting and you ignore me, sooner or later I will get fed-up from waiting and I will leave. Thoughts are like this. If you give them attention, they will stay. If you divert your attention, they will become tired and leave - in time. Your ability to firmly and consistently divert your attention will indicate your level of success. Don't worry if you fall into the old pattern a few times because you could not catch it soon enough. And above all, don't use this method to self-criticize, because both positive and negative attention can feed thoughts and emotions.
Here is what to do if you fall into depression. Divert your attention, using one of two methods: physical activity (running or cleaning the house) and thought substitution. The physical substitute is easier, but is usually effective only as long as you do the activity. Thought substitution is more effective, but requires more practice.
The most effective substitutes are sounds.
The Ayurvedic approach to deal with this is Sound Vibration Treatments.
There are several key sounds that are useful because they vibrate at certain frequencies that have an effect on the nervous system. Different sounds are used for different needs. Below is a brief description of key sounds. .
Hum (the "u" as in "put") - dispels fear and anxiety
Shrim ("shreem") - is cooling, creative, and feminine
Ram (the "a" as in "father") - is protecting, calm, and peaceful
Sham ("shum") - brings detachment, peace, and contentment
Anyone can use these sounds as needed. They generally succeed best if they are used for a period of time and not just when you are in a depression.
The use of sound is very effective in balancing vata and all forms of vata mental disturbances, like depression. These sounds are very good preventive measures if you are prone to chronic bouts of depression. But do not wait until you are depressed to use these sounds - they will help somewhat, but the effect will be much greater if you learn to use them before depression sets in. Experiment with the sounds and find one that you like. At first, pronounce the sound that you choose aloud, until it is clear in your mind. Then use it silently. This way, you can use it in public and no one will be aware that you have substituted a sound for a disturbing thought.
This should be understood. There is nothing magical or mysterious about the mind and its functioning. If you use the word soap, soap, soap, it will serve to substitute the habitually disruptive thoughts. However, it is clear that we should learn from the experience of the ancients and use their suggestions.
In summary, we can perceive the mind in the following manner:
Thoughts are emotions and feelings, as well as ideas or objects.
Thoughts are individual things that we can accept or reject.
We have a fundamental choice: selecting either peaceful or disturbing experiences in the mental field.
Certain thoughts are troublesome because we have affinities for them.
Affinities are latent impressions. There are two kinds - conditioned and primal.
Our relationship with our affinities causes thoughts to become stuck in our mental field, causing depression.
The moment a thought becomes recognized, we can choose to let it go by making a firm choice for peace.
If we realize too late and become trapped in mental agitation, we can divert our attention by two means: physical activity or thought substitution.
Specific sounds are very effective in substituting thoughts, because they affect the nervous system through the vata Dosha.
Substituting a thought with a sound should be practiced regularly throughout the day to be really effective.
Biochemical disturbance can be caused by a number of factors. The main causes are those that disturb Vata: this means the mind and the nervous system. Mental stress, lack of love, anxiety, fear, worry, and the overstimulation of the senses are the main external factors that disrupt the endocrine system. Internal factors include the ingestion of foods or products that have estrogenic chemicals, and medications of any kind.
As our whole food chain is filled with estrogenic chemicals, this alone is enough to disrupt the biochemical function of half of all the women in the United States. Many of these persons will suffer depression as a symptom of having ingested these chemicals. A look at how many women take birth control pills gives an idea how many may have endocrine functions that are affected by the regular and prolonged use of these products.
Disassociating yourself from the chemical malfunction of your body can bring enormous freedom. It allows you to see that, in fact, nothing is wrong with you. You are fine and should not allow yourself to be categorized or put into a box as "unstable, "depressive", "oversensitive", "disturbed" etc. These labels do not allow you to be happy, nor do you have to accept them.
You must, however, do something to get your body back in balance. This may be facilitated by using any of the methods that I described above for mental depression - especially if you have actually convinced yourself that something is wrong with you.
In advocating the following treatments, it is not advisable to stop taking anti-depressants abruptly. It is better to taper off slowly.
I have found the following two treatments very effective:
First is Meditation for self-balancing
Switch off all electronics: like cell phones, computers, etc. so that you will not get disturbed during this meditation.
Best time every day is early in the morning, after toiletries, for 15 minutes.
Stand on both legs. Start observing how you are standing: your body weight will probably be primarily on one leg.
Just observe it for a while and then slowly move the weight onto the other leg. Keep shifting the weight slowly from one leg to the other with complete awareness. Always observe the shifting of weight from one leg to the other.
After 3 weeks try to balance so that weight is equal on both legs
After 2-6 weeks, the body will neither be on the right nor the left, it will be centralized
There will be no more weight.
Second method is to be in a state of being
Regardless of whether your imbalance comes from mental or physical sources the result is the same; a disruption in the mind or body is due to endocrine malfunction. It is not our purpose of to dwell on these aspects, but rather to point them out as a reality of our culture and times. When seen objectively, the occurrence of chronic, or monthly, bouts of depression can almost certainly be taken as "normal", given the circumstances in which we live. We can, however, do something about it.
Lie and stare at the sky above. What will happen is that thought will come. No cell phone, nothing to distract. Thought will always come, once the one thought is past or gone the next one will come. When the thought comes, do not pay attention to the thought, don’t provide fuel for it, just let it pass. Of course the next thought will come, but also let this pass and do not even think about not paying attention to the thought. As this will also be a thought, so just let the thought pass.
In the beginning it will be only for moments, but even those moments are transforming. By and by the mind will slow down, bigger gaps will appear. For minutes together there will be no thought, no cloud. And when there IS no thought, no cloud, the outer sky and the inner become one, because only thought is the barrier.
Your own boundaries will disappear, because the no-boundary sky will reflect within you. And if you can stare without blinking your eyes, that will be good.
Stare into the emptiness, move into that emptiness, feel that you have become one with it, and any moment the sky will enter within you. First you enter into the sky and then the sky enters you. And there is a meeting: the inner sky meeting the outer sky. In that meeting is realization. In that meeting there is no mind.
Doing this for 3 months will result in meditation with open eyes. The perfect meditation of at least 45 min, as this is minimum time needed to actually effectively meditate for clearing the mind.
We must not forget to be healthy and happy is our basic right provided by nature.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me should you require further advice or guidance. Being an Ayurvedic doctor I will try my best to make you as healthy as I can.
Thanks for reading. Your feedback is highly appreciated