Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Long Night's Journey into Day

There is a Zen book for everything, it seems. A rapid perusal of the first few hits that come up on reveals the following titles:

Zen & the Art of Happiness
Zen Golf
Zen to Done: The Ultimate Simple Productivity System
Zen & the Art of Knitting
Zen Zombie: Better Living from the Undead
The Zen of CSS Design: Visual Enlightenment for the Web

and, of course: Zen Sex: The Way of Making Love

So I should not have been surprised when I stumbled upon The Zen Path through Depression by Philip Martin. Since it seemed a natural fit for me, I bought a copy. The trouble is, when I'm not depressed, I find no reason to pick it up. And when I am depressed, I don't have the concentration or the energy to read. There it has sat, on my bookshelf, for at least 10 years.

But for some reason, tonight I glanced over in that direction and spotted it. I had enough inclination to at least pick it up and flip through the pages, even though the thought of sitting down to read the whole thing is a little daunting.

I just happened to open to this passage:

Return to the place you have imagined as your depression. If you have been here a number of times, you know this place well. You may even feel comfortable here. You have found it is no longer a terrifying place, and that there can be much of value in this place.

As you return, envision that in this place there is now a path to be found. Perhaps it is a trail that has been worn through the dark forest you were in, or a star to follow to guide yourself out of a deep desert night - or a lifeline you can follow from deep beneath the sea.

Look closely at this path, this trail, until it becomes clear to you. Realize that there is a way out of this place you once thought you would be lost in forever. Are you ready to leave? Are you perhaps surprised to find you are sad at the prospect of leaving? Are you ready to begin the journey?

So much resonates for me in these words. Yes, I know there is much value to be found in depression. I have lived deeper and more intensely because of these battles, and I believe they have made me more compassionate, more honest, and more courageous.

I love the image of the star leading me out of "a deep desert night." There have been many, many nights with no stars. But now, as I think on this, it is exactly like nature's sky: on the night's without stars, they are not actually absent; they are hidden from view. The stars do always come out again.

And while I am waiting for the star to appear - it is a long night's journey into day.


  1. Michelle,

    I think most artists have little choice but to accept those dark places and learn to deal with them. They are part and parcel of who we are and what we are here to express. Vision means seeing all of it, the dark and the light. I don't think we get to have one without the other. And would you trade your vision if it meant not having the dark? I wouldn't.

    Yup. The trick is keeping your focus while in the dark, knowing that you will come out the other end of it. You are clearly doing that. Just keep putting your pen to paper, no matter what. Your words serve to light the path...for more than just you, my friend!

  2. Michelle,
    Re: Long Night's Journey.
    That is such a wonderful vision, the star guiding you out of the desert night. Keep strong and look up, the Journey is just beginning. And keep up with your writing, I would love to see you working on a book...

  3. Such good advice (& support)!! Don't forget, even if you don't believe, that you have friends who areisalways sending their best to you & who know in the world we all share that you are a wonderful person. zt

  4. Clare, You are very right about the "vision." Many times I have thought: would I trade my artist's sensibility for a life completely free of angst? The answer is always "No." Thanks for the reminder.
    Phil and Tony, I appreciate your words of support. It makes all the difference knowing that my friends are out there...