Dealing with Despair

Hello my fellow human Beings:

We all deal with despair at some point in our lives. It may be when we lose a job, have a relationship end, or experience the unexpected loss of a loved one.

This unplanned, unwanted and unforeseen event catches us by surprise. We may be in shock and disbelief. We feel hurt, sad, angry, guilty, lost, unsure, unsettled and a slew of other emotions. That is because despair is an emotional state, not a cognitive state. With despair we let our emotions overwhelm us and our thoughts spiral around the negative emotions we are feeling.

Mary Pipher, clinical psychologist and best-selling author, in an interview with Tami Simon (www.soundstrue.com) entitled “Despair Cracks Open Your Heart”, describes despair as a lack of trust:

“[Despair] is when your inner and outer resources are not sufficient to cope with the world as you’re experiencing it. I also think it has something to do with trust. It has to do with one’s own trust in the universe and in one’s own capacities to deal with that universe. So, it’s sort of a disruption of trust. …

That’s really a moment when – without a faith in one’s own resiliency and without a kind of belief that the universe is ultimately kind – we can go to very dark places.”

But even when we are feeling in the midst of despair and we feel so disappointed and dejected by the outcomes we’ve encountered in our lives, we can still remember the lessons of our meditation practice to help us deal with despair.

First, love yourself.

  • Wrap your arms around your body and give yourself a hug.
  • Treat yourself to something you enjoy.
  • Repeat some positive affirmations that reaffirm your gifts, strengths and true essence of who you are.

Second, breathe deeply and sit with your emotions.

  • Take some deep, slow, conscious breaths.
  • Sit with your feelings and emotions. (Yes, this may be difficult as they are negative emotions, and we would rather run and hide from them. But you need to own them and feel them fully in a calm, centred manner so that you can process them and observe yourself face the impermanence of those emotions. Live through the changing feelings.)
  • You may find it helpful to journal or talk to someone about your emotions afterwards.

Third, connect with loved ones, the Universe and be grateful.

  • Spend time connecting with loved ones (your non-judgemental pets, close family and friends). (They know who you truly are and can help you through the losses.)
  • Connect with the Universe or a higher spiritual power through your meditation practice (or prayer).
  • Be grateful for all you have in your life. (Count your blessings. Recount the lessons you have learned from the experience that ended in the loss.)

Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hahn, reminds us in his poem, Our True Heritage, that we are more than despair. He writes:

“You, the richest person on Earth,

who have been going around begging for a living,

stop being the destitute child.

Come back and claim your heritage.

We should enjoy our happiness

and offer it to everyone.

Cherish this very moment.

Let go of the stream of distress

and embrace life fully in your arms.”

So I encourage you not to give up and to not lose yourself in despair. Instead, find time to PAUSE, to be still, to love yourself, to BREATHE, and to connect to your Source (inner and outer).

May you be happy.

May you be healthy.

May you be peaceful.

May you be free from suffering.

May you live with ease.

May you live abundantly!