Welcome to Joy Lab!: Welcome to the Joy Lab podcast, where we help you uncover and foster your most joyful self. Your hosts, Dr. Henry Emmons and Dr. Aimee Prasek, bring you the ideal mix of soulful and scientifically sound tools to spark your joy, even when it feels dark. When you're ready to experiment with more joy, combine this podcast with the full Joy Lab program over at JoyLab.coach
Aimee: Welcome to Joy Lab. I'm Aimee. And if you are listening to this episode when it drops, it is the new year. And I love that we're wrapping up our pod with these last two lessons. I think they are so empowering, uh, and can set the stage for the new year. Perhaps setting some resolutions maybe that are anchored in self acceptance, healing, and tapping into your wisdom. In fact, the meditation that Henry will note in this lesson, something we refer to as dialogue with your soul, we do this in the Joy Lab program actually, it's really an opportunity to do just that. To tap into your wisdom. It's there, we can invite it to the surface.
So that meditation will drop in the next episode. If you're in the resilient community, you'll already have that available to you. Maybe though you are listening to this in the dog days of summer, perhaps, uh, if that's the case, perfect.
Take this lesson and the meditation with you outside, soak up some sun. So I'll pass it to Henry to close our podcourse, but before I do that, actually, I just want to say, I really hope this pod course has served you well. Our mission here at Joy Lab is not only to make mental health tools and education more accessible and help you build resilience, but to help you, all of us, go beyond that. Really to embrace who we already are; connected, unbroken, resilient, brilliant creatures.
All of us. So enjoy this lesson and the meditation that'll come in the next episode. And then we'll see you back for our good old Joy Lab format. But, actually, with a big surprise. You'll have to stay tuned for that.
Henry: I want to talk now about depression in a very different way than I've talked about it with you, and probably a different way than you've heard it talked about before. I want to talk about depression as a sacred experience. I am not in any way saying that we would want to go through something like depression in order to have a deeper experience of life, there is no need to go this route. But if you're there, or if you're coming out of a depression, it would be possible to use this as a vehicle for spiritual growth or for becoming somehow larger than you were. Parker Palmer, who is a writer, and speaker, and well known teacher, and who has been very publicly open about his own depression, he talks about this in a really profound way, and he asks the question, how is it that some people, when they come out of an experience with depression, are, are so diminished by it? Probably most people.
And yet, there are others who seem to be enlarged by this encounter. I don't really have an answer for that, but I think it's a really great question. And I think there are some things that you might be able to do that at least give you a better chance of coming out the other end of this experience and being somehow enlarged by it.
Rachel Naomi Remen said that the "soul is the human capacity to have a spiritual experience." And Mary Oliver, the poet, said it in an even deeper way. She said, " This is the first, wildest, and wisest thing I know. The soul exists, and it is built entirely out of attention." I love that. The soul exists. Not only does she say it exists, this is the first, wildest, and wisest thing I know.
And how does it exist? It is built entirely out of attention. One way to look at an experience of depression, it is a message. It is bringing us to our knees. In a very profound way and telling us that there is another part of our lives that needs attention. Now, I don't think that is always true for depression.
Sometimes depression is simply brain chemistry gone awry or some kind of nutrient deficiency or just having too much stress or too many things going on in your life at the same time. But sometimes it is something deeper or a call towards something deeper. Now, I do not think that joy is the opposite of depression.
I think joy means that we become more fully alive. And it is possible for anything to bring us into fuller life. There's a beautiful concept that comes out of the Celtic tradition. It's called the thin place. As I understand that, a thin place is a time or perhaps a set of experiences or situations that make the distance between you and the divine, thinner. It makes you more permeable.
It invites the divine to come into your life. Or the sacred to come into your life. I had an experience, oh, about, 17, 18 years ago when my father died. And this was the first really important person in my life that I had lost. And what I remember really clearly... from that time is that for about one week, maybe 10 days, I was freed up from everything.
First time in my life, I had felt like I had no obligations, no work, nothing to do, and I was given the freedom to be completely with my grieving. It was profound. And I think it was profound because I was allowed that space. Now that was the first major loss, but in the next three years, I had three more. Each year in April oddly enough.
And so this created a really thin place for me. A time where I was really brought low. And to a depth that I don't think I'd experienced before. And I remember then inviting soul to come in or inviting the sacred. I developed a pattern of writing that I'm going to describe for you in a little bit where I would ask questions of my, inner voice, my soul, if you will.
And I would listen and then I would write whatever came up. And this went on, it went on for a very long time because I had a lot I needed to say. And a lot of things I was working with. It really became the heart of my first book. I had no idea that that's what was happening at the time, but it did. And I think the best parts, the richest parts of the book came directly out of that experience.
Now, talking about the soul, talking about spirit is difficult because we all think about it in really different ways, if we think about it at all, if we believe in it at all. I'm with Mary Oliver. I believe the soul exists, but I also think that it is shy to reveal itself. The soul is not going to hit us over the head.
It's not going to, you know, jump right out in front of us. It waits to be invited. It's sort of like a wild animal that will not show itself if you're crashing through the woods. You need to provide some silence, some quiet, some space, and then you need to give it your attention. I'll describe the way that I did this, and I'm going to invite you to, to do this yourself.
And I'm, in fact, I'll guide you through a meditation practice that you can use, but you can also just, just do this on your own at any time. This is a way of journaling that allows you to speak from a deeper place. To connect with a, maybe a deeper voice within yourself. It is you, but it's a part of you that doesn't always get heard, isn't always acknowledged, or whose opinion isn't always asked for.
So, the way you can do this is to just find a quiet time, a time set aside that you know you will not be interrupted. So you may need to go away, or you may need to turn off your cell phone and just be sure that you're going to have an uninterrupted time. And then you might take just a few moments to do a quieting, settling sort of meditation, maybe an awareness of breathing practice.
But you can also just sit quietly and let your mind settle. And then if there's something that is working on you, maybe there's something on your heart or in your mind that you really need to attend to. You can take your pen and your journal. I think it's nice to have a special journal for something like this and just write a question.
If you have a question, you just write it at the top of the page and then you close your eyes and you be quiet for a while. And you invite whatever is there to come up and when you feel moved in some way, when something seems relevant, or maybe it's just an image, or a memory, or anything that seems to be bubbling up from within, you start writing with no intention to write well, or use proper grammar, or punctuation or any of that.
In fact maybe if you're able you could even write with your other hand. But, but it's a way of just writing without thinking about it, without trying to articulate in any certain way. And you keep writing until you feel you're done, you've said what you need to say. And then you can go quiet again, take a few more moments, see if there's another question.
Maybe you have a question that was prompted by what you just came out of your your mind. And you can hold that question. Write it on the page again. Hold it in silence for a little while. And do the same thing. You can do this until you feel you've said all you have to say at that moment. Or until your time runs out and then do this again, whenever you need to.
There are some other practices that you can do during this time of, let's say the time of recovery. When the depression is still having an effect on you, you're not quite out of it, but you're also not immersed in deepest part of it. Again, a reference to Parker Palmer, who describes how he got out of one of his most severe depressions, he had a friend, a Quaker friend, so someone who's used to silence. And the friend came over and without speaking a word, he just sat with him and rubbed his feet. Didn't say anything, didn't give him any advice, didn't tell him things are going to be okay, you know, didn't talk about what was going on in his life.
He just sat with him, just had that presence. So you can do that. You can have someone, if you know someone in your life, who's just able to be present with you. And that very presence makes you feel more connected or feel better. Or you could do that for yourself. You can treat yourself with greater tenderness, kindness, knowing that this is a time of permeability, openness, when you can take that kind of thing in.
This would also be a time to practice self or loving kindness or compassion toward yourself. So you can do a compassion meditation. I think it's really helpful to remember that you can take your time for this. You don't have to rush. Just like my experience when, after my father died, it was only seven or eight days, but it felt like a luxurious, large amount of time.
And you can offer that for yourself. Just the gift of spaciousness of time.
I'm going to read a blessing to you. This is something that came out of my own writing, my own dialogue with my inner voice. And it is something that ended up being printed in the Chemistry of Joy. "It is not perfection that we seek. It is fuller growth into who we truly are. And that is no goal at all, really.
It simply asks us to be here now. Fully in this life, in each moment. Mind and heart aligned in wholeheartedness. It is so simple, really, what we are called to be and do. It is just as easy as being ourselves in every moment and every circumstance. It is to live as fully and joyfully as we can. Each moment, capable of giving and receiving, loving and being loved, caring and being cared for, healing and being healed.
Do not fret or feel insufficient when you find that there are further lessons to learn, or when you develop an illness or misalignment that needs healing, or when you feel the need to be loved or cared for by another. Joyfulness is available to you at every step. Not so much as a goal that you are moving toward, but as a pleasing companion for your journey."
Thank you for journeying with me.
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