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May 25, 2019
Spirituality in mental health

Mental health has become such a big topic over the past few years. While the massive rise in anxiety and depression is painful, the way the public is starting to engage and sympathise with these issues is heart-warming and needed.

I can’t help feeling however, that there is a key component missing in the discussion – and that is a sense of spirituality in the suffering. The common narrative is that if you struggle, you’re broken. It may be becoming much more normal. It may be even slowly accepted. But you’re still broken. Talk to someone. Get help. Get fixed.

There is no sense of the meaning in the suffering, the bigger picture of the soul.

It is my experience that true healing comes when I have been able to step outside of the ego-narrative I have about myself, to connect and identify with a sense of myself as being profoundly connected to something bigger, universal, profoundly powerful and divine.

In those moments, I open to myself, to my struggle. I am able to embrace myself, my fragility and whatever is troubling me with an open heart.

I think it’s become unfashionable to talk about God. Many of us hold religion accountable for some of the World Wars, or guilt about sex, or homophobia. And obviously there is truth in the corruption and bigotry at the heart of some of the world’s institutions. The humans running them are flawed and imperfect (just like the rest of us).

But let’s not throw the religious baby out with the bathwater. At the heart of any religion is a desire to understand our reality in a meaningful way, to connect and celebrate the beautiful mystery of this life.

We need those feelings of wonder and awe. We need to look at the stars and marvel at the enormity of the universe that we find ourselves in. We need to feel like we are intricately connected to the fabric of the mystery and trust that there is an intelligent design to it all.

I know there is. Not because I have studied doctrines and have decided with my rational mind to believe, but because I have opened to the depths of my soul and discovered time and time again that transcendent blissful release of knowing something bigger than me. Of dissolving the tiny, imperfect, struggling ‘I’ and being humbled by a sense of myself in the bigger picture.

In those moments have been my deepest healing. Where I have transformed my pain into wisdom, and my hurt into love.

We need a sense of the transpersonal in our discussions of mental health. We need to give our struggles meaning and to connect to a pure sense of universal divine love that knows that every one of us is holy. Every one of us has a place and that we are all intimately connected to each other and to the universe that we live in.

We all long to be connected with each other and to something bigger than ourselves. We need to feel useful, like we’re contributing to a tribal pictures in which we play a meaningful part.

What if anxiety and depression weren’t something that made you broken, but a lineage of human pain that you need to heal? That you have chosen to take this pain in this life and to move the human race forwards, to heal the collective wounds we have inflicted upon each other with our warring, and our patriarchal dehumanising institutions.

What if you were incredibly brave and incredibly needed to do this work? How would that shape the way you see yourself and your struggles?

I believe this is the truth. All of us are holy. All of us are beautiful. All of us are needed. Those struggling with mental illness are the brave warriors who have chosen to transmute the pain of generations.

It’s entirely possible to do so but it is not easy. It’s the work of a lifetime. To keep going, to have the deep, deep courage to face your demons and heal, you need faith, you need trust, you need to know that you are sacred and this world is sacred and your struggles are profoundly meaningful.

So let’s start looking at mental health with this lens and maybe we will start to get somewhere.