How to Overcome Despair – Inspire Hope (Literally)
This How to Overcome Despair article introduces you to a practice that is essential to the journey of life. It is a practice that will shield you from entering the prison of despair. Even should that experience happen to you, this practice will allow the light of hope to shine and lead you out of this prison.
One of my favorite prayers that I pray on a regular basis is the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. This has the wonderful line in it that asks:-
Where there is despair let me sow hope – From the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.
This How to overcome despair article is written in an attempt to sow hope. There is hardly anyone of us who will not at some point in their lives reach a point of despair. Often there is deep shame associated with this experience and a profound sense of failure and unworthiness. However, this very experience can be the opening to what I might refer to as a second awakening. This experience of despair can become the start of a great new adventure into the discovery of that dimension of life which is beyond despair.
I lived a life of despair in my early twenties. I was fortunate to survive. One thing that kept me from falling more deeply into the prison of despair was the practice of Hatha Yoga and, although I did not realise it at the time, I had intuitively connected to the practice of Yoga Nidra. Out of this practice and the practice of Raja Yoga I was graced the knowing of a life and a dimension beyond despair. It is the perfume of this dimension that remains and graces my life. It is from this perfume of transcendence that I write this invitation on how to overcome despair – a foundational Approach. However, this article is not about Hatha Yoga.
Those who are regular visitors to this website will begin to recognise that I use a certain kind of language here. In the words of the mystic poet Hafiz it is “
that sweet moon language that every other eye in the world is longing to hear.
In addition to this poetic language I also use the language of storytelling, archetypes and song lyrics to invite you beyond what I refer to as “the tower of the intellect.” This is the tower where the Sleeping Beauty that you are is awaiting to be awakened. This kind of language speaks to your condition beyond simply sharing more information. In order to begin to learn how to overcome despair I wish to share a favorite poem. Then I will take you into its deeper invitation.
The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in the beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their life with fore thought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting for their light.
For a time I rest in the grace of the world and am free.
- Wendell Berry
I know that the despair for the world grows in me at times. I only have to spend a little time focused on the television and media and it will take no time at all before the despair for the world grows in me and I begin to find myself worried for the future and the future of the children of the world. That is why I do not watch television or read newspapers. I focus my energy on sowing hope by writing and sharing The Way of Chakra Healing. While you may not be able to go and lie down where the wood drake rests or the great heron feeds there is much in this poem that can invite you to recognise how to move beyond despair into the peace of wild things.
When despair for the world grows in you it is likely you find yourself not sleeping very well and you might awake in the night at the least sound. My recommendation is to begin a practice of Yoga Nidra. This is called the yoga of sleep. It does not require you to practice physical asana’s but it invites you to rest in the experience of the peace of wild things. That is a first step but it is not the foundational step that I want to introduce here.
You need to learn a technique for avoiding despair. This technique is so very simple. Therein, lies its problem – or challenge if you like. It is what the wild things do naturally that we have forgotten. In a very real sense these wild things are having this experience done to them. We spend our time avoiding this experience being done to us because most of us live in armoured bodies where we resist our feeling life. This is a major reason that they experience a form of peace that we have forgotten. What is it that the wild things do that we have forgotten? It is the connection to the flow of the breath. It is that simple and it is that profound.
What takes you into despair?
The major thing that takes you into the experience of despair are thoughts and emotions. An emotion is a feeling with a thought attached. Peace of mind is not the absence of feeling but the abiding in the experience of presence which is beyond thought. Spiritual traditions know that the way to fall into despair is to start a thought process that you continue and which spirals downward. This is called rumination and leads to depression. The way in which to take back your personal power is to consciously root yourself in the awareness of the breath.
Thoughts are like a kite. The breath is the string by which you control it. This is an essential, and I mean essential, understanding that I invite you to connect with. Breath and spirit are essentially the same. Awareness of the breath takes you not into the despair of the world; the inspiration of the Divine then expresses as creative inspiration through your bodily form.
In Wendell Berry’s poem, the still water is the stillness of the emotions that get attached to thoughts and create a storm at sea within your life. They may keep you awake in the night rather than allow you to awaken the inner purpose of your life that is the Sleeping Beauty within you. The grace of the world is the flow of energy through the root chakra. It is the grace of embodiment. You appreciate and love the body and allow it to become a portal for the awareness of the inner body – the life force that lives within you and is ever alive within you.
Inspiring Hope (Literally)
Then for some little time, as the poet says, “You are free.” You are present to the breath moving into and out of the body. You are present to the moment which is the only time there ever is. You cannot think and consciously breathe at the same time.
Thought is where despair begins. The thought gets connected to a feeling and then very often you are carried away, stirring he still water into a raging torrent. We are all highly attached to our thoughts. They create for us an identity called the persona. It is a radical idea for most people that it is their incessant thinking that disturbs the peace that is wildly alive within us but which we have forgotten. The good news is that this peace of wild things and this peace of the wildness beyond anything never goes away. If it did then we really would despair for our life and the life of our children.
In this poem The Peace of Wild Things the poet goes and lies down where the woodrake rests. Here the poet is getting grounded. He is lying down on the earth. He is allowing the earth to support the full weight of his body. This is a practice that I recommend you do each and everyday. Practice while lying on the bed or on the floor each morning and evening. This is the beginning of the practice of Yoga Nidra. Simply learn how to breath in and out. When you begin you will be carried away by fore thought. You may not be grieving or in despair but you will be distracted. You will continue to think and think about thinking. This is not peace of mind and not the experience of the peace of wild things.
Depressed people or those who are in the prison of despair have low energy but their minds are always on the go. They have a thought process that keeps them in a spiral. Learn how to practice breathe awareness that you practice twice each day. You don’t need extra time. Do it as you awake and late thing at night before going to sleep. Ten minutes deep conscious breathing into the belly will take you into the peace of wild things and begin to create a real foundation of health and well being.
Do not be tempted to begin to practice exotic breathing practices without proper guidance. Keep it simple. Simply breath in and breathe out while allowing the abdomen rise and fall. This is how babies breathe and this is the way to begin to be fully embodied and return to the peace of wild things.
I will be sharing with you additional material in relation to the foundational practice of breathing and how it can invite you into the peace of wild things. This will teach you a technique/s that show you how to overcome despair and avoid depression. In this way chakra balance and alignment becomes not so airy fairy but an embodied practice that aligns the body, the emotional body and the will and opens you up to living the peace of wild things. To ensure that you receive other posts related to this topic of how to overcome despair and depression and follow your dreams please sign up to our occasional newsletter. This includes practices, guided meditations using a unique combination of storytelling, poetry, song lyrics and other invitations to guide you in connection to the wellspring of health and well being.
Tony Cuckson is a writer of guided meditations, prayers, blessings and stories. He uses a unique combination of storytelling, poetry, song lyrics, archetypal images and personal and spiritual development practices to guide you into living your one wild and precious life. May you find your true heart’s desire.