Winter trees.

What I’ve Learned From Depression… And Ram Dass

“You can be still and still moving. Content even in your discontent.”     – Ram Dass

Over a decade ago, I was visiting Portland, Oregon when I saw a flyer advertising that Ram Dass was in town and speaking that night. It felt like one of those special deliveries from the universe. My exposure to Ram Dass at that point had been some older interviews and his indisputably trippy book, “Be Here Now.” I was geeked at the idea of being able to see and hear him in person, though I knew he’d had a stroke and had no illusion that he would be the vibrant soul I’d seen in interviews.

The joke was on me.

He was not wildly gesticulating, his speech was slow and he was in a wheelchair. That was all true. But the unmistakable vibrancy and that metaphorical twinkle in his eye remained, despite the stroke. Or perhaps in spite of it. For it would be untrue to say that he suffered this stroke, as that was not his terminology. In fact, he used the term, “I was stroked.” In doing so, he changed his entire perspective of the situation to more clearly see the learning aspect that comes in a challenging situation.

After all, having a stroke and being stroked are two very different things.

Three years later when I was in the throes of a serious and debilitating depression – the third episode of its kind – I felt unable to draw from the inspiration that came that night from Ram Dass. I suppose I wasn’t ready. So I allowed fear and depression to consume me.

But then in the past two years, when depression knocked on my door again, the memory of Ram Dass came back to me. And rather than rage against the machine, I went gently into that dark night of the soul. Taking this different perspective allowed me to learn from depression rather than be consumed by it. Like a houseguest, I attempted to welcome it, befriend it and figure out what it was trying to tell me.

Most importantly, I continued to remind myself that this particular houseguest, like all houseguests, would eventually leave.

I know now that depression is a reality in my life. It’s a package deal. But like Ram Dass, in changing my perspective – in surrendering to what is rather than fighting a losing battle – I have found a new teacher and ultimately a better me. And yes, it’s uncomfortable. Even agonizing at times.

But I know how to move in the stillness now. And I’m learning to be content in the discontent.

This post has also appeared on

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s