Zen Path

The Zen Path through Depression is a practical, clear resource that approaches depression in an entirely new way. Philip Martin tells us that "depression is an illness not just of the body and mind, but also of the heart." The heart, the spirit, is where the key to healing lies. Philip Martin, a psychiatric social worker and a longtime student of Zen, shows us, through the spiritual practice of Zen Buddhism, how we can heal depression and look fearlessly at our lives.

He takes us through the realities of depression, the fears and doubts that are so intrinsic to this condition. We are shown the fundamental choice that we face: Do we run, or do we confront ourselves and our fear directly? In brief, inspiring, and instructive chapters, Martin shows how we can incorporate Zen ideals and practices into our everyday lives. Through a step-by-step recovery process, we are offered true help and guidance by which we are able to discover a new path to health and contentment.

[from the inside covers]

The Zen Path through Depression

About the Author

Philip Martin has worked as a psychiatric social worker and case manager for Washington County Community Services in Minnesota for many years. Martin has a degree in Buddhist psychology and is also a workshop leader.

[from the inside cover]

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments    ix

Introduction    xi

Stopping to Listen    1

Exploring the Territory    6

Pain    10

Impermanence    14

Death    18

Fear    23

Doubt    28

The Body's Grief    31

Desire    34

Escapes    37

Picking and Choosing    42

Anger    45

Time    49

A Larger Meadow    53

An End to Suffering    56

The Truth of Joy    58

Freedom    60

Seeing Without Blame    62

Breaking Open Your Heart    66

You Are Enough    70

Emotional Geology    74

A Path through Depression    77

The Middle Way    80

Not What We Think    84

The Final Authority    86

Community    90

Faith    94

Selflessness    96

Embedded in Life    100

No Expectations    103

Close to the Truth    106

Gratitude    108

Attention    111

Sit Down    113

Four Horses    117

Homelessness    119

The Healing Life of Nature    122

The Value of Uselessness    125

Effort    128

Work    131

Parental Mind    134

Compassion and Action    138

Living in Vow    141

Further Reading    145

[from the hardbound edition]


"Philip Martin has written a wise, compassionate, and nurturing guide through the self-oppression of depression."

--Harold H. Bloomfield, M.D.,
author of
How to Heal Depression and Healing Anxiety Naturally

[from the back cover]

Read more reviews of this book on the website:
The Zen Path through Depression

The Zen Path through Depression on


Students of meditation sometimes have trouble with pain when they sit in the same position for long periods. The advice many teachers give them is to make the pain the object of their meditation.

In depression we also may be overcome with pain. It screams for our attention. We grow so tired of feeling pain that we will find nearly any way we can to avoid it. Sometimes we become so tangled up in our pain that all of our energy goes to fighting it.

Often we aren't even aware that this is what's happening. And when we respond in this way, we don't even really experience the pain, because we are running so fast to get away from it. Sometimes we become so accustomed to trying to ignore it that we may continue running even when the pain is gone.

Yet we can make pain the object of our attention, rather than a monster to flee from. We can begin by going beyond merely seeing it as "pain". We can examine the qualities of the pain, notice how it really feels. We can notice if the sensation in our body is one of heat, or tension, or pins and needles. We can notice whether we have tightened up around the pain, or if our whole body is on edge as we try to escape from it.

Then we can look more broadly at the ways we respond mentally. We may try to think of something else. Or we may tense up in the area around the pain -- though this serves only to block it, hold it in, and magnify it.

The Zen Path through Depression
pages 10-11

Depression is often thought of as a disease of self-centeredness. While it is true that in depression we may be more concerned and involved with this self than usual, that is only because the self seems so flawed and worthless. At first even admitting the fact of the depression is difficult, because to do so seems tantamount to admitting that our view of ourselves as broken is correct. Instead, we may go on for years blaming others or the world. For many, the initial acceptance of the depression thus itself becomes the great barrier. But if we can forget these ideas of right and wrong, of responsibility and blame, true healing can begin.

In dealing with the pain of depression -- or of being alive -- it is necessary first to accept the pain and to stop trying to run from it. Its orgins, causes, and solutions are not as important as our acceptance of it and our intimacy with it.

Meditation gives us a great opportunity to do this. In making a commitment to a meditation practice, we also commit ourselves to try not to run from the pain, but instead to explore and investigate it.

When we investigate, we begin to see how we judge our pain, and how we react to it. We may become angry, or fatansize, or look for someone to blame. Soon we can see that these attempts to avoid the pain don't work. If we persevere, we find that we can survive our pain and finally come to a place of peace and joy, even while the pain is still there. In fact, the pain becomes a part of this peace.

If we accept the pain of our depression, and investigate it, we can see our attempts to escape for what they are. Then, as we begin to experience the pain more fully, joy also appears.

Soon we begin to understand the distinction between pain and suffering: pain cannot be avoided, but the suffering that comes from our attempt to avoid pain is not necessary. As my Zen teacher, Katagiri Roshi, often told us, "All you have to do is stand up straight in the midst of your suffering."

The Zen Path through Depression
pages 39-40

When we are depressed, simply getting up and crossing a room can seem to require tremendous effort. And though it provides us an opportunity to learn about our constant busyness, and to begin to see the value of not-doing, even this learning seems to require an effort from us.

But usually when we even hear the word effort, we equate it with expending energy -- with work. In the midst of the physical exhaustion that comes with depression, just hearing the word effort can make us feel more tired.

But the effort we need in depression is not, at base, a physical one. Rather, it is a commitment, a work of the heart rather than the body.

Dogen said that it is through meditation practice that we manifest our enlightenment -- indeed, that practice itself is enlightenment. The effort involved in doing meditation is different from what we are accustomed to thinking of as effort. It is not necessarily a form of pushing or moving toward some goal. Rather it is the effort of simply being present, of showing up for our lives and learning to appreciate them.

Our habits and conditioning are deep. Effort is required for us to see them as they arise and not to let them run us. To be present in the midst of our pain, suffering, and doubt in depression requires effort as well. Now and in the future, we will continue to have pain. The temptation is to turn this pain into suffering by trying to avoid it -- and thus increasing it.

To stand up in the midst of our suffering requires effort. To do what we know the moment requires of us also requires effort. And to simply get through our depression at times requires a great effort.

Where we get confused is in mistaking our own resistance as effort. The effort that is required of us is not like what we need when pushing a car out of a ditch. Instead, it is simply a willingness to be present, to be attentive, and to be compassionate. It is doing things wholeheartedly.

The Zen Path through Depression
pages 128-129

[from the hardbound edition]

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