Mindfulness and Depression: Things Are Looking Up

From yoga studios to cancer clinics, from preschools to college campuses, mindfulness is quite the buzz. Law schools are offering courses in mindfulness as a tool to help in mediation, and business consultants are pouncing on mindfulness as the latest surefire path to better client relationships and higher sales figures.

I find all this interest in mindfulness quite thrilling. It's fun to see people looking at ways to pay attention at work as well as at play.

Of course, most of the approaches focus squarely on meditation and its role in providing clarity in a variety of settings. The higher the stakes, the more it seems that meditation is considered the only right path to mindfulness, and the most dire circumstances seem to encourage the most brow-furrowing effort. It would appear that serious problems require serious solutions.

I beg to differ.

Sometimes the lightest approach is the one that lifts those who are in the deepest pit of despair. Those suffering from severe depression have the most to gain from mindfulness, and there is no reason to believe that meditation is the only way to get there.

There's tremendous power in levity, and because I'm an evangelist (evangelista?) when it comes to playing with mindfulness, it's not too surprising that people assume I shy away from anything too deep.

Au contraire.

Mindfulness saves lives. I've seen it happen again and again. I offer it, lovingly and lightly, on a silver platter to those who are facing the toughest fight of their lives--finding a reason to live.

Mindfulness is a tool for living that provides what I affectionately refer to as the "p-word"--perspective. Without meditating, without once mentioning the Buddha, without ever coming across as a counselor or coach (I'm neither), it's possible to encourage those who are suffering to step back and see even the most desperate plight as a temporary, useful period prior to enormous growth.

There's something freeing about staring death in the face. Our natural tendency is to tiptoe around those who are suffering, but when you can't even imagine ever smiling again, there's nothing more welcome than a nearly-pee-your-pants belly laugh.

If you're sitting at the bottom of a well, another weight around your neck isn't going to help. You need to look up, to feel light, to rise up and climb out of your dark hole. When you've lost all hope, laughter lifts you up and mindfulness helps you see your way to the top.

Seems like a perfect combination to me.

I love the fact that mindfulness-based techniques have been developed to help those suffering from anxiety and depression. I only wish they incorporated a healthy dollop of humor at a time when it is sorely needed and remarkably healing.

Finding hilarity in your failed suicide attempt? Now that's a sure sign of climbing out of that well. I've held hands and laughed with others during their "I'm such a loser I can't even kill myself right!" talks. With humor, warmth, and gentle guidance, we can use mindfulness to plant the seed of gratitude that grows into joy.

In the face of despair, mindfulness and laughter are a breath of fresh air.

Breathe deeply.

Maya Talisman Frost is a mind masseuse offering specialized mindfulness training in Portland, Oregon. She lost two brothers to suicide and transformed her own severe depression into joy and wisdom. Her work has inspired thinkers in over 100 countries. To subscribe to her free weekly ezine, the Friday Mind Massage, please visit http://www.massageyourmind.com.