The other day, I asked some friends what sort of mood they wake up to generally, after a night’s sleep. What were their first thoughts the first thing in the morning? How did they feel? Joyful, buoyant, energetic? Or, dreary, miserable and depressed?
You might already have guessed why I asked my friends this question. It was different when I was a lot younger, but these days it’s often the case that when I wake up to a new day, I can’t at all say that I’m very excited about it—and that’s putting it very mildly. With God’s grace, I generally get sound sleep. But the moment I get up, I’m assailed with painful thoughts from the past and dark forebodings about the future. Finding that I’ve yet another day to plough through isn’t at all an exciting prospect—another day of fighting back tormenting thoughts and fears, another day of stifling routine and senseless ‘time-pass’, another day of plastic smiles, inane gossip and polite conversation, another day of carefully tying up your tongue to avoid confronting people who you think drive you mad and who you feel you just can’t stand, another day of being bombarded with terrifying news on TV and in the newspapers of horrific things happening across the world! As I stir awake, how I wish I didn’t have to go through another day of all of this yet again!
Mercifully, though, once I’m through with having a wash and saying my prayers, my early morning bout of depression is over. I step out of my room in the hostel where I stay, exchange greetings with the security guard and the cooks, lay out peanuts on the boundary wall for the birds and squirrels, say ‘hello!’ to the trees, stop to watch a ladybird comfortably ensconced on a flower, and take a short walk, and then I feel a lot better about myself—and about life generally.
In recent months, I’ve been blessed to be able to read some really beautiful spiritually-nourishing literature, by Masters (men and women) from across the world, many of them rooted in different religious traditions. They have helped me increasingly realise that each of us is responsible for our own misery.
Feeling foul about myself and about life is something I have been helped to understand, in part through this reading that I’ve been doing, that I am alone to blame for. It is a natural and logical consequence of all the negative, depressive emotions and thoughts that I have been actively cultivating and storing-up over many years.
If it is I, and no one else, who is responsible for getting into the unpleasant predicament that I now face almost every morning, it also means that it is I who is responsible for getting myself out of the mess that I have willed myself into.
This is a truly empowering realization, and an exciting one, too! It means that I’m definitely not condemned to waking up feeling wretched and miserable for the rest of my life! It means, also, that I definitely can do something to remedy this state of affairs if I choose to.
There is something else that I’m increasingly getting to appreciate these days. If my early morning bouts of depression owe to the negative emotions and thoughts that I have allowed to accumulate and fester in my mind, I can be cleansed of them if positive emotions and thoughts take their place. The mind abhors a vacuum, and so the only way to get rid of the negativity that has colonised my mind is for it to be replacing with positivity. Darkness, it is rightly said, has no real existence of its own. It is simply the absence of light. You can cry yourself hoarse trying to shout down the darkness, but that won’t make it vanish. All you need to do is to light a little lamp, and the darkness will disappear at once! All you need to do to purify your mind of negativity is to have it filled with positivity!
That has been another greatly uplifting realization!
But how—and this is a really crucial question—do I get myself to feel and think positively, especially if I have been carefully nourishing a longstanding personal tradition of negative thinking, so much so that maybe I am in love with my misery and can’t seem to live without obsessing about it? Surely, having my negativity replaced with abundant positivity is not something that I can force myself into doing, against my will. No matter how hard I might try doing that, it would be so very fake, wouldn’t it? And, then, it certainly wouldn’t last very long.
This is another thing that I’ve been increasingly coming to realize: that we can’t do anything at all to improve ourselves, no matter how noble, without God’s assistance. If I want to think and feel positive, I have to implore God for His help to be able to succeed. There is no other way.
When I shared some of my feelings about all of this with my friend Tinky, she offered some helpful insights. We can wake up with a joyful heart each morning, she said, if we thank God for the countless bounties He has blessed us with. Meditating on these bounties can help us realise how blessed we truly are. If we repeatedly thank God for all He has given us, she explained, our hearts and minds can be cleansed of negativity. Gratitude for all that God has given us, she said, is a sure antidote to depression. In addition to this, Tinky suggested, we could hand over our past, with all its painful memories, to God, as well as our future, with all its uncertainties. And as for the present, we could give it to Him to handle, requesting Him to guide us through it.
Yesterday, after waking up to find myself in the same ‘big, bad’ world, a wonderful thought entered my mind. I didn’t have to continue getting up so miserably any longer, I thought. There was a beautiful way I could welcome a new day: I could blink awake excitedly and full of expectation, honouring the new day (instead of mourning it, as I generally do), celebrating it as yet another opportunity that God has blessed me with in order to glorify Him!
Yes, every new day is a new occasion to spend more time with Him! To remember Him! To sing to Him! To praise Him! To thank Him! To adore Him! To confide in Him! To cry to Him! To seek His guidance! To chat with Him! To joke with Him! To play with Him! To laugh and giggle with Him! To observe and marvel at His power, His beauty, His wisdom! To do His will! To do things that please Him! To love Him! To express our love for Him in loving His creatures—human and others—that we come into contact with every new day!
Now, if I get to keep this in mind the first thing in the morning when I get up, and also do what Tinky suggested, don’t you think it would be a really joyful way to inaugurate each new day?
Of course, I wouldn’t be able to do it at all without God’s help—and that’s something I need to ask Him for.
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