Sadness as a Spiritual Ecology

Sadness is not necessarily the same as depression. Consider that maybe sadness (not depression, which is a being stuck-ness) has a value.  It can turn us inward. It can promote reflection.  It can lead us toward gratitude for what we do have.

When my heart function reached a certain point, my cardiologist told me it would be okay to drink a glass of wine with dinner, have a drink every once in a while. He said new research was showing that a bit of drinking might be more beneficial to some hearts than tee-totaling. Then came the punch line. He knows I don’t drink a lot and told me not to take this as license to drink alcoholically. It’s like that. I’m not saying stay stuck or frozen in depression. Never. Get help, please, if you are depressed. Clinical depression is serious and  should be treated. But if you experience some sadness, well, that’s just what it is. People get sad sometimes. In the USA we don’t want people to get sad. We want the lights on all the time. We don’t want darkness. We don’t want to navigate by the light of the moon. A candle flame is not enough.

We are encouraged to run away from sadness. Turn the lights on right now. Do something fun, watch a funny movie, go buy something, and on and on. Most people do feel sad sometimes. I’ve read that sociopathic people do not really feel sad.  I can’t say I’d trade my occasional sad times for being unable to empathize or for being unable to feel sad.

There have been a few times in my life when I thought my heart would shatter into a million pieces. It felt like it did. As painful as those times were, as horrible as the shattering felt, the amazing moments were when I realized that I would survive. And if I could survive, I could learn to walk through this, and maybe one day even thrive. I’m still here and people still love me and I have moments when I do thrive.

So, I recognize that most people do feel sad sometimes.  Knowing this connects me to them, even if I don’t know them, I know what their suffering is if I’ve been through a similar suffering. I know that many people in the world suffer in far more difficult ways than I have.  This is a bringer of reality, for certain.  Acknowledging my sadness, I realize that nothing ever really stays the same.  Sadness passes, happiness passes, health passes, sickness passes. Everything changes. Acknowledging sadness has helped me to  find deeper meaning in life. Helped me develop a more profound sense of what matters: other people, the environment we live in and its inhabitants, gratitude,  compassion and kindness.

Leonard Cohen in his song “Anthem” says it better than I can:

“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”

We are all cracked in some ways. We feel it sometimes. It’s simply what is. “That’s how the light gets in.”

Honoring our sadness when it arises can be regenerative. It promotes self-acceptance. It helps us to see what is. It shows us that life is change. It shows us that sometimes we can navigate by the light of the moon. We can move into and through a twilight time. It can be regenerative.




About rainshadowfarm

I teach anthropology, am an archaeologist, a drylands agroecologist, community educator, and a single mother of eight grown kids. I currently own and operate an educational and research farm in the southern Mojave Desert, Rainshadow Farm. I'm 100% West Virginia hillbilly. Not necessarily in that order.
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