The Mindful Way Through Depression – by Mark Williams et al

This is the self-help book that I used to get started in meditation.

In 2012, I first heard of mindfulness and it sounded like exactly what I needed. I looked up a psychotherapist with mindfulness in their profile and booked an appointment. He did a couple of sessions of guided meditations and then handed me this book.

The Mindful Way Through Depression – by Mark Williams

The first sentence is “Depression hurts”. I’ve read a few books about depression and many of them start with chapters of information describing the damage depression does to society, with lots of statistics and lamentations. But, if you’re depressed, this is hard work. It’s a form of rumination written on the pages. So, when Mark Williams starts with a paragraph that describes the experience of what it’s like to be depressed, then we can start to hope that we’re finally in the right place.

Depression hurts. It is the black dog of the night that robs you of joy, the unquiet mind that keeps you awake. It’s the noonday demon that only you see, the darkness visible only to you.

Following this, there are some chapters that explain very clearly how depression works. This is already helpful because we can see that depression is an understandable process. It can creep up on anyone very stealthily and can be hard to recognise on first experience.

The 8 week program itself is fantastic. The guided meditations that accompany the book are by Jon Kabat-Zinn. These are the gold standard in my opinion and I still use them ten years into my meditation practice.

Keep Meditating, Even When It Seems Worthless

This has happened countless times. Even when I’ve been really into my meditation practice. I’ve started a sitting, I recall the first minute, then the next thing I know: my timer has gone off to signal the end of the session.

Even worse, this can happen with a guided meditation. I can be so distracted that the sounds become lost in another world while my mind is drifting or is caught up in some imaginary scenario.

Even worse than that, this pattern has sometimes repeated for days.

At such times, it can seem like the meditation isn’t doing anything at all. It can become a question: is there any point in continuing to sit if all I’m going to do is drift for half an hour?

And yet, if I look at the difference between un-mindful meditation and no meditation, it’s clear that these apparently worthless sittings are doing something. The feeling of steadiness continues to be supported.

The answer, in all cases, is to check our experience. Is this leading in the direction of less suffering, in my life, in general? Does it do no harm?

And keep learning. From books, courses, teachers, even websites.

I’ve avoided the phrase ‘bad’ meditation, because there are some things you can do that are unhelpful and can make you feel worse if you don’t figure them out. An example is spending the whole time in negative judgement about failing to be mindful. I have enough experience not to do that, even in the cases I’m describing in this post.