Contemplative Monk : Intentional Spirituality Transforms

Outside Looking In




Here’s the scoop: I went into clinical depression for a lot of reasons. It felt like a black hole in the center of my soul, sucking all my life and light down into the void.

To keep it at bay, I developed all kinds of dysfunctional strategies that needed constant tending and always failed. You might be familiar with this. I hope not.

As I was saying, my Psychiatrist, who had maxed me out on various meditations, told me I was clinically depressed. He said I needed medication for the rest of my life. He told me, “Relax, take your meds, and get on with your life. It’s not gonna change.”

Depression can hit anybody. You might know Jesus as your Lord and Savior. You might be filled with the Holy Spirit, speak in Tongues, operate in the Gifts and Callings, and still be in a deep dark suicidal depression.

Hear me on this one: I’m not telling you to drop your Doctor, your meds, or Counseling. I’m not trying to treat you. That’s between you and your Doctor. I’m just telling my story here.

Locked Away In The Belly of Depression

So here I was, suffering deeply, in the belly of depression, where I was at the end of my rope, when God spoke to me and told me to go back into meditation.

I, however, was trained by the best. I rebuked the Devil, stood on the right Scripture, fasted and prayed, went through inner healing, years of counseling, revivals, outpourings, and did everything I could think of, and fought with God over this for five long years, as I ran out of every other option. I finally gave in.

What I learned was this: My depression was because I tried to solve my problems with my soul and failed. Let me say it another way:

When we ask our soul to do what only our spirit can do, it will fail us every single time. 

Our soul was never designed to do what our spirit does.

You Need to Know

Meditation is a ‘spiritual’ practice (not a soul practice). It’s practicing our spirit. It’s breathing and releasing, receiving and letting go. It is entering our ground of Being, as opposed to doing. We are human Beings after all.

What Happened

So Here’s what happened when I got started: Nothing. Absolutely nothing. No change. No relief. It didn’t work. But I intuitively knew that eventually, it would work. I had 40 years of resistance to overcome. I could remember my days of enlightenment before I became inflexibly religious.

When the Change Started

So I set all ‘my beliefs’ aside, started anew, and meditated. I threw everything I had into it, finally doing what God had told me to do.

Then one day as I was doing a Tibetian Compassion Meditation, I applied mercy to myself. The one: “May I be well. May I be happy. May I be free from suffering.”

Anyway, at first, it was just a tiny spark, but it was the first spark of pure joy I had felt in 25 or 30 years.

Now I knew from my studies, that it would take 10 years (akin to the 10,000 Hour Rule), to restructure my brain, before Joy would become my default setting. It takes time to grow character.

A Jewish Lullaby

The turning point happened something like this. I was doing a Zen spiritual practice called Great Doubt. Now I had always thought that everything depended on my Belief. I was to learn better.

The practice goes something like this: You go into a meditative state, like mindfulness, and deconstruct everything. You doubt everything, without and within. You doubt yourself. You doubt your beliefs and everything you’ve been taught. You doubt your doubts. Then, stripped of everything, you step off into the unknown, sort of like into the Cloud of Unknowing. The visual is a Zen monk stepping off a hundred foot cliff into the air.

So I entered into a meditative state and began the process, deconstructing through doubt. As all my efforts had failed me, the stripping away went pretty quickly. The last one, that released everything else, was the hardest. It was my belief in God, or that there ever was a god. That broke the dam and released everything else. I had nothing left. I, and I use the term ‘I’ loosely, stepped out into the vast cloud of eternity.

As I dwelled there, the clouds began swirling beneath and around me. Emptied of all there ever was, only the eternal present surrounding me.

It was then I saw it, like two laughing eyes coming at me through the fog.

The clouds sweeping apart as the presence of all eternity approached. It was Jesus , with a laughing smile, welcoming an old friend. He embraced me in an all-encompassing bear hug of total acceptance and love. I was soaking in the presence of God.

Startled, awestruck and bewildered, I didn’t know what to think. I was dripping with peace as the tears rolled off my face. Was it real? For me, it doesn’t matter. It’s eternal. Jesus keeps me no matter what, period.

So now I get St Francis and so many of the other Christian mystics. I get their relationship with Jesus. It all makes sense to me now. It’s not the usual ‘outside looking in’ approach theological studies make. It’s dwelling with Jesus looking out.

Meditation Is My Medication

Now my depression didn’t take flight never to return. I take my daily ‘tonic’ of meditation. Meditation is my medication. But the stranglehold that depression had on me, now has been broken.

My meditation now is centered in whatever Jesus quickens, and my journey into contemplation is my encounter with Him.


After Thoughts

The title? One day when I shared this story with a friend, he said, “That sounds like a Jewish Lullaby.”

Two things I’ve learned:

  1. God is faithful, even if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for He can’t deny himself.
  2. When I ask my soul to do what only my spirit can do, it throws me into depression. I’m still learning to distinguish between the two and to allow my spirit to breathe and lead.

Now may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us and abide with us forever.


Call 1-800-273-8255


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  • Our stories are frightfully similar. Meditation and medication have combined to become my salvation against the insidious clutches of anxiety and depression. Thanks for sharing your story!

  • Terry Gunn Poff

    Wow. Just…..I can’t…….wow. Thank you.

  • Perfectly, imperfect…this is the acceptance that colors the world in brilliant color. Thank you for expressing many of our imperfections perfectly.

  • Such a moving testimony, Bob. I love how you describe meditation and how it gently paves the way for encounter. Not all will be of the deeply supernatural or memorable kind, but we are still changed by being with Jesus – in prayer, in meditation, in contemplation, in the sound of silence and sweetness of surrender, whether we are fully aware of it or not. As one who dwelt years in dark valleys, I am grateful for your words. They resonate on every level. Thank you.

  • Robert You Rock!

  • Poet of God! Thank You!

  • Thank You Katherine!

  • That says a lot Terry. Thank You!

  • My brother Robert’s insightful, intuitive, astute, perceptive writings always seem to remind me of one of my favourite authors, Fr. Richard Rohr. Rohr has been quoted as saying,

    Your heart has to be prepared ahead of time through faith and prayer and grace and mercy and love and forgiveness so you can keep your heart open in hell, when hell happens.

    Contemplation [like meditation] is an alternative consciousness that refuses to identify with or feed what are only passing shows. It is the absolute opposite of addiction or any other form of Egoic consciousness. [brackets mine]

    Richard Rohr

    Rob, once again your words astound as I come to know the man within, and the God within. I believe you’ve lived this alternative consciousness Rohr speaks of; and have discovered it’s blessings as you have struggled with your personal hell. I pray that all your readers can find such a “sanctuary” of faith and prayer and grace and mercy and love – as you have so obviously discovered. I pray this most especially for myself; the one who seems to need it most! Sorry if this sounds like an Egoic confession!

  • mountainserenity .

    Bob, may I share your words in my centering prayer group? I would like to sit with your words before we pray in silence. I believe your words will be encouraging as well as healing for all members of our group.

  • I would be honored! Thank you for your encouragement!

  • Thank you pakehamack! May God’s grace and peace fall gently on your heart like a deep soaking rain.

  • This is a brave and powerful story, Bob. One that can give many of us that battle with bouts of depression some hope. I read once that depression is our soul trying to speak to us – it’s a loud voice saying that we need to listen because when we are not depressed, we tend to fleet through life deaf. Your meditation practice is similar to my writing practice. And, energy clearing has also saved me in deep times of depression – we carry so much of others’ pain.

    Thank you for you story and your beautifully written words.

  • Tracey Wiffen

    Oh my goodness. I am behind you in this practice but I will persevere. I’ve had Jesus beckoning me onwards to follow Him. These experiences hold my faith true and even though life goes on I know He waits for me x

  • Thanks Tracey! But it’s a journey not a contest. God is faithful to you Tracey. It’s not your ability to perform. He loves you regardless. We’re all a mess. We all blow it. But God is love.

  • Thanks Shari! I’m convinced that most of us carry other people’s pain so we don’t have to deal with our own. And our soul can have a million voices. So when you’re writing, enter the stillness at your core and try writing from your spirit with your wisdom voice. As a personal spiritual practice, and see what happens.

  • Tracey Wiffen

    Gosh Bob, don’t make me cry! I know it’s not a race, God gives us the time we need to heal. I’ve been sent messages/guidance from unexpected places today, yours being one of them x thank you for being so open x

  • Nelda Eserin

    Your story of healing is powerful. There are some similarities to the depression journey I faced, and the world of pharmaceutical medications nearly destroyed me.. However, what is on my mind is how much I wish a friend could have read this before she committed suicide last week.

  • That breaks my heart Nelda. I’d love to hear your story. Our healing is a journey in this life, and we need to use all the tools in our toolbox.

  • Bless your heart Tracey.

  • Nelda Eserin

    My story is far too long, but the value of recalling the past is the inspiration that comes from seeing the Divine at work in the confusion and pain. Yes, we must use all the tools we have available, and having been a nurse, I understand the lifesaving impact of medication. However, in my own journey, I experienced adverse reactions to medication that led to serious complications. I needed the healing that came from meditation and spiritual practices, along with a change in lifestyle to accommodate the fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

    I find your story compelling, and as I wrote before, I wish my friend who committed suicide last week at the age of 47 had read it. Beyond the grief and shock, I am experiencing guilt that I failed to respond to a little visionary experience a couple of days before she killed herself. The vision’s meaning wasn’t clear to me at the time, but in hindsight, it is abundantly clear. I feel the guilt of not contacting her, even though I was not quite certain of the meaning of this vision. I did not feel well physically, so I postponed contact.

    There are numerous people in shock and grief over her death. She was very religious and involved in the same healing work that I am part of. She was a leader, in many ways, in several spiritual groups. However, so much powerful change had piled up in her life in the last year. Guilt and shock are running amok in our groups of both ordained and lay individuals who knew her and loved her.

  • Wow! Nelda, I’m at a loss for words. Thank you!

  • Lori Swetnam

    Ah, now I know why your posts resonate with me. I am going to print this out and keep it in my journal as a reminder when I forget that “being” is enough. When life fell apart for me I was angry at God because I had given my life to Him and took my Christianity very seriously and felt like He did not uphold his end of things. I found Richard Rohr on YouTube and listened to his teaching on a book he wrote called “Falling Upward.” That book helped me begin the a similar contemplative path that you have found. When you talk of letting go of all beliefs, wow! As Christians we have been taught that our belief in God and Christ is what “saves” us. So to let go of beliefs is the ultimate undoing. And Christ remained with you anyway. Thank you for sharing this.

  • That makes me do a little dance that you get it Lori!

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