Getting to peace in one’s mind and heart can be a difficult part of the spiritual journey. At times there may be rough patches in which our moods may drop, and we fear we have drifted into depression; peace of mind may seem impossible. But a temporary worsening of mood is not always a sign of an underlying physical or psychological disorder.
I have found the literature of 12-Step recovery fellowships very helpful in examining these low points, as the path to recovery from addiction is viewed as a spiritual one. One book from the Narcotics Anonymous program, Living Clean: The Journey Continues, distinguishes nicely between emotional and spiritual crises:
“The pain of spiritual growth can feel like depression. A ‘dark night of the soul’ can be frightening and lonely. But what is happening on the inside is often the process that will bring us into the light. Sometimes there’s just bad weather in our heads and we simply need to wait it out. …This kind of crisis can be frightening in its intensity and sometimes it seems we can only distinguish it from another kind of struggle in retrospect. Intense as it is, it is temporary, and relieved by breakthrough or by an obstinate willfulness to hold on until the crisis passes. ‘We undergo a vital spiritual experience and are changed.’”
There are certainly times when a spiritual seeker might need also to seek professional mental health care, such as when symptoms of depression are intense, unremitting, and long-lasting. However for a spiritual crisis, a more helpful course of action mig
ht be seeking spiritual direction, redoubling one’s efforts to pray and meditate, and joining with others in community. The Franciscan Spiritual Center is ready to be a place for all of these, a safe place of Peace, Presence, and Community.