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Eckhart Tolle's Religion
Posted: 24 February 2007 05:37 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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Mixed in with New Age spiritual books you'll find Eckhart Tolle's popular 'The Power of Now' and 'A New Earth'. He doesn't use traditional religious words like 'God', but guides us into a way of looking at our own experience that we recognize as 'spiritual'.
You could almost call it 'psychological'. He uses the word 'insanity' where others might say 'evil'. Still, it is obvious he is guiding us not toward a more healthy self, but somewhere beyond that.

Eckhart Tolle came into my life at an interesting juncture. I was furious with Buddhism, exactly as so many people here are furious with Christianity. I was skeptical to the point of paranoia about spiritual cults. Why get involved in that mess when I could simply go for a walk in the woods?
Well, some pretty intense openings began to occur, and I was learning that fear, all by itself, can out-do all the kookiness of cults.
I needed some guidance.
The internet quickly led me to some very interesting, fresh, teachers whose spiritual experience obviously went far beyond my own. I started listening to tapes, and I discovered a new approach to religion.

Religion need not be centered around a church, an ancient text, an organization or a particular spiritual teacher. Religion need not include ritual, sin, dogma, ideas about an afterlife, a personified 'creator' or any other offensive trappings.
When I sent for my first tapes by Francis Lucille, Eckhart Tolle and others, I was not joining a group. There were people organized to make the tapes and sell them, arrange lectures and meetings, publish books and so on. I needed that level of organization in order to benefit from the teachings. I didn't see anything wrong with paying for it.
I also realized I was getting myself into another belief system, however lightly that system was arranged over the most obvious evidence of everyday living. The refreshing difference with these teachers was the acknowledgement, stated most bluntly by Wayne Liquorman, that 'everything I say is bullshit.'

What I'm calling a New Age religion is a very loosely held faith in awakening out of thought. Part of what's 'New' about it is how readily people will draw from old writings of all traditions as long as they appeal to our immediate experience. Some people who are involved in this are also involved in forms of healing and ways of explaining reality which hold absolutely no interest for me. My basic faith, from a very young age, is in the beauty and power of the natural world of my senses.
Eckhart Tolle appealed to me originally because of his recommendation to go out into nature and just look, without naming. That came very easily to me. Becoming more mindful of how much thought is driven by a past which no longer exists and a future which will never arrive, is quite amazingly powerful.
As the silence opens up, and I find confidence in place of fear, wisdom from all kinds of unexpected sources draws me, like music, into the deeper recesses of our common human heart/mind. In that space, worship is wordless and ever-present, expressed in the most basic activities of living.

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Posted: 23 March 2007 12:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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I read “The Power of Now” and found it quite uplifting, yet for me, almost impossible to do. I have, what you would call “monkey mind” and my thoughts are going every which way. But after reading Tolle’s book, I try to stop myself and erase the monkey and just be. I ain’t easy. Which is why I could never do meditation. I’m always thinking I should be up and doing something.

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Posted: 27 March 2007 06:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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rab - I can’t speak for Eckhart Tolle or imagine what he might say to you.
What I’d like to say is that intelligence, our own intelligence, is our greatest friend. When you’re sitting in an uncomfortable position, it doesn’t take much intelligence to shift around and take the pressure off.
It only takes a bit more intelligence to observe how I’m hurting myself mentally.
I don’t have to stop anything or make my thoughts more organized in order to observe how much I’m divided against myself, and how much that hurts. In fact, if I divide myself even more against myself by thinking that I shouldn’t be thinking so much, that just adds another turning of the screw.
It takes some inspiration to cultivate observation (our culture is so filled with distractions) and that is how someone like Eckhart Tolle can help.
He gives specific instructions for ‘practicing presence’ - very good suggestions which don’t add to the inner division, and are much more simple than what we usually call meditation.
So if you want to follow up on ‘The Power of Now’ take a look: http://www.eckharttolle.com
I’ve always found the tapes or videos much more effective than the books.

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Posted: 30 March 2007 04:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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smile Thanks for the link!

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Posted: 02 May 2007 11:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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Pat:
I’m a little offended by your religion reference to Tolle. 

You say that:

Religion need not be centered around a church, an ancient text, an organization or a particular spiritual teacher. Religion need not include ritual, sin, dogma, ideas about an afterlife, a personified ‘creator’ or any other offensive trappings.

But come on man, when people think of the word religion they automatically think of God and of belief sets.
Personally, I think you’ve committed intellectual carelessness.

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Posted: 02 May 2007 11:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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I prefer his works in the audio book format—Tolle reading them to you is much more potent than reading them to yourself.

My favourite book of his is The Power of Now.
It contains some of the profoundest philosophical insights that I’ve ever come across.

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Posted: 02 May 2007 02:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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Hello Integral, good to meet you on this forum.
Yes, you’re right, what I wrote about ‘religion’ was off the beaten track and deliberately so.
There tends to be a distinction made between ‘religion’ and ‘sprituality’ and when I first joined this forum I did not consider myself the least bit religious. From reading all the very intelligent and challenging dialog here, I changed my mind…both about myself and about religion.
You mentioned ‘God’ and ‘belief sets’ - the word ‘God’ can cover an awful lot of ground, and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t operate out of some sort of set of beliefs.
My new definition of religion includes watching Eckhart Tolle on video because I’m moved in a way that is something other than intellectual or emotiional, a way I can only call ‘spiritual’. Then it goes beyond ‘spiritual’ into ‘religious’ because of the organization involved. I buy dvd’s of him, he doesn’t buy dvd’s of me, so that’s the first thing. Then it takes a fair amount of organization to arrange for him to give talks and programs, make the recordings, etc. The people who work with him are not in it as a business, nor is it a school - so?
Now for the God part. Do you think Eckhart has any ideas that hint at a possible God connection? I’d be very curious to hear your take on this!

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Posted: 03 May 2007 10:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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Hi Pat, thanks for reply.

The people who work with him are not in it as a business, nor is it a school - so?

Hmm, I agree it’s not a typical business where the focus is on maximizing profit.  But by definition, it is still most definitely a business.

Regarding religion, by definition it is most definitely not one—there are no gods to worship or dogmas to believe in.

Now for the God part. Do you think Eckhart has any ideas that hint at a possible God connection? I’d be very curious to hear your take on this!

Yes, the term God is used sometimes in his books.  But it is in a pantheistic way.

I like how Richard Dawkins’ take on it.  In his new book, The God Delusion, he calls pantheism “sexed-up atheism.”

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Posted: 23 July 2007 12:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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i found ‘the power of now’ , like so many other ‘spiritual books’ quite boring.

Too many books i think.

Also, he failed to point out that the key to mindfulness is meditation. Trying to practice mindfulness without meditation is like trying to play a football game without doing any training before hand- its an uphill battle.

I dont blame anyone for being furious with Buddhism. What is a great teaching is being turned into, and practiced as, a superstituous and sometimes faith based load of nonsense which does a great injustice to what the Buddha taught. Mahayana Buddhism is pretty much like Christianity, monks of all buddhist demoninations fail to keep the rules of the vinaya (go to thailand and see many of them listening to i-pods in their monastrys) and many asians who practice buddhism seem more concerned in wearing special amulates and talismans inbetween praying to statues to try and make their lives better. Not to mention many sects of Buddhism are nothing more than cults that use fear to control people and empty their bank accounts so the monks can build gold statues and flashy temples whilst lecturing the lay community about materialism and attachment.

Ive always had a deep mistrust and hate of religion, fortunatly i stumbled across the thai forest tradition of buddhism. As far as i can tell this is the only form of Buddhism where monks live as monks should, they teach what is considered to be the Buddhas teachings (not supersitious crap taken from asian culture and interpretations by other monks passed over as the words of the buddha) and most importantly- there is no real priesthood where there are monks ‘in charge’ so to speak.

Mindfulness seems to be flavour of the month amoungst psychologists these days too (its stripped of its references to buddhism though). I think its pretty much futile without meditation though, meditation is the key.

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Posted: 23 July 2007 08:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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meloncolin -
I agree that you were fortunate to encounter the Thai forest tradition of meditation. I was also very fortunate in my association with Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, and one of the best practices was the Dathun. (Tibetan da = moon, thun = period of meditation.) Trungpa was very impressed with the way Suzuki Roshi’s students practiced sitting meditation, and Trungpa had us doing much more silent sitting than is usual with Tibetan teachers. The Dathun lasted a month, and was all-day sitting with a work period after lunch. We called this meditation Shamatha/Vipassana, or mindfulness and awareness. Slight variation on Zazen or the Thai Vipassana.

For me, listening to Eckhart Tolle is very much a meditation. I didn’t get that from reading his book. I know other people who have, though.

Maybe you’d like to say more about what you mean by ‘meditation’ - I’d be curious. Are we talking about the same thing, or not?
Also I don’t know if you’re familiar with Eckhart Tolle’s teachings on ‘practicing presence’, or the work that his partner is presenting, on body awareness.

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Posted: 23 July 2007 11:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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when i talk about meditation i refer to vipassana, specifically anapanasati.

From what i gather eckhart tolle has practiced some sort of meditation…..perhaps Dzogchen if i recall correctly?

When i first started to read about buddhism I was going to join the zen group here, but i was a beginner then and the thought of sitting in meditation for 14 hours straight each weekened freaked me out a bit LOL

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Third, it is Accepted as being Self-Evident.”

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Posted: 24 July 2007 06:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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I think what Eckhart Tolle is teaching is very much like Dzogchen (formless meditation) but I don’t know if he had formal instruction in it. The way he tells his story, he didn’t have any background in meditation or spiritual teachings before he had his ‘awakening’ which was a sudden shift out of his old identification.

Are you saying that people who think they’re being ‘mindful’ in daily life are missing the point unless they’ve had the training and discipline of vipassana? I hope you don’t mean that if someone works with a Zen teacher rather than a Vipassana teacher, they are not doing real meditation.

I can well understand your objection to Eckhart Tolle’s lack of emphasis on structured meditation. I have friends who agree with you. And I sure wouldn’t say that anyone would be better off listening to Tolle rather than getting instruction in vipassana. It’s a very personal choice. And not mutually exclusive.

Listening to Eckhart Tolle makes me more aware of how I’m still tripping myself up in mind games, and encourages me to gently let go of (without rejecting) those patterns. As I listen, I’m invited into his attitude of gentle humor, and my trust in stillness grows.
It’s like meditation in the way the mind shifts into a more peaceful, less emotionally conflicted state, which allows for more insight. Perhaps this only happens with me because of the practice I’ve done in the past, but it seems to also happen with people who have not done that practice. 

In case you’re wondering, I don’t do a structured practice any more because I don’t feel the need for it. This could be self-deception, but the motivation just isn’t there.
I am strongly motivated to keep my life simple, spend a lot of time in silence, focus on the immediate and keep in touch with teachers. Again, my choice of teachers could be keeping me too much inside my own comfort zone, but my motivation is what it is.

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Posted: 25 July 2007 12:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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[quote author=“Pat_Adducci”]I think what Eckhart Tolle is teaching is very much like Dzogchen (formless meditation) but I don’t know if he had formal instruction in it. The way he tells his story, he didn’t have any background in meditation or spiritual teachings before he had his ‘awakening’ which was a sudden shift out of his old identification.

i craved one of those epiphanys myself, but they seem to be few and far between!

Are you saying that people who think they’re being ‘mindful’ in daily life are missing the point unless they’ve had the training and discipline of vipassana? I hope you don’t mean that if someone works with a Zen teacher rather than a Vipassana teacher, they are not doing real meditation.

I should be more clear, im coming out this from the position of someone who has been majorly depressed for a long time which is why i feel mindfulness without the meditation is an uphill struggle, there is no doubt that just practicing minfulness alone is extremely beneficial but that seems to only apply to people who aren’t completly lost in despair so to speak.

There are all sorts of meditation practices of course, I just mentioned Vipassana due it to being what the buddha taught (im a bit of an uppity buddhist purist smile ) and the practice used by the theravadins. People who practice other techniqies like zazen, dzogchen, transcendental and even yoga say they all get similar effects…its whatever works for the individual i guess. As Sam has said, those kind of effects can be achieved through any kind of practice where your attention is resting effortless on one object- even in some kind of contempletive prayer.

It’s like meditation in the way the mind shifts into a more peaceful, less emotionally conflicted state, which allows for more insight. Perhaps this only happens with me because of the practice I’ve done in the past, but it seems to also happen with people who have not done that practice.

Your previous practice could well be helping it along so to speak, there are numerous studies showing how meditation makes (positive) changes to the structure of the brain. If you were to keep that up in some way and not neccessarily through meditation then it would no doubt become habitual.

In case you’re wondering, I don’t do a structured practice any more because I don’t feel the need for it. This could be self-deception, but the motivation just isn’t there.

Well, if you feel happy and don’t need it then thats a good thing smile

I guess its a question of how deep you want to go…..if you just want to attain some simple peace and happiness then a more gentle/less involved practice might be all you need….but if you want to escape rebirth and fly through the galaxy as the buddha was reported to have done then your practice has to be heavy duty 24/7 LOL

I am strongly motivated to keep my life simple, spend a lot of time in silence, focus on the immediate and keep in touch with teachers. Again, my choice of teachers could be keeping me too much inside my own comfort zone, but my motivation is what it is.

Just learn to trust your own intutuion….a good teacher is not one with all the answers but one who can show you how to see all the answers for yourself….as the buddha said ‘the buddhas can only lead the way’. The late Ajahn Chah’s quotes sum up that idea quite nicely:

“You are your own teacher. Looking for teachers can’t solve your own doubts. Investigate yourself to find the truth - inside, not outside. Knowing yourself is most important.”

“Only one book is worth reading: the heart.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chah_Subhatto

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Second, it is Violently Opposed…
Third, it is Accepted as being Self-Evident.”

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Posted: 25 July 2007 07:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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I’m glad you’re not such an ‘uppity buddhist purist’ that you can’t be interested in other people’s practice. And how about your practice - is it heavy duty 24/7? Probably not, I’m guessing.
Must be tough dealing with major depression. I suppose you know from his book that Eckhart Tolle was very depressed in his younger years.
What are your thoughts about medication?
In my younger years I had a lot of emotional conflict that sapped my energy, but it gradually got straightened out. I don’t know how much of the improvement was from meditation practice and how much from just gaining life experience. In our individual experience there’s no ‘control group’ so it’s really hard to say.

My ideas about practice have changed a lot since my buddhist years, primarily with respect to theism. It’s not like I say prayers nowadays, but I do think there is some ‘one’ who’s in charge of this whole shebang - or maybe it’s more like the whole shebang is in charge of itself. Either way, my ability to make things happen, even in my own mental structure, is very limited.

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Posted: 26 July 2007 04:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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[quote author=“Pat_Adducci”]I’m glad you’re not such an ‘uppity buddhist purist’ that you can’t be interested in other people’s practice. And how about your practice - is it heavy duty 24/7? Probably not, I’m guessing.

at the moment because im coming off some medication my practice is not ‘heavy duty’ per say, but prior to my withdrawel i was meditating as much as possible because i was finally starting to make some headway with my depression after so long. I usually meditate for at least an hour or so a day (once at night, once in the morning). When my head is in a better place i think i’d be quite interested in trying a meditation retreat….5 days in complete silence sounds a bit daunting to me at the moment but so many people say it can be the most amazing experience. I dont think ive ever stopped talking for more than 5 minutes LOL

Must be tough dealing with major depression. I suppose you know from his book that Eckhart Tolle was very depressed in his younger years.

Depression is one of those things, like going into remission from cancer or something as people often talk about or a near death experience etc .... absoutly horrible to go through but when you come out the other end you’re wiser than you could have ever imagined. I guess its just one of life’s hard teachers. I’d noticed Tolle saying he was frequently depressed, which is why i said before i craved one of those epiphanys he claimed to have had, something which would change so i could see some sort of pattern and get the ball rolling so to speak. Those epiphany’s are too few are far between!

What are your thoughts about medication?

There are big positives and negatives, i can only give you my experience with them. When i was at the height of my depression (i didnt really know what was happening to me at the time) i was using heaps of drugs and alcohol. The standard treatment for those kind of things is talking therapy and medication etc….therapy i had already tried and had become frustrated with and i’d tried several antidepressants and they had done nothing. Eventually my drug use got so bad that i knew i had to do something or i was going to end up on a slab. So i dragged myself off to the doctors and tried another antidepressant. Third time lucky, within a few weeks all the suicidal tendancies and rampant drug and alcohol addiction had just vanished. If i hadn’t gone to the doctor at that stage i think i would be dead. Unfortunatly, the antidepressants stopped working after a while (they sometimes do that) even though they no longer worked i never went back to the drugs and booze because i’d had a brief period of clarity with the medication which allowed me to see why it was i was doing drugs/alcohol/suicide attempts (escape)

So, as the standard treatments for depression are therapy and medication i saw another psychologist for about 6 months (it didnt help at all- i was too tired to think and analyse anything) and started trying to find another antidepressant to help me. After reading about medications and peoples experiences with them it become apparant that i could try every med available (there must be about 20) and there was a possibility none of them could work. Even if they did work it was also a distinct possibility that i would relapse after i discontinued them. I could stay on them for life but that wasn’t really an option for a number of reasons. I started to freak out wondering how the hell i was ever going to get out of this mess as the two first line treatments weren’t doing it for me. I then read a book by UK psychologist Dorothy Rowe about depression and she mentioned how religion can help. I never believed in God and hated religion but somehow stumbled across this atheistic teaching which resembled more of a philosophy than any other religion i knew. And i saw an interview with Leonard Cohen one night who talked about how he tried everything to deal with his lifelong depression and nothing helped until he went and lived in a zen centre for a few years. So, while i was trying all these different meds (and suffering the side effects some of them bought as well as the frustrating waiting times for them to work and the withdrawels) i read up some more about buddhism and went to a meditation group and learnt how to meditate. Once i started to see the positive effects of meditation i decided to stop looking for a medication that could help. Im currenly coming off the one i was last trying (and suffering the withdrawels!) so my meditation is just not happening at the moment, but once thats over i’ll be on my way to conquering the blues for good.

So the meds are a bit of mixed bag, some people try all of them and none work, some people try them but get awful side effects, some people try them and they work for a while only to mysteriously wear off and some people ( a very small percentage) try them and then stop taking them after a while and their depression never returns. For me they were great for a certain time in my life, they were a lifesaver but unfortunatly they weren’t a longterm solution like i would have liked them to be.

There is no doubt a lot of misinformation regarding these meds…people being led to believe that they are a cure or that there are no side effects etc…..we lack any decent diagnostic equipment to know if depression has any biological basis so in the meantime it has to be assumed (to retain the individuals belief in self change) that depression is psychological in basis so any medications will only ever be a leg-up ,and not a one stop cure so to speak, whilst lifestyle changes are made and new ways of thinking can be found.

Sorry for the essay, its a bit of a diatribe!

In my younger years I had a lot of emotional conflict that sapped my energy, but it gradually got straightened out. I don’t know how much of the improvement was from meditation practice and how much from just gaining life experience. In our individual experience there’s no ‘control group’ so it’s really hard to say

.

They say everybody experiences some form of depression at some stage of their lives, i guess its a question of how long it lasts for that distinguishes it from growing pains. There is no doubt that if your meditation practice was affecting you then it is possibly it could have helped you overcome that. Especially if it happened when you were younger, negative changes to a developing brain can be harder to undo (if you’ve grown up thinking in a certain unhelpful way it will be harder to unlearn that behaviour)so positive changes to the brain while your young will most likely prime you in a good way for later life.

My ideas about practice have changed a lot since my buddhist years, primarily with respect to theism. It’s not like I say prayers nowadays, but I do think there is some ‘one’ who’s in charge of this whole shebang - or maybe it’s more like the whole shebang is in charge of itself. Either way, my ability to make things happen, even in my own mental structure, is very limited.

I dont believe in a creator god as spelled at in the bible,koran etc but some peoples idea of what god is would be pretty similar to what i call nature or the universe in general. Whatever you call it i agree that its certainly out of our control, and the quicker we surrender to it the easier and simpler things seem to get!  smile

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Third, it is Accepted as being Self-Evident.”

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Posted: 26 July 2007 09:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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[quote author=“meloncolin”]
  Once i started to see the positive effects of meditation i decided to stop looking for a medication that could help. Im currenly coming off the one i was last trying (and suffering the withdrawels!) so my meditation is just not happening at the moment, but once thats over i’ll be on my way to conquering the blues for good.
.........
There is no doubt a lot of misinformation regarding these meds…people being led to believe that they are a cure or that there are no side effects etc…..we lack any decent diagnostic equipment to know if depression has any biological basis so in the meantime it has to be assumed (to retain the individuals belief in self change) that depression is psychological in basis so any medications will only ever be a leg-up ,and not a one stop cure so to speak, whilst lifestyle changes are made and new ways of thinking can be found.

This is all really interesting to me, meloncolin, and if you wrote too much for someone else, they can just skip over it.
I wonder if doctors here in the United States are more inclined to see depression as biologically based than doctors in the UK (where you are, right?) I know at least two people who are on anti-depressants here with no idea of getting off.

I think as you get more involved in meditation you will find there is just as much misinformation, guess-work and hype regarding meditation as there is about medication! I hope you feel like writing more about your experience - this is probably not going to be a simple journey.

You can’t trust a Buddhist teacher to understand what you’re going through. I know this because I watched my guru die from alcohol and drugs. He had no idea how to deal with it because had he stayed in Tibet, he would have never been exposed to these possibilities.

Let’s consider you a pioneer in the field - you have help available if you want to try various meds again, and you can experiment with meditation. If a meditation teacher has never experienced clinical depression, they should listen to you.
On the medical side, since some of them are already interested in a ‘mindfulness’ approach, this could be built upon by people with a genuine practice.  There’s an interesting book by some psychologists in San Francisco - Sacred Mirror, nondual wisdom and psychotherapy -

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