How to get out of bed when you’re feeling hopeless

The world is pretty much a mess right now, it seems. A lot of people have been feeling hopeless and depressed, including some close to me. So I want to share a few ideas on how to cope when things go wrong, based on some skyof my own recent experiences. It’s in two parts — hope you have time to read this first one before you get up to face your day.

Don’t panic

Whenever I get one of those phone calls containing bad news, eg, a shocking bereavement or break up of a good relationship, or am sickened by some cruel and unusual politics, the first thing I tell myself is not to panic because feeling sad for a while is not going to kill me. I’ve been through worse and ended up happy again. These are temporary cloud formations in the sky. Things seem so solid when we are unhappy, but the truth is they are not.

Through practice in identifying with a pure and peaceful mind, it has gotten to the point where I can still feel the bliss of the clear sky mind even under the thick cloak of the dark clouds. So if I can do it, you can too.

Stay present

Then I tell myself, as soon as I remember, “Don’t rewind and don’t fast forward”. This was what my close friend Lovely Lekma told me after a calamity I had some years ago, and it sustained me then and sustains me now.

Stay in the moment. Stay in today at least.

Today I can handle. Today I can transform. Tomorrow will take care of itself. And I really don’t need to be thinking about how this will impact me all next year, let alone the rest of my life … especially considering I may die today.

We live life from dream to dream

As I explain a lot in these articles on subtle impermanence, due to our permanent grasping we spread our present mood over the past, missing what we think we had, and over the future, dreading a cold and depressing future. But neither of those scenarios release shacklesexist — the past has gone, and the future doesn’t exist yet, plus I guarantee you that it will be very different to how you’re envisaging it while you’re in a sad mood.

When we are feeling blessed again, or just back in a reasonably okay mood, we appreciate past lessons and welcome the opportunities of the future. The immediate past can feel like a beautiful dream, and just one of many now passed. The dream-like future can feel ripe with the potential for lasting bliss, freedom, and the ability to help others.

In other words, I only have to make the effort to change the present moment. And that is very do-able.

The rest takes care of itself. It really does. Try it and see.

Let me take that away for you

One way I like to transform the present moment is to acknowledge my current feeling of sadness rather than push it away, and use it to empathize with and absorb the similar refugesadness of so many other living beings, thus releasing them from it. This practice of taking others’ suffering makes my suffering feel meaningful, rather than like useless pain. Taking pacifies my mind with compassion and motivates me, lifting me out of discouragement.

And the deeper the sadness, the more effective this practice is in some ways! So we need not fear our sadness.

Also, as our suffering is always arising from one delusion or another, such as attachment, we can also take on others’ similar delusions as explained in Great Treasury of Merit (which I will quote in full as it is such a helpful paragraph):

If we find it difficult to prevent a particular delusion by transforming it into its opposite, we can try to overcome it by practicing taking and giving. For example, if we are having difficulty in preventing attachment towards a particular object or person, we should think how there are countless beings afflicted by attachment which is often much stronger than our own, and out of compassion decide to take all their attachment upon ourself. We imagine that we draw all their attachment towards us in the form of black smoke. As it enters us, it completely destroys our own attachment, and then we meditate on emptiness for a while. We can use the same technique to overcome hatred and ignorance. In this way, we use our delusions to cultivate pure minds, rather as a farmer uses manure to grow crops.

people on banks of river

I remember discussing this meditation with another friend, Gen Rabten, last year — he told me it has been his go-to for overcoming delusions for many years. IMHO it seems to be working for him very well, so I may as well copy him! Spiritual friends can be so useful.

Part 2 is now here, including practical stuff on prayer, blessings, and how to view ourselves completely differently.

Care to share?

Meantime, have you dealt successfully with any calamities lately? Are you finding ways to avoid falling into despair over the current world situation?

Related articles

Accepting unhappiness without panicking

More on taking and giving …

Learning to live in the moment

Author: Luna Kadampa

Based on 40 years' experience, I write about applying meditation and modern Buddhism to improve and transform our everyday lives and societies. I try to make it accessible to everyone anywhere who wants more inner peace and profound tools to help our world, not just Buddhists. Do make comments any time and I'll write you back!

12 thoughts on “How to get out of bed when you’re feeling hopeless”

  1. Hi Luna,
    To stop falling into despair I remember Geshe la’s words that this world can change for everyone,not just being a nicer world but a blissful perfect world,and through your advice we can change our thoughts in a moment to this.
    Thank you Luna ❤️ 😊

  2. Following on …how does the practice of the Sadhana translate into everyday life. The Sadhanas are so clear as we can follow the words and allow our mind to follow. Daily life, I’m not so clear!

  3. So very helpful Luna – Thank you 🙏🏼
    Don’t rewind, don’t fast forward – I’ve gone back to this time and time again since you first shared with us – it’s such a simple and practical way to gain some space from the deluded thoughts that always want to dwell and cling on to past this and past that and worry incessantly about what ‘might’ happen in the future – Gen Lekma is so kind and manages to give teachings through the ether 😊 as well as daily at the Centre in Southampton. Please do come and visit us here at our Southampton city space 🙏🏼, we’d love to see you.

    Slightly off tangent, but I wondered if you might give some guidance on your blog as to how to rely on our Dharma Protector. There was a recent fb comment regarding this practice and it has got me thinking about how to deepen and better understand what it means to rely on Dorje Shugden. Some interesting comments were made, which I can relate to and maybe others too. Mainly, how to overcome any sense of holding back due to having the idea, however wrong it maybe, that some huge difficulty / illness / problem will arise as a result. Intellectually, I understand that this is not the function of a Dharma Protector, but nevertheless, this holding backness is holding me back… if that makes sense!

    Thank you Luna.
    A x

  4. Thank you Luna, your clear and simple words make dharma even more accessible in daily life.

    My teacher told us to fall in love with emptiness several years ago and it became my most cherished object in life. Recently, he told me to start loving the self that I normally see. I was able to do that authentically for the very first time and it felt like a thousand empowerments! I was able to welcome it wholeheartedly knowing it for what it is, there was no fear, no judgement, no blaming, it was just simple and easy and I was able to see first-hand how samsara can be destroyed with ease, comfort and joy.

    Of course, it came back soon after and I caved in again into believing and cherishing it. Now, I just need to train in it more and train in mindfulness but it felt as if I have witnessed its end. My next step is to welcome this self as Heruka with this self as an interesting character from the charnel ground but in reality just bliss and emptiness. A tall order but as my teacher says “what else are you going to do with this life, do you have a better idea?”.


  5. Thank you for sharing this! Although I have heard the analogy of the passing dark clouds many times, your re-presentation with, “I only have to make the effort to change the present moment. And that is very do-able,” is particularly poignant and helpful for bringing the mind to the present swiftly.

    I’ll share something briefly in hopes it is encouraging for others who will be teaching this. Please don’t be alarmed by the “d” word. One friend became super focused on it as opposed to the amazing power of Buddha’s teachings to combat it. Depression is really just like any other habit of mind…so ordinary, bleh 😉

    I suffered through depression for many years before finding Geshla’s teachings 14 years ago. I remember it was a terrible cycle and I could see it was a cycle, but I could not get out of it… until I read Geshela’s books. It was particularly the teaching you referenced about seeing those moments as passing clouds that initially helped relieve the cycle. Other teachings reached me on deeper levels, significantly reducing the power of the habitual thoughts, clearing room for cherishing others and joy. But every now and again a treacherous mind rears its head. It seems familiar and there is a temptation to follow it, but the passing cloud analogy is brought to mind as soon as I recognize it, protecting me from the cycle. I am not suggesting that this is the only way to work with depression. Folks living with this will need to find a path and perhaps even medical treatment that works for them. But I think these teachings have the potential to reach people in ways they wouldn’t expect. Keep persisting, Dharma Teachers, Dharma Protectors, for you hold the Victory Banner!

  6. Wonderful, thank you. I love how down to earth and ‘do-able’ your articles are 🙂
    One of the greatest gifts of Dharma for me is the simplest: when I’m sad or down, just to be able to say to myself ‘This is just a thought. I don’t need to think it.’ Then move my mind to a happier, more beneficial thought.
    Maybe not profound but it has changed my world.

    1. That is pretty profound, actually! We believe our thoughts to be real and fixed, when in fact they depend on causes and conditions and, you are right, we don’t have to think them. Dharma is understanding that we have that freedom and learning to exercize it more and more.

  7. …….thank-you Dear Lady , you do so much for us others , I hope ‘ things ‘ are reasonably wonderful for you…….😊….

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