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Review: “Sunbathing in the Rain”

[Editor’s note: Thanks, Karen, I think this is a great idea – would love to have more book reviews and recommendations to post on the blog, especially in light of Tony’s recent post.  Please email them to me at admin@stonewaterzen.org.  Thanks! -Alasdair]

I’ve always found books on depression depressing so was very intrigued to find out about this one. This is Lewis’s personal experience of depression and how she learned to cope with it or should I say listen to it. There were so many wonderful bits in the book I found myself writing them down because here was a book about hope.

…the last thing you should do is waste your depression. Please don’t let that suffering go to waste. It will give you better clues about the way you’re living your life and how right that is for you than anything else. Survived, and used properly, depression could be the best thing that ever happened to you. People who ignore their depression are the ones who go mad, not those who go through it and treat it with the respect it deserve. [Well bloody marvellous!] I sensed that in its infinite self-tolerance, I might have found a long-term solution in Zen to depression.

Lewis spent months and months in bed. This experience enabled her to realise the depth of depression and the clues it gave her to living a freer more authentic life. Not how she should live but how she needed too.

Crying for the moon is
Naughtiness and envy,
We can only love what-
ever we possess.
     from Heavy Date by W H Auden

If anyone reading this has ever suffered depression, this book might be of some use. At the back Lewis lists her favourite books on depression. Her first choice is The Little Book of Beating the Blues by Cheri Huber a student and teacher of zen for more than twenty years. It’s a brilliant little book with enchanting line drawings and loads of common sense. Think its out of print but its still available. I found a copy. Here’s a small example of her compassion and wisdom.

…what we resist persists…depression brings me back to myself in a way life does not… it gets my attention… it brings me to a halt.

Sunbathing in the Rain is the best book I’ve read on depression. It also includes her understanding of zen practice and her life being a poet. And thankfully its not a positive self-help book.

Cognitive therapists focus on getting patients to see the glass as half-full rather than half-empty. Being positive has become rather a fetish. A more radical tactic would be to abolish the need for evaluation at all and just accept the glass as it is, whether it be cracked or brimming.

Moment by moment stuff!