Depression and Awakening by J. Stewart Dixon

Jeff depression

I talk a lot about existential depression…

It’s a very important element, if not the most important element in the spiritual awakening / enlightenment process.  Existential depression and spiritual awakening are two sides of the same coin. Existential depression is the invitational doorway into spiritual awakening.  Existential depression is the natural healing expression of transcending egoic mind-based pain, suffering, and separation.   Existential depression is the natural medicine required to wake up.

What exactly is existential depression?

I imagine, if you’ve got an ounce of spiritual seeking curiosity in you, then you are at least vaguely familiar with this condition. On a surface level it motivates one to ask the big questions: Why am I here? Is there more to life than this? Who am I? Why am I so damn _____.   (fill in the blank- sad, unhappy, unsatisfied, lonely, lost, broken, angry, asleep, etc.) On a deeper level (where it really becomes effective in the awakening process) existential depression motivates one to become a seeker in search of answers to these questions.


Existential depression is also known as plain old unhappiness or angst, dark night of the soul, zen sickness, or soul rot. The Buddha just called it suffering. Bottom line is, nothing does it for you. Normal egoic life takes on a very grey, nihilistic and why-bother quality. You become obscured by shadows. But- there is good news: Contained within the unhappiness is one very big and very important bright spot: You are aware of it and with great courage and wisdom you accept it as a means to an end. You accept that existential unhappiness or depression is in service of transcendence.

Here are some finer points. Fifty percent of the process of attaining awakening / enlightenment is actually about sensitizing the heart. It is the heart that recognizes and feels this existential depression. Simply put no saint, avatar, or normal awakened person ever attained anything resembling enlightenment without the fertile ground of a raw, sensitive, open, and humble heart. Most of us are ignorant, endlessly distracted and unaware of the heart’s truest sensitivity. In the awakening process discovering this sensitivity is an absolute requirement. Once discovered and nurtured, this fertile ground of the heart is what recognizes enlightenment and where the seeds of enlightenment take root.

Many individuals suffer from existential depression because they were born with or are prone to the heart’s acute sensitivity, but lack the hearts natural counterpoint- existential awareness – to provide the nurturing process of transforming the depression Without the clarity, strength and buffering capacity of awareness (awakenened consciousness at it’s highest potential) depression will simply continue as depression for years and years.

What is the solution?

In the real world what action/solution does this advice translate to?: Humble yourself, cry, get angry, let go of control, bow to, admit and embrace the pain of life- preferably in the company of an already awakened peer, group, teacher, or healer. I doubt you can do it alone. I didn’t. I couldn’t. If you follow this advice then the other fifty percent of the awakening / enlightenment process will take care of itself naturally and automatically: Like a moth attracted to light, a sensitive, aware heart will zero in on the energy of the group, teacher, or healer and over time transform existential unhappiness-depression into awakening / enlightenment (existential happiness) . You just gotta be in the room, raise your hand, and be willing to open up. (Yes, more than once.)

It’s not as hard as it seems. I know I have built this up to seem like some epic quest or impossible journey, but this is not the case. All sorts of people like you and me are waking up all over the world right now. You do not need to be special, or ordained, or qualified in any way. You just have to want it, need it, and feel it in your bones. You have to be brutally honest and stick to your integrity like a pitbull. This is what I did. It’s what my teachers did. I wish the same for you.


About J. Stewart Dixon /

J. Stewart Dixon is an unorthodox nondual-advaita-zen spiritual awakening teacher and founder of Blue Collar Enlightenment. Born in 1969 J. Stewart began his spiritual search at the age of eighteen, urged on by a general sense of unhappiness, depression and an impulse that something was missing from his life. He passionately and actively continued searching (via numerous paths and dozens of teachers) until the age of forty-one, when while reading a nondual awakening article online, he fell into what is commonly reported as awakening and his search ended. Shortly thereafter he began writing and teaching.



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