“There are two ways of spreading light; to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” ~Edith Wharton

I believe Edith Wharton might have come up short in her description of “spreading light.”

One could be as a candle and sustain a flame, providing light for others; or a mirror, reflecting and spreading light that is emitted by others. But who themselves spark the flames that light the candles that reflect light in times of darkness?

You yourself can become the match — the catalyst of happiness, a conduit of goodness, the very spark of piercing light that erases darkness.

In lieu of my recent personal expose on my history of depression, I’ve received a lot of emails and questions asking, “Well, what next?” In this important exploration of living from within and darkness of the mind, the logical follow-up question is, how do you burn through times of depression and overwhelming internal suffering and spark light, happiness, inner balance and peace?

How to Burn a Mind-Cloud

There’s no “one” way to overcome a so-called “mind-cloud.” However, if I had my choice about it, I would personally always prefer to choose to become a match and provide myself with a spark; to work to sustain my own light and help provide it to others.

This is the underlying current of realizing our innate power from within.

This is how we live from within and thrive. This is the essence of what Ralph Waldo Emerson called Self-Reliance. Becoming a match — our own spark — is how we begin to nurture a quiet, personal understanding of leadership within ourselves and on behalf of others.

9 Steps Toward Sparking the Light

1. I always have Choice.

The human imagination is a unique gift: it allows you as a free-willed creature to always possess the power of choice in any situation or amid any circumstance. The first step toward burning away a dark mind-cloud is to remind yourself and constantly reaffirm that you always have choice, and through choice, you make the decision to take the first step toward change.

2. I am not my Mind.

This concept is a difficult one to articulate in so many words. Everyone, for the most part, unconsciously becomes completely consumed by the idea that the mind is an indistinguishable part of “who they are” — instead of just another tool that constitutes the human experience.

3. My problems and my suffering are Temporary.

Every problem we experience in our lives tends to wholly consume our thoughts, emotions, and actions. During times of darkness, we are almost unbearably overcome and can hardly see the light. I’ve been there.

However, it’s crucial to remind yourself continually that “my suffering is temporary.” Nothing in this world, this universe, is forever and constant except that everything is impermanent. Everything is in a constant state of change, ebb and flow, progression and regression. Thankfully, because everything in our world does change, anything in our lives can change.

4. My problems and my suffering are all Relative.

Put your problems and suffering in perspective. Every problem we experience is relative to our living experience and the perspective within our own heads. What (even justifiable) feels like the worst suffering we could possibly experience is always completely relative — and may pale in comparison to the suffering millions of others are experiencing across the world at any given moment.

5. To escape my mind, I liberally give my attention and love outwardly to others.

Suffering entraps us without our own minds. As we suffer, we become caught in our heads and consumed by our suffering: we can’t think of or focus on anything but ourselves and our pain. And yet, when we make a concerted effort to focus on others–especially, giving to others every day, even through seemingly trivial acts of kindness and smiles and good deeds–the pain and suffering in which we have become entrenched begins leave us.

This is a humbly exercise that seeks to quiet our “woe is me” ego and begins to build a basis of “others have it worse than me; I should be thankful for X, Y and Z.” Remember to reflect upon your gratitude, things however big or small. Reflect on them routinely.

6. I deserve Happiness. Self-loathing and self-pity are irrational wastes of time: I smile into myself.

I recently came across an article detailing the Taoist practice of smiling inwardly “into our organs” for the purpose of rejuvenating them and maintaining their health.

“When I read this piece, I thought, “…If anyone saw me doing this they might think I was crazy!” I then thought, “It’s far, far more irrational and even embarrassing to simmer in our own sadness, self-loathing and self-pity than to simmer in quiet happiness and contentment!”

It’s counter-productive and counter-intuitive to suffer within yourself and way more embarrassing (when you step back and think about it), especially considering the scientifically proven health benefits of being happy. Reject self-loathing and self-pity. Everybody deserves to be happy. Including you.

7. I am Complete and Whole within myself.

Somewhere in time, a myth developed that we are each incomplete and lacking within ourselves, and that we necessarily need another “half” to become “whole.” Part of this social concept is true: human beings are social creatures and both physically and mentally-emotionally benefit from social interactions with others — even simply being in the physical presence of complete strangers.

Even still, we are whole and complete within ourselves. You do not need someone else to validate you or to make you whole or complete. This is “missing puzzle piece” myth creates a void of emptiness and lack in our minds; one that must be avoided to become “a match” and spark our own light.

8. I am Exceptionally Unique and amass Limitless Potential.

On a biological level, you are a 100% exceptionally unique genetic combination of DNA. Combined with your living experiences and personal backstory, you offer the world something special, unique and different than any other person in the history of the planet and the human species. And that, we can all agree, is pretty cool. That you are so unique and unmatched, you so too offer a limitless possibility to this world and to others.

9. If any facet of my life is misaligned with my own sense of Purpose, Fulfillment or Happiness, I will change it.

I believe that darkness of the mind stems from the feeling that your life is misaligned from your personal sense of purpose, fulfillment and happiness. When we are out of sync with what we truly feel we “ought” to be doing in our hearts, we feel lost, unhappy and hopeless. With the power of choice you already and always possess within you, choose to change your life and to follow your heart.

When in alignment with purpose and fulfilling living, happiness will follow — the flame will be lit, and the world will share your light.

Flickr photo credit: Pedro Moura Pinheiro