As a promotional exercise, coffee houses with "the Leonard Cohen vibe" were once sent a free copy of the Tower of Song album. "I'd like to go to some of those," Cohen later said. "I can rarely locate my own vibe." After years of mental illness, though, the folk-poet did finally find his groove, and that can encourage the rest of us.
Singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen's latest UK tour was a great success, earning him the now customary rave reviews.His personable presence and his poetic and melodic songs continue to bring joy to an age-diverse audience around the world. Yet along with his now iconic status as one of the great veterans of the live circuit he brings with him an open secret - for decades he suffered from "acute clinical depression".To alleviate the suffering Cohen took all kinds of prescription drugs but "none of them worked" and all "were disagreeable, in subtly different ways" he told journalist, Mireille Silcott. "I was told they all give you a 'bottom', a floor beneath which you are not expected to plunge.""And?" - the reporter asked."I plunged."That failure of drugs to make a dent in the darkness turned the Canadian poet-troubadour in a deeper direction. "What happened was that somewhere along the line I understood this question had to be addressed at the fundamental level of consciousness", he told an LA broadcaster.Finally, 14 years ago, after five decades of suffering, his depression lifted for good in what he has described as a sweet moment of unfamiliar normality. Cohen doesn't offer a definitive take on what finally brought about the change. But his words point in a direction many have found pivotal to both mental and physical healing - he broke free from self-preoccupation."When you stop thinking about yourself all the time, a certain sense of repose overtakes you. It happened to me by imperceptible degrees", he concluded.Perhaps this is this one of the lessons that "the heart beneath is teaching to the broken heart above", as Cohen poetically puts it in "Come Healing" on his most recent album Old Ideas. In the song he describes the symptoms that need healing as a "troubledness" that's concealing an "undivided love", which ably summarises what a friend experienced. Right where a deeply troubled thought seemed so all-encompassing he learned it was simply concealing the calm, loving nature that's native to all as the children of divine love. At the time my friend was suffering from a clinical depression that had endured with suicidal tendencies for eight years despite him receiving top medical care and taking almost 10,000 drugs. But he was introduced to Christian Science and after some months of engaging with its ideas he heard a Bible passage read at church which triggered an unexpected recognition in him that he was divinely loved - completely and unconditionally cared for.'I heard these words of the Apostle Paul: "For in him we live, and move, and have our being,"' my friend wrote of this moment. He continued: "That idea—that my life was wholly spiritual, and not at all material—just burst through the mental clouds. I had this glimpse—a revelation—of spiritual reality and the complete freedom it includes. It felt as though chains had fallen from me."That liberating insight was the beginning of the end of his "long and dark journey, trying to find a way out, to find health and some sort of normality".The conviction of being in an unbroken, and unbreakable, relationship with the divine source gained ground over several more months until first the drugs and then the depression itself gave place to a secure, spiritual sense of self-worth. That finally opened the way to a normal family life and a successful, globe-trotting career - things that had seemed completely out of reach. Jesus once said that "the kingdom of God is within you", an idea which has been explained as meaning just what my friend found, that harmony and health are "within reach of consciousness here" (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy).Such healing ideas point to an ever-shining divine consciousness that can pierce, and at times even disperse, the darkest of depressions.