Frequently in the course of treatment I will suggest that my patients begin to meditate. The process helps quiet the obsessive mind, if even briefly at first, and can connect the meditator to a stream of positive energy.
When we first begin to meditate, we sit quietly and focus on our breath, and perhaps a mantra. The mantra can be short, such as a word or several syllables such as Om or Peace, or a longer phrase such as the Compassion Mantra, Om Mane Padme Hum.
As we sit focusing on the breath and/or mantra (which I will call the focal point), the mind wanders. Thoughts bubble up and move our attention away from the focal point. Contrary to popular belief, we do not chastise the self for allowing the mind to wander. We simply return to the focal point, welcoming the self back to the process. This will occur many times at first, and will occur for most of us to some degree no matter how practiced we become at meditating. It is through this focusing, wandering and refocus that we begin to heal and expand.
If we willfully drag the attention back to the focal point through shame or guilt at "failing" this simple process somehow, we are mistaken. This is not a useful strategy. When we react punitively to the mind drifting into disturbing thoughts, memories or concerns, we activate the defense mechanisms (e.g. denial, repression, minimization, justification, rationalization, dissociation, etc.) we deny ourselves access to truth and greater acceptance of the self. The thought intrudes for a reason. After we notice it, we gently redirect the mind to the focal point and resume. As I have written in earlier posts, creativity often results from meditation, and it may emerge in just the way I've described here, to be explored and amplified further after meditation is concluded.
This thought intrusion may occur often, but it is through tolerating the process rather than running from it and bringing the mind back to the focal point that we learn how to help ourselves rather than be slave to the fears, distractions and negativity many are prone to entertain. I treat many people suffering from various anxiety disorders, and meditation is a wonderful antidote to debilitating anxiety and obsession. I sometimes teach meditation during a therapeutic or coaching session and some psychotherapy patients will book a session just for this purpose.
The blending of meditation with psychotherapy is not a new concept, but it is receiving more attention now than in the past. The March 2013 issue of the Shambhala Sun features an article on this very topic, "When Ego Meets Non-Ego," by Andrea Miller. An excerpt is currently available here.
Intrigued? Good! Past posts of this blog offer resources for you in terms of websites and apps to enhance your efforts, or you can call me or another contemplative psychotherapist for an appointment to explore this further. I hope you too will find meditation a valuable addition to your daily life as I have.