Meditation for Healing and Revealing. A personal journey.
Meditation for Healing and Revealing
Meditation is often seen as an activity you do in order to escape your problems and relax. At the heart of meditation is repetition. There are a vast array of meditation techniques, from staring at an object (such as a candle or mandala) to rhythmic chanting (religious or otherwise) to guided meditations or contemplations, to controlled breathing and repetitive counting.
However, to me, true meditation introduces you to the present moment and sustains you in every moment of your existence. Meditation techniques can be used as coping mechanisms or tools, but in its purity meditation enhances your life, both during practice and after. It gets you in touch with who you really are and can help you discover or rediscover your inner calm and your true self.
For me meditation, and I am here thinking of mindfulness, is all about whatever is your experience in any given moment. it is about accepting this very moment, whether painful or unpleasant, without any attempt at suppression or denial, and with an attitude of impartiality and curiosity, as a witness that you are not your thoughts, neither are you your feelings, sensations nor behaviours.
With mindfulness practice you may find liberation and learn to open and soften to all your experiences, whether pleasant or unpleasant.
Meditation, and in particular Mindfulness, has in recent years been used by the NHS as an intervention therapy for people with Mental Health issues – ranging from anxiety disorders to psychoses. Personally I have found it the most helpful NHS funded treatment I have received for my anxiety disorder.
A truly wonderful Mindfulness concept is that known as having a “beginner’s mind”. This means seeing everything as though it is happening for the first time. Strange? Maybe, but this helps you see things as they are, and stops you from judging your present experience, from wishing to be elsewhere, especially if it is a “mundane” experience or something that you may otherwise see as problematic. Seeing things like this, as though for the first time, may help break from unhelpful habits, and enhance and enliven your experience of life.
On a scientific level, it has been shown using functional MRI scans, that meditation reduces blood flow to the amygdala in the brain (which is responsible for the fight and flight reactions) and increases blood flow to the prefrontal cortex in the brain which promotes the relaxation response and leads to effective decision making.
I was introduced to Mindfulness by my NHS psychologist and attended an 8 week course which followed the MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) model designed by Jon Kabat-Zinn in the USA. He has written many books on mindfulness including Full Catastrophe Living which details his revolutionary approach in treating physical and emotional pain.
The core of mindfulness is focused attention that seeks to explore painful experiences. Mindfulness is not really a tool. Tools, such as painkillers, alcohol or anti-depressants, seek to directly control or alleviate suffering. The philosophy of Mindfulness is to accept your present experience and not be drawn into the past (which may contain traumas, regrets, angers) nor into the future (which is always uncertain and may cause needless worrying).
The simple and yet perhaps the profoundest truth in life is that you can only ever live now. Yesterday is history, tomorrow is never a guarantee. I am a great advocate of meditation and in a time when people live for holidays or living for days free of pain, misery or debt, it is beautiful to recall: now is a gift, that’s why it is called the present.
Suggested Further Reading:
Full Catastrophe Living: How to Cope with Stress, Pain and Illness Using Mindfulness Meditation (2001) by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
One-Minute Mindfulness: How to Live in the Moment (2011) by Simon Parke. Hay House UK.