I have heard many people report after meditating regularly that they experience a sense of peace and calm that they didn’t have before. I have also heard on the news that school children who are sent to meditate instead of being punished for their behaviour tend to see dramatic improvements. These are the known outcomes but as a training Gestalt counsellor I am curious about the how the mental process of meditation facilitates these changes. I am sure there are numerous literatures about this very topic however I wanted to share 3 key realisations of my first recent experiences of silent meditation and focusing on the voice.
Observation 1: My ‘glue’ of attachment
As I attempted to keep my mind clear of any thoughts (first feeling very unsure of what that even meant) some thoughts attracted me like a magnet, these often had an accompanying emotion; Feeling hurt, angry, excited or anxious. Instead of seeing these as a sign of failing meditation, I observed what pulled me in; this felt like vital information about me. The thoughts with the strongest pull were ones I knew too well, well worn, and on reflection the most tempting to ruminate on a closed loop circuit. However, when I tried to pull away and re centre my mind, I felt resentment like I was having my favourite toy taken away. The ‘glue’ of my attachment was in the emotional stimulation I got out of them – like a smoker craving more nicotine or a fish tempted by the bait on a hook. If this is what happens in my ‘real life’ there are such positive benefits realising it’s ok to pull away from toxic thoughts.
Observation 2: The surprise of self-esteem
The process of pulling away from these thoughts was like trying to pull a rabbit backwards out of its warren. I had already started launching in to replaying a dialogue with someone, going deeper in to the feelings, my body reacting as if I was there, uncomfortable, trying to distract myself and wanting to stop. After I pulled away, I felt myself in the room, the vibration of my voice and was shocked by the accompanying message. I’m leaving this alone so ‘I must be more important than this thought’. I felt an increased sense of care for myself in the present. I felt calmer and emotionally regulated.
Observation 3: A parallel process of self-regulation in real life.
Often in real life when a distressing thought occurs, the failure to pull away from it, causes a spiral of negative emotion such as anxiety or anger that can drain me psychologically and causes physiological reactions which reinforces their influence. Self-regulation; returning to a state of feeling calm and present often comes through distraction – watching Netflix, playing candy crush, or maybe having a joint. But what meditation is teaching me is that I can centre my mind at any point if I develop the ability. Exercising the ‘muscle’ of self-regulation through meditation is empowering; for me its not so much about remaining clear headed at all times but more about knowing what pulls me in, that I can pull away and that I can support myself emotionally by doing so. If I can apply this to real life it could save me hours of distraction! Perhaps, when school children get in to trouble, they are also hooked by their emotions and are learning self-regulation through mentally walking away. I carried my experience the following day feeling more assured that I don’t have to go down that rabbit hole when a thought occurs. I’m now hooked on creating a healthy mind through meditation – what a simple, powerful tool!