The post refers to meditations which are based on awareness of thought and emotions and not other forms of meditations
For as long as I remember, almost everyone I spoke to about meditation have told me that mediation is the way to a blissful / peaceful living. Some have gone to an extent of saying that meditation is the solution to whatever problem one has and everyone should practice meditation as there are no side effects to it.
And I kept wondering whether this is true?
Because for me common sense and experience both says “either a process has an effect or it does not have an effect. If there is an effect then there would generally be a positive as well as negative depending upon how, when and where the process is applied.”
And the same should be true for Meditation too.
My Journey with Meditation
As the time passed I started doing some meditations.
By meditation I mean, Whenever I would feel sad or worried I would sit with my eyes closed and observe my thoughts and emotions. Meditation was difficult for me at least during the initial days. I did start becoming more and more comfortable over a period of time.
Different feelings during and after Meditation
Over a period of time I also observed that I felt good and relieved after doing meditation exercise. At the same time, I did not feel any improvement in my ability to deal with my worries or sadness in my day to day life once the meditation got over.
In fact, I observed that I became more irritable in my day to day life i.e. I felt good during and after my meditation exercise but then the irritation, sadness, worry would return and each time it returned with a slightly greater intensity.
This created confusion for me as I couldn’t understand why this was happening. At the same time I felt calm after meditation, so I assumed meditation was helping me and continued with my mediation exercises specially when I was in a negative state of mind.
Change in my understanding about meditation
This continued for some more time till one day I came to know that one of my acquaintance (who had been meditating for many years and every day used to meditate for hours at times) committed suicide.
This made me wonder because I had been to told that meditation helps in improving our physical, emotional and mental well-being but then there was this person who meditated for hours and yet committed suicide. There seemed to be something wrong.
Now as I wondered, I started looking for more information on how meditation affects us and our mind. What really happens to our thoughts and emotions as we go into a meditative state?
Understanding Meditation through the Model of Mind
According to this model, we have a
- Conscious mind:
Where along with other conscious processes we experience thoughts and emotions),
- Subconscious mind:
Which is the store house of experiences and is approximately 6000 times more powerful then the conscious mind and
- Critical filter (beliefs, values….):
Which is like a gatekeeper between the conscious and subconscious and is basis of what experiences (including thoughts and emotions) are allowed to go into the subconscious.
The model also explained how self-hypnosis / meditation can help a person bypass the critical filter so as to allow some information / suggestion that are framed consciously (ideally positive one’s) into the subconscious, which could have been discarded by the critical filter, so as to change the existing limiting beliefs.
I realised that when one is having negative thoughts and emotions, the critical filter prevents them from going into the subconscious (remember which is 6000 times stronger).
But when one meditates, he / she is able to bypass the critical filter which allows these negative thoughts and emotions to seep into the subconscious making them 6000 times more powerful.
As a result one feels calmer and relaxed during and just after the meditation process but later it is due to the power of subconscious that these thoughts and emotions become even more intense and powerful.
Ironically this makes the person meditating feel that it is only during meditation that he / she is calm and relaxed which drives them towards meditation even more.
There are also times when meditation can become an escape route for the person i.e. whenever they come across uncomfortable situations, instead of facing them they resort to meditation hoping the situation will sort out by itself, which rarely happens.
Therapy with clients who have been practising meditation
The various points made in this post have both been validated and helpful when I have worked with clients during one to one therapy sessions. It is for this reason that we have incorporated a more elaborate understanding about the different types of meditations and their effects in our Cognitive Hypnotic Psychotherapy™ Program.
If you are a mental health professional, you must read more about this course and how it effectively integrates different approaches to psychotherapy (cognitive, behavioural, psycho-dynamic and humanistic) with techniques from Clinical Hypnosis, NLP, Mindfulness and Metaphor therapy.
Things to remember about meditation and self hypnosis:
- These are precautionary processes not curative one’s.
- Both have the ability to magnify the effect of thoughts and emotions (both positive and negative) that one experiences at the time when one begins these processes.
- Do not use these processes at a time when you have thoughts and emotions that you would not like to run your life (including when you are feeling sad, angry, guilty, afraid and so on…)
- Warning: Meditating May Be Hazardous to Your Health
- Can Meditation Be Bad for You?
- Meditation: concepts, effects and uses in therapy
P.S: The purpose of this post is not to stop people from meditation but to spread the awareness that meditation is simply a tool and not a magic pill to resolve your problems. How and when you use this tool will determine whether it improves your life or makes it worse.
Photo Credits: Afonso Coutinho