While meditation has proven to be an extremely helpful and useful tool for gaining control of thoughts and emotions, skeptics are still resistant to trying it. Those who suffer from anxiety and depression do not believe that it could be helpful despite the fact that studies have shown that meditation can help relieve their symptoms. It is understandable that sufferers are uncomfortable with the idea of sitting with their thoughts or dealing with them at all. When experiencing negative emotions, it is common to attempt pushing these thoughts and feelings away or ignoring them rather than dealing with them. Some people argue that they simply do not have enough time to spend meditating. However, in reality meditation is not something that requires hours of practice or any special equipment. It can be done anywhere, anytime, for however long feels right. A lot of people have this image of meditation in their heads of a person sitting on a yoga mat with their legs crossed with their hands resting on their knees. But in reality, meditation is whatever the user needs it to be. Meg Mankings, the writer for Headspace, an app that promotes meditation, discusses this stereotype of meditation in an article. She states that, “more often than not, my sessions are emotional and active. I often use meditation to work through serious, difficult issues that life unexpectedly tosses at me. Mindfulness has helped me cope with the loss of loved ones, workplace stress, and social anxiety—all the fun stuff. It’s my meditation and I’ll cry if I want to (I often do).”
The impacts of mindfulness meditation are very beneficial to one’s overall health, especially for those who struggle with their mental health. However, misconceptions about meditation may come from articles like Donna Lu’s titled, “A quarter of people who meditate experience negative mental states.” In this article, she explains how Marco Schlosser surveyed 1232 people at the University College in London who had meditated at least once a week for two months. Lu states that “The volunteers were asked if they had ever felt any particularly unpleasant experiences, including anxiety, fear or disturbed emotions, that they attributed to their meditation practice. Just over 25 percent reported that they had.” However, Lu also states that the volunteers participating in the survey “were not asked about the severity of their experiences or whether they occurred specifically during a meditation session.”
It is important to recognize that there are many different types of meditations. According to Ashley Welch, “Mindfulness meditation is the process of being fully present with your thoughts. Being mindful means being aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not being overly reactive to what’s going on around us.” This type of meditation is perfect for newbies. By accepting your thoughts, this allows you to have more compassion for yourself, understanding of your emotions, and therefore more control over them. Transcendental meditation is another great and simple way to get started. This meditation involves repeating a mantra, and falling into a state of deep relaxation. A guided meditation is also a fantastic way to get into the practice of meditation. Welch states that guided meditation is “is a method of meditation in which you form mental pictures or situations that you find relaxing. This process is typically led by a guide or teacher.” Mindful, transcendental, and guided meditations are all perfect for getting started on the journey of finding inner peace. There are also more strenuous and advanced types of meditations including Vipassana, which Donna Lu discusses in her article.
Lu states that “The participants were asked about the types of meditation they practiced. The survey found that those who only engaged in deconstructive types of meditation, such as Vipassanā and Zen Buddhist meditation, were more likely to report negative mental states than those who only practiced other types.” According to Sayadaw U Pandita, “Vipassanā is insight meditation, the practice of continued close attention to sensation, through which one ultimately sees the true nature of existence. It is believed to be the form of meditation practice taught by the Buddha himself, and although the specific form of the practice may vary, it is the basis of all traditions of Buddhist meditation.” Vipassana can be a difficult practice, especially when done through a retreat. Joddi Ettenberg shares her experience from her vipassana retreat in an article. In this article she states “No matter the pain as you sit, or the fact that your hands and legs fall asleep and that your brain is crying for release. You are instructed to refocus attention on the objective sensations in your body, arising and falling, as you do a scan of your limbs in a specific order. By doing so, over 10 days, you train yourself to stop reacting to the vicissitudes of life.
The process of Vipassana meditation is very similar to EMDR, a practice used to treat combat victim’s PTSD symptoms. According to Brainline, a website containing information on brain injury and PTSD, during the process of EMDR, “A trained therapist will guide you to think about a trauma while moving your eyes back and forth, left to right. Over time, this will help your brain reprocess the memories so that they no longer cause as much pain.” During this process, you must acknowledge past traumatic experiences in order to get through them, which is very similar to the goal of Vipassana. Neither are typically enjoyable experiences, and may bring up some sadness or pain. However, both of these processes share the goal of bettering oneself and achieving inner peace. When unaware of the many different types of meditation practices, it can be easy to become discouraged or fearful to try. However, it is important to understand that mindfulness meditation can be so helpful to one’s mental and overall health.
Changes in self-concept, ego defense mechanisms … – JSTOR. (n.d.). Retrieved December 4, 2021, from https://www.jstor.org/stable/1387552
Lu, D. (2019, May 14). A quarter of people who meditate experience negative mental states. Retrieved December 04, 2021, from https://www.newscientist.com/article/2202323-a-quarter-of-people-who-meditate-experience-negative-mental-states/
What people get wrong about meditation. (n.d.). Retrieved December 04, 2021, from https://www.headspace.com/articles/what-people-get-wrong-about-meditation
Welch, A., Rapaport, L., Chai, C., Millard, E., Upham, B., Weinstock, C., . . . Vogt, C. (n.d.). A guide to 7 different types of meditation. Retrieved December 04, 2021, from https://www.everydayhealth.com/meditation/types/