I have been practising meditation and mindfulness for over 5 years now, and it has helped me a lot to feel calmer and manage much better the daily stresses of life. This is traditionally one of the most popular benefits of those techniques, and I do confirm, it works!
However, there are many other impacts you can get from meditation, and coming from a therapeutic background, I am always intrigued and interested in discovering new ways to heal ourselves.
I have noticed that by meditating regularly for quite a while now, my personal healing journey has improved as well. Issues I was struggling with or even the ones whose roots were deeply engrained started to become more mellow and easier to tackle. They shifted quicker than in the past, and I also managed to get to the deepest core of some of them that had been previously unreachable.
I was quite unsure why and how meditation helped with it all, until I came across a couple of authors who helped me understand better the ins-and-outs of that new approach.
Firstly, I got very inspired by Pema Chodron. She is an American Buddhist Monk who brings the Tibetan traditions into the western world, adapting it to our lifestyle and daily struggles. The meditation techniques she offers are fantastic in the sense that she explains how to deal with painful emotions and difficult times using mindfulness. I strongly recommend her work ; she has written many books and currently has online courses that I found extremely useful. You can check them out on https://www.udemy.com/freedom-to-choose-something-different-by-pema-chodron-pt-1/learn/v4/overview.
What is also great about her guidance, is that she explains how to separate our emotions from “the story line”, the narrative that is so often attached to our painful and difficult feelings. It offers a simple yet very powerful way to not spiral down into our usual pit and instead learn to stay grounded. As Pema says, “stay with the emotion and drop the story line.”
And as I was reading “Happiness” by another westerner Buddhist monk, Matthieu Ricard, who is taking a more scientific approach to demonstrate the benefits of meditation, I had a light bulb moment:
Ricard says that the Buddhist meditation technique is actually very similar to the western approaches behind CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). The principles are the same: learn to watch your thoughts, so you can catch them before they turn into those crazy stories full of assumptions and predictions we usually ruminate on and that drive us insane – even though most of them are only the product of our imagination.
However, as Matthieu pointed it out, it is practically very difficult to be able to catch your thoughts at any moment of the day and be present enough to consistently replace them with positive alternatives. What happens if you are not secluded in a monastery in Tibet and instead have to deal with many other external factors that take your attention away? How can you multitask with the tasks of your daily life and at the same time change your thinking patterns when the speed of your thoughts would put to shame the best marathon runners?!
And that’s where CBT and mindfulness join in: CBT suggests you observe and replace your negative thoughts. Meditation teaches you how to do this by training your mind to slow down and therefore offering you an opportunity to catch those “hot” dangerous thoughts before they turn into an unmanageable worrisome drama.
As Ricard says, meditation is the most powerful mind training technique there is. And I would say that without meditation and the skills it gives you, CBT is only half effective compared to what you gain by combining the two together. I guess that’s why some clever people invented the “mindfulness-based cognitive therapy” ☺
So if you’ve been working with CBT for a while already, or even if you’re only starting to practice it, in order to enhance your progress I strongly recommend you take up meditation so you can train your mind much faster and get rid of a lot of your issues rapidly.
I hope that helps, and feel free to drop me a line or bring it up next time we meet if you have any questions! <3