Slowly but surely, meditation is bringing light to what was once thought of as a strange practice by Buddhists, Catholic monks and shamans. Meditation is not a religious act. It is a way for our soul to open and fill with love and contentment. By quieting our thoughts on a regular basis, we release fears, regrets and hopelessness. It is a loving internal connection we make with our Father, Higher Power, Spirit, God or Universal Source.
Science says: “Meditation has a distinct effect on the brain that promotes various types of health and well-being.”
Meditation has helped significantly when used in healing war veterans and others who have experienced extreme fear, trauma and tragedy. It is estimated that up to 8 percent of all Americans will experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a form of anxiety that develops after enduring a traumatic experience. Memories of the event cause the body to respond in the identical way in which one would react to the actual event. PTSD may cause people to be easily agitated, and have extreme emotional swings.
Some statistics report that half of all veterans who go through the standard forms of talk therapy treatment don’t have positive results. Studies also show that meditation increases activity in the frontal lobe of the brain, which regulates emotions. Meditation may lower our metabolism by 25 percent, allowing the energy in our brains to rest at a deep physical level.
Addiction may be created to manage anxiety, fear, sleep and impulses. Over the past few years I have been having coaching conversations with a 16-year-old boy who has been using marijuana as a stress reliever and sedative. I discovered he had been traumatized at age 14 by an alcohol-related shooting incident. During the process of recovery, he presented intense emotional outbursts of rage to minor inconveniences; he suffered from severe depression and hopelessness over simple misunderstood words. This overreaction took place within a matter of minutes after what seemed to be a calm demeanor.
The traumatic event included several sensory dynamics. He was locked in a small dark room in a basement with two other victims. He anticipated witnessing their death and his own. He heard over 72 rounds of gunfire directed at his friend outside of the room. He anticipated his friend being shot point blank by his friend’s own father, the perpetrator. He didn’t see the perpetrator in the process of the trauma, but he heard drunken loud, shame and rage-filled profanity along with death threats.
Gunshots were directed at the door to the small room and walls around them. Because there was an “active shooter” on the property, law enforcement didn’t have the resources to gain access to the basement and rescue the victims. The victims managed to escape, but then were “taken down” by inexperienced law enforcement officers. The memory of event caused an extremely enhanced primal fight-or-flight response, including the feeling of powerlessness from the inability to react to either response, disturbed sleep patterns, and hypersensitivity in a multitude of stimuli — such as light and noise sensitivity, movement, unexpected physical touch and feelings of being trapped.
I was able to help this young man heal by offering a safe environment for him to express his emotions — without probing or words. I honored his need for solitude and processing his feelings in artistic ways. He was challenged when alone or with loud noises. So implementing several new and pliable coping strategies was required and beneficial.
In one of the strategies, he defined all his fears and then created positive affirmations. He read them often. I suggested a few from Louise Hay’s book You Can Heal Your Life: “I am divinely guided and protected” and “The light and love of God surround me.” He also used these phrases in a meditation that involves focusing on a particular phrase, word or image to bring focus to individual thoughts. This trained him to breathe slowly with deep inhalations of 8-12 counts and then exhalations of 8-12 counts. Just concentrating on breathing for five minutes will alter the heightened emotional state.
When meditation is developed as a habit, it has improved the health and well-being of recovering alcoholics and their families.
There are a variety of ways to practice meditation:
- Visual, auditory and kinesthetic approaches focus your energy and guide your attention inward.
- An instinctive connection can be formed with nature utilizing earth, wind, fire and water.
- Guided meditation is effective by listening to CDs or attending meditation classes.
Find the one that works for you.