Recovering from Trauma and Addiction.
Public awareness of mindfulness and meditation has increased substantially over the past few years and I think that’s great news. It’s hardly surprising though, given the way life appears to be speeding up and the impact that this is having on our minds and bodies – suddenly people are looking for a way to bring their life back into balance and mindfulness and meditation certainly helps to do that. It’s great to know that today most people (the less cynical amongst you anyway) don’t just picture a hippy burning incense and chanting OM when they hear the words meditation or mindfulness. There is still a tendency, however, to have a narrow view of meditation and what it involves. So, I thought I would bring to your attention the wide and varied meditation practices available, that can suit different requirements.
More than one way to meditate.
Today I’m looking at meditation and mindfulness as an aid to recovery from trauma or addiction. Guided visualisations or guided meditations are a great clue to how wide and varied meditation practises can be, because they can have many different purposes. That’s not all, when we sit to be still, to settle ourselves to what many might consider the more typical form of meditation, we can use many different techniques and have a variety of approaches depending on our intention.
Being in the moment.
As part of the Reiki meditations I teach, we have a number of ways to focus our attention – to be present in the moment. We can focus on our breath, our Tanden (a central energy point in the body), the point where two fingers touch, or a sound. The main aim of this sort of meditation is to be fully present in the moment, to train the mind in the art of mindfulness, living in the moment and having greater awareness of your body, thoughts and emotions. Each time you are focused on the moment you free yourself from past haunts and future worries. You create space in your mind for new awareness, creativity and problem solving. You know, those moments when there was something you wanted to say but you can’t remember it, then when you let it go, it comes back to you. Being in the moment is a form of letting go, it is almost like resetting your mind and body so that it operates more quickly, efficiently and has more space to explore new things and identify new patterns and connections. It’s a useful tool.
Those pesky thoughts.
The problem is that our minds are designed to think, our thoughts are the by-product of a system that takes past information as a means to assess the present moment and predict a number of possible futures. This is how we learn, how we survive. It’s not really in our nature to live in the moment, as lovely an ideal as it is. That doesn’t mean we can’t seek to be more in the moment, it’s just that many of us end up beating ourselves up if we have thoughts that aren’t happy, if we feel we are not successfully living in the moment. This is an unnecessary and impossible ideal. These tools we have are there to help us live a more fulfilling and content life – not just another thing to beat ourselves up about.
Meditation for Trauma and addiction.
To get back to the original idea, there is another form of meditation – it again involves sitting and just being but with a different purpose. This time it is not about being present and in the moment. This time our awareness in on the thoughts themselves. Deliberately allowing our thoughts to flow. This is different from just everyday random thinking, with this form of meditation we do not judge our thoughts or ourselves for having them. Just because we think it, doesn’t make it true or real. What has been discovered, is that this form of meditation actually helps the mind to process information in such a way that it no longer needs to have any form of negative grip on us. This is particularly helpful in recovering from trauma or addiction. Often when someone experiences a trauma, the mind has not got the past experiences it needs to know how to deal with it and so thoughts around the trauma just bounce around a person’s head unchecked, causing mayhem. Allowing your mind time in this way to process the thoughts and emotions around the event allows the thoughts and feelings to settle down, creating more balance and peace for the person involved.
Learning to think in this non-judgemental way is a great aid to developing compassion, not just for others but most importantly for yourself too – self acceptance being a natural progression from that. For those who experience feelings of inadequacy, guilt or shame in relation to their addiction or trauma, this form of meditation can go a long way towards letting the mind deal with those kinds of thoughts – to acknowledge their existence but also to let them go, without judgement. At the same time, we can learn not to attach to cravings but learn to see them as something that will pass – we can use this learning to do the same with anything that is ultimately only a temporary thing, such as non-chronic forms of pain and of course, thoughts are temporary.
Take control of your mind and body.
Any form of meditation will help us recognise that we have so much more control over our state of mind and body than we might once have realised. Building that sense of control over our lifetime is a crucial step in recovering from the experience of trauma or addiction.
A great balance.
I think making both types of practice a part of our daily routine is going to be beneficial, regardless of whether we are recovering from trauma or addiction or not. I know from my own experiences of stressful times – that if I just try to be in the moment, it’s almost impossible to escape the thoughts charging through my mind. In those times especially, I allow myself 10 minutes to let those thoughts flow, to be aware of what’s on my mind before I start a meditation that focuses on presence and quietening the mind. If we allow ourselves this “thinking time” as part of our meditation practise it will greatly enhance our ability to be in the moment at other times.
So, meditation can have many intentions – What’s your intention and how can you use your practise of meditation to help you achieve it?