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Altostrata

The Role of Mindfulness, Meditation, and Prayer After Brain Injury

 

Victoria Tilney McDonough, BrainLine

 

For almost six years after her car crash in 1993, Melissa Felteau expended much of her energy wanting things to be different from what they were. She’d dream about her “old” self, only to wake up a new, confused, and confusing version of that self.

 

....But after her crash — at age 31 — she couldn’t read or write. She had a hard time following conversations, and she couldn’t get organized or remember anything. “It was a long, slow, painful, depressing recovery,” she said.

 

Worst of all, the mental chatter in her head wouldn’t quit. It was relentless — all the talking, criticizing, judging. “The injury was devastating to my self-image. I told myself over and over that I was no longer loveable, that I was no longer good enough,” says Melissa. “More than anything else, the brain injury left me with a residue of unworthiness — a deep soul wound. I was desperate to buoy myself back to myself, to find some kind of inspiration.”

 

When a friend invited her to a yoga class to help with her persistent physical pain, Melissa discovered meditation. She felt a change immediately.

 

Learning to let go

 

The role of non-traditional treatments to help in recovery after brain injury is finding a more formal place in hospitals and rehabilitation centers. These treatments can include meditation, mindfulness, acupuncture, energy balance, biodfeedback, and craniosacral therapy (basically, gentle manipulation of the skull and its cranial sutures to enhance the circulation of the cerebrospinal fluid, and release restrictions in the connective tissue that protects the brain.)

 

“People tend to look at the brain after TBI as a damaged or pulled muscle, and that’s not right. There is physical damage to the brain, yes, but there is also trauma to the brain that needs to be looked at neurologically and psychologically,” says Rick Leskowitz, M.D., director of the Integrative Medicine Project at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston. “The use of integrative treatments is really interesting. Clearly, they have benefits for people. We don't know why or how they work, but we do know that they work and are therefore a very promising line of study.”

 

....

Mindfulness meditation — or mentally focusing on being in the present moment — has also proven an effective tool to help people with cognitive and behavioral issues after TBI. With meditation of all kinds — from chanting to visual imagery — people can make peace with their new self and not get swept up in the constant maelstrom of mental obsessions. “If you are truly living in the present moment, you can let go of the past and the future; they no longer have a hold on you. That can be incredibly freeing,” says Dr. Leskowitz.

 

Transforming oneself

 

Within a few weeks of starting to meditate regularly, Melissa Felteau felt the benefits. It was as if a fog had started to lift, she says; as if once again she was the main character in her life, right there on stage. “My family noticed, too,” she says. “I didn’t have to withdraw as much; I could deal with more stimuli. I was less agitated, moody, and far less tired. That goes a long way with your mental outlook on life.”

 

Since that first yoga class where she was introduced to meditation, Melissa has transformed. Wanting to learn more about the power of meditation and mindfulness, especially as they relate to healing after TBI, she went to study at the Omega Institute with Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., an internationally-known scientist, writer, and meditation teacher engaged in bringing mindfulness into the mainstream of medicine and society....

 

In a pilot study, Melissa and another facilitator worked with a group of almost twenty people of different ages, backgrounds, and brain injuries. “We taught mindfulness meditation, which, with practice, helps people learn to be present and aware of their thoughts, feelings, emotions, and sensations,” she says. “People learn that by paying attention to their breathing, they can calm down their minds; and from there they can find a place to learn, to know that they have a choice to let judgments go, and to respond rather than react.” Findings from the study showed that meditation can be an alternative to drug therapy for some people with depression after TBI. “All three of our small studies in neurotrauma have shown that almost 60 percent of study participants recover from clinical depression,” she says. “In addition, their anxiety levels decrease and they report higher energy — all of which are significant findings for people who have suffered from the misery of depression.”

 

Other research on the subject has shown that meditation changes the brain physiologically by reducing cortisol levels, which are associated with stress and depression.

 

....

Three-Minute Breathing Space

 

Use this quick meditation whenever you need to settle yourself into awareness of the present moment.

 

Step 1: Becoming Aware

 

Try sitting up straight in a chair with feet lightly resting on the ground if possible. Closing your eyes, bring your awareness to your inner experience. Ask yourself:

 

  • What is my experience right now?
  • What thoughts are going through the mind?
  • What feelings are here?
  • Are there any sensations of tightness or stiffness?
Step 2: Gathering

 

As best you can, redirect your focus to your breathing – the feeling of the belly moving in and out, the belly expanding as the breath flows in, and falling back when the breath flows out. Follow the breath all the way in, and all the way out, using the breath to anchor yourself in the present moment.

 

Step 3: Expanding

 

Now breathe in to the whole body so you’re expanding your awareness. Sense your body as a whole. Breathe in and out, feeling the whole body rise and fall with each inhalation and exhalation. Feel the body as a whole. Take in your whole body and your facial expression. Just as it is.

 

Adapted by Melissa Felteau from Williams, M., Teasdale, J., Segal, Z., Kabat-Zinn, J. (2007) The Mindful Way Through Depression. New York: Guilford Press.

 

http://www.brainline.org/content/2009/12/the-role-of-mindfulness-meditation-and-prayer-after-brain-injury.html

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Healing

Good stuff, Sur. Inspiring personal story.

 

What grabs me about this one is the reminder that there are many ways to meditate, many different approaches. And you don't have to use one that doesn't appeal to you.

 

What's different about this method is that she does *not* encourage you to relax or let go directly. Rather, she encourages you simply to experience what *is* going on. This is a nice option for people who can't imagine "letting go" at the moment! :)

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namaste

If you are reading this post, you are most likely suffering from symptoms related to prolonged withdrawal from some sort of neurolyptic medication. I think struggling with these symptoms is like being dropped unexpectedly into a war zone without a map, compass or training. Since most, if not all, of you are in this unfamiliar terrain, you know exactly what I mean.

 

Suddenly you are in an unfamiliar universe where you are forced to make complex, confusing, and critically important choices, often without enough guidance from a medical establishment that is only focused on treating symptoms aggressively at any cost. And in the midst of it all, you are probably experiencing waves of intense and conflicting emotions that make it even more difficult to cope: anxiety, isolation, depression, fear, bewilderment, confusion, self-pity, anger, bitterness, and helplessness, etc.

 

The practice of meditation can be extremely useful in helping you cope with and adapt to whatever situation you find yourself presently in. It helps you learn how to ground yourself in the depths of your being and in becoming aware of whats most important to you. It can help in making greater sense of your situation, and then charting a course of action. Meditation can be an invaluable compliment to medical care, psychotherapy and social support from family, friends and websites like this one. It provides a powerful psychological framework, as well as specific methods for facing and working through emotional turmoil, pain and suffering. Meditation can provide comfort, meaning and direction in a time of high stress and uncertainty.

 

There are a number of studies from around the world that show that the mind can influence the rate of healing in situations where that was not known before. New technologies, mostly fMRI (functional MRIs) are uncovering different lines of evidence that suggest that the mind can influence healing in human beings. Many of these studies have focused on the dampening or calming effects of meditation. And while the science of this is in its infancy, the potential clinical value of this is huge.

 

A number of studies comparing long-time meditators with beginning meditators have consistently shown that the brains of long-term meditators were calmer; the circuits in the brain, the cortical alarm system involved in the regulation of emotion and attention, do not fire as rapidly or intensely when exposed to stressful situations.

 

I have done a myriad of training in mindfulness meditation and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training. There are a number of useful techniques readily available. There is a UCLA website: MARC.ucla.edu; look for the mindfulness meditation instructions and online classes. You can also find MBSR founder, Jon Kabat-Zin, on youtube.

 

[see namaste's Intro here]

Edited by surviving
edited at OP's request

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Altostrata

....If you are reading this post, you are most likely suffering from symptoms related to prolonged withdrawal from some sort of neurolyptic medication. I think struggling with these symptoms is like being dropped unexpectedly into a war zone without a map, compass or training. Since most, if not all, of you are in this unfamiliar terrain, you know exactly what I mean. Suddenly you are in an unfamiliar universe where you are forced to make complex, confusing, and critically important choices, often without enough guidance from a medical establishment that is only focused on treating symptoms aggressively at any cost. And in the midst of it all, you are probably experiencing waves of intense and conflicting emotions that make it even more difficult to cope: anxiety, isolation, depression, fear, bewilderment, confusion, self-pity, anger, bitterness, and helplessness, etc.....

 

So very true. Thank you, namaste, for this excellent explanation of how meditation can help us while our nervous systems are recovering from trauma.

 

Your story is very inspiring.

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Guest damnnardil

Thank you amaste. I was meditating twent minutes a day and AI stopped, knowing the importance and now after reading this I will most likely go back to it. Thanks

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Nadia

Really just bumping this up as a reminder.

 

I have always wanted to meditate and always gave up on it quickly because I found it so difficult. I still do, but I've realized it doesn't matter that I have never been successful in "thinking about nothing" or "quieting my mind". I now don't try to stop thoughts, just focus my attention or be present and aware of my surroundings

 

So, for example, if I decide to concentrate on my breathing, I don't worry if I'm also thinking about other things, I just make sure to keep returning my focus to my breathing so that that is the main thing (and not worrying about failing, just keep bringing it back).

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alexjuice

I just caught wind of the thread title and found my reaction to it interesting as far as how I conceptualize the smart stuff above the shoulders. So the title says...

 

Meditation can heal the brain which can heal the mind and body

 

This may be right but it's not how I tend to phrase it. I'd say:

 

Meditation [CBT, whatever] can help the mind instruct the non-conscious brain how to heal itself and the body

 

Of course, this isn't that irrelevant or even at all relevant or even correct. Still, I tend to think of my executive command center as a sovereign, superior to the more evolutionary "old" areas of the brain. And I think that people who hone their abilities with lots of practice can consciously affect otherwise subsciounsous / unconscious processes.

 

But I dunno too much.

 

Alex

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Nadia

Alex, I think of it the way you do as well, at least right off the bat. I hadn't thought too much of the title of this thread... just sought the meditation thread in general (I'm sure there are others).

 

I have been thinking a lot about control over subconscious/automatic processes. I keep thinking if external things can trigger anxiety and other processes in me, then surely my conscious beliefs can as well. Since I can't "make" myself be well exactly, I think I've decided to just go for a lot of positive visualization without worrying about the details. This is going to sound really weird, but the past couple of days I've gotten these images of this enormous, really friendly and not gross dog tongue licking away all that ails me. In some crazy way, I think it might be directing my brain toward some self-healing.

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alexjuice

Nadia-

You're one of my favorite people so I hope no offense. But that dog tongue thing DOES sound absolutely gross. Ha!

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Nadia

Ha ha ha! Yes... if I think about it myself, it does seem gross... somehow it just spontaneously arrived in my mind, however, so I try not to think about it logically (though thoughts cross my mind like, how can I be sure of what this dog was licking BEFORE me? If it's the usual I don't even want to know!) Hey, I'm just trying to go with the flow here, because it seemed to be doing something positive. Or maybe this is the final sign that I'm going off the deep end. =)

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Nadia

Also, I think I mentioned it because I am trying to commit to not self-censor in the fear of seeming like a freak! Everyone thinks I'm a freak anyway, so why not just relax into it?

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balanceislife

Meditation is indeed one of the most valuable tools you can use to heal psychological impairment. It helps to focus on breath in the right context.

 

One suggested form of breathing is inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth while holding your tongue at the roof of your mouth. Focus on the center of your brain while doing this. This activates the third eye and produces a focused, calming effect. Be sure to keep your spine straight but also remember your comfort is the most important. When doing this exercise be sure you are aware of your energy patterns.

 

It is important to ground your energy in meditation. So the above exercise is especially useful if you aware of how the energy is played with when meditating. Some with psychological "disorders" actually have a lot of their energy stored from their neck up, not able to access their lower more primitive self. This produces a "heady" effect which keeps the thought process in a self-inflicting cycle. The goal is to ground your energy so it flows throughout your whole body and up to your head.

 

If you are new to meditation try three part breathing (you can Google it) before meditation. You will be more grounded and better able to focus on breath this way. It's also helpful to do core-strengthening exercises (not necessarily running, the just releases energy) such as yoga or diaphragm strengthening exercise around your abdomen.

 

I hope this helps. Repeating meditation patterns will produce calm in the most stressful situations. Trust me, I know!

 

~ Balance

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spectio

I started meditating regularly when I was 38 years old, after enduring years of fractured sleep, and years of generalized anxiety disorder. I noticed a difference In how I perceived problems right away. The more I meditated, the less issues bothered me and anxiety literally melted away. I started sleeping better and when I didnt, I didn't stress about it. I was able to focus on the job in front of me and not entertain constant thoughts of self-doubt. My brother had practiced meditation for years, became a teacher, and taught me. The instructions were practice twenty minutes two times a day, EVERY DAY. The summer before I started down the depression trail, I remember how content I felt with my life. It was a wonderful feeling. Then family issues became very intense and demanding (I had another brother who was clinically depressed and a mother who had suffered a stroke and was very fearful of being left alone, and they both demanded extreme amounts of time and care; this in addition to running a full time vet practice, raising a twelve year old daughter and taking care of a farm). My nervous system just was totally overwhelmed. Anyway, I continued to meditate the last 11 years although I'm not so sure about the benefits while on these poisons. I do notice the last few weeks, I can meditate better and feel more the way I used to after a session. I'm convinced this is number one on the list of things that will help my healing now, and my life in general in the future. And it is so easy! There's nobody there to criticize your performance and no need to critique your session. It teaches you that thoughts are just that, they are just thoughts. One thought is no different that another one, it's your response/ and or perception that gives them their power. Meditation puts them all on the same scale. This will not happen over night, just like withdrawal, but it will happen. Meditate every day and see where it leads you. It costs nothing, there are no side effects, and there are no doctors involved in any way. It also is NOT religious. It is a physiological technique to calm your nervous system. Just a note, though, meditating while on drugs is much more difficult. Just think how wonderful it will be when all the drugs are out of your system and it's just you and meditating. It will help you feel better every day! Let me know if you want to learn more!

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Guest damnnardil

Yes Spectio. I believe you are right and I have meditated and then stopped and then years later I started and have stopped again. I was meditating several months ago and I stopped. Tell me more to get me to stay with it. I like what you said and would like to know anytrhing you can add. Thanks. John

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Nadia

Thanks for sharing that, Spectio!

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Nikki

Hi...

 

I recently started Mindful Meditation. The facilitor is a Neurologist friend of mine, so he provides detailed info about how the brain responds to meditation. It has been difficult and I needed guided meditation like he offers to keep my focused.

 

W/D makes my mind move100mph. The suggestion I recieved was to just practice & practice.

 

I did use EMDR therapy whild tapering Lexapro and it was terrific. Sadly my health insurance no longer covers it.

EMDR took the 'emotional charge' out of things. At that time I purchased the little hand held electronic device which you attache to your earlobes and there is a ticking pulse which caused immediate relaxation.

 

Thank you so much for the suggested forms of help.

 

There is a free website which I found on Crazymeds.com called moodgym.com....might be helful.

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Barbarannamated

Nikki ~

Do you know what the ear treatment does or name of it ~

I had auriculotherapy (ear acupuncture) years ago and recall it being surprisingly effective ~ I haven't found a practitioner but some acupuncturists may do it ~

Thanks

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fefesmom

Hi. I just finished an 8 week course called Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy which I have found very helpful when I take the time and energy to use what I have learned. Jon Kabat-Zinn has written a good book about it called the Mindful Way Through Depression. It is a combination of meditation and cognitive therapy which focusses on being in the present moment, seeing thoughts as untrue no matter how true they may seem and focussing on your feelings (bodily) instead. It is very helpful in times of oncoming depression, anxiety etc. I don't know how effective it would be just to read the book; the support and interaction with the other participants and, of course, the teacher, was very important to me and the others in the class. This may be the first time I have offered something positive to this site in the 8 months I have been visiting. So, even though I still have very down times, there is hope.

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Barbarannamated

Fefesmom,

It's good to hear from you. I'm glad you've found JKZ to be helpful. I read his "Wherever You Go, There You Are" awhile back and - darn! - it's true! ;)

Your posts are always helpful to me, and others, I'm sure! I think the Abandonment Depression and "End of Family Line Depression" (the version I heard) we discussed briefly are somehow related. I value your input, FM.

Barb

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fefesmom

Hi. How I am using what I've learned in MBCT is this: on days when I feel low (which happens all too frequently still/always) I remind myself to feel what I am feeling and to let my thoughts go by like clouds. I get so caught up in telling myself a story about why I feel this way and try to analyze it, understand it and I get all wrapped up and tied up in the story and the story is usually negative and totally unhelpful. These are old, familiar feelings even though they are so negative and painful; it is easy to stay in their story but I try to focus on the feeling in my body (usually in my gut) and just let the thoughts go. Also I try to stay in the present and focus on my breath. I am not always successful and I find my mood is okay for a couple of days and then very blue for a couple of days. I also try to "radically accept" that this is how it is for me, at this time anyhow. Sometimes that helps. In the past, aside from being on ads, I would analyze my thoughts and feelings and end up more tangled up. Hope this makes sense to you reading this; it isn't absolutely clear to me how this all works. All I know for sure is that I have to use these tools every day; I will never get over these issues but I do have ways to deal with them. It also helps to do things I enjoy for their own sake and, as I learned from so many of you over the months, to be gentle and kind to myself.

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Altostrata

fefes, that's brilliant! Excellent summation of some very powerful techniques.

 

Nobody can do mindful breathing meditation perfectly -- that's why it's called a practice.

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Nikki

I have a CD from Deepak Chopra and in the breathing portion his advise is to breath as you normally would. Don't force breathes.

 

I like that so much better :D

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jesmin99

I think meditation, calms everything inside then rest goes along like the brain heals by itself. I still have to look further regarding the break down process.yoga is a best solution

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Jemima

I think meditation, calms everything inside then rest goes along like the brain heals by itself. I still have to look further regarding the break down process.yoga is a best solution

 

Jesmin,

 

When you have time, please tell us about yourself by posting in Introductions and updates. Thanks, and welcome to the forum.

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jr1985

Anyone now anything about the negative effects of meditation. I've read it can trigger psychosis, depression, emotional numbness, etc, in some people! Is this something we should be worried about? Is twice per day for 20 minutes each too much?

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GiaK

we're not all well enough to do this (I'm still not on occasion) but when you are...this is the best sort of meditation for joy...

 

original link http://wp.me/p5nnb-9US

 

I went for a walk today with my mp3 player that I’d just loaded up with DJ Rekluse by accident. I came home and had to figure out what the heck I’d just listened to. I had no idea what I was in for when I went out the door this morning. Within a few minutes of the Sutras by DJ Rekluse starting, I could not contain myself and I was dancing in the street. Literally. We don’t have sidewalks here and so I danced as I “walked” down the street. Luckily, I live in the mountains and I was able to cut out of my neighborhood onto a wooded path into the trees for privacy. There I let loose and danced like a wild woman with only the trees as my audience. I was laughing and crying both! Oh my. What joy. And how profoundly healing too.

 

I found the entire piece I listened to on youtube which I somehow had on my laptop and transferred to my mp3 player today. I don’t remember downloading it. I actually have no idea how it got there and what a wonderful and delightful surprise when I happened to listen to it. It was mixed in with some other stuff I had intentionally downloaded. Twenty six minutes of bliss when I really needed it. That’s the best kind of synchronicity.

 

DJ Rekluse | Sutras | The Vast Expanse

 

 

Here it is on soundcloud where you can download it for free and here is part 2 which I’ve not listened to yet, but will be doing so very soon.

 

More posts that consider dance and dancing as healing practice:

 

To explore dancing of this kind in your home I also recommend Gabriel Roth’s work. This collection is a great place to start: The Ecstatic Dance: The Gabrielle Roth Video Collection

 

original link http://wp.me/p5nnb-9US

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GiaK

I'm listening to the second part of the Sutras right now...seriously folks...download these two pieces and transport...

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Nadia

Hi everyone. I wanted to post about my experience doing a 10 day Vipassana meditation retreat, in case anyone else has considered it.

 

Vipassana is a type of meditation in the Buddhist tradition that consists of simply observing your breath and body sensations (without controlling your breath or using any sort of mantra or repetition of a word or anything). There is an organization that allows you to do the class for free. When you are done with the class you may donate as much or as little as you like for others to be able to participate as well. The organization says it is non-sectarian and universal. In my experience it was not completely so, as it does come from Buddhism, but it never felt at all cult-like and the technique taught can be totally separated from any religious beliefs (the only mentions of god were in passing "whether you believe or not in a god or gods...", etc.).

 

The main stress of the technique is to "see things as they really are" without wanting to change them. You meditate with a focus on alertness and equanimity. You're supposed to observe and focus on the sensations in your body without getting caught up with them. It's similar to mindfulness meditation.

 

I think the technique could be a very helpful approach for people going through withdrawal. It's sort of the approach I would take to the extreme anxiety I went through. Once of observation and acceptance.

 

That said, the 10 day course is one of the most difficult things to do, ever, both mentally and physically. You wake up at 4:30am and go to bed at 9:30pm. You don't eat anything but fruit and tea after noon. You meditate 10 to 11 hours a day. Many people don't make it through the ten days, even people who are fully healthy. So, this is definitely something I would NOT recommend for people in early or even mid withdrawal.

 

During the 10 day course, I really battled with myself. I was finally feeling much better before I attempted this, and was angry at myself for putting myself through something so difficult. It was funny, because during one of the lectures the teacher said, "you're probably thinking, why are you making me go through such pain? Pain, I have at home!" After the course was over, though, especially after talking to people who have done it several times, I was convinced to try it again sometime. Probably in another year. They suggest meditating with this method every day, one hour in the morning, and one hour in the evening. I still haven't even gotten back into my daily routine enough to do one hour! But I'm going to try. Certainly, I have always considered myself "awful" at meditating, and I made some breakthroughs those ten days that I never thought were possible for me.

 

Does anyone else have any experience with this course?

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nn123

No experience here, but I'm also curious to try when other commitments allow. I think meditation is probably one of the healthiest things that no one does, although it is starting to gain some traction in recent years. Good for you to have the courage and fortitude to take this on: doing a whole 10 days is an intimidating prospect to say the least. 

Here is the best short article I have read on the subject.  http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/how-to-meditate

On a side note, as helpful as meditation is for many things, it isn't a 'fast forward' button on withdrawal. But it will help make withdrawal more bearable, and pay dividends after everything is over as well (if you keep it up that is)

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GiaK

I've been practicing vipassana since I was 18 years old...not always religiously but that foundation helped me get through this withdrawal big time...

 

I've done a week retreat before and several shorter retreats. 

 

I couldn't possibly do a structured retreat right now...I'm far too sick still...but I do vipassana daily. 

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Nadia

Hi nn123... totally agree. It's not about curing your withdrawal, it's about developing a tool for surviving it! GiaK... it makes so much sense to me that you are a vipassana meditator! Just the whole spirit of Beyond Meds. Take care.

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Nikki

Hi Nadia....I have a friend who is a retired Neurologist.  He teaches Mindful Meditation which is a present moment focus, observing the breath and body.  He also does silent retreats with the meditation too.  Walking Mindful Meditation as well.

 

I so much want to be a 'meditator' but I am having  very hard time lately and can't seem to focus on anything.My mind is like a little mouse running around her wheel. 

 

I did just sign up for an Oprah and Deepak Meditation Course which is done online.  I've done this before and never followed thru.

Their courses are free and I see the invitations on FB.

 

I hope I can regain my focus again.

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GiaK

you know what Nikki...

when we're in the chaos of withdrawal being with the chaos...unfocused chaos...is what meditation is about. 

there is not a right way to meditate...it's about being with what is. and if it's all chaos you sit with that. or you stand with that. or you walk with that. or you lay down with that. 

 

meditation doesn't have to be structured. vipassana more than anything is about following the breath while all the chaos moves around...and that is okay. just sit with that and be with the breath when you remember to be...and when you realize you've forgotten to stay with it, start again...

 

it's okay to not be good at it because, again, there is no right way to do meditation and it's simply not all about being calm or blissful contrary to popular belief.

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Nadia

Great point, GiaK! I always used to beat myself up about not being a "good meditator" until someone told me it's not about succeeding, it's just about trying. I'm still trying to figure out if Vipassana is the right method for me. I think I lean toward mindfulness meditation more... a bit freer and less structured. Observing things as they come up instead of trying to focus on something specific.

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Sarabellum

I would be interested in the Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy, too.

 

As a side note, for those in the Louisville, KY area, the University of Louisville has an ongoing study involving CBT. It is free to volunteers.

 

You can read more about the research here: https://louisville.edu/depression/research

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