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Easing your way into meditation for a stressed-out nervous system

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Altostrata

ADMIN NOTE Also see Experiences with meditation


 

Don't get frustrated by your monkey mind -- everyone has one!

 

Meditation for Slow Learners

By Therese J. Borchard June 22, 2011 psychcentral

 

....

I’m a bit of a slow learner, so even as I promised myself two years ago that I would start each day with 20 minutes of meditation, I am still thumbing through books trying to figure out how, exactly, you do it....Because I believe, on some level, that all forms of meditation are about creating space....[There is this] meaningful quote by Viktor Frankl that says “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

 

Space is what makes meditation as well as laughter such powerful tools. Without space, we live from the reptilian part of our brains, the amygdala, or fear center of our brain. So everything is reaction, impulse, panic. Even a second’s amount of space allows us to breathe and grab our mental blankie, if you will, so that we can respond with a higher evolved part of the brain.

 

While that all sounds so easy, I’m admittedly still challenged in this area. And apparently a lot of other folks are, too, which is why Dr. Ian Gawler and Paul Bedson have written an in-depth guide titled simply, “Meditation.” (Even the title is easy to understand!)

 

....about Dr. Gawler’s story. A competitive decathlete, he was diagnosed with bone cancer in 1975 at the age of 24. Even after his leg was amputated, doctors gave him a five percent chance of living beyond five years. Just three years after that, the same doctors declared him cancer free. Because so many cancer patients were coming to him for advice, he founded The Gawler Foundation, which provides holistic healing retreats for cancer patients.

 

The authors introduce mindfulness-based stillness meditation with four simple steps: preparation, relaxation, mindfulness, and stillness.

 

- Preparation is the easy part, the practical details of where you will meditate, your posture, deciding what specific kind of meditation you will try, and everything that relates to how you set yourself up to begin the meditation. According to Gawler and Bedson, “Preparation involves establishing comfort and ease....”

- Relaxation....According to the authors we simply take the time needed to learn how to relax our body and mind. “A tight or tense body often accompanies a busy or restless mind,” the authors explain. “We use relaxation techniques to create more spaciousness in the body, which helps in calming the mind and bringing our attention into the present moment.”

- By the time I have made it to mindfulness, I have usually abandoned the discipline altogether, because my mind is so relaxed that it is thinking about chilling out at the pool with a glass of lemonade, not closing my eyes in an air-conditioned office sitting on a pillow. Mindfulness is simply paying attention to the present moment. I don’t know why that should be so difficult, but it is. At least for my monkey brain. Probably because staying attentive to the moment requires that you be free of judgment, like Damn it....I totally suck at this. Ideally, if we are truly mindful, we are also free of reaction. Like when the doctor comes after your knee with that rubber thing, and you almost kick him in the nose without even trying to move your leg. Yeah, all that would stop if you were absolutely mindful. You are able to let go of the guilt in the past and the worry of the future. You don’t engage in your usual obsessive thinking … theoretically … so you don’t obsess about your not obsessing. You get the frontal lobes where they are supposed to be.

- That takes us to stillness. Let me just quote from them on this one:

 

Gradually, by just paying attention without reacting, we become aware of a stillness. Sounds, sensations, even emotions and thoughts just come and go. Free of judgment. Free of reaction. We notice a background of stillness against which sounds, sensations and thoughts come and go, appear and disappear. We become aware that still and silent presence that is just noticing the movement of sounds, sensations and thoughts. In this stillness, awareness is open and undistracted. Stillness is not a static nothingness; it is alive, alert and non-reactive presence.

 

Although Gawler and Bedson will not transform me into the Dalai Lama overnight, their four-step process is very helpful to a beginner and makes me think that it might not be another two years before my butt is on a cushion trying this stuff. Maybe their book will help you too.

 

http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/06/23/meditation-for-slow-learners/

Edited by Altostrata
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alexjuice

Thanks for the article Alto...

 

I've had trouble meditating since my first attempt.

 

Meditation often feels like sitting in the worst high school class of all time, listening to the clock tick and wondering how time can move so slowly. It's possible that my years on highdose benzos have impaired my concentration. In any event, I am trying to meditate in 15 minute increments and believe I'm seeing some progress.

 

I'll put that book, Meditation, on my library list.

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Altostrata

Just do the slow breathing part!! Don't worry about controlling your mind -- you can't.

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alexjuice

Just do the slow breathing part!! Don't worry about controlling your mind -- you can't.

 

Here's what I've been doing. I try to relax then put on a meditation CD I bought online. I'm supposed to breathe deeply while this peaceful man talks about energy and flowers and all of this. I have a hard problem paying attention, that is my mind drifts. I've worked my way up to being able to listen for 10+ minutes with fewer and fewer wanderings of thought.

 

I am, as I say, not savvy about this stuff.

 

Should I not be trying to listen?

 

Alex.i

 

ps - I assume you're saying that brain processes in w/d are resultant from w/d so beyond my ability to control them. For instance, I can't think away insomnia or anxiety or sexual dysfunction. If this is what you mean by 'control your mind' then I get ya. If ya mean something else... what do ya mean? Thnx.

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Altostrata

....I assume you're saying that brain processes in w/d are resultant from w/d so beyond my ability to control them. For instance, I can't think away insomnia or anxiety or sexual dysfunction. If this is what you mean by 'control your mind' then I get ya. If ya mean something else... what do ya mean? Thnx.

 

No, it's because nobody can "control" their mind. The best you can do is observe your thoughts and feelings and then let go of them, go back to blank.

 

The "letting go" is where you build muscles in practice.

 

So your thoughts drifting in and out are entirely normal, that's what they're supposed to do. That's the monkey mind part, it cannot be controlled. The more you put effort into controlling it, the more it will jump around and distract you.

 

Just relax and observe your monkey mind. Let it go where it will, don't try to guide it, fasten on it, or push it away -- just maintain slow, regular breathing and enjoy the relaxation in the spaces between thoughts.

 

A lot of people find real insight, and self-acceptance, as they observe the travels of the monkey mind.

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alexjuice

No, it's because nobody can "control" their mind. The best you can do is observe your thoughts and feelings and then let go of them, go back to blank.

 

The "letting go" is where you build muscles in practice.

 

So your thoughts drifting in and out are entirely normal, that's what they're supposed to do. That's the monkey mind part, it cannot be controlled. The more you put effort into controlling it, the more it will jump around and distract you.

 

Just relax and observe your monkey mind. Let it go where it will, don't try to guide it, fasten on it, or push it away -- just maintain slow, regular breathing and enjoy the relaxation in the spaces between thoughts.

 

I find this explanation quite useful. I'm adding monkey mind to my w/d lexicon.

 

alex.i

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Altostrata

From 2010 A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook by Bob Stahl Ph.D. and Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D., Elisha Goldstein explains how to start practicing meditative breathing in a video of less than 4 minutes:

 

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GiaK

new post on blog. see here for original http://wp.me/p5nnb-9Cz

 

Meditate while moving — gardening, cooking, walking, etc…

AUGUST 9, 2013
 

Posted Image

Part of the veggie garden earlier this year

Sometimes our suffering and agitation is so great that we cannot sit to meditate or even hold the body still. Then, trainings in movement such as walking meditation and yoga, or mindful practices of preparing food and gardening can be used to help settle the mind… Such practices help to ground a fragmented mind in the body.

 

If your mornings tend to be hectic or anxious, maybe thinking of all you have to do or how late you are already – try just being mindful of walking as you move from room to room, going through your morning routine. As you can, extend the mindfulness to more of what you are doing – walking from the bedroom to the kitchen, feeling your feet on the floor, then perhaps coolness, and hearing the sounds, reaching, pouring.. try to include as much as you can gently hold with mindfulness, and keep it simple, restful… — Jack Kornfield, from his Facebook page

 

 

 

I love moving meditations and my favorite are my daily yoga practice and walking in the woods and gardening. But I also practice when I’m washing the dishes and just moving around the house as Jack suggests. Cooking has always been a wonderful centering practice for me as well.

 

 

Recovering from the drug iatrogenesis meant overcoming all sorts of screaming pain and radically weird bodily sensations…sitting was also next to impossible because I was bedridden for quite a while. I learned to meditate whenever and however I could. I write about that here: Life as a meditation: my contemplative adventure

 

 

There are a lot more posts that feature Jack Kornfield on Beyond Meds. He was one of my first meditation teachers with whom I had the opportunity to spend time with at his center Spirit Rock when I lived nearby.

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GiaK

This is a nice sort of beginning relaxation meditation.

A note for anyone who might be in the midst of withdrawal syndrome. Don’t worry if you can’t do this, or if you can only do it for a minute or two. When I was at the height of the illness I couldn’t listen to ANYTHING. A meditation, at that time, was successful when I stayed with the internal chaos for 30 seconds…that grew to a minute, two minutes and slowly over time my practice developed. There are still times when distraction is preferred over meditation. Trust your body. Do only what you can handle. Please be patient with yourself. Babysteps. Tiny little baby steps are good.  (go here or rest of the post: http://wp.me/p5nnb-9FE )

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Nikki

GiaK  a friend of mine who is a retired neurologist went to Jon Kabat's school in Massachusettes and he teaches this from Miam up to Jupiter and he goes to prisons as well.

 

I used to take his class every thursday evening and then got side-tracked by work.  Last weekend I went to a workshop that combined Mindful Meditation with Kundalini Yoga for overcoming bad habits and addictions.

 

It was wonderful:)  I think it's time I purchased some of his CD's and go back to Thursday evenings meditation.

 

Thank you for sharing this:)

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GiaK

cool...go for it Nikki...it sounds great!

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Whoopsie

Thanks for this.  I always appreciate new guided meditations to add to my list of calming rescues and practices.

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GiaK

med.jpg?w=150&h=150I wanted to say a few words about meditation for those who are maybe just starting. I’m a long-time meditator and then in the last 7 years or so it’s been something I needed to stay alive. Quite literally. I have a deep appreciation for the contemplative life.


 


Since meditation has become widely popularized there seems to be a lot of mystification around it. One thing I think is important to understand that is not at all popularly understood is that meditation can, at least in the short-term, actually exacerbate problems. It’s like a headlight on your psyche…so if you have crap to work out, that crap might become underscored for some time…which means, that for some time you might actually feel worse. This can happen anytime in a meditators life as well. Not only when someone is just beginning.


 


The reason it’s good to be aware of this is that once you’re aware of it, you can just decide to watch what is going on and move through. Or, alternately, if it gets too heavy, stop for a while and get some help. We can’t always do everything alone. For those of us who’ve had difficult lives, these issues are more likely to emerge (and of course those in psych drug withdrawal, things are already hellish, so being gentle is important). It’s not a bad thing…it’s a healing thing, but it’s important to be aware of it and respond accordingly.


 


Sometimes movement modalities are a way to switch gears. I find that body meditation in the form ofyoga, walking, dancing and lately Qi Gong or Tai Chi are incredibly important.


 


Something else that is important to understand is that meditation is, in large part, about learning to sit with what is…including and most importantly with that which is uncomfortable. So really, one wants to be with the stuff I’m talking about, the dark stuff, the painful stuff…and learn to not become frightened by it. Still there are times when we are not ready and we need to know when to change gears…and to trust ourselves to make that choice. If it is too scary or too ugly or too difficult in some way perhaps some sort of a break is warranted or maybe we need to find the appropriate teacher, therapist or friend before continuing.


 


I would have succumbed to the distress of the withdrawal hell had I not had the capacity and interest to be curious about the hell I was visiting…meditation allowed me to consider watching it instead of being controlled by it. And now, when I am at my best in clarity, I see it all as a simple and even beautiful unfolding, of this life, in this body.


 




Other posts on 

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GiaK

I turned what was above into a post...so I added to it quite a lot...if you read it yesterday it's much more developed today...

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areyouthere

Hi,

 

My daughter and Son-in-Law highly recommend this free 21 day trial mediation experience sponsored by Oprah Winfry and Chopra Meditation Center.

 

I've signed up for it. It begins on April 14th. Information is here. 

 

Namiste??

 

RU :)

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shamaan

I was wondering if meditation could induce a new wave ? Has someone else experienced the same?

The reason i ask this is because normally , when a wave is coming it starts with feeling sick. But the last days I have been meditating quite a lot , and yesterday evening all of the sudden i had the symptoms of a wave , and even more powerful than ever before with no preceeding symptoms like feeling sick.

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bubble

Hello Shaaman and welcome to SA,

 

you can strat a thread about your individual situation in our Introductions and updates section if you want.

 

In reply to this question I would just like to mention my experience. In order to facilitate my recovery after CT and reinstating, I attended the Art of Living workshop. After the kryia meditation I got an extremely bad reaction. My symptoms intensified so much that I felt almost psychotic which hadn't happened ever before.

 

Later I learnt that when our CNS is sensitised with withdrawal all activities which are normally beneficial not only for people in general but were also beneficial for us tend to have adverse effects. This applies to physical exercise, supplements and even food.

 

Based on this I would say that it is very likely that there is a correlation between what you call a wave and meditation especially if it was longer than usual. The general rule is that everything we do must be very gentle and moderate. Meditation is in general recommended but we have to find the adequate form and intensity and avoid anything strenuous.

 

I hope this helps. 

Bubble

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shamaan

When my withdrawal is really bad , it is the only thing that can help me to get through it. But i can't stop thinking about the fact that meditation also could do more harm than good. And lately when i try to meditate , i can't let go of that thought. I probably am a bit overworried, but i know there is a little truth in it though. I read some stuff online , and i know meditation,mindfulness is not as innocent as most people think it is.

 

The fact is it's my only way to cope with my whole withdrawal situation. But i can't stop thinking of the possible negative side of it.

 

So should i stop meditating?

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LoveandLight

The meditation I do is just simple breathing/ feeling into body..so not detaching or anything. Maybe stick to something like this..? Totally get your fears xx

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shamaan

yeah , me too, i do vipassana , which is just concentration on breathing and being aware of thoughts and feelings. But i have read quite a bit on the internet. and eversince ive been frightened of possible adverse effects, or doing something wrong. It's my only thing to cope with the irrational fears and thoughts , and the only thing to keep me out of the extreme agitation and hopelessness. They recommended when you are depressed, or not very stable , to have a teacher to guide you. To prevent that you do it wrong. But my problem is that i have been living in a sort of isolation , and im not capable of going to some meditation class or teacher.

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simon

I do a lot of mindfulness meditation and I would recommend that, if you don't have a good teacher or course, or are not yet up to the thought of joining one, that you go onto utube and find anything  by Jon Kabat-Zinn. There are lots of guided meditations there for free.

I did the 8 week MCBT course last year which is geared to folk in depression and is proven to be at least as effective as  ADs, placebos etc in preventing relapse for those whove already had depression.

I certainly cant see any danger in the practise; its been around for thousands of years after all. You don't seem to get many Gurus involved which I find reassuring, just people who point you in the right direction.

Ive found a 30 minute bodyscan by Florence Meyer very helpful on utube and could do this (at a certain level) even in the depths. At other times mindfulness has certainly lessened the lengths of depressive episodes for me. But, sadly at the moment I know that icant take full advantage of it til I get a good reduction on the drugs I take.

Also I belong to a Forum here in the uk called Everyday mindfulness.org. Youll find a friendly bunch there. (although its not geared solely to depression, as its a mindset for all types of people, many who have suffered greatly and have found it to be an excellent remedy.

Mindful walking, eating, listening are just some of the other aspects in addition to the usual sitting meditations.

 

Simon

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simon

Its an interesting reply about meditation. Ive only ever found it useful and beneficial, but when you factor in the state of being in withdrawal and therefore over-sensitized to almost everything then I guess that changes things.

Its a great pity if you have to give it up and I think that if you do guided meditations (utube, Kabat_ZInn in my case) you would be less likely to drift into an uneasy place mentally.

Personally I think just lying there with no direction, and ruminating during depression is a bad thing, but if you have a little direction and another human voice involved it makes a great difference.

I also think its not really helpful to have too much of the religious side involved; that's why I like the simpler westernized forms like MCBT.

Simon

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shamaan

i found this website some time ago. It seems to be hacked now, but its still readable. On some parts , i feel there is some truth in what she says, and i have also read some stories from other people who say meditation did offer them some short term relief, but long term had to pay the price. I know i am too worried , but im not able to let it go and just continue to meditate..

 

 

http://mindfulconstruct.com/2011/02/04/17-ways-mindfulness-meditation-can-cause-you-emotional-harm/

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simon

I seem to remember reading someone on a forum about meditation saying that the only negative side might be that of getting involved in a faith kind of way into something you cant really buy into. That would worry me personally , as I think you can get involved in meditation purely from a mind healing way without all the baggage that a religious element can bring. The possible problem was feeling you had to believe certain things (like reincarnation) when these go against your core belief system and therefore add a stress element.

What I like about mindfulness is that people of any or no faith can get into it without fear of compromising their beliefs. (although I feel a few US tele evangelists might have problems with it! Emptying your mind and all that. (which is impossible)

I personally think the best thing meditation can do for you is to stifle rumination, which, when you are depressed or distressed just perpetuates the condition.

 

Simon

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bubble

two threads on the same topic of meditation during withdrawal have been merged

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LoveandLight

I'm not sure if this belongs in finding meaning or here.

 

Anyway, for years, years ago I used meditation as a way to escape and ended up (painfully) chasing only good feelings/ trying to hang on to them.

 

Now, I'm not sure what meditation is really for, I do not want to end up using it as escapism.

 

What are other peoples thoughts feelings on the purpose and use of meditation?

Thanks

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MostlyWater

I use meditation every day, it's great fun. Meditation is great for biophysical healing, improving cognition, and increasing concentration skills. I've been helped tremendously by it through withdrawal.

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LoveandLight

What kind of meditation do you do, mostly water?

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ten0275

i have found some usefulness in meditation. simply being present with the in-breath and out-breath can make a big difference. good meditation will never become escapism. all thoughts, good and bad, should be allowed to pass by. if the workings of your mind is viewed as a moving river, just watch the thoughts float by like leaves on top of the water. aknowledge them simply as "thoughts" and let them pass. as soon as we try to hold onto a "good" thought or obsess about a "bad" thought - we have begun to label - we have begun to daydream - and meditation is broken. at this point, we can simply label it "good thought" or "bad thought" and release it back into the water - and return our attention back to the ever-present in-breath and out-breath.

 

when i was having very scary intrusive thoughts as a result of my acute withdrawal, meditation was useless for me. because i was not in any kind of control of my mind. things were firing up there as a result of the compromised neural activity - and no amount of sitting and watching the breath was going to break through. as healing progressed however, meditation became a very a good way for me to release and settle - and to see what i was still getting hung up on, fearing, and desparing over.

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LoveandLight

Thank you for your very good post, ten

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Moonlitelotus

I just recently started meditating more and I have to say it has helped a lot. When I think I can't keep going through this withdrawal, I meditate, I find that I am able to find the strength to keep going.

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ten0275

i think an important thing to remember too is that just as we must make dose reductions of the drugs in very small increments, meditation gains are best realized in small increments as well. when i started meditating, i had this idea that i really needed to sit for a long time in order to achieve anything. but often times, the biggest psychological and physical benefits for me have been achieved in sessions that last no longer than 10 to 15 minutes. i needed to understand that meditation is not about beating our busy minds into some sort of submission. but rather giving our minds the space to sputter away while we choose not to grasp at the thoughts that arise from them.

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Heart

Hi - I also practice meditation and I don't think that I would have made it through without it. I don't always meditate the same way. I try to stay fresh with a meditation, but sometimes after a few months it gets stale and so I switch. I also have different meditations for different functions.

 

For years I had the horrible despairing insomnia and so I practiced compassion. For each in-breath I looked at how difficult my situation was, at that moment, and concentrated on the depth on compassion that I felt for myself, or anyone in my predicament. For each out-breath I switched, receiving the compassion that I would give to myself, and the compassion that others would give to me if they fully understood. Provided I was diligent with each breath, I could find relief, which gave me some control which also helped keep me from feeling scared. Feeling compassion I'd smile, and that smile I could also use with the following gatha: smile (in-breath), release (out-breath)

 

Sometimes I would use guided meditation. I know that there's lots of them out there to chose from but I particularly love some guided meditations from Thich Nhat Hanh. One in particular is a guided meditation called 4 pebble meditation. Each pebble represents a different aspect of ourselves: flower (rejuvenation and freshness), mountain (solidity and stability) and so on. Right now I find this one particularly helpful.

 

This has helped me. 

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Light

I'm not sure if this belongs in finding meaning or here.

 

Anyway, for years, years ago I used meditation as a way to escape and ended up (painfully) chasing only good feelings/ trying to hang on to them.

 

Now, I'm not sure what meditation is really for, I do not want to end up using it as escapism.

 

What are other peoples thoughts feelings on the purpose and use of meditation?

Thanks

 

 

 

I've been meditating once or twice a day now for a few weeks and have been surprised by how helpful it's been. I feel calm and more able to handle stress for several hours if not all day after meditating. Also about 20 months ago I started waking in the middle of the night almost every night and often have trouble going back to sleep. Meditation hasn't had any affect on the nighttime awakenings but I do go to sleep more easily at bedtime and after awakening in the night. 

 

I have experienced some blissful states after meditating that are very nice but, as tempting as it is,  I am trying not to chase these states per se. I look at my meditation as I would exercise, something I do out of self care to be healthier and happier overall but I am not trying not to use it in a self medicating way. I  meditate at set times and try not to focus on the results immediately afterwards.

 

Meditation can be a way of working with emotions that we may be trying to distract ourselves from. My readings tell me that unlike thoughts that we are instructed to disregard by focusing on emotions that come up and experiencing them as energy it can help to release them. 

 

I have had a few "bad trips" that resulted in prolonged grogginess, confusion, and a feeling of being off balance. I did just a bit googling on this and see that this is an acknowledged phenomenon that even healthy people experience this sometimes. 

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NoMeaning25

Nice to see you on SA light! Long time no see ☺

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MostlyWater

When I meditate, this sounds made up, but I can actually feel healing taking place in my head. This only happened a few times during deep meditation but it feels like my brain is strengthening connections that were weakened by w/d. I did this by putting myself in a very absorbed state of meditation using Zen Buddhist techniques. Meditation makes me feel much more resilient to stress and w/d induced agitation. It has the effect of "fortifying" your mind for the rest of the day. If anyone has any questions, I'll be happy to answer. 

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