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First useful observations during meditation: The glue of attachment, creating self-esteem and a template for self-regulation.

I have heard many people report after meditating regularly that they experience a sense of peace and calm that they didn’t have before. I have also heard on the news that school children who are sent to meditate instead of being punished for their behaviour tend to see dramatic improvements. These are the known outcomes but as a training Gestalt counsellor I am curious about the how the mental process of meditation facilitates these changes. I am sure there are numerous literatures about this very topic however I wanted to share 3 key realisations of my first recent experiences of silent meditation and focusing on the voice.

Image curtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/h-k-d (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Observation 1: My ‘glue’ of attachment
As I attempted to keep my mind clear of any thoughts (first feeling very unsure of what that even meant) some thoughts attracted me like a magnet, these often had an accompanying emotion; Feeling hurt, angry, excited or anxious. Instead of seeing these as a sign of failing meditation, I observed what pulled me in; this felt like vital information about me. The thoughts with the strongest pull were ones I knew too well, well worn, and on reflection the most tempting to ruminate on a closed loop circuit. However, when I tried to pull away and re centre my mind, I felt resentment like I was having my favourite toy taken away. The ‘glue’ of my attachment was in the emotional stimulation I got out of them – like a smoker craving more nicotine or a fish tempted by the bait on a hook. If this is what happens in my ‘real life’ there are such positive benefits realising it’s ok to pull away from toxic thoughts.

Observation 2: The surprise of self-esteem
The process of pulling away from these thoughts was like trying to pull a rabbit backwards out of its warren. I had already started launching in to replaying a dialogue with someone, going deeper in to the feelings, my body reacting as if I was there, uncomfortable, trying to distract myself and wanting to stop. After I pulled away, I felt myself in the room, the vibration of my voice and was shocked by the accompanying message. I’m leaving this alone so ‘I must be more important than this thought’. I felt an increased sense of care for myself in the present. I felt calmer and emotionally regulated.

Observation 3: A parallel process of self-regulation in real life.
Often in real life when a distressing thought occurs, the failure to pull away from it, causes a spiral of negative emotion such as anxiety or anger that can drain me psychologically and causes physiological reactions which reinforces their influence. Self-regulation; returning to a state of feeling calm and present often comes through distraction – watching Netflix, playing candy crush, or maybe having a joint. But what meditation is teaching me is that I can centre my mind at any point if I develop the ability. Exercising the ‘muscle’ of self-regulation through meditation is empowering; for me its not so much about remaining clear headed at all times but more about knowing what pulls me in, that I can pull away and that I can support myself emotionally by doing so. If I can apply this to real life it could save me hours of distraction! Perhaps, when school children get in to trouble, they are also hooked by their emotions and are learning self-regulation through mentally walking away. I carried my experience the following day feeling more assured that I don’t have to go down that rabbit hole when a thought occurs. I’m now hooked on creating a healthy mind through meditation – what a simple, powerful tool!

23 Comments »

    • Hi Ron, thank you for commenting, Self – regulation seems to be a slightly mysterious business!. I’m hoping that as conversations about mental health become more open, we will also talk about appropriate ways to support the mind just as we know what to do to support the body 🙂

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  1. Great observations – thank you for sharing. Has been ~25 years since I was first exposed to meditation – good to reflect on initial encounters.

    Would be so healthy for ALL of us if meditation became prevalent in the public schools. Put learning about the self right up there with the physics and literature and athletics – all skills improved with practice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank for sharing your thoughts! I’m looking forward to seeing what comes out of these experiences 🙂 Wishing you happiness on your path ❤

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  2. Thank you for this beautifully worded explanation of your process of meditation. Your inner awareness is breathtaking to experience. I love when people look within and begin to see their processes blossoming before them.

    I feel that is where the peace will come from with self-regulation. The more time you take tuning into your inner frequencies, the more aware an in tune with your natural flow you’ll become. The more in tune with the flow the more natural it will become to be peaceful even outside of the meditation setting. You’ll be able to meditate in the present moment while the present moment is presenting around you.

    I feel I am fooling around in this realm. There was a period of time where I set time aside for myself to take me into the realm of meditation. And I found much self-growth in this experience. Time passed and I was unable to find dedicated meditation time but the self-growth within the meditation made me aware of how I was functioning and therefore aware of what I needed to do to calm myself as though I were meditating.

    You are right it is a muscle to be practiced, but when you hone in and flex that skill – oh my goodness – the rebounding euphoria and joy in every moment is something amazing to feel. My calm and peace created a stable foundation upon which excitement and thrill is found in every moment.

    I hope you can learn to flex your skill and find as much happiness and pleasure in the experience as I have. It is truly worth the time and effort.

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      • Thank you so much for these words. They touch me deeply. They speak of a real connection between us. I in translating myself into written form was able to pull your heart strings and tickle your tender soul and pull forth some unknown emotion. That thought is endlessly pleasing to me! That we touched and connected so intimately is beautiful to my mind and ever what I seek when I share myself so.

        Thank you so much for being so available in sharing yourself freely. It truly is a pleasure to take part in the experience of it.

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  3. If you own words they will own you ie….manic depressive I was told that for years until i realized I was acting out what the phycologist was telling me. I quit owning the word and restructures my life through self evaluation of the situation. I was also the owner of PTSD from combat many years ago, I quit owning that one also now I take no medications for those maladies. Like it says heal yourself, your inner peace, not owning the words of others.

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      • I am old now fixen to go through the last door life, I was molested when I was 12 I know the emotional roller coaster ride one goes through. I know like I said if we own the word it becomes us. Your past becomes your present not your future. It is what you do in the present by looking at your past but not living in it this requires self evaluation. I used to be claustrophobic small areas or rooms, to compensate I always sat with my back to a wall and always had an escape route in mind. Comes from combat I learned to quit listening to Doctors and overtime weaned myself off medications the last couple of years. Now I like to teach the images of the ancient Aramaic languages the images of the Old Testament. I am not a christian, I belong to no church left them 14 yrs ago. Been married 50 yrs this last Jan married my highschool sweetheart when I was 17. I like to inspire young people never to stop learning and never lose their common sense.

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  4. Hello, rhi-inspired:

    You opened with a question about the mental mechanisms of meditation. I thought that I’d share my thoughts, which seem to fit your experience pretty well.

    There are two elements to cognition: neural connections and the supporting blood flow. The second has a surprisingly powerful impact on how we think. Negative thought patterns are sustained because the inner mind believes that they are useful to our survival.

    Unfortunately, to sustain the blood flow they have to be exercised every now and then – else they atrophy (just like a muscle does). If we’re not careful, they begin to run in loops in the background, affecting all of our thought processes. We can’t blame them – they’re just trying to maximize their ability to perform their function.

    A function performed by the rational part of our mind (what Freud called the “super-ego”) is to regulate wayward thought patterns by pruning, and to fortify functional thought patterns. Where most of us think of this as changing the pattern of neuronal firing, the rebalancing of blood flow is also important.

    We shouldn’t seek to have only happy thoughts, for they tend to passivity. We shouldn’t tolerate anxiety either, for it tends to isolation. We need balance. In building our capacity to control our thoughts, meditation helps us attain that state. In emphasizing non-attachment to our thoughts, I think that the principal mechanism is reorganization of the blood flow in the brain. This achieves balance, while preserving the store of knowledge that allows us to move skillfully through the world.

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    • Thank you Brian for sharing your thoughts, really useful to connect experience with theory, im really interested in the neurobiological perspective, particularly how experimentation in therapy affect the functions of the brain – fascinating!
      Do you work in the field?
      Rhi

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      • I am a hypnotherapist. Our job is to create conditions that facilitate behavioral change, so we get into such details (although I’ll admit that I go further than most).

        The Dalai Lama has been stimulating research in this area, uncovering the gamma brain state in mature meditators. I believe that reflects re-integration of the conscious and subconscious minds (something seen nascently in lucid dreaming). But the blood flow angle – while obvious in muscular development – hasn’t been advertised much as regards the brain.

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      • Now, after all this time, I’ve finally taken the time to actually read/digest your post. Thank you for sharing the initial artifacts of your experience.

        I’ve had a long and interesting life and have had a practice of meditation since my teens (if not earlier). I think that for some people, and I am happy to count myself among them, meditation isn’t about scheduling time for meditation but more a mindset. Or, I think in my case, part of my nature. A reflection of sunlight in a window. The sounds and sights of a woodland stream. The patterns of sound and echo in a busy train station. Feathers vibrating in the wind generated by passing vehicles on the corpse of decomposing turkey buzzard.

        Stopping.

        Seeing.

        Listening.

        Really stopping.

        Really seeing.

        Really listening.

        https://neilcmartinez.com/2019/04/12/along-more-serious-lines/

        Liked by 1 person

  5. #2 is a good and useful feeling/observation… inside the sensation of esteem lies a kernel, a way of gaining a better acquaintance with the concealed-by-clutter truest self. 🙂 gorgeous imaginative illustration, by the way.

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