A few years ago I had the intuition that meditation was the most important survival skill for these shifting times. It came after reading an article about survival skills such as foraging, hunting, preserving and pickling. First I felt scared, thinking I wouldn’t have enough knowledge to survive if and when our current systems collapse. Then, quickly, something told me that the very most important thing we need is a clear and open mind. During rapid change, we need mental clarity and balance to be able to quickly discern the best course of action, and our own particular role in the larger picture.
Meditation has been cornerstone for me in feeling entirely free of the mental health system and not looking back. For those who do find the mental health system has things to offer, which many do, meditation can be a helpful tool to gain the clarity, presence and centeredness to use the system in the most empowering way possible.
I like models of being that acknowledge mystery, that encompass and honor the dark side, models that incorporate dreams, consciousness, life purpose and creativity. These models are meditative, see all thoughts as possibilities but don’t grasp onto many as solid Truths. Seeing illness and health in this meditative way also equalizes power since no one knows more or less than anyone else.
There are as many forms of meditation as there are people and traditions: infinite. Find one that works for you, that you’ll do daily for at least 20 minutes uninterrupted AND which:
1. Reduces anxiety. Meditation induces the relaxation response.
2. Reduces depression. By focusing on the breath, you end up taking in more oxygen, even if it’s only for 20 minutes a day. You also expand your lungs and diaphragm so you are more likely to take in more air all day long. This improves mood, similarly to how exercise does.
3. Increases energy. Unlike psychiatric drugs, which deplete the body of its energy, especially in the long term, by damaging organs and adding more toxins for the liver to deal with, meditation simply and naturally increases your energy. By focusing on your breath or other object of meditation, returning to presence and tuning in with your feelings, you harness your own energy rather than squandering it on unnecessary things.
4. Helps focus attention. By taking 20 minutes or more per day to slow down and be present, you train your mind to focus. You can then use that focus for other projects. Focusing also helps you prioritize what is most important (a valuable survival skill), which reduces stress and adds to a sense of accomplishment. This can also help with making good decisions in a crisis and discerning what type of help will be helpful and what might be harmful.
5. Slows you down, helps to control “mania” and fear. Meditation slows the heart rate, blood pressure, breathing and thoughts. Slowing down lowers cortisol, reduces the fight or flight response and helps you feel more in control.
Meditation is an antidote to believing in illness as a solid concept whether that illness is what we call “mental illness” or “physical illness.” Meditation provides space to step back and see that all ideas of illnesses are constructs of our minds and collective consciousness. This does not mean pain and suffering is not real, it simply means the way we choose to understand them is arbitrary. Even illnesses that can be diagnosed using blood tests, scans or other methods only exist in that exact way because we collectively choose to believe that they do. The illness language and paradigm is a collectively held myth. It contains some truth, as most mythology does, but it is still a story and we may go farther in our evolution if we choose a more original and open minded one.
If I become emotionally distraught, sick or injured, I still do everything possible in the physical realm to heal myself and nurture my body. There are times, though, when no drugs, vitamins, herbs, foods, stretches, acupuncture treatments, or any other healing modalities help. In those times, I ask myself, “What is going on?” What is the gift of this apparent road block? What are my emotions and my body telling me? There is usually something I need to do, a fear I need to overcome, a step I need to take towards living my dreams more fully. As a writer, I often need to put forth something I’ve written which I am scared to share, and when I do, the emotional turmoil, illness or injury *magically* goes away. It came to force me to meditate, in whatever way possible, because that is the language I speak with myself. A language of curiosity, openness and trust. By meditating daily, in your chosen way, you will begin to develop this language, too. This language of being, where all things are included, and there’s no such thing as an ultimate roadblock because faith is rock solid.
First Published on Rebelle Society.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.