“I’ve tried to meditate but I just can’t stop my mind,” says Jack when I ask him about his experience with meditation and relaxation. Jack is working with a mood disorder and is considering practices that may help with stability.
I hear this response with some regularity and it makes me wish I could run out and do a “And Now You Know” public service announcement.
There is no requirement to stop your thoughts when you meditate. The human mind produces thoughts. Sometimes many, sometimes a few. It is almost guaranteed that if you sit down and try to stop thinking it will be at the very least frustrating. And if you sit down having some expectation a hum of inner peace, you may feel bewildered.
“I don’t get this meditation. What’s the attraction? It is really annoying. I am really bad at it.”
So what do you do with thoughts and isn’t meditation supposed to be peaceful.
We notice the thoughts. We watch the river. Whether the river is low and meandering or is roiling with Spring runoff. We observe. And that in its own way can be rather simple and peaceful. The river may not be peaceful; watching it can be.The difference between being swept away by the river and sitting on the bank is profound.
From time to time we may find ourselves in the river fighting the current. We get ourselves to shore and climb up the bank. Take a breath and return to observing.
Is meditation for everyone? Is it helpful for people with mood disorders?
Folks can be encouraged and even pressured to meditate by others. And for many people it is very useful. It may be suggested to people working with a variety of mood disorders.
But it is not for everyone, all of the time.
Meditation may not be for you if:
you are very anxious and finding sitting still difficult and painful
you are in a depression and trying to meditate makes negative thinking worse
you have attentional problems that make it too much of struggle to focus your mind in this way.
you for any number of reasons are in an agitated state
There are many disciplines that could be an alternative to formal sitting meditation. Various forms of martial arts for example. Walking meditation is another. What is important is finding what is right for you at any given time. And the potential for paying attention moment by moment is always available.
Gentleness and trusting your own intuition
Gentleness permeates meditation. Kindness toward yourself and your mind is the ground, with a smidge of curiosity.
There are many resources available on line and in the community. It can be very supportive to meditate with a group and receive meditation instruction and support individually. Sounds True sells recordings from a wide variety of teachers.
There is nothing particularly wrong with thinking. We are simply bringing awareness to it. Watching where our mind goes, coming back to body and breathing.
For more info on Bipolar Disorders please visit my website SupportforDepression.com