Does Mindfulness Meditation Stress You Out?


What Can I Do?

A frustrated therapist takes a meditation course. 

The oldest documented images of meditation are from India and date back to between 5000 and 3500 BCE. Wall art paintings depict people sitting in meditative-like seated postures with their eyes half closed.” (positivepsychology.com). 

Meditation may have been easier then. If you were illiterate, and most people were, there wasn’t much you could do to relax in the quiet times before and after work. Prayer and meditation were quite popular options for thousands of years – until TV came along. 

Meditation doesn’t help everyone 

Today, at least 200 million people in the world regularly meditate and they don’t all find it a good experience. There are a lot of distractions now. 

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Stressful When It Doesn’t Work

Not getting the hoped-for result you desire from your meditation can produce the opposite effect. Post-Meditation Stress Disorder (PMSD) is not a classified mental condition, but it might be one day. Some people display symptoms already – stress, irritation, and general unhappiness. The continuing frustration of it all becomes a gadfly on the rump. Will your vexation ever end, you wonder? It’s as bad as trying to reach your bank on the telephone. Only, it’s worse than that because other people seem able to do it so easily.  

Meditation’s a breeze”, they say. “You’ll do it standing on your head” (Actually, some people do). They offer you similes and metaphors: “It’s like riding a bike, looking in a mirror, being in a gym, it’s like swimming – take the leap of faith and jump in. It’s like tennis.” 

Yet, for some, it is the bus that seldom comes. 

More Than a Skill

The trouble is that meditation’s not just a skill you can learn from a book. it is a kind of art and a bodily function combined. When you get it right, stuff happens in your mind, body, and spirit. Tennis doesn’t do that for most people. 

Keep It Simple

Meditation often left me dissatisfied and I wanted that to change, but how? I didn’t want to study meditation, I just wanted it to leave me feeling good. There’s a huge collection of meditational dross that floats around the internet like a huge fatberg – karma, yoga, mantras, and all that stuff with explanations of techniques that never quite work. I didn’t want to go there. Getting straight into a meditation course, was my plan. Keep it simple. 

What’s the Point of It?

But first, a quote. Renowned psychologist Carl Jung famously wrote to AA Co-founder Bill W “Alcoholism is a spiritual disease the basis of which is man’s yearning for wholeness.” Meditation seeks to answer that yearning. But with what? What does wholeness mean? According to spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle, we lose wholeness the moment we are born, and we spend our lives trying to regain it. Our ego keeps getting in the way. Wholeness is not a feeling, it is a state of being, of completeness and wanting nothing, it is a state of quiet and wellness, of belonging and being loved, and a state of peace of mind and balance. I liked that – especially the last words. I decided to make peace of mind my special goal. So far, so good. 

Meditation

How To Start Meditating

I did a lot of these routines, on a daily basis, remembering that techniques are more important than I imagined, but they must be practised. Something that seems strange on day one becomes entirely sensible after a while:

           Breathing – really relaxes you when you get it right 

           Visualising – I visualise inhaling blue (calmness) and exhaling grey (negativity) – it helps. 

           Laughter – it really does make you feel better even when there’s nothing to laugh about 

           Exercise – we all know this one is good for you                                                           

           Affirmation – we only truly believe what we hear ourselves saying – crazy but true, for me    

           Gratitude – I imagine myself stuffing gratitude in my heart so there’s no room for badness.  

  • Consider how you can balance your thoughts, attitudes and actions each day, with guidance from your Higher Power. 
  • Open yourself to your surroundings and be grateful for your life in the world this day. 
  • Listen to the sounds around you – let go of distractions. 
  • Empty your mind – visualise an empty room or a lake. 
  • Observe yourself – whatever you feel and think right now is you, and that’s ok. If it’s your monkey mind day today, then that’s ok too. Banish expectations – be yourself. 
  • Stay in that state or progress to focus on something specific if you wish. Basically, your meditation is unique to you. It is how you make it happen and no one can tell you it’s wrong 

The more I meditated, the more I could see the need for discipline and commitment. This seemed almost paradoxical given most people’s preconceived ideas of dreamy mantras and temple bells, but discipline is absolutely vital. Commitment means including meditation into your daily schedule as a ‘must do’ along with mundane tooth-brushing, showering and a few exercises. Build it into your schedule and stick to it until it becomes a habit. Like exercising, doing it just now and again won’t work. Never say you haven’t the time – you make time for lots of other things that are far less important. If you let yourself off the hook you will feel bad, and that’s no way to find peace of mind. 

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An Example of a Day’s Meditation

One day for my meditation, I simply sat, breathing correctly in a relaxed manner, and read this poem by the late, great American, William Stafford. I read it several times and thought about it. That was all I did. It was about halfway into the course. The experience was the nearest I have come to a feeling of wholeness and peace of mind, and it felt good. It confirmed for me that meditation is personal – do what works for you. 

You Reading This, Be Ready by William Stafford

Starting here, what do you want to remember? 

How sunlight creeps along a shining floor? 

What scent of old wood hovers, what softened 

Sound from outside fills the air? 

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world 

Than the breathing respect that you carry 

Wherever you go right now? Are you waiting  

for time to show you some better thoughts? 

When you turn around, starting here, lift this 

New glimpse that you found; carry into evening 

All that you want from this day. This interval you spent 

Reading or hearing this; keep it for life. 

What can anyone give you greater than now, 

Starting here, right in this room, when you turn around? 

Conclusion

Meditation works and we ourselves are the only possible obstacles. That’s like much of life. There are no easy rides, you have to put in the regular effort. I am not now living in the peace of mind completely (my goal) but I am on a journey to it, that I now realise will never end. Just as I really feel the benefit of the daily exercises I started doing ten years ago, I know I will soon get a similar but better benefit, from the discipline of regular meditation.  It is a work in progress that becomes more understandable and helpful each day. I have seen the future, and it works – if you work it.

How Can Castle Craig Help?

How Do I Pay For Rehab?

One concern we sometimes hear from people is how they will fund their rehab treatment. The cost of rehab varies depending on what kind of accommodation you choose. You can pay for treatment at Castle Craig privately, or through medical insurance, and some people receive funding through the NHS.

How Long Is the Rehab Programme?

Residential rehab treatment starts at four weeks and can go up to 12+ weeks. Research shows us that the longer you stay in rehab and are part of the residential therapy programme, the longer the likelihood of continued abstinence and stable recovery.

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When you call you will reach our Help Centre team who will give you all the information you need to help you decide whether to choose treatment at Castle Craig. Once you have decided that you would like to have a free screening assessment you will be put in touch with our admissions case managers who will guide you through the admissions process.

What Happens at the End of My Treatment?

Castle Craig thoroughly prepares patients before departure by creating a personalised continuing care plan which is formulated following discussions with the medical and therapeutic team. We offer an online continuing care programme which runs for 24 weeks after leaving treatment, in order to ensure a smooth transition back into your everyday life. Patients leaving treatment automatically join our Recovery Club where they can stay connected via our annual reunion, events, online workshops and recovery newsletters.

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