Meditation and Mental Health

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Finding Happiness

Many people turn to Vipassana meditation as a way to understand the reason they are suffering mentally. It is clear that in order to benefit from Vipassana, one must have the mental capacity to focus and carry out the technique as prescribed. Some of us are too strong willed to perform the technique properly however, and choose to do it our own way, which my seem more relaxing, effective, pleasant, or what have you. This risks focusing not on what will help us to progress in our exploration of ourselves through meditation, but on our own feelings of narcissism. This is where meditation practice that starts out correctly can go very wrong and send us wandering off the path to enlightenment, and into the swamp of self indulgence.

The mediation technique is not about feeling good, it’s about performing a mental and tactile inventory and verifying everything is connected and working, regardless of our personal preferences. This is a concept many Americans have a hard time dealing with since our culture is driven by this idea we are all independently thinking and feeling creatures with entirely different needs.  While this is true on a genetic scale, the way Vipassana meditation was designed, the meditator must stop being the subject alone, and become the scientist, observing himself objectively, as well. This takes practice, and access to a higher mental framework than we are used to in day-to-day life. We must be able to see ourselves thinking and feeling and not take any of it personally. A mental contradiction, to be certain.

How to concentrate the mind’s focus on true self-improvement to better ensure long-term happiness vs. perpetual misery or worse, meaninglessness? This video featuring the voice of Dr. David A. Kessler helps to clarify by pointing out how our ability to focus our attention deteriorates, and is succumbed by emotion, so does our grip on the happiness we can control in our lives – eventually giving in to things like the irresistible and horrifically debilitating ride of illnesses such as manic-depression.

What you focus on expands in mental importance.  Proper Vipassana meditation practice helps sharpen the mind-body connection. Follow the technique, as prescribed, without adulterating it with your creative will. Otherwise you risk inflating the ego rather than purifying the mind. If you can control your focus better, you can control your ability to stay realistically focused on things that provide long-term happiness. More at http://dhamma.org

Truth or Consequences of PTSD

Enduring Peace - Photogravure by Jon Lybrook
Enduring Peace – Photogravure by Jon Lybrook

This weekend we heard about a friend that had been traumatized at seeing the death of a child. The friend whom this had happened to, and his wife had actually been first on the scene. This child died in his arms.

This friend had soon mentally locked into the story about this child dying in his arms, and identified with it so deeply, that he couldn’t escape. It consumed him.  This is a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  It can hit any of us for any random event we are mentally unprepared for dealing with. The friend’s response to the horrible event was to twist every new event and every new story to somehow be about or connected to that event. His own life story had essentially stopped because of the event, in fact.  It stopped because he couldn’t accept the reality of what happened and move on. It hit some core issues with him and his wife both I’m sure, since she was also on the scene and a part of “the story”. Those deep-seated issues having to do with trust certainly come up in PTSD victims.  Hoping the ending of the story is he was able to let go of it on such a personal level, and his strong personal identification as a participant in it. This is the ego at work, stressing out while trying to change the reality of our simple or complex delusions about ourselves and the world as a whole.

While we do not generally inflict trauma on ourselves and can not control that, we can and should try to control how we respond to that trauma as best we can. If we just leave everything up to fate, after all, that would be foolish.  If our minds are not prepared for an event, then they must expand and unwind to embrace the reality as laid before us, without shame or embarrassment, but with compassion and acceptance.  This is the way things are, and we have to accept it. This is also how we learn and grow. Resisting this natural process of mental development results in a feedback loop of minor mind-body pain that gets amplified over time, until the person becomes debilitated and dies from the pain, the neglect, or the morphine. The good news it does not have to be this way!

Vipassana meditation can help with PTSD, the main cause of which is not accepting the reality of what had been experienced. While I am not a mental health professional I have had a personal interest in this subject and have found vipassana meditation to be an effective method to understand the process of how and why we suffer.

We have to accept unpleasant facts so we have a clear basis of reality from which to plan our course to make the reality better – and truly better – not just what we think might be better.  And this is where Vipassana meditation comes in. Vipassana is not a religion, but a meditation technique that was taken from the basic meditation techniques taught by the Buddha himself 2500 years ago.  It’s a pure study of the interworkings of the human mind, and how it interacts with the body. Rooted in science and based on actual results, Vipassana meditation can be the fast track to identifying some of the core issues limiting us as individuals, and providing actionable methods for addressing our limitations super-effectively, while making best use of our native virtues as well!

Interview with S.N. Goenka ENGLISH from Dhamma server Spain on Vimeo.

 

Pluto Photos Illustrate The Granular Nature of Truth

In 2006, New Horizons Spacecraft left earth in search of better data about the solar system.  This week it achieved a significant milestone in the mission and returned some stunning data about the only planet ever to become publicly demoted from planet to dwarf, after over 75 years on the top charts.

Below are before and after photographs of Pluto from the NPR Website.  The left shows Hubble Space Telescope’s image of the former planet compared with the flyby image returned by the New Horizons spacecraft.

The difference in what is now known about Pluto’s shape and topography visually is nothing compared to the granular geologic and biological data that can be collected by spectroscopy during this flyby.  These photos show that only by going after the truth and finding it for ourselves, first hand, will we see how little we really knew.  And how fuzzy our assumptions are seen in hindsight, and how clear they seemed again here in the present.  To sum it up:

True understanding is subverted the moment we are comfortably satisfied  with our understanding of the truth.

“True understanding is subverted the
moment we are comfortably satisfied
with our understanding of the truth.”

– Jon Lybrook