What about mindfulness?
Dan Harris gave Charlie Rose a clear description of mindfulness meditation as he was interviewed March 13, 2015 on our local PBS TV station. His book 10% Happier, published by Harper Collins in 2014 is subtitled, How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story.
Here is what I understood from the interview.
Charlie seemed to favor naps, but Dan made a good case for meditation. The procedure he described during the interview was to close one’s eyes, breathe in and out, in and out, focused on the breathing, until you notice your mind wandering, then “start over,” coming back to focusing on the breathing process. Even 5 minutes a day shows some improvement in a week’s time. Benefits that he described are 1. An improvement in the ability to focus on one thing while distractions swirl around you by using this “exercise of the brain.” 2. He called it a “game changer” with an increased ability to be aware of the “voice inside your head,” otherwise called mindfulness and 3. Humbling with a realization that people are not as interested in you as a person as you might have thought. Some of the practical applications in his life were an increased ability to listen to the other person, be attentive to his children when he otherwise would enjoy doing something else, and to stop hurtful words before speaking. The method he espouses is “stripped of metaphysics” or religious meaning. However, he said many teachers of meditation recommend that the person ask for a spiritual guide. He mentioned Sam Harris for his research in meditation and Eckhart Tolle for understanding the idea that people have a voice inside their head.
Nickolas Gall in his article “Subliminal messages and Meditation: Their Importance”at articles.com thinks that one can use meditation to help solve one’s problems using answers that come from within. More importantly he advocates using positive self-talk to give oneself encouragement and to change “a negative emotion or action into something more positive.”
There may be more than one voice in a person’s head. You may have heard of the Super-Ego, Ego, and Id, concepts promoted by Sigmund Freud. I especially like Fritz Perl’s expression of Top-Dog and Underdog, the Top-Dog being somewhat similar to Super-Ego in giving support to what a person should do in life’s situations. Whereas, some people are plagued by Super-Ego demands that are impossible to meet and the Id may drag a person down from the unconscious, Perl commented that one should say “Sic’m” to the Top Dog in order to control the Underdog. Maybe I just like dogs.
However, the meditation method described by Dan Harris DOES help a person at least hear what one is saying to oneself! This is extremely important in order to make any desired change/s in one’s habits of life. To help make those changes after hearing what one is saying, I suggest the cognitive therapy methods described in At Eden’s Gate: Whole Health and Well-Being and also found in Here’s To Your Health. Especially see “Stepping Out of Vicious Circles” of the blog and Appendix C, page 231 of the first edition of the book still available at Amazon.com. I expect the second edition to be available as an e-book later this year. However, you can find most if not all the content in the blog. Just use the search feature for whatever concerns you.
Research reported in The Spiritual Brain: Science and Religious Experience by Dr. Andrew Newberg of Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and published as a transcript Book by The Great Courses, using imaging of people’s brains and neurochemicals while mediating or praying shows differences of a positive nature between “believers” and “non-believers.” These differences are in DNA, in chemistry and activity of the brain, in brain structures and in how they think and interpret reality. So it seems that science indicates at present that adding religion and religious rituals to meditation is helpful rather than harmful.
I do recommend asking for spiritual guidance while meditating and or praying. I believe one can receive wisdom in dealing with daily difficulties and traumas of the past. However, a Presbyterian master teacher on prayer who visited our city emphasized strongly that when one tries to empty one’s mind (as some people do in meditation), it can be extremely dangerous. Unwanted “spirits” might enter. Jesus commented on this in Luke 11:14-28. After “casting out a demon that was dumb and when the demon had gone out, the dumb man spoke,” Jesus told a story about someone cleaning house, expelling an unclean spirit who later came back and finding it empty, moved back in with seven others worse than himself. Jesus said that one should “hear the word of God and keep it!”
So meditate, pray for guidance, but please, keep the focus on something good for all.