No coming, no going,
No after, no before.
I hold you close,
I release you to be free;
I am in you
And you are in me.
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
No Death, No Fear.
Meditation, whether atheist, agnostic or devout Catholic, changes our brain chemicals and, as Carolyn Myss points out, is essential to reconnecting to our selves, a putting back together the pieces.
When we meditate, the parietal lobe begins to diminish and we turn from selfish service (ego-based) to self-less service (spirit-based). We begin to form a relationship outside of ourselves with whatever we are focused on. This could be anything from improving our memory to connecting with God, whatever we deem that Source to be. By practicing daily mediation techniques, the neurons in the brain begin to reform. Like building a new highway, once these are established, your thought patterns automatically begin to drive down them creating motivational impulses: you begin to want it more. This thought process is reflected in what is called, Hebbian Learning: Cells that fire together, wire together.
This can be a positive experience, such as when a little child is told over and over they are loved. It can also be a negative one to the point of damaging your brain, such as when you focus on an experience that happened several years ago and yet you are still beating yourself up about it. When we ruminate over something, we increase the activity in the amygdala, bringing the focus back to our selves and releasing a ton of neuro-chemicals that begin to destroy the brain. Can you reverse this? Not necessarily the damage, but you can reverse your thinking and prevent further damage.
Andrew Newberg, M.D., in How God Changes Your Brain, writes, “Neurons do not have fixed properties. Instead, they are changing all the time. It takes less than two weeks for a neuron to grow new axons and dendrites, and in some cases the change occurs suddenly.” We are able to change our lives by changing our thinking. He also writes that meditation “…trains the mind to become less attached to it’s own desires, attachments and beliefs.”
For those faced with what has been termed as Dark Night of the Soul or Transitional Healing, this could be the key to breaking free from the hell they find themselves in. If you are experiencing this, mediation may be the last thing you want to do. But, taken in small increments, and mixed with other modalities, it just may be exactly what you need.
What else can you do?
Place one foot in front of the other, and keep going. Seek a trained therapist, and preferably, one who is also holistic-minded. There are some listed in this magazine.
Get in touch with your body. Do yoga, dance, pray. Muslims wash their hands, head, neck and feet before they pray and do it five times a day. Not only does this prepare them for worship to Allah, it gets them in touch with their body. Go out into nature and feel the earth. We are a part of nature and to Her we shall return. So, go pay your respects.
BREATHE. Deeply, fully breath in all the way down to your belly then let it out and relax.
Tell someone that you can trust what is happening
Tell yourself you’re not going crazy, you’re going sane.
Sarah*, who went through one several years ago, did most of these things and it brought back her sanity. For months she prayed every day, practiced yoga for an hour in the morning or evening – whatever her schedule would fit in; she walked out in nature, barefoot, hugging trees, crying in the wind, feeling cool water against her skin. “The key factor for me was giving it over to God. I would not be alive today without Her.” Her eyes show warmth that portrays the sense of peace when talking to her. “It’s not something I would wish on anyone. Yet, I am stronger and finally know what it means to love myself, God and others.”
*Names and descriptors have been changed to protect the innocent.
Anatomy of the Spirit. Carolyn Myss. Crown Publishers. 1996.
How God Changes Your Brain. Andrew Newberg and Mark R. Waldman. Ballantine Books, NY. 2009.