Emptying Silence 2- Mindful Meditation

mindfulness for mental health

Mindfulness is forging a wide road into the treatment of mental health in the United States today. It stems from the Buddhist practice of meditation where one non-judgmentally focuses on the present moment, paying conscious attention to the breath. Forms of meditation are found in most of the world’s religions, often termed “prayer.”

The physical practice of mindfulness can take many shapes. Most often it involves sitting cross-legged on the floor with a straight posture. This can be alone or with a group of people silently or vocally guided, with eyes downward cast or closed, hands resting on knees. One takes slow inhalations and exhalations, emptying the consciousness of all other things for the purpose of attaining mental balance, gratitude and an open heart. Other common ways to employ mindfulness are through attention to the process of walking, or doing the dishes, or some other solitary task. Some seemingly mundane chores can be transformed into exercises towards enlightenment when one pays attention to each movement of the leg, foot, arm, hand.

It is extremely human and inevitable that the mind will wander onto thoughts of other things, perhaps even be flooded with memories, worries, or emotions. The goal is to simply return to an awareness of the breathing and its orbit into and out of the lungs. The result is that one can feel less anxiety, less suffering, and often there is a feeling of joy, peace, happiness, and a greater calm. The aim is to ease the tide of our thoughts, leaving room for a clearer, more generous reality.

mindfulness for mental health

The applications of mindfulness for the psychiatric survivor community are revolutionary. It has brilliant, positive effects. Many people use medication and meditation in tandem to work their recovery. I have found this to be very useful. I do not endorse replacing medication with meditation, as this could be very harmful. However, developing a mindfulness practice has far-reaching proven effectiveness on the reduction of symptoms for many things including anxiety, panic, depression, bi-polar and even schizophrenia.
When I practice, I refer to it as “emptying silence.” I often begin my sit with a “loud” internal ecosystem, like perhaps a windstorm or a tsunami is happening within my mind and I sometimes feel physically agitated. I may be hearing loud thoughts or feeling uncomfortable out in the world. I may be feeling frustrated with the daily battle of fighting my symptoms, always in search of alleviation. Maybe I don’t even think I have the energy to meditate or engage in mindfulness. Some days, I can’t do it. I am too overwhelmed with data, symptoms, poverty of spirit. But on the days that I can, most likely these are the days when I have a good balance of alone time and time spent with others, I come to realize that sitting for those ten – 45 minutes is the brightest thing I could do for my health and wellbeing. If a day or two goes by and I have not formally practiced mindfulness I miss it. When I do return to it it feels like embracing an old friend.

What I do is slowly put myself into the correct posture of sitting and begin with a straightened back. I personally have to put sandbags under my cross-legged knees or else my legs will fall asleep (this is the case when I sit for more than 20 minutes or so.) When I get a loud thought or an interruption in my quest for internal quiet, I bring my attention to the breath, often finding that I am breathing in a shallow manner. I correct this with a deep and slow inhalation and exhalation. I find refuge in the knowledge that when I sit I am not to enter into the tangle of thought, rather, I am free to “empty the silence” and create a disarming, unobtrusive internal environment. The result is that I feel calmer and happier. Especially when I practice with a group I often feel a loving kind of joy. It always feels like an emotional and spiritual accomplishment of great measure.

The Buddha said, “Our sorrows and wounds are healed only when we touch them with compassion.” People with lived experience of extreme states can use meditation to tend to the places that hurt us inside. Our outlooks can become broader and less destructive and painful. With practice, healing waits to be embraced like the butterfly embraces the breeze.

*Some recommended reading: How to Practice; The Way to a Meaningful Life, By the Dalai Lama; The Miracle of Mindfulness, by Thich Nhat Hahn; Be Here Now, by Ram Daas; Wherever You Go, There You Are, by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Similar posts
  • Falling Upwards I have owned my depression, and it has opened so many doors for me, and made me a better person. The goal now is to help others do the [...]
  • The Dark Place A depressive illness is not a sign of physical weakness, nor is it a condition that can be simply wished [...]
  • Black Sails, White Rabbits I was born manic‑depressive. It was only a matter of time. My fate was always to make a scene. The diagnosis was simply the last one on [...]
  • Spread a Little Sunshine My family is happier. I’m happier. Yes, this is a recovery process but I no longer see the light at the end of the tunnel as an oncoming train. For me, that light is sunshine. I don’t have to ask where is the sunshine anymore. I’m seeing it peek through the clouds and just that alone [...]
  • The Mirror and the Door No matter what I have been through I am not alone, there is hope and recovery is [...]
  • This description and guide to mindful meditation is very easy to grasp. Thanks for the explanation. I’ve been interested in meditation lately, and have been allowing myself the time to do it when I catch a moment of quiet during the day or just before falling asleep. I’m probably only enjoying this “break” for a maximum of 10 minutes, so I’ll try to extend that time for myself going forward. I’ve felt my anxiety lessen and my contentment increase since practicing, so I’m looking forward to continuing this practice.

  • Tooth n’ Nails

    Thank you for this article. It is very heartening to hear of the reach of mindfulness in mental health recovery today. I have seen books on this subject, particularly for recovery from anxiety, depression, and overeating, and I heard years ago that NAMI had mindfulness as their central theme at an annual conference. I cannot speak highly enough of mindful meditation and mindful awareness in daily life as it has impacted my own work to reclaim my life from anxiety and schizo-effective disorder. A lot of people wonder if mindfulness is appropriate for folks with psychosis. I can only say I have read a meditation teacher’s comment that if the skill is explained properly, anyone can benefit from it. As someone who facilitates groups at a peer support center, our members always respond so positively to the brief meditations we do on occasion. I would also recommend books by Pema Chodron for study on mindfulness.