66. Regular meditation practice preventing re-occurring depression
So to keep you mindful kids on your toes I want you to think about the insights you glean from the time you spend in meditation and why it's not just important to have the insights, but to continue to maintain your practice for your overall well-being.
We may find aha moments, we may find 'oh that's my mind doing that thing again for the thousandth time (rumination)', we may find the thin end of bu**er all, but time in meditation will throw up insight. On a recent training session, I attended with the incredible Zindel Segal – I had such a super-fan moment! The title of his talk was 'Insight, is it overrated? He talked of the value of insight, but that insight in of itself is not the be all and end all of a meditation practice, it's not a case of once you know, you know – life suddenly sorted, no, you have to continue to put in the hard, less glamorous and more mundane practice.
Moments of insight can be truly life changing; they can alter the way we see ourselves, the way we operate, the way we think, and more. 'OMG how have I never known this about myself', to 'ah, okay, that's what triggered that moment today', or 'that's what my toes actually feel like'.
Insight especially in an aha moment is often the driver to get us to meditate, we want to learn about our minds so that we can feel freed from the difficulties that we encounter daily, learn how to feel more in control, more centred and peaceful.
But, the aha moment doesn't solve everything, you have to move into stage two, the 'business as usual' if you like, your continual personal practice – no matter if it's a 3 min breathing space, 10 minutes of body scan or 20 minutes of listening to sounds, your practice and its frequency – matters.
Some research done recently can attest to this. In people recovering from depression a study showed that those who continued to practice after the initial eight-week mindfulness-based therapy programme were more likely to recover than those who didn't. The study found that whatever insights people acquire – whatever learning occurs if people did not continue to use the skills over the period, they had a much lower rate of survival, and more likely to relapse into depression.
This I've seen too as a mindfulness teacher, people come to class and commit wholeheartedly to the programme, only to find the age old struggles reoccurring when their good intentions go for a burton and their meditation practice becomes a thing they did last summer.
So, wonderful mindful practitioners out there, what are you going to do to commit to a regular practice? Define it, write it down, diarise time, make the commitment to yourself. You matter! I want to be clear here too, practice does not mean stoically making time every single day for two hours and then a silent retreat at the weekend.
It can be a check-in with yourself, how am I today? It can be a three-minute breathing space at lunchtime a few times a week, you may prefer a daily meditation practice of just a few minutes. But whatever you do, make it regular.
Regularity of practice is more helpful and supportive than the duration, it embeds mindfulness more into your life and means you maintain contact with mindfulness in a positive way, it starts to weave into the fabric of your life. You may not find huge aha moments, and that is okay, but you may find greater awareness, small moments of inner peace, and these moments add up like those proverbial pennies.
So, make the commitment and start it today.