• Debbie Forrestt

Managing Depression Through Meditation

Updated: Apr 26

Our modern culture is just beginning to understand the depths of knowledge harbored within a thousands-year-old guide to yoga and meditation! Mapped in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are the secrets to navigating the mind’s intricate pathways and unlocking the secrets to happiness. This text unwraps the mysteries psychologists, theorists, neuroscientists, and medical doctors alike have attempted to unravel for an eternity, only to come full circle. What has been concluded, therefore, is the art of Self Realization through mindful meditation just might be a better choice than medication for treating depression and other mental illnesses and especially for preventing dementia and other forms of psychosis!

So, how do we prove it works? Not by utilizing the many tools and spoils of modern science but by actually putting into practice the steps outlined in the Yoga Sutras. This terse text of a mere196 lines of sutra (aphorisms), written by the sage known as Patanjali, is arguably one of the most widely interpreted texts on mindful meditation, AKA Self-Realization, in existence. No longer considered a trend, the practice of meditation has now been proven to be effective in the treatment of depression as well as a plethora of other mental and physical disorders. And it is not necessary to navigate the full text alone, rather seeking a guide or teacher is highly recommended. In the meantime, try one of these simple guided meditations.

10-minute meditation on Expanding the Mind

8-minute Change Your Mind Meditation

7-minute Forgiveness Meditation Simply put, mindful meditation is defined by Patanjali quite succinctly. By stilling and focusing the mind and turning "inward", we can begin to "navigate the inner laboratory of the mind field” and thereby come to the point of “Self-Realization”. (YS 1.2, 1.3) Simply medicating, pushing down, or masking out what Patanjali describes as clues to mental imbalance, will only strengthen the malignity. When depression, stress, or anxiety rear their ugly heads, we should instead look deeply within for clues of what the magnificent mechanism of the mind is telling us. Otherwise, these imbalances manifest in the physical and take residence in the body.

But take heed, when our issues do manifest in the physical body, the messages become

clearer and easier for most to identify. As a metaphysician, I study movement patterns, tendencies, and misalignments of the body to understand the underlying cause of imbalance. But it can get tricky sometimes. Since we are more apt to “treat” pain and injury with medication or surgery, we can push these symptoms deeper down, where their pathology begins to become more complex, more difficult to identify and cure. Therefore, is it important to know our “Selves”! According to Patanjali, that is because in the process we begin to understand who we are NOT. And who we are not, is realized in our mistaken identification with the material stuff of this world to which we have become attached. If we are to arrive through meditation at the understanding that we are spiritual beings first and foremost then we have won. When we identify less with the notion that we are merely our material bodies. When we can conclude that our bodies are mere vessels for a beautiful radiant spirit that is free to soar, thrive, connect with others, and manifest health, power, and beauty, then that is our success! According to the yoga philosophy, awareness will save so much suffering caused by most of the stressors in our lives. Think about it! (That is all Patanjali really asks us to do; contemplate)! If in the process, you have an epiphany or reach total meditative absorption (samadhi), then congratulations, you have graduated to a level of awakening few have reached. But, take heed in knowing that it is not necessary to reach the full state of meditative absorption described at 3.1 in Patanjali’s Sutras, to reap the benefits of a mindful meditation practice! For those who meditate regularly, simply learning to focus and to listen “within” (pratyahara) leads us to an awareness few have achieved. Especially in a technological age where our attention is constantly drawn outward with pop-ups, notifications, noise, and such, this “inner listening” can be difficult to achieve, but can be done with practice (and without your phone)! Additionally, mindful meditation’s benefits on psychological disorders are slowly becoming an accepted fact in mainstream medicine and psychology. The practice of mindful meditation can be useful in treating disorders such as depression, anxiety, chronic pain, PTSD, ADHD, addiction, and even dementia and Alzheimer's. In one study*, meditation appeared to provide as much relief from some anxiety and depression symptoms as other studies have found from antidepressants with a mere 30 minutes of meditation daily. In conclusion, a mere 30-minute per day mindful meditation practice can be a better treatment for mental illness than prescription medications for three main reasons. First, it is useful for many mental illnesses but requires no dosing, regulation, or prescription. Secondly, it helps us to avert injury and illness before it arises and migrates into the physical body. Most importantly, studies have shown meditation is as effective as medication without side effects, it is cost-free to practice and requires no gear. It is easy to learn with a good teacher or guide and moderate practice. What else can a steady practice of mindful meditation offer? "A lifetime of consciousness and bliss", says Patanjali! Blessings and Namaste', Debbie Forrestt

*Study posted by Madhav Goyal, M.D., M.P.H., an assistant professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and leader of a study published online on January 6, 2014, in JAMA Internal Medicine.

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