“Mindfulness is a way of befriending ourselves and our experience.” –Jon Kabat-Zinn
Finding mindful meditation was a blessing when I was going through my alcohol and drug rehabilitation process; I was an addict for many many years, and after many obstacles, setbacks and difficulties, I finally got the professional help I so desperately needed and I got my life back on track. During recovery, I was provided with many tools in order to face the hardships of life, the one that helped me the most (and still does) was meditation.
Mindful meditation is the practice of directing our full attention towards observing our current sensations and emotions. Originally derived from Buddhist practices, mindful meditation involves focusing intently on a specific object. On the surface level, something as simple as the flame of a candle may appear mundane and not worthy of attention. However, through mindful meditation, we can unlock deep insights by focusing on the present.
What was once simply the flame of a candle becomes a dynamic dancing flicker of light. We become aware of the faint sensation of heat that radiates from the flame towards our skin. Instead of feeling barraged by all of the negative thoughts that come with addiction, such as pain, fear, anxiety, powerlessness, guilt, and mounting anger, we can take control by clearing our thoughts and focusing intently on the flame.
1. Shuts out the noise of exterior demands in our world
Facing any type of obstacles is one of the things that a recovering addict fears the most, and that fear of confronting problems is what creates the momentum where relapse can happen. While we may know better intellectually and beat ourselves up for not heeding our better impulses, anxiety, and depression can overwhelm us with obsessive thoughts that prevent us from thinking straight. Hence, convincing thoughts of relapse can creep into a former addict’s mind.
Meditation has multiple positive effects, including the ability to teach us to be still. We become aware that there is nothing to fear in the present, and stillness is calming and restorative. As we learn to still the voice of fear, we learn through meditation to reconnect to our essential self and to quiet the memories and fears of the future that rob us of peace when operating in our autopilot mode.
2. Changes the physical makeup of our brain
By practicing mindful meditation, the makeup of our brain adapts, and amplify its power helping us become better equipped to overcome addiction.
Research shows a link between mindful meditation and an increase in the density of the mid-prefrontal cortex. This region of the brain is responsible for empathy, self-awareness, and the process of pausing and analyzing a situation before rushing into action. The mid-prefrontal cortex is also responsible for maintaining a balance of emotions.
If we view emotions as a spectrum with intense reactivity on one side of the extreme and complete numbness to the emotion on the other end, it is essential to reach and maintain the midpoint of the spectrum with the ability to regulate against falling to either extreme.
Mindful meditation can also increase the density of the mid-insular cortex region of the brain. This area has overlapping functions with the mid-prefrontal cortex and is responsible for emotion regulation and self-awareness. Finally, the amygdala, also known as the fear center of the brain, is positively affected by mindful meditation. The research is still ongoing, but there is evidence of changes to neurons in the amygdala resulting from a regular meditation practice.
3. Allows us to let go of the pain
Present moment awareness not only calms our emotional state and creates a new normal of relaxed focus, it also cultivates spiritual serenity leading to enlightenment. It does not matter what is your religious belief, mindful meditation will allow you to reach that other step further in your personal transformation.
Rather than remain swept up in the drama of the outside world, we can summon strength from the steady mind we are cultivating with meditation; this has allowed me to live without fearing the future or obsessing about the past. Peace and restored health come from self-control, rather than surrender to negative feelings such as shame or guilt. Meditation deepens and develops the internal locus of control by letting you appreciate and feel the present.
4. Helps us maintain full recovery
Mindful meditation creates a long-term positive impact in the form of a growing self-awareness, in my case, it meant recognizing what triggered me in order to control it. Staying present allows a mediator to avoid mental patterns that lead to vulnerabilities, which make us prone to falling back into fear and self-sabotage.
Meditation makes it far less scary to face the emotional pain of common triggers such as loss, isolation, loneliness, and feelings of victimization. With mindful meditation, we are able to reduce the stress and anxiety produced by them, thus we decrease the chance of a relapse. Meditation allows us to move quietly, non-reactively into the emptiness and to realize that most of our fears never come to fruition and happen only in our over-stressed minds.
By transforming the avoidance that can trigger a downward spiral into addiction, mindful meditation can guide us into emotional resilience, restored physical health, sustained peace, and presence in the moment, knowing that we determine how we see the world. Meditation if anchored as a new habit becomes life-changing.
By cultivating awareness, willpower, creativity, flow, contentment, motivation, and focused achievement through meditation, we are transforming the physical synaptic wiring of our brains, so, with healthy, new neural pathways anchoring positive and empowering behaviors, a new sense of well-being emerges mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. We are able to let go of obsessions, resentments, and the stories that had a hand on the story of addiction we had in our lives.
With a healthy practice of regular mindful meditation, we’re elevated to a state of calm, focused awareness, bliss, euphoria, and deep relaxation. Meditation can guide us not only into healing, but into entirely new directions in relationship, career, and lifestyle that offer far more empowering pathways to peace and plenty. Returning to the insightful quote by Jon Kabat-Zinn, we can see that mindful meditation allows us to soothe our pains and enjoy ourselves, as well as fully embrace the sensations from our experiences with the outside world.
Beyond these 4 benefits, what are some other ways mindful meditation can help us overcome addiction? Please comment below.