Each day, I know that no matter how well things are going on in my life, I will get to a place where I discover the emptiness, sadness, and loneliness inside me. It’s tough, it’s dark, and I struggle with it constantly. Sometimes the emotional pain is so intense that it leads to physical pain.
Recently, in efforts to improve my mental health, I studied meditation with a private teacher. Although I have tried meditation in the past, I never found a particular technique that helped my mental health and was something that I could stick with. This past year, I studied primordial sound meditation. Immediately after I began practicing this style of meditation, I felt happiness filling up the space where the emptiness, sadness, and loneliness usually resides. For the first time in a long time, I felt a profound sense of hope for a better life.
I encourage you to take a look at meditation as a critical part of your recovery.
According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, meditation is:
- A discourse intended to express its author’s reflections or to guide others in contemplation.
- The act or process of meditating.
If you Google the word “meditation,” you will find various resources which discuss a variety of styles from many traditions, cultures, and religions. Before I go any further into positive effects, I want to give you three objections that I had (and you might have) towards meditation:
- You can’t focus. One thing that is true of meditation is that it usually requires you to do an activity for an specific amount of time, and put some level of focus into it.
- Religious or spiritual affiliations. Meditation has a spiritual connotation and religious connotation, so sometimes meditation is paired with religion. Many religions are founded on meditation as one of the most important activities of that particular denomination. If you are not a religious person, this could put you off.
- You don’t have time. Yes, meditation might be a tool that could help you, but you might not have available free time to dedicate to it.
Here are three reasons why you might want to reconsider meditation:
- Meditation can help you reduce distracting thoughts and actually improve your focus. There was a Harvard study done on meditation and anxiety. In the article, it refers to Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, who says, “People with anxiety have a problem dealing with distracting thoughts that have too much power,” she explains. “They can’t distinguish between a problem-solving thought and a nagging worry that has no benefit.” However, she found “a mindfulness-based stress reduction program helped quell anxiety symptoms in people with generalized anxiety disorder, a condition marked by hard-to-control worries, poor sleep, and irritability.”
- Regardless of the culture, religion, or non-religion, the benefits are universal. Some of them include helping you to relax.
- If it might help, why not?
One of the best resources for learning about meditation, in my opinion, is a classic book, How to Meditate: A Guide to Self-Discovery, by Lawrence LeShan. I read it when I was 18 years old, and it gave me a thorough understanding of what meditation is, its effects on the body, and the various types. Although I read this book 15 years ago, one of the things that I remember learning was that Mother Teresa practiced meditation. Her style of meditation was simply focusing on every little thing that she was doing with her whole heart and soul. Styles of meditation vary widely and for some people, meditation involves movement.
The meditation path that I chose recently came from a lot of research on what’s known as primordial sound meditation, which is taught by The Chopra Institute, founded by Deepak Chopra. In this style of meditation, you are given a mantra based on the year you were born, the time you were born, and what sound is going on in the universe at the time, and you are taught to use that sound to meditate. A mantra is a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation.
The thing that attracted me to this style of meditation is that I just had to be completely silent to do it, and I could do it in any position. I feel relaxed immediately. No matter where I am, whether at a park or traveling, I can close my eyes and get into a super relaxed state. It’s fun to do, and I look forward to it every day, which is not something I ever anticipated.
After meditating recently, I was walking through the subway in New York City during rush hour. If you have ever been to New York City – with or without mental health challenges – it can be a stressful experience. However, I started to feel that loneliness, that emptiness and sadness, that dark place that I go through every day – but for the first time in my life, it felt better! I couldn’t exactly pinpoint what felt better other than the fact that I felt like I was on a new drug that was actually helping. (I have been on medication before and none has had an effect like this.)
There are a variety of tools and tactics that you can use in your recovery, regardless of where you are on your path. Even if you are not struggling with mental health challenges, I encourage meditation as a happiness medication.
Here are some quick meditation resources to get you started.
- How to Do a Quick and Easy Meditation
- Mindfulness and Mental Health
- When Meditation Helps or Hinders Mental Illnesses
About Mike Veny
Mike Veny – founder of, TransformingStigma.Com, is a sought after mental health stigma expert, keynote speaker, and professional drummer. He delivers entertaining, engaging, and educational experiences to conferences and events throughout the world. After suffering from a devastating mental health breakdown in August of 2011, Mike made the decision to use his speaking and drumming skills to serve others. As a person who painfully struggles with mental health challenges every day, he is committed to helping others like him. Today Mike is fiercely committed to the idea that transforming the stigma into strength starts with you taking an honest look at yourself. His essential message is “Stigma starts with shame. Shame leads to silence. Silence leads to self-destructive behavior and suicide.”