I am a graduate student in Marriage and Family Therapy. When I start seeing clients, I’m going to shove meditation down their throats like I used to shove whole cheesecakes down mine.
The benefits of regular meditation range so wide, there is no reason why anyone shouldn’t be jumping onto the meditation bandwagon.
My experience with meditation began 10 years ago. At that time I was a single, waitressing, heavy-drinking, believed-I-could-change-the-world twenty-something. And eight years deep into bulimia.
Under the suggestion of one of my hippy girlfriends, I began meditating at a local temple. I should also mention that I was regularly attending 12-step recovery meetings, though I did not have a sponsor and was not working the 12-steps. Within two weeks of a daily 45-minute practice, my binging and purging episodes had remitted completely.
I realize this is not the typical case, because bulimia is generally hard to beat. Prior to meditation, I had resolved to stop the behaviors more times than there are mornings. Yet I still ended my days in the McDonald’s drive thru ordering for “the whole family.” So, what’s my point?
Meditation works, guys.
Today, I am married, have two whiny kids and an outrageously high California mortgage. Certainly a different life than I lived 10 years ago.
Granted, my schedule is no longer, well, mine. The longing to run off to a temple for a few hours every morning is quickly scuttled by a dirty diaper (or three). Or a husband needing reassurance, or a dog that just jumped through a living room window (don’t ask).
So, my solution is doing 10-15 minutes of mindful breathing everyday at home. In addition, I do mindful walks with my kids. This involves pushing the double stroller around the block a few times, chatting amiably with my two-year-old about [seemingly] trivial landmarks (windmills are a big hit right now), taking in deep breaths of country air, and focusing on my connection to nature.
How does it work?
Whether you do Transcendental Meditation (TM), guided, body scans, mindful breathing, or have committed to the research-based Mindful-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, meditation requires you to do one simple task: notice when your attention shifts from it’s focus and return it back.
It is an exercise. So when you do it often, you get better at it. Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of MBSR and author of Full Catastrophe Living says that mindfulness enables us to feel our interconnectedness, or “oneness,” within our surroundings. And this is a source of great healing when faced with stress or pain. We realize that we are part of a systemic existence that is extraordinary and miraculous. Nothing is achieved in isolation, and the universe is here to support our growth.
As you get better at meditation, you’ll begin to notice that the task of being mindful of your thoughts and surroundings is occurring even when you are not meditating. You’ll start becoming aware of when your attention has shifted to other thoughts, such as eating disorder thoughts.
You may begin to notice that eating disorder thoughts don’t automatically result in disordered behaviors. This is because meditation and mindfulness are associated with a lower involvement of the thalamus, or brain’s stress sensor that is responsible for switching into the “fight or flight” response. It can also activate things like the binge behavior of bulimia.
This lower involvement means there are now fewer urges to binge, because the brain isn’t switching to “fight or flight” as readily as before. You may find you are no longer binging in response to an urge but out of sheer habit.
Give it a try
So, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see how someone with bulimia would benefit immensely from a meditation practice. Yet, if you are currently receiving professional treatment, I am, by no means, suggesting you drop out and become a monk.
I am suggesting that a daily meditation practice of at least 45 minutes may dramatically speed up your recovery.
That said, there are many other things that can be helpful in recovery too. Such as the inspiring women in my 12-step group. But for now, give meditation a try.