Meditation is very simple, but understanding it feels counterintuitive sometimes. Some people think it hokey. However, that is because they’re not doing it right or not going deep enough. These people say “I can’t meditate, my mind won’t shut off.” This is one of the most common reactions actually. Every person is unique. We are not diminishing a person’s distaste for meditation. Rather this reveals something significant; why that person is not able to settle their mind. That narrative is worth listening to because it will play a role in helping that person find mental peace.
One actually does not need to shut the mind off. The nature of the mind is to think and run around. Sometimes the mind running round can be quite advantageous; people have solved many problems this way. At the same time, the mind must also be focused to accomplish things. However, when it comes to rumination, perseveration, addiction or delusional thinking, our mind may not be our friend. A significant theme in establishing sound mental health is allowing our mind to be our friend.
A metaphor of the ocean is widely used to describe meditation. Imagine, if you will, the surface of the ocean. The wind (affairs of our daily lives) will always continue to blow and the surface of the ocean will always have waves on the surface. However, our mind and consciousness are more than that. Once we close our eyes (sensory deprivation), breathe more slowly and deeply (lower respiratory rate), we start to mimic the effect of sleep. Our brain waves change and we begin to access a different part of our consciousness. If we hold this technique then we sink deeper and deeper into our consciousness. Eventually we arrive at a calm and still place that is different from the frenetic waves on the surface. Through meditation you can slowly let go of the things you are holding on to. The combination of psychotherapy and meditation is very effective. Through psychotherapy you can re-interpret painful experiences that have made you unhappy. With repeated sessions you can internalize your therapist’s conversations. Finally, through meditation, you can let go of that pain and change yourself for the better.
Mental health is not just about talking about your problems in talk therapy. The waking/conscious mind is just the beginning. The ocean of the unconscious mind lies beneath. Meditation is not exactly sleep. One can say that Meditation is the place between the conscious mind and sleep. They are actually different brain waves. There are 3 basic states of consciousness; wakefulness, REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM (NREM).
There are 4 distinct brain waves: Beta, Alpha, Theta and Delta. Gamma waves (35 Hz and above) are when we are concentrating the most on completing a task, the highest level of wakefulness. Coffee or Adderall XR can take you to Gamma waves. Beta waves (12-35 Hz) you’re awake, alert and taking care of daily activities. Alpha waves (8-12 Hz) help with rest, relaxation and creativity. In alpha waves, you’re not that focused and not thinking too hard. Theta waves (4-8 Hz) is light sleep (NREM1 and NREM2). During deep meditation, the brain functions at 4-7 Hz. You are entering the unconscious mind at 4-7 Hz. This is why a sleep meditation is needed to help you wind down and go to sleep and not Ambien. REM sleep occurs between Theta and Delta; this is when most of our dreams occur. REM sleep also plays a key role in memory consolidation, cognition (thinking) and mood regulation. Delta waves (0.5-4 Hz) are deep dreamless sleep, that’s the deepest sleep (NREM3 aka slow wave sleep SWS). Sleep is divided into 90-minute cycles of REM and NREM sleep; these 90-minute cycles repeat 3-6 times per night. Adults under age 65 should have 7-9 hours of sleep and adults older than 65 should have 6-7 hours of sleep (approximately). Brain waves are measured with an EEG. Psychoactive Chemicals/Medications such as caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and stimulants can affect brain waves. When your intake of these chemicals is too high, too frequent or too close to sleep, your sleep wake balance can be negatively affected. As a result, your consciousness can be negatively affected. National Sleep Foundation, great educational website.
Insomnia or the inability to fall asleep has become very common. People are stuck in Gamma or Beta brain waves and find it difficult to settle into a relaxing sleep. People read, get bored and slowly move to Alpha waves and finally stroll into Theta waves. Some people take a Sleepy Time tea (such as Chamomile or Valerian Root) which slightly sedating, allowing one to relax. Some take Ambien, Lunesta or another benzodiazepine sleep aid which are central nervous system depressants. Some people are addicted or dependent on other central nervous system sedating medications because they’ve been taking them nightly for months or years. Some of these people can become angry when doctors try to taper down their sleeping meds. Some patients are brave, open minded and give the taper down regimens a try. Dr. Datta does prescribe controlled substance meds to help you sleep. However, he can prescribe you a taper down regimen as well. He makes sure that you’re not on too much medication and that you’re not becoming addicted to your prescribed meds. As you may have heard, nowadays doctors must practice some discretion in prescribing these controlled substance meds because they can be addictive. Dr. Datta also teaches a sleep meditation that can help you get from the Gamma or Beta waves of your active mind to Theta waves. This helps people who are just trying to fall asleep as well those who are tapering down on their controlled substance bedtime medications.
These are all different parts of our consciousness. Freudians say, “Dreams are the yellow brick road to the unconscious mind.” Dreams (mostly occur in Deep Theta and REM sleep) can be very abstract. We often don’t attribute any significance to our dreams. We often forget our dreams a few minutes after waking up, unless we write it down. At other times, we are unable to forget certain dreams no matter how hard we try. During sleep we access our unconscious mind and certain abstract message may come up from the deep recesses of our unconscious mind. Psychiatrists and Therapist who practice psychodynamic psychotherapy or psychanalysis (Dr. Datta is not a psychoanalyst) are able to interpret your dreams. We do not have access to most of our mind. There are levels of consciousness we do not have access to. The unconscious mind is part of that inaccessible area. As in the metaphor of outer space, most of the regions of our mind remain unknown. Dr. Datta may be able to interpret your dreams. Please note that it is not an exact science, it is an interpretation. That is why it’s called dream interpretation.
The foundation of hypnosis is rooted in meditation. In order to be hypnotized, you need to put your body in a relaxed state. Rather the patient must allow the doctor/therapist to lead them into a physically, mentally and emotionally relaxed state. Second, allow your mind to slowly sink into a meditative state. Third, allow the doctor/therapist to lead you through a guided mediation or imagery. Forth, you must trust the doctor completely for it to work. For hypnosis to work, the subject must be “suggestible” that means they must complete trust the doctor/therapist. The patient must allow the doctor/therapist to lead them into this vulnerable relaxed state where the patient is open to taking the doctor/therapist word as final. The patient must be willing to let a behavior go or adopt a behavior. The leadership of the doctor/therapist must be as paramount the vulnerability and trust the patient has for the doctor/therapist. Hypnosis is worth mentioning here because it is in the spectrum of consciousness. Dr. Datta is not a hypnotist. Dr. Datta is a meditation teacher.
Dr. Datta is a trained meditation teacher and psychiatrist who is well versed in psychotherapy. His view of Meditation is not only from a course or certifications, but rather it is based on a series of trainings spanning over two decades. For Dr Datta, Meditation has become a way of life. In the Psychotherapy process, Dr. Datta gets to know your psychological and emotional quirks. He can apply these characteristics and create a customized meditation for you. If you do this on a daily basis, it will help you let go of some of the thoughts you have been holding on to. The combination of talk therapy and meditation may be the key to shake these thoughts and feelings for good.
Here’s how the Meditation Process Works:
- Dr. Datta can provide anywhere from one to a series of breathing meditations based on your daily life and stressors.
- Meditation is usually not done in the initial session, but it can be taught if we talk about putting in the time to do so in advance. Most patients want to discuss their life story and arrive at a treatment plan in the 1st session. Dr. Datta gets a chance to hear your life story before he can create a customized meditation for you.
- So most people seek to learn meditation in a subsequent session. However, Meditation can be learned in the first session if you and Dr. Datta plan it into your appointment.
- It is good to plan ahead and let Dr. Datta know that you would like to learn meditation during your subsequent session. Dr. Datta can also suggest it if he thinks it will help you. It may be difficult to squeeze 15-20 minutes of meditation when medication management and psychotherapy is also taking place within the session.
- There are also 5 min or 10min meditations that are done. To make the best use of your time, it’s better to discuss that you will be doing meditation in a subsequent session so that Dr. Datta can plan ahead and manage the time effectively. So that you have the best experience.
- The breathing meditation is based on 3 aspects:
- Deeper and more restful breathing. Once we close our eyes (sensory deprivation), breathe more slowly and deeply (lower respiratory rate), we start to mimic the effect of sleep. Our brain waves change and we begin to access a different part of our consciousness. If we hold this technique then we sink deeper and deeper into our consciousness.
- A rhythm/count is introduced which anchors the breath, basically reminds you to breath deeper than you would otherwise.
- You are guided through a customized meditation or visualization exercise. It is based on your daily life and stressors.
- This is not yoga. However, you can apply these techniques in you your yoga practice.
- Visualization exercises. You may have heard to a boxer/fighter or athlete talking about doing a visualization technique before performing their sport or a feat. Utilizing the imagination or visualization is an important part of meditation. This imagery is important in changing your state of consciousness. Dr. Datta may present different visualization exercises in your meditation process. By silently breathing deeply to a rhythm and visualizing an image can change your consciousness. This has become a lost art form and can be very powerful if reinforced and done on a daily basis. Dr. Datta can customize visualization exercises for your based on your specific needs. It allows for a more significant psychotherapy experience.
- Research has shown that even new meditators can reduce their anger and reactivity. Meditation works well in conjunction with talk therapy to help resolve unconscious conflict. These studies have also shown that those that meditate daily with consistency are able to let go of stubborn ruminations they have been holding on to.
- Meditation has existed for millennia. It has gained mainstream attention partly due to evidence-based scientific research backing its effectiveness.
Dr. Datta has obtained additional training to recommend natural/over the counter/non-allopathic medications to be used alone or with your medications to optimize your medications and diminish side effects. The following conditions have been successfully treated with this method.
- Cannabis Use Disorder
- Impulsivity/Anger Management
I am happy to clarify these methods and share the research as well. I do not endorse nor am I compensated by any pharmaceutical company or private supplement company.