Today I will show you how to change your thoughts with meditation.
I will talk about my experience with one of my meditation students. Jessica.
Jessica’s story teaches us a lot about mind, meditation, and changing thoughts.
By the way, Jessica specifically said that she was happy for me to share her story in hopes of helping others. Thank you so much, Jessica.
How I changed the thoughts of my meditation student, Jessica
Jessica had come to me for private meditation session through my blog. His first of many.
In my sessions, sometimes, just teach meditation. Sometimes I lead people through a meditation technique of your choice. And sometimes I help them to overcome very specific problems.
Jessica’s case was the latter.
We started our session as usual. I asked him about his experience with meditation. He told me that he had been meditating with applications, that he was mostly doing breath meditation, which helped him relax. But in the end, she was disappointed with the apps and wanted more.
I explained to Sarah that she understood how she felt and shared some research that proved it applications do not work.
This is probably the biggest misunderstanding about meditation. Meditating in an app will never work. Partly because, by the very nature of being an app on your phone, apps are distracting (after all, there’s nothing more distracting than a cell phone).
I also told Sarah that if respiratory meditation did not work, I could show her many other forms of meditation that might be more appropriate for her.
Again, this is a common misconception. Many people believe that meditation is always about breathing. In fact, there are many many different types of meditation.
And then I asked the big question. “If you could choose anything in the world, what would you like to get out of our meditation session?”
You see, you can achieve almost anything with meditation. Because meditation gives you a way to edit your mind, to change your thoughts, emotions, memories and beliefs. And taking into account our perception of reality is created by thoughts, emotions, memories and beliefs, as Psychology Today says … well, then meditation is a very important thing, wouldn’t you say?
“There’s one thing,” Jessica said. “I want everyone to stop judging me.”
That was the hammer that hit the nail on the head. By chatting, he had managed to get Jessica to share his biggest cognitive distortion: the idea that everyone he was judging her.
Whenever you experience a thought that includes “all,” “always,” or other words of absoluteness, you can be sure that this is a cognitive distortion. And you should change that.
Cognitive distortions are common ways of thinking that are often negative, always inaccurate, and always harmful. And if you can find one of these guys and change it, it will completely change your perception of reality.
In fact, one of the best things to do with meditation is to find cognitive distortions and change them (I’ll show you how in a moment). That’s something I’ve specialized in online meditation sessions.
Find cognitive distortions to find out what thoughts change
The problem with cognitive distortions (and thoughts in general) is that we believe them. And in fact, Jessica really believed that everyone was judging her.
He was about to finalize the exact meditation he would do with Jessica. I just needed a few more details. And so I asked my favorite question in the world.
“How do you know?” I said.
This question is huge. Honestly. It’s massive. Because to answer this question your mind has to recover evidence of his own erroneous conviction.
“I feel like people’s eyes are looking at me all the time,” Jessica said.
So now we have vital information. I knew that Jessica a) felt judged all the time, b) had memories of people looking at her and c) was very sensitive in the eyes of others.
I explained to Jessica that people did not judge her all the time, that she suffered from cognitive impairment, and that I would like to change her with a specific meditation technique.
I will show you the technique and explain exactly how and why it worked. And you will learn a very powerful way to change your thoughts.
Jessica’s meditation and how she changed her mind
The goal of Jessica’s meditation was to change her cognitive distortion. She had the feeling that everyone was judging her. We had to change that.
You may want to know the following about cognitive impairment so that you can change your mind:
- Your mind will always be used to cognitive distortion by default unless you change it.
- When you show in your mind that your cognitive distortion is wrong, it will change quite quickly
- Changing your thoughts in this way can have a profound effect on your life
- The trick to changing a cognitive distortion is to show your mind all the evidence that opposes your distortion (for Jessica this meant showing her all the time that people didn’t judge her but accepted her).
The meditation I created for Jessica was based on compassion and acceptance. For the technical meditators among us, it was a modified combination of Metta and Karuna.
Part of the process of changing your mind with meditation is knowing which meditation to use. I used compassionate meditations for Jessica because they were in opposition to her problematic thinking that people were judging her.
One special change is that I asked Jessica to use Lotus Mudra. Mudras they are hand positions that use pressure points on the hands to stimulate certain mental states. Lotus mudra is used to open the heart and make us more receptive to love and kindness.
I had Jessica practice Anapanasati (conscious breathing) for five minutes. This was essential to promote your parasympathetic nervous system and balance cortisol and norepinephrine. In the end, that meant she was calm and focused enough to start challenging her cognitive distortion and changing her thoughts.
Here we come to another common mistake that people make with meditation. They believe that the whole point of meditation is to enter this state of relaxation. That is only half the purpose of meditation. Once we have reached that state of calm, we should use meditation to improve our thoughts.
I then asked Jessica to remember a person she was very close to, someone who would only show her love and acceptance. Of course, since it was a meditation session, she didn’t talk, so I don’t know who she thought.
I asked Jessica to visualize this person smiling at her, showing her love and acceptance and saying “I love you and I accept you.” Then I asked him to see this person’s eyes looking at her gently with love and acceptance. The repetition of “love” and “acceptance” was deliberate because these two qualities, love and acceptance, are exactly the opposite of their cognitive distortion (which everyone judges). And soft eyes were also essential because when Jessica thought of the people judging her she always saw them looking at her.
That was the heart of Jessica’s meditation. Then I made her repeat the above, first with people she was close to, then with people she felt neutral with, and then with people she felt she didn’t like. The latter is essential because it trains the mind to see that even in “enemies” there is usually a degree of displeasure and displeasure, rather than total antipathy. In fact, that’s why traditional methods like Metta and Karuna include displays of compassion for people we don’t get along with.
Results: After continued practice, Jessica’s thoughts changed
I asked Jessica to practice her meditation every day for twenty minutes and to do another meditation session in two weeks.
When she returned, I asked Jessica how she was doing. He told me that he was suddenly very aware of his cognitive bias and that he was aware that most people were no judge her at all. He was also much more aware of the people who showed their love and acceptance. Because of this, she felt much safer in social situations.
We continue to meditate together to this day. As is the nature of the mind, there is always work to be done. That’s why I ask my students in each session what kind of thoughts they’ve been experiencing recently, so that we can continually strengthen their minds.
- We all have cognitive distortions
- Cognitive distortions have a significant effect on our perception of reality
- The key is to become aware of our cognitive biases
- Once we are aware of cognitive biases, we can change them by remembering all the evidence that opposes our bias.
- This is best done in a private meditation session with a professional coach
Paul Harrison is a passionate teacher of meditation who believes in genuine and authentic meditation. He has over 15 years of experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and graduated from Staffordshire University.
“My goal is to offer the most authentic meditation sessions so that you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation” – Paul Harrison
#change #thoughts #meditation
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