Posted by: Jane | December 20, 2007

Meditation, mental illness and the brain

When I first started vlogging on Youtube I made a video series called “Beating Bipolar Step 1-6″

The first video introduces the series and talks about distancing yourself from stressful or mentally ill people in order to therapy yourself without being brought down by other people. It is an older video and the it was made on the weaker of the two laptops we have so the frames and voice are not as smooth as the videos I have made of late. You can watch it here

Beating Bipolar Disorder, Step 1, Distance

I went on to describe in other videos, a number of factors one can micro manage in order to control and remit mental health symptoms.

Some of the critical components are:

Distance

Physical wellness

Lifestyle

Media and entertainment choices

Lighting and environment.

You can even use the *bipolar* aspect of your personality and mood swings to create a better mind-body space for yourself. That’s right you can use the bipolar mood swings to your advantage. I explain how this is done here in this video.

The Tao of Bipolar Disorder

I have repeated myself in several videos. I have gone on to pinpoint specifics such as taking up tai chi and yoga regularly .

I told people to quit smoking, take fish oil, supplements and eat organic food. I told people to drink enough water, get enough sleep, make a routine ritual of personal and private relaxation time. I told people to stay away from toxic and disturbed people because they will never heal you and only drag you down to their level. I told people to experiment with their diet, with sound, lighting and different movement therapies.

These days it seems that a lot of Bipolar people are hip to this stuff. I get correspondence and comments on my videos to the effect of.

“Hi Jane, I do all that stuff you say to do. I take (insert supplements x,y,z) I do yoga, drink water and I quit smoking. I stay away from toxic people, take melatonin and get enough sleep. I am still depressed! I am still manic! I still have anxiety! What I am doing wrong?”

My answer is this. No one specific positive wellness choice is going to banish your mental health problems. I know some people think otherwise. I have seen videos, website and blogs where people say.” Oh I cured myself of bipolar and it turned out I just needed to get X,Y and Z out of my life and Poof! All my troubles went away. One woman on youtube experience was that her hidden gluten allergy caused all her depression and that getting off gluten permanently cured her. No more therapy and drugs. Wonderful! I think that is great.

Do you think if you folks stopped eating all gluten your bipolar would just go away? Maybe it will. She and others like were fortunate that making a dietary change was enough to remit their symptoms.

Most of us are not as lucky. The rubik’s cube of mind-body wellness is bigger than just diet. For some of us diet and nutrition is not enough. If dietary changes do not put your depression, anxiety, mania or other health problems into remission, then your search for a cure may need to shift elsewhere. Nutrition builds a healthy body and helps ward off physical problems which have negative mental health effects. She was lucky that gluten allergy was her issue. For the rest of us, diet and nutrition is but one facet of total wellness and mental health management.

My answer to people that tell me they are doing everything right in terms of mind-body wellness and who still remain symptomatic is, are you meditating?

Meditation was the key element, the Rosetta stone, the master switch. Meditation saved my life. Meditation totally reprogrammed my mind and personality and really made me into a newer and better person than I was.

Unlike some psychiatric medications which cause long term brain damage, meditation rebuilds the brain. It will grow a bigger, denser and stress resistant brain. It heals the delicate structures and cells of the brain, rather than killing them off like Agent Orange or chemotherapy. Meditation is scientifically proven to grow a smarter healthier more elastic brain. It clears the fog and creates stillness of thought and mood.

Here is a video I made about the latest research discoveries in brain science.

Meditation, mental health and brain science

With all things being equal, if you and I have bipolar, and we both do everything right. We have perfect stress management and holistic health. The reason I am cured and you are not is because I changed my brain structure and grew a healthier, more powerful, more focused and more relaxed mind through meditation.

Then I get some people who write to me to say, “Hey Jane, I practice meditation and it does not work. I am still symptomatic.”

I have already shown you folks, that meditation is scientifically proven to rebuild the brain and make a stronger more cognitively and emotionally stable mind.

If you have not received those effects in your meditation practice. Then in all likelihood, you are either:

A: Not meditating enough

B: Not actually meditating, or meditating improperly

I explain all this here in this video

Real meditation versus False meditation

You can hate for me saying so, but I have to be honest with you. I have had a woman roundly castigate me for daring to tell her she might be meditating wrong. She had told me in no uncertain terms, “Well I tried meditation and it did not work”

Meditation is my life’s work. I was able to cure myself of mental illness using a scientifically proven means of changing brain structure permanently. I have been studying this subject all my life.

It is unreasonable expect to sit for 10 minutes a day painting visualizations in your head and expect to permanently beat bipolar. It is not going to happen. By the time all my symptoms had gone into remission I had put over 10,000 hours into meditative practice. In order to get the same effects I did you have to:

A. Learn to meditate properly.

B. Meditate for prolonged periods of time.

In the final analysis, meditation is what healed my mental illness. My depression had gone into remission over a decade ago. In fact almost 12 years ago now.

Until 8 years ago, I still hated myself deep inside and I psychically self injured from time to time. I was still effected by psycho-emotional triggers, anxiety, compulsive behavior and the hurricane in my thoughts and mind remained for some time.

Meditation does not work over night. You have to be patient as you are leveling out and flexing mental muscles and you will experience your symptoms, sometimes intensely. I kept at it and won freedom from suffering. Then my mind was still, my anxiety was gone and I discovered self love. All this I explain in this video.

Eight years of peace.

There you have it. I wish Dr Kay Jamison, who loves looking at CT,MRI and PET brain scans of depressed,bipolar and schizophrenic people, would have a chat with Dr Sarah Lazar and take a look at Dr. Lazar’s PET, fMRI and CT scans of Tibetan Monks and connect the dots. There is this science division separation going on. Dr Kay Jamison never tried meditation to deal with her mental illness. I have read tons of her work. She never tried learning meditation. So she has not tried everything to deal with her manic depression.

After growing up with child abuse and trauma. After 20 years of the most severe and unmanaged Bipolar Disorder symptoms. My brain scan should be a denuded wasteland.

I know that is my brain is not a wasteland. Year by year my brain gets healthier and stronger. I reprogrammed my mind with meditation successfully. It took time a long time to grow a meditation circuit in my brain. It did not however, take a lifetime. In fact, it took five years to get there and another five years just to be sure. Just to be safe.

Considering the fact that when I started this, I did it reluctantly. As I did not want to be here anymore. When you have nothing else to deal with but you. You come face to face with your inner world and you experience your mind and all that it is in it. You either construct a newer better personality matrix out of the primal chaos, or you lose your mind. Having faced the decision to euthanize myself at age 20. I had resolve and will. From having looked down at my own body. I know that that nothing, absolutely nothing I can experience while in this body is the real me. It can not touch your real core. It can obscure your being. Like permanently dark, foggy, rainy night. But deep inside it all. You are still there. You take none of that *stuff* with you when you cross over. If you plan on staying here. You either suffer it or you have to transcend it. Failing that, you have to become one with it.

I will tell you what folks. In all humility ( and confidence ) I would gladly submit myself to PET or fMRI scan to prove this. I would love for Dr Lazar to explain to Dr. Jamison what she is looking at in my brain images. I am guessing there is no evidence of brain damage at all. My brain scan will scan like a Tibetan Monk while I am meditating. I know it.

How many suicidal, depressed or manic Zen, Taoist, Buddhist, or Tibetan nuns or monks have you met?

One of the things I learned in the process of meditating for over ten thousand hours is this.

It does not need to take ten thousand hours, once you learn how to meditate properly and the tricks to stabilizing your mind and emotions.

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Responses

  1. I think you are right in most of what you’re saying about meditation. I think of it as physical therapy for the mind. It takes time, is bloody hard at the beginning, but will get you past a lot of damage.

    Learning to meditate correctly – and correctly for you – is absolutely essential.

  2. “I think of it as physical therapy for the mind.”

    That is a great way to think of it.

  3. i saw your site. i think you “get it” about bipolar. i have been in aa for 14 years andf i am tires of my depression. the aa meetings and the fellowship help my spirit but for the most part no matter how hard i try i end of symptomatic.

    it is time that i use my imagination to heal my depression. i have to get started on meditation, i believe what you say about it 100%. i really just have to know where to start. i will check out your videos

  4. Jane,
    Like most people giving you due respect. Amazing :-)

    I also had a loving myself, unity experience from, what I call, acceptance meditation. I was one with the universe and ‘I’ disappeared – what a relief!

    However I wanted to ask you on your thoughts about Qigong induced psychosis (or if you want to call it Kundalini awakening or other culture-specific name). I know it does happen that meditation can bring on psychotic episodes, or cause some mental disturbance. Has it ever happend to you? Did you work through it? Why do you think it happens?

    My thoughts are that sometimes the goal in meditation becomes some transcendental experience and things go askew for some folks. On every buddhist site they warn that people with serious mental health issues should not meditate without supervision. But can you really prevent that from happening even with a teacher?

    Now that we are all so into meditation and there is not need to convince anyone of its effiacy, thanks to Jon Kabat and others, isn’t it time to address the shadow issues of sitting in the lotus position?

    Would love to hear your thougths on that,

    A.x

  5. Hello Aleks,

    Thanks for stopping by. I will try to answer you as best as I can.

    Firstly, a heartfelt congratulations and nod for your meditaiton achievement.

    I am not sure of any shadowy issues involving the lotus position other than some basic common sense. Most of us Westerners that embark on meditation are not used to a culture of squatting or sitting on the ground. Lotus is fine in limited doses for the young and stretched out. What I find ridiculous and untrue is that being able to sit in full lotus is part of, or a requirement of deep meditation states.

    The idea that the lotus is a superior base from which to meditate extends only to the point where you suffer poor blood circulation and tissue compression or stretching. When that occurs you are damaging your body, not making it more healthy and integrated. The idea that it is necessary or that the meditator is not getting the most out of meditation if not in said position is just bullshit and silly and counter productive to real progress.

    As far as people becoming unglued, delusional, manic or psychotic when practicing meditation. I think meditation can unwind a person that does not have any mental health history never mind the deeply disturbed or unwell. Personality and self image are often based on ego constructs. Meditation can break you. You come face to face with maya and your own inner world. You never know how a person’s mind will respond under contemplative or awareness trainings.

    As far as the meditation sickness. My thoughts are this. If a practitioner genuinely reproduces an effective technique that involved energy work, there is always the potential for a little mania to flat out psychotic behavior.

    There could be several reasons. Guided or unguided, tutored or on one’s own. If you use a yoga technique, a chi gung technique or a method for moving your chi/ki/prana/energy/intent/awareness you will effect your body, your mind and your emotions no doubt about it.

    Part of what happens is this. When energy starts moving around in a person or a person gains a new or heightened awareness of energy flows inside them or around them in space, how they act and react to that depends on the content of their mind.

    For myself, I have spent more time in solitary practice in extended sessions, than in a group setting or under supervision. As a result it took me awhile to recognize the signs and symptoms. By the time I was sophisticated enough to be able to realistically know for sure one way or the other, it was clear that I had suffered from mild to major forms of it over and over. The net result was that it only fed the darker parts of my personality matrix. It derailed me from genuine advancement and distracted me with the false promise of genuine power that had no healthy function.

    To give you an example. I once believed that after an extended session of concentration practice, where I had been trying to move energy through my body and mind in order to move objects I became positive that I had reached a point where I could rapidly expand my energy and basically blow things up if I stared at them too long. I became fascinated by the potential and I genuinely tried, practiced, speeding up the core mass of an object, striking it with a psychic chi bullet at the molecular level causing it vibrate apart. I became so scared I could do it, I could not leave the house for awhile. I could not focus on objects for more than a few seconds. I dared not look at people or even think about them. The non delusional, factual reality was, I never had any such ability but it made me really intense and made me feel like I was exploding inside.

    That is just one example but there are many more that involved powerful internal sensations and awareness states that made me basically crazy and delusional.

  6. Best wishes Todd, thanks for stopping by.

  7. Hi Jane,
    I am a full believer and recent practitioner of Tibetan Tantric meditation.

    There’s a lot of mental illness in my family, including schizophrenia, and quite serious suicide attempts…. Long hospitals stays, loads of medication…..

    What I would like to understand better about your story is HOW did you go about doing what you did. Where did you get the resources to undertake your journey. Did someone support you? What is your recommendation for someone with minimal funding? What about someone, like say, my brother, who spent years in hospitals, and is currently heavily medicated and, while living in state housing, deeply tied to our mother, who does what she can, but I wonder about getting out of the “trigger” environment. How realistic is it for someone like him to get out of that environment and start this process. He has had fully blown psychotic episodes involving the police tasering him and threatening incarceration.

    So while I agree, and I’d like nothing more to see the people I love embark on a journey of meditation and self-healing (a path I am on), I wonder about safety issues. It’s purely practical,, and could be life-threatening for some severely mentally ill people to go through the transition of going off meds, and embarking on the long and bumpy journey of healing through meditation.

    Another question: How is it that you were able to meditate successfully without the guidance of a meditation master, or a community of any kind. I am very interested and would like to know. Where exactly did you go to live in isolation? How did you learn to meditate properly without the support of an expert? It seems to me that the prescription to go off somewhere and meditate is an impractical and irresponsible one. I think most people need the more support in this than just themselves.

    I think it would be extremely difficult if not impossible for most people to learn meditation by themselves. I’ve been thinking about it for many years, but it was only when I went to a Tibetan Buddhist temple with a qualified and compassionate Lama, that I was able to begin my journey. I can read about these things. I practice yoga. But to have a source of strength, and the true blessing of a Lama is incomparable. If I begin to doubt what I’m doing, the Lama is there at our next meeting, and I am reassured.

    Meditation is truly profound. But how realistic is it for a mentally ill person, in the throws of illness, to embark on this journey. Where is the will there. Especially when, at the root of all mental illness, is a total loss of faith in the self, or in anything at all. Mental illness is grasping at life daily. Where do the resources come from to embark on this journey in a severely ill person, pinned down by illness.

    Could you provide a step by step? Exactly where did you go? What did you do? Who supported you? Did you receive SSI? I am sincerely interested in all of these specifics, if you don’t mind.

    Many Thanks.

  8. hi there, thanks for stopping by.

    you have asked a lot of good questions.

    most of your answers already exist on this blog or in my video content on youtube.

    In a nutshell, I have been involved with meditation in some form or another for 20 years and I learned there is more than one way to do these things.

    I made several extensive talks about meditation already.

    What about someone, like say, my brother, who spent years in hospitals, and is currently heavily medicated and, while living in state housing, deeply tied to our mother, who does what she can, but I wonder about getting out of the “trigger” environment. How realistic is it for someone like him to get out of that environment and start this process. He has had fully blown psychotic episodes involving the police tasering him and threatening incarceration.

    Your brother is mostly likely not capable of doing this work. He can’t be helped by this method at this phase in his life. I wish I could say otherwise but without having met him, looked him in the eye and ascertained how desperate his is to change, there is no way of knowing for sure that he is or is not capable of this work.

    I began some of this stuff within days of my last suicide attempt. Most of it requires you can get a source of income on your own.

    As for as how I occupied myself Ive answered that elsewhere

    I don’t like to say there is no hope, but there probably is not much.

    you have to take 100% responsibility for everything and every moment in your life to begin.

    you have to want to change

    you have to serious about doing whatever it takes

    the resources for this journey must come from within

  9. Just want to say thank you for making you website.

    I have struggled with Bipolar for nearly 30 years. I have got much balance in my life these days but something has been missing. Reading your site has helped me to see that I must resume mediating and not give up so easily. Maybe I can take some instruction too.

    Thanks again for sharing your truths.

  10. Thanks for stopping by and sharing Jo. You are most welcome. I have always felt that those that progress in meditation tend to be those that feel called to it. Best wishes to you in your ongoing recovery.

  11. too much focus on meditation its not going to be easy whatever you do how can you expect to solve complex mental health problems in a short space of time we live in aworld that is not suitable for everyone bourgeious ideology is at war with its own citizens is it surprising your mind collapsed your governmen t is at war with you we need a more general look at the causes of mental disturbance move away from yourself away from egotism join the communist party read lenin stop watching television stop escaping into yogic trances the world is in a bad state when the roofs leaking is it any wonder you get wet there is nothing abnormal about mental illness its a normal response to an insane bourgeious capitalist world i am onmy own ive got rid of my famiy that gives me a good chance of making a complete recovery who needs abusers? america itself is a world ab user its leadership has driv en its own people loony it doesnt care about the poor and its position as number on e bullyboy is well known imglad its economy is faltering itwas built on slav ery and on the backs of 60 million war dead inthe last world war so yes deal with your demons but remember who put them there in the first place jane you deserve to be honoured never sell out keep that anger burning bright hull yorkshire england

  12. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting Elijah, take care for now

  13. With regards to quitting smoking, I was kind of hoping that quitting smoking would be much more tolerable (easier) after I practiced meditation for a few months. Is it likely that my one-pack-a-day habit will largely hinder my meditation efforts as I gain my “meditation legs”?

    I know this question can’t be answered with any level of certainty and depends on the individual, so any old answer will do. :)

  14. Here is my answer, I apologize for the wait, I hope it is worth it. :)

    Meditation, drug effects and stillness.

  15. Jane i have some mental problems like really bad anxiety and other slight psychosis like problems. the medication aint doin it and ive retreated towards meditation. thers times where i meditate for over hour and half and all i get when i wake up outa it is diziness and the feeling like im spaced out, then 5 min later im bak to my normal anxiety like state. im convinced meditation will help me because my dad had similiar problems and he went like ALL the way in meditation he says to like another world and now hes strait and been for 30 years. jane wat kinda scares me and discourages me is that u sayd it took u FIVE years to have the meditation kick in then FIVE more to be safe. i dont have that kinda time i just turned 20 and i hope i cant meditate this problem of within way shorter time. to do this i have to meditate like crazy but im down..


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