I chose to take a different approach to a discussion post I was asked to complete on Meditation and Relaxation strategies in therapy. I took a personal approach. Below is my experience with “meditation” before I even knew I was meditating. Meditating helped save me from her on multiple occasions. 5 minutes was sometimes all it took. Sometimes…
I have used meditation in my past without even realizing I was doing “meditation”. I suffered from an eating disorder for many years. I used to utilize a “5 minute rule”; this is what I have named the treatment tool in more present time. When I felt the compulsive urge to binge and/or purge, I would sometimes get myself together enough to say “OK. Just give yourself 5 minutes. Just breath for 5 minutes…” Multiple times, deep breathing while trying to calm the thought saved me from my eating disordered thoughts.
Now-a-days, I realize that my “5 minute rule” was a meditation technique. It allowed me to become more aware of the greater world around me and less aware of my compulsion driven mind. The process of meditation stated in the book is almost exactly what I would do:
1. Sit quietly and alone, usually seated on my bedroom floor and between my bed and the wall.
2. Comfortable clothes… usually is the wardrobe of a disordered eater. Yep.
3. My body would be relaxed… actually it was most likely limp. My eyes would be closed.
4. “Breathe through the nostrils and down into the abdomen. Make sure your breathing is regular, slow, and rhythmical.” (p.457). Yep. All of that. Deep breathing; deep breaths that I would hear inhaling through my nose and exhaling fully out of my mouth. My exhale would usually be blown out, slowly, as if I was blowing through a straw. This would calm me and would provide me with a breath to hear to drown out my thoughts.
5. “Dwell on a single…word, phrase, or your breath.” (p.457). I usually would repeat a mantra of sorts. It may have been different in wording from time to time, but it always came with the same underlying idea — “You don’t have to do it”. “It’s okay…it’ll be okay.” “It’s okay…tomorrow is a new day.” Those mantras or just the sound of my breath was my source of concentration.
6. Be passive to distractions. Yep. The only distraction I needed to avoid in this meditation practice was my disordered eating thoughts. In fact, I dubbed the disordered eating thought source myself in the 3rd person. She needed to be ignored. Her thoughts were my distractions. Thats where the previous, number 5, step became so necessary in order to achieve a successful “5-minutes”
7. Practice Regularly… Yep. Unfortunately, I had to do this quite regularly at some points in my struggle. FORTUNATELY though, it worked sometimes! And sometimes avoiding a binge/purge was a HUGE victory.
See, the point and my rule, if you haven’t gotten it yet, was to give myself 5 minutes before I acted in bulimic behaviors. If I could succeed, it was hopeful that I may avoid her that time. If I couldn’t, well… I won’t go into that here.
I have used mindfulness many times during my journey towards recovery. It is amazing what mindful eating can do for an over or binge eater. Being aware and in the here-and-now when you eat provides an entirely different experience then just eating. Noticing every bite, the textures, temperatures, feel, smells, the way it looks and is presenting, the sweetness or savory tastes…
Rather than judging yourself for the food you are eating, just being in the moment and enjoying it provides an eating experience that is much more filling. The experience is filling in the sense that you will likely eat slower this way and allow your brain to register the food you are consuming in the speed in which it does so. This can help an overeater feel full in stomach and in brain to avoid eating too much before its too late. The experience of mindful eating is also filling in the sense that you will be enjoying it more fully with every sense.
A mindful eating exercise is something that could prove so useful in therapy. It is relatively easy. It doesn’t involve any specific tool; just some food of choice and maybe a piece of paper to capture the experience is all the client would need.
Meditation – an extremely valuable and FREE tool to use in therapy. In my opinion, addicts, regardless of their drug of choice, should almost always be treated therapeutically using some level of meditation utilization. Addiction recovery is all about making choices. You can use, or you can not use. If an addict can give themselves just a 5-minute chance to avoid using and reflect on those 5 minutes of sobriety, they could quite possible avoid the urge and walk away sober, too.