Spring 2011 – The magnificent human mind is a wonderful thing when it is functioning well. It invents, creates, solves, calculates, considers and reflects. It perceives the world around it in a healthy way.
But at times the mind can be a wild horse, a runaway train or a lazy cow. It can go blank or develop glitches and suddenly the perception of the world is dark and negative. We are accustomed to consider mental health as only being the issue of those who have had a medical diagnosis for one condition or another, but in truth we all have bad days of the mind – times when it will keep you awake all night in an overanxious state or become too stagnant to enjoy the stimulations of the world around.
There is a healthy balance. And there is work to be done in keeping that balance. Meditation helps to calm the mind. As a daily practice it can release a huge amount of unnecessary worry and create a clear thought process to keep you functioning in the world. It’s akin to weeding out a garden or unclogging a tap so that flowers grow and water flows.
“Meditation is often seen as something mysterious to be practised by Buddhist monks and yogis,” says natural healer Geraldine Woessner (www.feelwell.ie/geraldine-woessner). “But I believe it is ordinary people going about the business of life – working and raising kids – who can really benefit from the results of a meditation practice. When we create that ‘gap’ or distance from the drama of life we are no longer caught up in reactivity and we can choose to respond creatively instead.
“Meditation doesn’t require expensive equipment. We can practice it anywhere as our breath is always with us. What it does require is a strong enough desire to practice regularly and be focused and courageous enough to stop the constant ‘doing’ and just be.”
Regular practice appears to be the key to enjoying the benefits of meditation. “There is the persistent misconception that sitting down for meditation will bring immediate stillness and peace of mind,” says Eva Bruha who teaches Mindfulness Meditation in Kerry and beyond (see ad on inside cover). “Stillness will be experienced by someone who is willing to invest time and energy in learning the practice. For that learning process a teacher is very helpful.
“It is not a quick fix and not a way to get rid of problems. It is done by relaxing, focusing and accessing our own innate wisdom and learning to befriend the mind – as crazy as it is at times – and finding peace through letting go of unhelpful attachments.”
There are times when the daily practices of mental health are not enough and some professional assistance is needed. This is where counselling comes in. During times of grief, or when a recurring problem is identified, counselling can be hugely helpful. Psychotherapist Michele O’Brien (www.feelwell.ie/michele-obrien) practices in Killarney and Kenmare and is also trained to give other therapists supervision. “It is important to find a psychotherapist that is accredited and has relevant experience,” says Michele. “Make an appointment for an introductory session, this is your opportunity to find out about their background, experience and training, as well as to see how comfortable you are with them. Trust your instinct. At the end of this meeting if you are not sure, take some time to reflect consider and maybe meet with another counsellor before deciding.”
Counselling is a developing field and there are many different approaches. Geraldine Sheedy of the SouthWest Counselling Centre in Killarney (see ad page 2) says meditation is now being recognised as having a role in counselling. “I think one of the biggest ‘explosions’ onto the therapy world over the past decade – bringing meditation and counselling together – has been the whole area of mindfulness and counselling and how this is developing as a new ‘model’ of counselling. It seems to work very well in the area of depression and anxiety – and also for chronic pain. Ronald Siegal/ Jon Kabat-Zinn are some of the main trailblazers in this area.”
There is no shortage of opportunities in Kerry for reorganising your mental patterns. Courses are now taking place around the county in Mindfulness Meditation and Present Moment Living which will help to bring clarity to your thinking. Counsellors are listed on page 6 of the directory. This spring, clear out some of the clutter and fill your mind with fresh, creative thoughts. Read a book, see a good movie, stimulate your brain a little. Start using your mind instead of allowing it to use you.