Meditation For Dummies
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Perhaps you’re so full of negative thoughts and feelings that you find it virtually impossible to concentrate, even in meditation. The voices (or images) in your head keep spewing forth worries, regrets, judgments, and criticism with such volume and velocity that you can barely hear yourself think. Or maybe you can focus on your breath or recite your mantra with some success, but when a particularly compelling story or pattern gets triggered, you’re swept away by the intensity.

Unless you have mental health problems that may contraindicate meditation, a good first suggestion is to keep meditating regularly and see what happens. How do you feel after a few weeks or months of steady practice? Are you making any headway? Do you feel more calm and peaceful? Does your concentration deepen?

If certain patterns persist, however — especially if they interfere with your capacity to do your work or maintain loving, satisfying relationships — you might consider psychotherapy. Some people still feel a little embarrassed or ashamed if they admit they need help with their problems. But look at it this way: People have been consulting medicine men and women, shamans, rabbis, priests, and local elders for as long as human beings have lived together on this planet.

The thing is, psychotherapy (our modern, secular version of wise counsel) comes in many shapes and sizes — as many, in fact, as the professionals who practice it. Without devaluing any particular brand of psychotherapy, you will find a few guidelines for choosing a therapist who can help free you from the limitations of your habitual patterns.

Talk is important, but you need to do more

Even classical Freudian therapy, which consists entirely of talk, aims for the moment when the insights touch a deeper place and trigger an inner-felt shift or emotional release. (Remember the crucial point in the movie Good Will Hunting when Robin Williams tells Matt Damon, “It wasn’t your fault”?) The problem is, talk-only therapy gets there more slowly — and sometimes not at all.

Unless you happen to have a Robin Williams nearby, find a therapist who combines talk with one or more techniques that take you deeper faster, such as hypnotherapy, guided imagery, active imagination, sand play, body-centered therapy, Hakomi, breathwork, focusing, somatic experiencing (SE), or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).

Shop around

If you want the names of appropriate therapists, turn first to friends, family members, or others who share similar interests or values. Call these therapists and spend some time talking with them over the phone. Remember, you have a right to ask them anything you want to know. You may even schedule a session or two with each one before making your decision. After all, you’re better off spending a couple of hundred bucks now on trial runs than discovering in six months or a year that you made a mistake.

Choose the person, not the credentials

Even if a therapist comes highly recommended and the office wall is covered with degrees and certificates, be sure to check this person out first. Does the therapist listen to you carefully and hear what you say? Does she seem emotionally attuned as well as insightful? Do you feel comfortable in her presence? Do you trust this person with your most tender places and difficult issues? In the final analysis, you need to trust your feelings and your intuition on this one.

Find a therapist who meditates

If you have a particular spiritual orientation — or are in the process of developing one — you may want to search out a therapist who comes similarly equipped. If you don’t have a large enough selection to choose among at least find a therapist who meditates. This shouldn’t prove difficult these days, with the burgeoning interest in mindfulness among mental health professionals. Those who combine mindful attention with the skillful application of therapeutic techniques tend to be particularly effective in helping to uproot tenacious core dysfunctional patterns.

For information on the counseling that is offered by phone and Skype to people throughout the world, check out

About This Article

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About the book author:

Stephan Bodian is an internationally known author, psychotherapist, and teacher. He leads regular intensives and retreats and offers spiritual counseling and mentoring to people throughout the world. His bestselling app Mindfulness Meditation (with Mental Workout) has been praised in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

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