I was listening to Dan Harris and his co-author Jeff Warren (Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics) on Joe Rogan’s podcast the other day and they were discussing meditation I have my own subjective experiences with the benefits of meditation on my mental health, which, I’ll try to briefly summarize here: Developing a practice of meditation involves training the mind to pay attention to thoughts as they arise in consciousness. By doing that you find that when it comes to anxiety and depression, often there’s no “there” there. In other words, anxiety can be a reaction to circumstances that don’t have an objective basis in reality. If you pay attention to the anxious feeling, and examine it, you’ll say “oh, it’s not based on facts, therefore, I don’t need to let it consume me.” And you let it go. As you develop a sustained practice of meditating and noticing thoughts as they arise “on the cushion,” you’ll come to see that even when you aren’t meditating you’re starting to notice thoughts and observe them as you move through the world. There’s a thrill realizing that you’re able to respond to thoughts that arise, particularly if your previous experience has been that you react to them without observing them for what they are.
OK so far?
At about the 1 hour 56 minute mark (yes, it’s a long, deep discussion of meditation) Rogan asked about the role of medication as it relates to using meditation to manage the mind. As I understood his line of inquiry he was asking whether or not pharmaceuticals can interfere with the authenticity of the experiences you can have with meditation. I think Rogan, from what I know about him, is skeptical of the efficacy of medication (which I think is understandable given some of the issues with Big Pharma) and advocates for/prefers more natural/organic approaches. I don’t think he’s advocating for people to avoid medication for mental health, he’s kicking the tires on the proposition.
This whole conversation seems relevant right now because I’ve become an evangelist for meditation and it’s ability to help me with my mental health. But I’m convinced of the ability of the right pharmaceuticals taken under the supervision of a medical professional to help people who struggle with mental health. I understand why there’s skepticism because I’ve struggled with finding the right medication and the right dosage before I got it right (again, working with a mental health professional). Warren, who is a meditation teacher with more practice hours than most people, does a great job explaining his experience with mania (he’s recently been diagnosed with a form of bipolar disorder) and how hard it is to suffer with a mental health condition, and that he is considering medication to treat it. It’s not an either/or situation.
At the beginning of this part of the podcast Harris described himself as a maximalist when it comes to treating your mental health. I couldn’t agree more. Use every tool available to you *that works*. Explore what works for you and what doesn’t. Every arrow in the quiver.
If you’re interested you can watch/listen to the whole episode here: