Meditation is a practice that activates the PSNS by directing your attention away from worldly struggles. Meditating even for a small amount every day is one of the most powerful ways to work with your PSNS. Since the Primitive brain anger process begins with the perception of some kind of threat, working with your mind to alter your perceptions is the most powerful technique for quieting your primitive brain reaction. Most of what activates your fight-or-flight response is not a matter of life or death. You may feel the threat to your sense of self-identity – but your life doesn’t really depend upon the outcome. With rare exceptions, your habitual thoughts and beliefs that create the experience of anger for you are overreactions to situations in your life. Instead of responding in a way that floods the body with adrenaline, however, you can reframe the experience to make it not only less automatic, but also more accurately reflecting what is really happening.
How to Begin Meditation Practice
Before you begin: First, decide to meditate each day if possible. Next, plan the time, place and duration for your sitting meditation.
Choose a time: Morning is often best because the mind is calmer than it is later in the day. However, the best is the time that you can commit to on a regular basis. If one longer sit isn’t possible, try two shorter ones.
Choose a space: This is no perfect place. If possible, dedicate a space exclusively to your daily sitting. Choose a relatively quiet space where you can leave your cushion (or chair) so that it is always there to return to. You may want to create an alter with a candle, inspiring photos or statues. These are not necessary, but are beneficial if they help to motivate you.
Choose a duration: As long as is comfortable. This is a general guide, not a rule. Even fifteen or twenty minutes will seem an eternity in the beginning, but that impression will change with time. If you sit each day, you will experience noticeable benefits (e.g., less reactivity, more calm) and be able to increase your sitting time.
Every time you sit: Set your intention: It is helpful to recall at the start of each sitting mediation why you are doing it. Remember that your purpose, to become more open and free, will benefit you and those around you.
Set your posture: Alertness is one of the two essential ingredients in every meditation. Sit on a chair, cushion, or kneeling bench as straight and tall as possible. In the beggining, sitting against a wall can help you llearn what a straight back feels like. Around this straight-back position, let the rest of your skeleton and muscles hang freely. Let the hands rest comfortable on your knees or lap. Let the eyes close, bringing the attention inward.
Relax deeply: Openness is the second essential ingredient in every meditation. ONce you feel your spine is erect, let everything else relax, hang loose, and soften. Breathing through the nose, loosen the face, neck, hands and stomach area. You may want to begin at the scalp and move your attention slowly downward, methodically relaxing and softening each part of the body. Please don’t skip the step of relaxing/letting go! Consciously releasing body tension will help you open to whatever arises during your meditation.
Meditation helps you understand your mental Habits by giving you the opportunity to observe them from a neutral vantage point. This is why I have often prescribed meditation to my patients as a way to manage your anger.
When you are first learning to meditate, the mind will wander away from the object of meditation to dwell on some other thought. This will happen again and again. Your job is to gently and repeatedly bring your attention back to your object of meditation, and to do it patiently, without judgment. Sometimes it may seem as if the distracting thoughts are like movie images projecting onto a personal viewing screen in your mind. The ability to simply observe them is evidence that they aren’t you. And the ability to distinguish between the inner observer in you and the chaotic jumble in your mind means you can respond with a reasonable, rational, logical evolved brain. The more you practice meditation, the more you will be able to discriminate between what is real and what is not – between what is truly life-threatening and what is just a habitual over-reaction. And once you begin to see that almost everything that triggers your sympathetic nervous system is merely a habitual over-reaction, you can begin to make different choices.
Meditation is likely to prove challenging in the beginning. However, its benefits absolutely outweigh the required effort. We will return to the subject of meditation and module 11 mindfulness.