I recently had an appointment with my therapist, and he mentioned that I should try meditation.  I suffer from anxiety and depression, and I was eager to try something different.

He suggested that for a beginner, listening to guided meditation can be helpful.  I found some things on youtube, and decided to give it a try.  However, I noticed that most of the tracks I listened to talked about "imagining your creator,"  "thinking of heaven," etc.  This got me worried that meditation isn't really good for atheists.  I know that I could do it on my own, but I don't really know how.  I know this may sound silly, but I always think that I'm doing it wrong.

I have read many studies that conclude that meditation does work, and I would love to try it, but now I'm skeptical.  Is meditation really effective?  If so, how would you recommend starting meditation for a complete beginner?  Any good tracks you would recommend that are free of bs?

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I have no idea whether it is effective, but you may want to read Sam Harris' remarks on it.  He studied it for years.  I believe that the indication is that our brains are capable of adapting to different ways of thinking in terms of learning how to do things.  Some things benefit us (learning to drive a car) and other do not (freaking out whenever you go out to eat because you had a bad experience and now you expect bad things to happen).   He lists some books at the bottom of his blog that you can pick up as a beginner. Decide for yourself. 

http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/how-to-meditate/

Meditation is simply a technique. It has nothing to do with religion. The problem is many have had to convey the message in religious terminology so that the masses can understand it. I would look into Zen practices. They are simply meditation practices and there is no idea of a god or higher power or anything like that. My personal favorite is Osho. You can google him and find his videos on youtube. 

The research on meditation is pretty interesting.  MRI studies show that it does induce activity in certain areas of the brain, but on the other hand there appears to be some selection bias in a lot of the studies that use it as a treatment method.

Personally, my first exposure to meditation was in the context of a martial arts class. This might be something to consider, as the physical exercise can help with mild forms of depression also. We used Zen meditation techniques (Zazen), but the practice was completely secular:

Sit down (either kneeling or legs crossed) and close your eyes.  Breathe deeply -- inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth.  Focus on your breathing and empty your mind of everything else.  Your first time, it might be helpful to count down from 10 with each breath and start over from the top if you find your mind wandering.  

Once you've mastered the concentration activity above, you can expand the practice to think about a specific question or topic.  Killing the Buddha by Sam Harris might be a stimulating read for you to meditate on. 

 

Hi April,

I use mindfulness meditation and the guided CD I bought, "Mindfulness for Beginners," doesn't have any religious notions. It's coming from a doctor, Jon Kabat Zinn and he's catered it for a very broad audience. I highly recommend using one of his CDs.

Mindfulness involves how we perceive ourselves in time, and how we can pull ourselves out of the present moment, experiencing immediate stimuli with preconceptions. Basically, we make quick, instinctual judgment calls on the world around us; sometimes that's helpful (like for threat assessment), but other times it can stress us out.The idea behind mindfulness meditation is to not put instinctual value on your surroundings, but just to notice what they are, without judgment or making connections to your past experiences. For example, when you hear a train, you paint a picture of what a train looks like in your head, going over the tracks, what the rail barricades look/sound like, etc.

There's one technique he uses which involves food, and I found it very effective. If you've done any creative writing, you might've gone through "the five senses" and how you can describe objects.

For the exercise, pick some fruit, trail mix, or candy--something you can study with your fingers. If you have an M&M, you put the chocolate between your fingers, feel the shell against your fingertips, how hard it is, what color it is, the "m," etc. You put it to your nose and smell it. Put it in your mouth and, without chewing, taste it, feel it against your teach, roll it around on your tongue. Then, when you chew it, notice the sound it makes, how it feels as it passes down your throat and through your body. The idea is to perceive outside stimuli in the moment, then to listen to what your body does with the food.

Personally, meditation revolving around breathing and relaxation has helped me out a lot, and you can even put yourself under (I ended up experiencing a hallucination for a few seconds after meditating for almost half an hour). If you begin the day with a sense of dread, it's a good way to deny attention to those non-constructive thoughts. It can also be a good way to de-stress ("press reset") before going out with friends and family, too.

Any meditation technique that involves M&M's™ has gotta be worth trying.

I second Alejandro's thoughts. Kabat-Zinn is fabulous, scientific, and life-changing. He's recognized the world around for his work. I highly recommend The Mindful Way through Depression by Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal, and Jon Kabat_Zinn. It comes with an accompanying CD with quite a few mindful meditation and simple stretch/yoga routines that I've found to be very good. My husband and I have been using this for almost a year after a being recommended by my sister who had been using it for quite some time. At the times, we were really struggling with a new learning disorder diagnosis for our son and were searching for ways not only to be free of recurrent bouts of depression, but also ways to be better parents. It has changed our lives- we are healthier, happier, and our parenting skills have definitely increased. Give it a try; I think once you find the right fit for your life and your feelings, you'll find meditation to be beneficial.

Meditation should be a matter of “Be still and know thyself” and never “Be still and know that I am your god” as in the book of psalms.
I have been using it for 30 years. It is not a road to enlightenment, just a relaxation technique which can help you to relax and recharge your batteries during the day. You don’t really need whale sounds or to sit in the lotus position. Just find a quiet spot and be silent for 10 minutes. Read up on breathing techniques. Pay no money to anyone.

Here is another psalm to relax to…… It confuses my Christian friends that I like it but the Atheists always get it….ha.

 

PS the whiole point of Meditation is NOT to think of anything or try to imagine anything....just let it all float away......

interesting YouTube video. 3:20And in sin did my mother conceive meWell, yeah, but what does that have to do with me? :)

I enjoy the sound of stuff like that, Gregorian chant, Buddhist chant, etc. It certainly helps me with the Christian stuff that I do not understand Latin and just listen to the sounds. Is that "getting it"? Otherwise I'm not sure what you mean.

Yes, I think you should try meditation - It doesn't have to be spiritual or religious - I think of it as a physical movement of the body, breathing in a way that relaxes the body and mind.  

Give it a shot and be open minded about it - meditation is not 'woo woo' 

its si effective it takes time i suggest looking in to buddhist meditaion or taoist and find things in them that work for you an they usaly suggest somthin peaceful to lisen or peacful to you to an allow your self to find a state of calm or being to have a clear mind but some poeple are to jittery to give it a real try it takes patience an time but the buddhist or taoist have good suggestion good luck

You just found the wrong meditation videos, period.
Meditation isn't religious at all, in any sense. Meditation is separate, a practice that hones your thoughts, trains you to become aware of your own emotions, and actually very healthy. I've been practicing it for years, and I am an atheist. Tip? Don't use guided videos or music, silence is best. If you must use guided music, for sure don't use anything with words, use the sounds of nature, soothing music, buddhist chantras, stuff like that. :)

Nice, there are some good Ambiance radio stations out there, too. I recommend Drone Zone (iTunes, Soma FM). A lot of "womb" sounds and soft white noise.

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