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Why you should seriously reconsider mindfulness...

We need all the information to make up our minds and choose the best path for ourselves. Without the ability to see the big picture, we risk making a decision that we may later regret. For that reason, I continue to hammer on about the healthy effects of meditation. To this very day, meditation has been the single best skill I've developed for my mental health. It is truly better than the best benzo.

Having come from a very rough childhood, filled with lots of trauma, a broken home, an alcoholic, abusive father, raised in high crime impoverished neighborhoods, and even being a victim of a hate crime that nearly ended my life, needless to say, I had some mental health issues that needed addressing!

Still, as young men, it's much easier to bury or blatantly ignore those demons and the things we don't want to see in ourselves than address them. Battling depression, anxiety, health anxiety, trauma, and just feeling lost and disconnected, even at odds with the world, it was meditation that freed me from all of those shackles.

It was rather unbelievable to me that something so simple could produce such radical positive changes!

I wanted to shout it from a mountaintop. Within six months of meditating daily, not only was I profoundly less anxious, depressed, hypervigilant, and sleeping better, but I was at peace. I began to feel truly aligned with a path in life. In a way, it was like being reborn.

It was as though I had shed my old skin, some old costume that didn't even fit me nor fully accurately resembled me. What emerged was something free and not at odds with itself or the world. What a relief.

It was like slowly waking from a dream.

Not only that, but I felt this omnipresent love and connection to everyone and everything. The quality of my relationships began to improve, and I became much more creative and lively.

Ironically, it was largely Benzos who stole that from me, for a short period, anyway.

You see, I was utterly blindsided by Benzo withdrawal. After 10 years of dependence and a 40-50mg daily dose in the end, and then dropping overnight 20-30mg (coming down to 20mg daily), it felt like I was sucker punched by Mike Tyson! The horrid withdrawal symptoms, the constant chemically induced fear, the adrenaline, and the physical symptoms were too much for my Zen mind to handle.

Within 48 hours of withdrawal, years of practiced and developed peace and mental clarity had vanished and was replaced by obsessive fear-driven rumination. That alone was so very depressing to me.

Now, while meditation doesn't stand a chance against most acute severe benzo withdrawal, at least not as a fire extinguisher, it does still have its place. I had to learn this the hard way. I learned that how we practice meditation or approach it is critical to success or failure.

For example, when I found myself in benzo withdrawal hell, I had already been meditating for years. I had developed this fantastic ability to gently push all the clouds quickly out of my mind. I could go into a completely profound state of clarity and presence. The thoughts, like clouds that floated across the sky of my mind, were no longer a problem because I didn't identify with them. They had no power over me, no more than any cloud in our real skies.

However, when I tried to go to this place during withdrawal, I was shockingly met with not clarity but a barrage of incessant screaming thoughts, all shooting in on me like daggers and spears!

I was dejected because this one tool that had always served me well suddenly turned against me.

What I learned, however, was that meditation could still be extremely powerful during withdrawal (and even more so after we come off the drug) but that I could no longer enter into that space of consciousness using my old preferred method, which was Zazen, or sitting in meditation and gently removing some of the clouds (thoughts).

I had to return to the basics and rediscover a new entry point, at least for a while. I was also humbled and forced to remember that simply because I had in the past developed the ability to gently push the clouds out of the sky and, therefore, remove most incessant thoughts, that wasn't the true art of the practice.

You see, thoughts are not the problem. We need not remove all thoughts and enter a "no-mind" state. Rather, our goal is to break 'identification' with our thoughts and, instead, become indifferent and allow them to float by. This might sound trivial or insignificant, but it's a profound difference.

If you sit down to meditate and try to have no thoughts, you're doing it wrong, my friends.

That said, it is true that meditation can greatly slow down the mind and remove many, if not all, of the clouds in our mind. But again, that is NOT the entry point. That is NOT the goal or the practice. It's a byproduct, and it's not the most important byproduct.

Ask yourself this. Would you rather have no thoughts but feel indifferent or have some thoughts but feel connected and at peace?

Of course, peace and connectivity are preferred. This is what meditation can bring us: peace, connectivity, clarity, etc.

So, again, thoughts are not the problem; rather, our relationship with and how we seek our identity in those thoughts are the problem. Thoughts are not a problem until we make them a problem.

Furthermore, for reasons I won't go into in this blog, thoughts flow from the mind like some old radio station. This goes on beyond us. We cannot take it personally. Everyone lives with this chatter or incessant radio station playing commercials. And the commercials are usually sad or anxious in nature.

We need not take it personally or seek meaning in everything.

"OMG, why did I just think of a pink elephant? What does it mean?"

It means nothing, just as that chemical-fear-induced intrusive thought, "What if I never heal from benzo withdrawal," means nothing. Because it's not coming from YOU, it's coming from that old radio station in the brain, now amplified and directed by chemical withdrawal.

All thoughts are, therefore, lies. Static. Even the scary ones. Especially the scary ones!

Meditation certainly works in benzo withdrawal and recovery, but one needs to approach it gently and with the right practices—at least initially. Things will get easier thereafter. Our practices or entry points can evolve.

Further, meditation isn't just about meditating for 15 minutes in the morning and having some momentary relief. This may be true when in benzo withdrawal because that chemical fear from withdrawal is ever so present and powerful. However, this, too, will change in time and with practice. No, the true goal of meditation isn't to have some momentary breaks in anxiety, all of which are fleeting. The goal of meditation is a shift in consciousness, presence, emotionality, and clarity.

The goal of meditation is to LIVE in this state of consciousness. We are not trying sometimes to visit this space. We want to reside there! And how wonderful it would be to remain in that space for extended periods. To walk through your day feeling so good, so connected, and so peaceful.

I have thoughts and instructions on how to accomplish this during benzodiazepine withdrawal, but I won't discuss that here, as that's not the purpose of this blog. In this blog, I just wanted to present an argument as to why you should reconsider meditation for your recovery.

Everything we truly are after in life exists on the other side of fear and that incessant stream of negative thoughts that plague us each moment. After all

my years practicing and teaching meditation, I can sincerely tell you that peace, bliss, and connectivity are all characteristics of our natural being, a kind of consciousness we knew as children. And that space of consciousness, which we so desire and miss, exists buried underneath the incessant thoughts. It's buried underneath the fear, worry, sadness, trauma, rumination, etc.

Lastly, I want to tell you that if you intend to keep healthy and happy after Benzos and truly remain off the drug for the rest of your life, the number one thing you can do to facilitate this is learn to meditate daily. That alone can be enough to change it all for you. It doesn't happen overnight. It takes months of dedicated practice to achieve, but you will soon begin to see all of the things I've highlighted in this blog begin to become reality for you.

Emotional regulation, healing from past trauma through clarity, love, and understanding, the end of rumination, and a great decrease in anxiety, depression, insomnia, stress, and OCD all happen as a result of the continuous, disciplined practice of meditation. And it only takes about 20 minutes of our day to accomplish. No money. No need to travel. No fancy equipment, therapy, or supplements.

Nothing helps change our Type-A personality like meditation. And what was best about the practice was that the longer I worked at it, the better it got. Even years into the practice, I discovered deeper states of love, compassion, peace, and unity. My mental health continued to improve, and my mental illness continued to fade away.

If you're interested in learning more, let's have a deeper talk.

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