Can you meditate?
Meditation has been recommended to me by a variety of health professionals. I’ve read about it and honestly given it my best effort, but I don’t “get” it; I don’t enjoy it, it doesn’t relax me, and I don’t seem to have the benefits all the various studies say should come with regular meditation. If you have aphantasia, what is your experience with meditation? Do you have a particular source that worked for you more than others?
I’ve tried meditation on a few occassions, and I feel that too. Most sources say to just let “thoughts and images” wash over you and to view them objectively as they pass you by. However… I could never get “thoughts and images” to wash over me; when I was meditating, I was not actively thinking of anything. No visuals “washed” over me, and I would just go quiet mentally. Thing is, I also don’t have an internal voice, so it also made meditation harder for me. Or that I thought I wasn’t doing it correctly. Because of this, I just found meditation to be boring; I’d sit in complete mental silence and darkness for thirty seconds, and then give up and stop because I was bored.
However, I do have a coworker that does visualize, and constantly has music “playing in his head” tell me how much meditation helps him. How he can essentially “step out of his mind” and view his thoughts objectively. However, he told me he needed to get into a physical state to view his thoughts objectively like that, and commented I was pretty much already in that state, even while awake and not meditating. I’m always in the present, never in the past or future. So aphants… might not even really need to meditate, if they’re already in the present this much? I suppose it would vary from person to person, but I’ve seen a lot of aphants admit that meditation just doesn’t work for them.
The only type of meditation I find somewhat helpful is (silent) mental chanting before I go to bed. I usually focus on one word or phrase and repeat it to myself to keep my mind from wandering before I go to bed. Sometimes it works in making me fall asleep, sometimes it doesn’t help my racing thoughts. Maybe that isn’t the type of meditation you were thinking of, but that’s what I’ve been doing for a few years now.
I know what you mean, the way people talk about meditation and all the visual stuff I don’t get it either. I don’t get the thoughts and feelings thing with meditation, I can only see complete blackness or the inside of my eyelids. At first I found it frustrating a lot the sources kept saying to step back from them all and let them pass by, while I was sitting there thinking but there is nothing, nor an internal voice (as I don’t have one). Even having to try and say positive sentences bored me after while, so I gave up for a long time thinking I was doing it wrong as I just was in complete mental silence.
I eventally found something about body-scanning, where you focus on all parts of your body and to try and get tense areas to relax. I do get some benefit as it makes it easier for me to notice when I am getting stressed out by something, but I don’t think that is actually meditation. Or if it is, I certainly don’t make time to practice like people talk about.
I tried to get into meditation earlier this year as I was referred to mindfullness classes by a CBT therapist but I always struggled to visualise and ‘see my thoughts as baloons" and could never see the beach that I was meant to be walking on. I had always assumed that I was just poor at meditation until today when I came across Aphantasia for the first time. I have spent the last 3 hours finding out as much as I can and now realise why I cannot visulise the day, or feel the heat and hear the waves of the beach I was meant to be on.
I wonder if those who are unable to benefit from meditation would benefit from a more verbal therapuetic technique, like a mantra.
Meditation may just not be what you think it is (or maybe I am I am just wrong about it). But for what it’s worth, here is my understanding of it. Your brain consists of two halves, the half that experiences, and the half that analyzes what you experience, makes plans, worries, and gets so wrapped up in it’s self that it feels the need to meditate. Meditation is a technique of getting the analytical side of your brain so board that it finally shuts down and lets the experiencing side of your brain take over so you can just experience. No analyzing, not worrying, no planning, and no feed back loops to wrap you up. So, if meditation boars you, good job, you are on the right track.
However, I do believe that trying to visualize your way to meditation is probably a loosing game for an aphantasiac.
The simplest form of meditation I have tried was to focus on a candle flame, if not from a lotus position, then from any comfortable seated pose. A camp fire has much the same effect. Focus your mind on the flames. When ever your mind tries to form thoughts of any kind, gently push them away and focus back on the flame.
If you get a full 10 seconds of true focus the first session, you’re doing great. Now just do it another 100 sessions and you may be getting somewhere. I don’t think it is the fact that you have aphantasia but rather being human that is the problem.
Meditation is just difficult and takes a LOT of practice. Oh, and if you notice levitation, out of body experiences, divine lights, or any other “cool” effect, KNOCK IT OFF AND FOCUS BACK ON THE FLAME. Those effects are just your analytical mind being really cleaver about how it distracts you.