It takes courage to use new techniques when everyone else is going in a different direction. It takes courage to break out of the old patterns and accept change. More than this though, it takes intuition and independence of thought to see into things clearly enough to realise that there may be more there than we first surmise, especially when we are going on the opinions of others.
Psychiatry is one field where new innovations are being introduced all the time but where conservatism is the rule. This has the advantage that we have time to look carefully into the system and to see if there are any major faults that may be undesirable. We can then eliminate them and create new and better systems. However, we have to be careful that we do not stagnate because of the fear of change. This is an easy trap to fall into.
With the increased knowledge and clinical evidence accumulating, more and more psychiatrists are making breakthroughs into new fields of therapy. Examples of new fields are Transactional Analysis, Jungian therapy, Reich's system of releasing orgone (prana) energy, encounter groups and the use of yoga and meditation. All these systems require certain experiences on the part of the therapist if the therapy is to be successfully transferred to the client (patient).
Carrington and Ephren are psychiatrists who have used meditation on themselves and who have experienced improvements in their own professional accomplishments through the meditative experience. They cite many advantages and disadvantages of meditation based on their experiences and these can stand as a good guide to other people.*1
They cite the following positive effects:
The authors also cite important changes in the relationships one experiences with oneself:
These very positive changes in one's being can be experienced by everyone, no matter whether they are psychiatric patients or not. At the same time these two psychiatrists state that there are certain limitations and possible negative experiences which can come with meditation and these have been observed by them in the therapeutic setting. They apply to all, but especially to the psychiatric patient and those people attempting to learn meditation from inexperienced guides or by themselves:
Thus especially in the therapeutic and hospital situation, meditation must be practised under careful supervision so as to avoid potential dangers. The advantages of meditation, however, far outweigh the disadvantages, and make it a valuable adjunct to most traditional forms of psychiatric therapy.
Once the individual concerned is under way with the technique, it has its own self-regulating mechanisms, because the feelings of well-being and peace are addictive, just as is the taste of good food, or fresh mountain air. Once we achieve the beneficial effects of meditation it is remembered and we strive to repeat and surpass it. When the attempt is slow and steady, success is assured, as is health and peace.
*1. P. Carrington & H.S. Ephren, "Clinical Use of Meditation", 'Curr. Psychiatr. Ther.' 15:.101-108,1975.