Meditation is another helpful adjunct to psychotherapy and analysis. Jung himself meditated in order to contain the powerful affects that were constellated by his confrontation with the unconscious. I have practiced one form or another of meditation since 1973, a year before I became licensed as a psychologist and five years before i began my first Jungian analysis.
The research on meditation is compelling. Herbert Benson, a Harvard-based cardiologist, created a non-spiritual form of Transcendental Meditation that he called the Relaxation Response for patients suffering from hypertension and anxiety to use along with or in lieu of medication. He found that the practice of the Relaxation Response after three weeks or so was very effective in reducing symptoms and creating a calmer experience for the meditators. His findings have been replicated at the University of Pennsylvania and many other settings over the years. The findings for the beneficial effects of meditation are about as robust as those for exercise.
In addition to Transcendental Meditation or the Relaxation Response, there are other forms of meditation. Most of them are connected with ancient spiritual traditions, such as Zen Buddhism and Kabbalah. I have often recommended to patients and analysands the book How to Meditate: A Guide to Self Discovery, by Lawrence LeShan. Le Shan, a clinical psychologist and long-practicing psychotherapist, has set forth a simple, lucid, and unbiased guide to meditation in its splendid variety.
Meditation can be practiced in its own right or as part of a containing spiritual tradition. In a future blog post I will discuss the role that spirituality plays in a depth psychological approach.