Saturday, October 14, 2006

On Meditation, Psychotherapy and Death Anxiety

My friend and I were talking yesterday, wide-ranging. We were speaking of death terror and the Tibetan Book of the Dead, of Meditation and Psychotherapy. A central issue here was the nature of the terror: was it of physical mortality? Is that which drives us to cloak ourselves in our characterological defensive postures? Or is the terror more Ego driven; do we hide from it in order to deny the meaninglessness of our life experiences?

From the beginning of man and his/her endeavors to make sense of the world, there have been attempts to deny our aloneness through acknowledging a higher Power, be it the Sun or the sun as a representation of that which has ever said “ I AM “. In “The Denial of Death” Becker has shown a courageous light on our historical attempts to appear heroic, to be more than animal, more than mortal. And yet, when presenting his personal solution to our predicament, Becker agrees with all of humanities` strivings; the solution to the terror of finitude is a bowing, a giving-in to That which has made us.

As we spoke, it became clear to us that the philosophy behind psychotherapy and meditation, expressed in metaphor, acknowledges the same central truth. In meditation, each person is given something to concentrate on; a mantra, breathing, etc. When the “heaviness” of their thinking becomes alarming, the person has a safe haven on which to concentrate, thereby becoming attuned to the absence of distress. The same principle is what psychotherapy attempts to teach: in metaphor, the essence of “wellness” is having a picture, a thought, a “lightbulb” that is instantaneously available to us. This “lightbulb” should continually have less of an ideational component as we approach “wellness”. In essence, mental health can best be defined as that mental state that continually attempts to deny energy to thoughts that exist for no reason other than to cause us pain.