The mind is likened to a pond of water. Restless thoughts are like pebbles thrown into the water. They send out a ripple of activity, disturbing the tranquil surface. When the water is constantly agitated with restless thoughts, we cannot see clearly to the bottom of the pond, which represents our inner wisdom. When we stop the restless thoughts, we calm the waters, enabling us to see clearly to the bottom—where our wisest, most enlightened self resides. -Dr. Neal F. Neimark, M.D.James: Meditation calms the waters in my mind like a powerful medication, and unlike some of my psychiatric medications, meditation has no negative side-effects!! That does not mean, however, that someone should stop taking their doctor-prescribed medications. Meditation should be an augmentation of your current psychiatric medical plan, not a replacement. Unless otherwise advised by a medical professional.
We would never recommend a cancer patient stop their medication for a "meditation-only" treatment plan! Yet, I hear some well-meaning Buddhists advise people to stop their medications. That is dangerously short-sighted. I think the confusion stems from confusing the mind with the brain--both are interconnected, and need attention in the psychiatric patient, but should be treated differently. Medications aren't very useful in changing the mind. If so, drug addicts would be enlightened Buddhas!!! The illicit drug changes the brain chemically to give the impression of nirvana-like bliss, but when the drug wears-off, the user is left, once again with his harmful habits and cravings.
Consider this example:
The brain is like a computer, and the mind is like the screen or monitor. The screen/mind, will only project what the computer/brain feeds it. In this example, psychiatric medications wouldn't change the mind's karmic habits anymore than replacing computer screens will change the content being projected by the computer/brain. In the mind of someone with a psychiatric disease, the computer/brain is infected with a "virus" or disease, which spits-out jumbled-up imagery and sound (psychiatric symptoms). Being someone with a psychiatric disease, I know how helpful and vital psychiatric medications are for these medical conditions. However, the medications aren't a cure, there was something missing. I didn't feel like I had a complete treatment plan until I found Buddhism.
This is where meditation is most effective in aiding those with psychiatric conditions. It's the answer to the "What now" question. A lot of people suffering from medical conditions such as bipolar and schizophrenia know that medication alone isn't giving them relief from their suffering. Unfortunately, many believe that there is nothing else that can help them, which is why I often recommend Buddhism to fellow sufferers, so that they can get that extra help to assist their mental stability.
Meditation can be difficult for some patients with psychiatric disorders, especially if you have attention deficit disorder (A.D.D.) or difficulty concentrating. If you're first starting to meditate and find it difficult to concentrate then I recommend chanting meditation. It's also good for meditators without psychiatric disorders, especially on days when they are particularly agitated or distracted. It will help calm the mind while focusing it on something positive and ease distraction. The repetition will clear your mind to enable spiritual insight. An added bonus is that the resonating sound will relax your body to ease the tension and stress from the day built up in your muscles.
I'm not an ordained monk or meditation teacher, but as someone with a psychiatric disorder I've realized that chanting meditation is a great way to meditate on days when your thoughts are simply racing too much.
-i bow to the buddha within all beings-