medication / meditation



The casual statement over dinner was not tossed into the centre of the table as a controversial conversation starter. To the one saying the words, it was a matter of fact and as practical as leftovers.

“There’s no way we are meant make it through this life without self-medicating.”

Resistance bubbled up from somewhere deep inside of me.

Wait! That can’t be right. Can it?

And what does she mean by ‘self-medicating”? Does she think, like me, that self-medicating refers to anything that significantly distracts or numbs us to the way things really are? To take the edge off? To help us avoid dealing with the hard emotions and thoughts?

But should we not be able to make it through a day without having to numb ourselves to reality? I pondered this question as I filled my wine glass yet again. Yup.

How do I personally avoid feeling the discomfort of stressful challenges?

I over-plan. It borders on an addiction. Stress can’t get to me if I map out each day with detours around all the potential potholes. Seems reasonable to me except for the hangover-type reactions I have to predicting a smooth route during construction season.



But then, another day and another conversation with someone else resulted in my companion responding to the knowledge that I regularly facilitate “Meditation for Resilient Living” sessions with his own unique take on things.

“So you teach people how to sleep, then!”

Meditation as self-medication?

While sleeping is a common form of self-medication, what an interesting suggestion that a regular practice of sitting meditation could actually be a way to avoid feeling the discomfort of the bumps in the road.

Meditating in a seated position where the bones can be stacked on top of each other and your spine can be long helps with the desire to doze off during a sit but the real work is with sitting with whatever comes up.


Anything and Everything

Instead of avoiding the not-so-fun stuff, sitting is a chance to notice it, feel it, even get royally ticked off that you have to feel something uncomfortable but not have to do anything about it or to fix it.

So done with intention, clear instructions and lots and lots of practice, meditation is the opposite of self-medicating. There is no need for numbing, distracting or avoiding. It is all acceptable.


Now what?

Now what about my attachment to over-planning?  Self-medication?  Probably a proactive kind.  A preemptive attack on stress!

I think that some people are born planners. We are the same people who have not-so-hidden addictions to office supplies especially the ones that assist in keeping us organized. I’m thinking of starting a support group.

As a work in progress, I’ve decided to continue planning because, it reduces my overall stress levels and supports me tremendously in my life’s work.

But, the real work will be in letting go of my aversion to potholes and bumps in the road. I’m going to attempt to be aware of when I reach for my favourite self-medicating organizational tools and ask myself:

What am I avoiding feeling?

If I allowed myself to feel it, what would happen?










Step one is good for now.  I’ll keep you posted on the support group, though.


4 thoughts on “medication / meditation

  1. I too was a great planner. When much younger I was a cub and then a scout. I lived the motto “Be Prepared.” I think I planned because I wanted to avoid the disappointment and self-blame if I forgot something, or if we didn’t have enough time to see and do everything we wanted. I think I planned because I wanted to use my time efficiently and to avoid do-nothing days. I think I planned because I wanted to avoid uncertainty, and the possibility of unwanted surprises that lead to last second changes. Last second changes create even more uncertainty and more possibilities for unwanted surprises and last second changes.

    I am no longer a planner, a consequence of depression that makes it difficult for me to commit to too much because I don’t know how I will be feeling or what I will be able to do tomorrow or next week.

    Through my meditation practice, I have become much more comfortable with uncertainty and spontaneity (doing something with no pre-planning) and I am enjoying living this way. I spend more time doing because I spend less time planning. With no plan I have fewer expectations and hence less disappointment. With less planning I can live in the moment (be mindful) rather than be thinking about what is next on the plan, are we on time, or maybe doing some planning for tomorrow or the next event.

    I have discovered that spontaneous activities are fun, and I have been able to change self-loathing over my mistakes into laughter at my imperfections (ref. Gifts of Imperfection -Brene Brown, Self-Compassion -Kristin Neff). I think that is an important prerequisite to stopping overplanning.

    I definitely don’t see my sitting as self-medicating or avoidant behavior. The same applies to walking meditation, yoga, dog walks, etc.

    I procrastinate on certain things and I am going to apply your two questions to that. What am I avoiding feeling? If I allowed myself to feel it, what would happen?

    I love your blogs Danette!

    • Hi Richard!

      It’s been years since I’ve been ‘in uniform’ as a Brownie and a Girl Guide and, like you, the preparedness training certainly resonated with me and my need for order and planning.

      Your response reminded me that Thomas Moore (in The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life) writes poetically about the ‘gift’ of depression and it seems as if you might share some awareness of that interesting phrase with your revelation that you are now “more comfortable with uncertainty and spontaneity” in light of living with depression.

      And my summer reading lists includes re-reading Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly to remind me how to laugh at my imperfections. Thanks for the reminder.

      I love writing so I truly appreciate that you enjoy the posts.

      Always such a pleasure to hear from you, Richard!

      Be well, happy and at peace.

    • Hi Wendy,

      I am taking this summer off from teaching but this fall, I will continue to hold meditation sessions, usually 7 weeks long each, at a local yoga studio. Here’s the link – . New dates and times for fall sessions will be posted in August. The Series 1 is a great place for beginners to learn about meditation basics.

      Would love to see you there!


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