Meditation and Gestalt Therapy

When things come together . . .

I was meditating a few nights ago and my son was listening to an online course in game development. I generally try to meditate after he has gone to bed, but it was quiet and I thought I would give it a go a bit early. As I meditated, I could hear the training video from his room. I am so proud of my son and his willingness to learn! Anyway, my first reaction was that I would have to stop meditating. Then, I decided to see if I could meditate through it. I remembered Jack Kornfield mentioning that he had learned to meditate in a place next to a busy road and how thankful he was for the noise. At the time, this seemed strange to me. Now, I understand.

As I focused on my breath, I noticed the video sound disappeared. It then re-appeared. It seemed to come and go in the same way that my thoughts did – that is, as I focused on my breath, my thoughts and the video receded. As my concentration lapsed, thoughts and the video returned. It was quite insightful. I knew that focusing on my breath could still my thoughts, I hadn’t considered the same for external stimuli. I began contemplating how our minds might be more powerful at excluding than I had formerly considered. I then sat down to continue reading a book by Fritz Perls on Gestalt Therapy.

Fritz was discussing the “object” (foreground) and the background – how our focus moves between the two and how they are rarely integrated. When they are integrated, we are whole (there is a Gestalt). To the extent that the two are not integrated, there is neurosis. I began to consider my meditation insights. I imagined that I might actually be excluding things from the background – if I was doing such effectively, I wouldn’t even consciously know. We exclude things that are painful, induce fear, are overwhelming and for other reasons which might protect our psyche. While our initial efforts might be adaptive, what about when the original negative emotions are gone? Do we re-integrate (open ourselves) to the stimuli, or do we continue to block it? I would suggest that once we learn to ignore something, it doesn’t normally make its way to the foreground short of a traumatic experience.

So, what is next? I am going to explore integration of the background. There are a number of techniques in Gestalt and Mindfulness practice to re-integrate things happening in the here-and-now. I will be exploring these, but the first step is to open oneself to the present moment. This is meditation.