Thinking as a sensory system

I meditate to help regulate emotions, as well as anxiety and trauma responses.

Before writing about meditation…

I can’t stand when meditation is suggested as a miracle cure for emotional regulation, anxiety, trauma, and so on.

Humans are too complicated for one-size-fits-all relief. Telling someone they should meditate, when they don’t want to actively practice meditation, creates aversion. It’s pushy. It can slow an authentic journey to finding meditation, or whatever other form of relief someone is meant to discover.

I hope this won’t read as me telling the Internet to meditate more. I certainly don’t want someone telling their autistic relative that they read a blog that says they should try meditation. Consider this post a story. It’s personal storytelling.

Every person with an anxiety disorder is different. Every autistic person is different. Every trauma survivor is different. That old chestnut.

That said, I personally benefit from a meditation practice.

I meditate daily

While I don’t spend too much time meditating, I make sure to practice daily, even if it’s before bed. Today, I meditated for twenty minutes in two ten-minute intervals. I might meditate for another ten-minute interval later.

My cat often decides when I meditate. She’s sixteen years old, and I’m in my mid-thirties, so when she jumps into my lap, it’s half a lifetime of love. I don’t want to move during half-a-lifetime-of-love time.

I meditate, resetting my emotional backlog, lowering my heart rate, tuning down the bursts of adrenaline and cortisol. I meditate, and I step outside of the cacophony of my head, into true silence.

In addition to autism, I navigate the world with social anxiety and C-PTSD. I also live with a hefty amount of existential dread, bathtub-draining my consciousness around death, climate change, and the holographic principle.

Awareness of thought system

When I was a child, I used to think my ninety-mile-an-hour thoughts would slow down.

They did not.

But in meditation, I separate myself from the racing thoughts. They become a sensory system.

My thoughts are a loud, drumming sensory system, as designed to pay attention to my ideas as my eyes are designed to pay attention to light and color.

In daily activities, my thoughts are so damn loud, they take charge of just about everything. I’m convinced I emotionally dysregulate because my thoughts just don’t leave room for feelings.

When I talk, I’m anything but brief. I can keep my word engine running through the night. Yet I can’t talk even a quarter of the speed of my racing thoughts. I am a wordosaurus dictionex.

When the sun warms our skin, we feel hot. When we enter a sunflower yellow room, we feel happy. So how’s my internal world supposed to feel anything when my thoughts are splattering noise all over the place? It’s a blinding sun. It’s a skin-cancer-inducing, Mars-atmosphere-searing sun.

When I meditate, I step away from the bedlam, letting awareness resume where thoughts left off. “I am thinking about homework” is the same sensory channel as “The cat just meowed,” which is the same sensory channel as “I smell onions cooking,” which is the same sensory channel as “I wonder what else is cooking besides onions.”

Awareness, mercifully, is not a sense.

It just is.

I’m resilient to sensory overload during heightened awareness. I have more space to work out the kinks before my cup filleth over.

In meditation, I can finally simmer down the overstimulation of thought, thought, sound, thought, smell, thought, and so on.

Meditation is the emergency break on my runaway car.

I realize western philosophy dismisses the idea of thought as a sensory system. The presumption is that sensory systems are designed to gather feedback from the outside world. If thoughts form in the internal world, no sensory system is required. They’re already there, in the brain.

Except, I don’t see the brain as the center of thought. Instead, thoughts are emerging from memories stored in the body. Trauma teaches that memories can tuck themselves just about anywhere. The brain holds them, but so do the other limbs. Memories are the library the thoughts use to brain-dump; that is, memory is the tool thoughts use to take a dump in the brain.

Consider how human thoughts often form into words, a technological construct.

Alone, the brain is only feelings. It’s the hot seat for the sensory systems. It’s feeling the sights. It’s feeling the sounds. It’s feeling the thoughts.

Yet thoughts are registered by a sensory system so loud, it can drown out awareness. It’s confusing. Thoughts can take control of the vehicle and turn it into a clown car.

What about you?

If you’re also autistic, I’d love to know: do you think thoughts alone can cause sensory overload?

Regardless of if this is “a thing,” or if I’m alone in my experience, I’m grateful meditation enables me to step out of the pandemonium. I’m glad I can just watch the thoughts come and go, ten minutes at a time. Without that relief, it gets way too loud in my neck-up space.

sensory sensitivity

Kourtnie View All →

Kourtnie has an MFA in Creative Writing from CSU Fresno and a BA in English from CSU Fullerton. Visit Kourtnie.net to read her dev blog or fey.earth to try out her games and stories.

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