Are HSPs Different in Our Susceptibility to Meditation?

Darn tootin’. That’s southern cowpoke lingo for “Sure thing.” Not only are we more susceptible to meditation, but also it looks really different for us when we do meditate. Here at the end of August 2022, I wanted to pay homage one more time to “Differential Susceptibility Month” that long psychobabble jargon term. 

Remember that all we mean by Differential Susceptibility is this: Our brains are very susceptible to our environment and what we do with it, especially good things but also stressors. This means we are different from the majority of folks.

We like to think that meditation is a good thing. The science seems to indicate all kinds of good effects come from meditating. But then, why does it seem to be so hard for highly sensitive people to do it? We try one method and it doesn’t work or we lose track. Then we try another method and it actually seems to make us more anxious. 

Sure there are those HSPs who have solid meditation practices that are very effective, but I haven’t found that to be true for most highly sensitive people. I have a hypothesis about why. 

Some of the most popular techniques for meditating are particularly challenging for our reactive brains. Take mindfulness for example. The most common instruction is to empty your mind, to gently release thinking, and to allow each thought to fly away. Well, my HS friends, the thing is, your brain is actually wired to keep thinking, even when you are resting or “meditating”. So you aren’t going to be initially successful at the most popular secular technique.

I have studied and studied this with my own brain and that of hundreds of HSPs, and guess what? While we are all different, we do all have more active brains. So, I have created a few hacks. I taught these in great detail in my seven week HSP Life Re-Design Course with The Shift Network.

Here are a few tips:

1. If you would like to sit quietly in “meditation” or contemplation, have a notepad near you and actually write down the thoughts you have that are important to you. When we start to slow down, that is when the good thoughts tend to pop up because they have space. You don’t have to think a lot about them, but making a note honors your reactive, thinking brain and allows you to return to them later, letting go of the pressure to either remember or forget.

2. Use analysis. You know how you are such a good thinker. You can mull something over and over and over. Well, that is actually a great technique for meditation. Set the stage, choose the topic/question (the more existential the better, but it can also be something more current like (mine for the moment): How do I let go and feel great about my son leaving for college without feeling so bereft for missing him and wanting to be able to support him? (Please know that I’m not alone–lots of HSMoms struggle with this.)

3. Use a mantra. Give your brain a piece of hard candy to suck on. That’s how I think of a mantra. Find something that is supportive and nurturing to you. I use the Serenity Creed or a mantra from Transcendental Meditation or “I am home” or Ho’oponopono or Loving Kindness or… The point being, it doesn’t matter. Just choose something to suck on and use it over and over again. 

Have I inspired your curiosity? I hope so. Let’s try them out. In our Meditation for HSPs Masterclass, we experimented with some of these techniques and and discussed them with Q&A. 

Differential Susceptibility is the GOOD news, as I always say. We are meant to be students of life and teachers of our learnings. As we study new techniques or cool hacks on old standby ideas, we improve our lives and that of those around us. Lifelong learning isn’t just a trite phrase for highly sensitive people: It is our path, and it’s a good one. 

Wondering if you are highly sensitive?

Listen to a short talk on it.