confused thoughts

 

This meditation may help develop awareness and organization of thoughts. Anxiety and depression often involve overwhelming thoughts, confusion and/or a sense of disinterest. This meditation has the potential to help you get a handle on the appearance and movement of thoughts in the mind. The purpose is not to override all thinking in your daily life. Instead, it provides another way of noticing your thoughts. This meditation draws from the labeling meditations developed by Shinzen Young and other insight meditation teachers.

golden retriever resting

 

This guided meditation helps you develop awareness of sensations in the body.  Anxiety and depression often involve losing contact with the body and using this meditation may help you regain a connection.  You will also develop a way of noticing physical phenomena as they arise. This meditation draws its influence from the labeling and body scan approaches developed by Shinzen Young and Richard Miller.

 

animal collage

 

Tibetan meditation practices often involve the detailed imagining of a teacher (Guru, mentor, role model) or deity (religious icon) seated in front of and sending light, energy or power to the meditator. These types of meditation are often part of more advanced practices used by those with some mastery in concentration, focus and stability.  

My therapeutic use of meditation involves re-working practices from the Buddhist tradition to make them more effective for those struggling with mental health issues. Joe Loizzo asserted in “Sustainable Happiness” his Western psychologically focused re-imagining of Tibetan Meditation, that a meditator may picture in place of a deity or teacher, a human mentor with whom they do not have a complicated relationship. In my psychotherapy practice I notice that people find it difficult to relate to human beings in uncomplicated ways if they have suffered abuse.  Sometimes clients couldn’t name anyone that they admired or would choose people who represented complications in their lives. If I look for alternatives to using a human role model within Tibetan Buddhism, I’d find the use of a Buddha or deity figure in its place. However, Westerners may not relate to this imagery. Instead of a deity or human role model, I’ve opted to work with shapes, colors of light, and healing animals. In other contexts, one may refer to these animals as spirit animals, power animals or totems. Those who struggle to cope with people and who have suffered abuse often can relate to an animal or pet as something for which they feel uncomplicated love and admiration.

I’ve taken deity meditation, used animal imagery and applied it to loving-kindness (metta) meditation. I’ve included written instructions for this meditation below. Having clients imagine an animal enables them to access a compassionate response. Rather than having the deity or in this case animal impart the healing light, I use the meditator as the source of light or energy revealing themselves as powerful and capable of healing and compassion. The meditator sends light to the animal and not the other way around. It starts with picturing a small light at the heart which expands into the body and moves outside of the body. I use the mental picture of a sphere of light around the body of both animal and meditator to help them relate to space around themselves. The inner light works with the child-like self (inner child) and difficult thoughts and emotions generated from within. The meditator recites the loving-kindness phrases (May they be peaceful. May they be happy. May they be free from suffering) to the animal first and then themselves. This order of events helps them to build confidence and accept self-compassion. By having the meditator visualize a healing animal, the energy of the compassion for another being becomes a jumping off point to self-compassion. I often find clients struggle to have compassion for themselves but are able to give compassion to another being. This helps the client get the hang of the warm compassionate feeling and generate if for themselves later in the meditation. I sometimes discuss this practice with the client as filling the coffers of compassion. I explain that it is taxing to only give compassion to others when you do not give it to yourself. With kids I present it as a gas tank in a car that needs refueling. I discuss this use of light more in-depth in a blog article entitled “The Book of Living.”

Through the use of light and animal imagery combined with loving-kindness meditation phrases, clients were able to generate self-compassion. I have found that clients walk away from a session with the confidence to use any part of the visualization when noticing anxiety in their daily lives. Post-meditation client’s reported feelings of calm and an ability to tackle their problems. Try the steps of the meditation below.

Meditation practice experiment:

Note: Relative calm is helpful for this meditation, therefore postural yoga and deep breathing exercises will help prior to meditation.

    1. Picture a small orb or sphere of colored light emerging from space floating in front of you and from that light emerges the healing animal. Take a moment to imagine the animal in great detail. Make eye contact with the image.

 

    1. Recite (to self) the phrases of compassion to the animal: “May they (you or animal name) be peaceful. May they be happy. May they be free from suffering.”

 

    1. During the recitation, picture a small circle of light forming at the heart and direct a beam of light to the heart of the healing animal.

 

    1. As you continue to recite and send light, imagine the animal’s body filling with the bright light.

 

    1. Picture the light expanding outside of the animal’s body forming a sphere of bright light around the animal. Imagine the animal acknowledges you by making meaningful eye contact. Pause with this image for a period.

 

    1. Stop or let the reciting of the phrase dissolve into the heart of the animal.

 

    1. Imagine the animal dissolving into the sphere of light and it compressing into a smaller orb.

 

    1. Visualize the orb rising above the crown of the head and entering the body moving inside through the face, neck and resting at the heart. Pause.

 

    1. Recite (to self) the self-compassion phrase: “May I be peaceful. May I be happy. May I be free from suffering.”

 

    1. While reciting the phrases imagine the circle of light at the heart grow, spreading from the heart into the neck and head, down through the torso, legs and feet and into the arms hands and fingers.

 

    1. Allow the light to spread outside of the body forming a sphere of light around it and with each phrase repetitions allow the sphere of light to continue to grow. Pause while reciting and visualizing.

 

    1. Let the phrase repetition cease and pause in the light.
      Note: The light of the sphere protects one from external triggers, difficult people and situations. The inner light protects one from difficult thoughts and emotions coming from within.

 

    1. Allow the light of the sphere move closer to the body until it is just in the body. Let the light drain from the top of the head down to the heart and the bottom of the feet up to the heart into a small circle of light.

 

  1. Imagine the small circle of light absorbs into the heart. Rest and meditate as long as you’d like.

 

Resources of interest and References:
Relevant blog articles from this site: Role Modeling Imagery Practice, The Human Shaped Bubble, Healing Mentor / Role Modeling Meditation,
Sustainable Happiness: The Mind Science of Well-Being, Altruism, and Inspiration – Joe Loizzo
Video: Joe Loizzo on the Neuropsychology of Sustainable Happiness

mirror image mountain in lake

 

In this guided meditation I’ve attempted to simplify the process of entering a dream-like body that exhibits the qualities of flexibility and openness. This meditative practice draws its inspiration from Tibetan Buddhist tantric practices and the work of Dr. Joe Loizzo. This Meditation is a transformative practice which gives the meditator a means to relieve the stress-reactive body-mind and give one a taste of a semi-transparent body-mind. In this scenario, the world transforms as well, and the intersection between body and world becomes less defined.

In some form or another within Tibetan Buddhist traditions, this entry into the dream body takes place during the deity or healing mentor practice, generally before meeting the mentor. This transformation is more or less elaborate depending on the tradition, teacher or practice. This dissolving of the conventional body and entry into the dream body and dream world allow for optimal benefit and connection with the deity/healing mentor and therefore the healing process. I believe the transformation process in and of itself is useful to allow the meditator to feel more generally calm and empowered. I’ve explored more fully the practice of healing mentor meditation and entry to the dream body in other articles referenced below.

I began the meditation with deep breathing. If you’d like a more challenging practice please review my “Deep Breathing Visualization for Profound Support” to use as a way to visualize the breathing process in this exercise. I then used a body scan based on the BodySensing work of Dr. Richard Miller to thoroughly ground the meditator before dissolving the ordinary body and the world. The grounding body scan bolsters the transformation into the dream body helping the meditator make sense of the interaction between body and world or space.

This body scan lays the groundwork for a traditionally inspired Tibetan transformation of the body’s material qualities (flesh and bones) into a permeable state. This grounding provides an opportunity for the meditator to settle the nervous system. The ordinary appearance of the World transforms as well, and the meditator moves through the stages of light from day to night and into dawn. The meditator is then guided to reconstitute the ordinary body and the world and to re-emerge in the waking world. The meditation includes several pauses, but it may be useful to hit pause at points in the meditation that you’d like to explore more.

If at any point during the meditation you feel like you cannot continue stop, take some deep breaths, feel your body on the ground and reorient to the space around you.

Articles of Interest:
Role Modeling Imagery Practice
The Human Shaped Bubble
The Book of Living
Deep Breathing Visualization for Profound Support

open field

 

A meditation to help you let go and access deep acceptance. The meditation in the player below guides you from breath to body and ultimately leads you to an open field of awareness.  Please read my blog article on mindfulness of mind for an explanation of open field types of meditation.

 

 

Below is the second video in a series of breath visualization videos I have created. This particular video explores alternate nostril breathing with a visualization of the wind channels and simple arm movement. Please review my prior deep breathing practice article and video here for more information on deep breathing and to gain comfort with the preliminary practice.  In this practice, the practitioner shifts arms between breaths as a way to further sharpen concentration and gain greater access to the left and right hemispheres of the brain.  In the Indian traditions, a mudra with the right hand is formed over both nostrils however, I draw my inspiration from Tibetan teachers and use alternating hands because I believe it engages the practitioner more fully.  Included in this video is a visualization of air or “wind” moving through the channels by taking it (air) into one nostril and expelling it out the other. I have provided written instructions for the practice below the video:

Alternate Nostril Breathing Visualization for Profound Support

Instructions (refer to the animated video above):

To begin this practice find a comfortable seated position on a cushion on the floor or in a chair.  Tilt the chin slightly forward to allow for space in the back of the neck and the direct flow of air from the lower belly to the top of the head.

Imagine or visualize (eyes opened or closed) three straws (channels) running through the center of the body lengthwise.  The straw (channel) beginning at the right nostril is red and the straw beginning at the left nostril is white (see image above for reference).  These channels begin at the opening of the nostril and travel up towards the crown of the head where they bend or curve downward to pass by the nose and end below the navel in the lower belly.  These channels attach to each other in the lower belly and are intersected by a wider dark blue-black straw (central channel) that runs from the lower belly to the crown of the head.

Begin by taking a nice deep breath in and expelling air completely through the nostrils.  Note: It is recommended that you gain proficiency in the deep breathing through both nostrils visualization practice here

While expelling the air on a count of 8, fluidly and slowly following the count move the arms towards the center of the body with the left elbow forming a right angle and the right elbow resting on the palm of the left hand.  The right index finger is pointed and pressed against the left nostril to block the passage of air.  

Breathe in through the right nostril on an even count of 8 (8-second count if possible. If not, adjust the count to suit your abilities)

Hold the in breath for 4 counts (2 counts if 4 is too long) and while holding fluidly separate the arms and move them back towards the center of the body this time with the left elbow resting on the right arm.  The left index finger will end up pushing the right nostril closed.

Breathe out of the left nostril for 8 counts.

Hold the out breath for four counts.

Breathe in through the left nostril for 8 counts. (continue pushing the right nostril closed)

Hold the in breath for 4 counts and while holding fluidly separate the arms and move them back towards the center of the body this time with the right elbow resting in the palm of the left hand.  The right index finger will end up pushing the left nostril closed.

Breath out of the right nostril for 8 counts.

Hold the out breath for 4 counts.

Breathe in through the right nostril for an even count of 8.  

Hold for 4 counts and switch sides breathing in through the left.

Repeat 10x or for several minutes if you’d like.

Complete this practice by performing three deep breaths in and out of both nostrils to a steady count of 8 by visualizing the air coming through the two straw-like channels situated at the opening of the nostrils.  The air continues moving up the channel to the top of the head where they turn through the bend and make their way to the lower belly where they meet the central dark blue channel. Hold the in breath for 4 steady counts and imagine the air transferring into the central dark blue channel and moving up to exit through the top of the head in 8 counts. Hold the exhaled breath for four counts and begin the in breath cycle again.

After completing 3 deep breaths return to your natural breath rhythm for a minute or more or begin your meditation practice.  

Resources of interest:

Robert Thurman

Yogi Acharya Lama Gursam

winding road

 

The mind is an endless landscape
upon which trees, mountains, valleys, and waters grow and dissolve,
upon which birth and death unfold.
Go cruising!

I am jumping ahead a little bit through the Four Foundations (Establishments) of Mindfulness (Body (breath), Feelings, Mind, and Dharma) and addressing “mindfulness of mind”.  I am writing this as my understanding of a lecture at the Nalanda Institute given by Sonia Sequeira and Joe Loizzo. I am also using it as a launching point to come to terms with observations of my own meditation practice through the years.

When focusing on the breath in mindfulness of breathing or doing any other form of one-pointed concentration (shamata) meditation we are focusing on one element that helps to calm the mind and is relatively simple to do.  I say simple knowing that everyone has a different point of entry into meditation, and we all have our strengths and challenges with its practice.  After working with the breath, we practice moving to concentrating on the body.  The practice of concentrating on the body gets trickier for some because the body is a big thing that is harder to pinpoint.  The body has many elements and takes us to the global or universal aspects of what it means to inhabit a body.  The body isn’t just various parts thrown together; it extends beyond solid flesh and bones.  It contains space, and it also inhabits space.  It is the space in front, behind, around, above and below. It also contains the same stuff inside of it that is outside.  The boundaries of the body are harder to discern, so when we meditate on the entire body, we are taking that one-pointed concentration and learning to expand. We are going from a more narrow focus to a much wider one.

The same follows with mindfulness of mind as this is another step in the widening of our concentration. It is an attempt to come to terms with the contents of the mind.  How do we come to terms with something so difficult to grasp?  We don’t.  Instead, we see it as a process or as something that moves and changes.  The mind isn’t the contents of the mind, but its vast openness.  Observing it involves relaxing into the limitlessness of the mind.  The Tibetan’s see it as an open sky where weather comes and goes.  The weather, in this case, are the mental phenomena including thoughts and sensations that come and go.  When we observe the mind, we are using the mind to turn back in on itself, and this sometimes creates a feeling of disorientation and futility if we attempt to grasp it.  This disorienting feeling clues us into the ineffable nature of things.  We are using the same ability to observe the mind as we do when we gather our attention from distraction and return it to the breath. The same observational skills allow us to sit back and watch the display of the mind with steadiness and openness.

At times, this observation of the mind may appear to be similar to dissociation. In the case of meditation we observe, but we do not feel disembodied or removed from reality. We are diving directly into reality.  We are balancing between observing and dwelling within.  As Sonia Sequeira stated in the Nalanda Institute lecture, we are not trying to become a spiritually intangible being through meditative states.  She added that we attach enough to care and dwell in the world but detach enough to feel compassion and understand that moments are ever changing.  As Joe Loizzo added, we are practicing freedom from the content of the mind, noting that the content of the mind isn’t what is real.

Practice:

Imagine you are on a roller coaster. While imagining this observe thoughts and sensations as you go through each curve, climb, loop and drop trying to find a balance between experiencing and observing.

What did you notice?

In the future, I will present an audio guided practice to help you with mindfulness of mind practice.

Resources of interest:

Sustainable Happiness: The Mind Science of Well-Being, Altruism, and Inspiration – Joe Loizzo

deep breathing visualization

 

 

NOTE:  I have realized that the channels are reversed on this image.  The red channel should be on the right side of the body.  I will fix this at some point and replace images and videos.  

I am working on a series of meditation visualization videos depicting breathing exercises.  This particular video deals with deep breathing.  In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, these practices are referred to as Tsa Lung, Tsa meaning channels and Lung meaning wind or wind-energy.  The channels depicted are not part of the physical anatomy, rather they exist energetically.  I believe that having the meditator imagine these channels while breathing is unique to the Tibetan tradition, though the channels themselves are part of other Indian traditions.

I am providing a video above diagramming a visualization of the process of deep breathing through both nostrils based on teachings of the Indo-Tibetan Buddhist tradition.  Performing deep breathing exercises every day is a critical aspect of mind-body health.  Deep breathing practice calms the nervous system, increases focus and allows one to more readily access deep breath and therefore calmer states in times of stress and anxiety.  The breath provides support for times of difficulty and a way of flowing with the troubling state rather than resisting it.  It also gives the practitioner greater awareness of their natural breathing rhythm and the ability to meet it wherever it is in that moment.  Deep breathing is something I demonstrate and practice with almost all of my clients and students.  I do breathing exercises every morning prior to meditation, and if I have time for nothing else that day, I make sure to do deep breathing. Doing deep breathing without visualization is always an option and a good way to begin.  However, deep breathing with a visualization of the breath moving through the body is even more influential in concentrating and focusing the mind.  The channels I am depicting in the video above are my interpretation of verbal teachings received from Robert Thurman during the Nalanda Institute’s contemplative psychotherapy program.  I also gained an invaluable understanding of the channels from Yogi Lama Gursam.  As I have learned in the Tibetan tradition, each teacher often has a unique way of describing how these channel visualizations work with various breathing techniques.  I have done my best to interpret this via the viewing of traditional depictions and verbal teachings.

Instructions (refer to the animated video above):

To begin this practice find a comfortable seated position on a cushion on the floor or in a chair.  Tilt the chin slightly forward to allow for space in the back of the neck and the direct flow of air from the lower belly to the top of the head.

Imagine or visualize (eyes opened or closed) three straws (channels) running through the center of the body lengthwise.  The straw (channel) beginning at the right nostril is red and the straw beginning at the left nostril is white.  These channels begin at the opening of the nostril and travel up to near the crown of the head where they bend or curve downward to pass by the nose and end below the navel in the lower belly.  These channels attach to each other in the lower belly and are intersected by a wider dark blue-black straw (central channel) that runs from the lower belly to the crown of the head.

Begin by visualizing the air coming through the two straw-like channels situated at the opening of the nostrils.  Moving up the channel to the top of the head where they turn through the bend and make their way to the lower belly where they meet the central dark blue channel.  Imagine the air transferring into the central dark blue channel and moving up to exit through the top of the head.  If it is helpful, steady the inhalation to an even count of 8 and the exhalation to an even count of 8.  One may also find it useful to breathe in on a count of four and out on a count of 8. Additionally, experimenting with retaining the full in breath and holding the full out breath for four or more counts may be helpful.

Resources of interest:

Robert Thurman

Yogi Acharya Lama Gursam

chandelier

 

Direct Audio Download>>

The audio file above is a guided meditation to help you build a daily mindfulness practice.  As with any guided meditation, you may decide to try it on your own without guidance.  Some meditation teachers will have you count your breath from 1 to 10, with each in and out breath being one count.  The counting of breath is done to aid in concentration and dropped once steadiness of concentration is achieved.  You may find it helpful to do the “BodySensing” meditation prior to this one.  I have created a soundcloud playlist here with both meditations.

In general, it is thought that we go about our lives in mostly mindless states (autopilot) performing daily routines without fully participating in what we are doing.  The mindless state creates stress and or dullness because one is thinking about something in the future or going over something from the past.  The practice of mindfulness whether formal (meditation) or informal (awareness of daily life), helps one to fully participate in whatever activity in which we are engaged.  This practice done in meditation will ultimately extend to our everyday lives.  As Ronald D. Siegel (2013) reports, mindfulness changes the activity of the brain and; therefore, it’s structure that in turn alters the activity of the brain, which affects behavior.  He also states that mindfulness practice improved both alerting (something new entering the awareness field) and sustained attention (following something over time without distraction).  Additionally, the meditator does not habituate to repetitive events but instead perceives each repeated event as new removing them from the mindless state.  Things like memory, detail recall, and decision making are improved especially in older meditators.  Things like increased problem solving and greater logical abilities are another benefit of mindfulness meditation.  There are many more benefits which I have not included.

A bit about mindfulness…

History

The concept of Mindfulness comes from the Buddhist Teaching of the Noble Eightfold Path.  The Eightfold Path is a breakdown of the fourth noble truth, called the truth about the path leading to the cessation of suffering and falls under the heading concentration (Samadhi).   This 7th item on the path refers to right (samma) mindfulness (sati).  I have heard “samma” (right) alternately defined as “integrated” or “whole”.  I’ve also heard it translated as “thoroughly”, “accurately” and “fully”.  The word right is problematic in English because it connotes position and inflexibility.  The word right also puts forth the notion of something that is rigidly moralistic.  “But what, O monks, is right mindfulness (sammasati)? Herein the monk dwells in contemplation of the body—the feelings—the mind—mind-objects, ardent, clearly conscious and mindful, after putting away worldly greed and grief.” (DN 22; MN 141 §13)  “Right” mindfulness means doing it fully (“ardent, clearly conscious”) and without distractions.  Mindfulness of breathing is spelled out more clearly in the Forty Concentration Exercises under Mindfulness of In-and-Out Breathing (anapanasati), as well as in The Four Applications (Foundations, Parts or Establishments) of Mindfulness (Sattipatthana).  After selecting a place to sit cross-legged in solitude, a meditator does the following: “mindful he breathes in, mindful he breathes out”.  “When making a long inhalation he knows: “I make a long inhalation”; when making a long exhalation, he knows: “I make a long exhalation,” etc.  (MN 10; DN 22 §129)

Mindfulness in Western Psychology

The iteration of mindfulness in Western Psychology adds some additional instructions onto the type or quality of awareness.  John Kabat-Zinn defines it this way, “Mindfulness can be thought of as moment-to-moment, nonjudgmental awareness”.  He wants the practitioner of mindfulness not to judge whatever it is they become aware of during meditation. Buddhist psychologist Jack Kornfield describes mindfulness as “an innate human capacity to deliberately pay full attention to where we are, to our actual experience, and to learn from it”.  Jack directs us to the “actual experience” and how it is something that teaches us.  These added dimensions help to address some issues that are unique to Westerners and their psychological functioning. 

Resources and texts of interest:

The Science of Mindfulness: A Research-Based Path to Well-Being – Professor Ronald Siegel

The Buddha’s Path to Deliverance: A Systematic Exposition in the Words of the Sutta Pitaka – Nyanatiloka Thera

 

Direct Audio Download>>

The audio file above is a guided meditation to help you build a daily mindfulness practice.  As with any guided meditation, you may decide to try it on your own without guidance.  Some meditation teachers will have you count your breath from 1 to 10, with each in and out breath being one count.  The counting of breath is done to aid in concentration and dropped once steadiness of concentration is achieved.  You may find it helpful to do the “BodySensing” meditation prior to this one.  I have created a soundcloud playlist here with both meditations.

In general, it is thought that we go about our lives in mostly mindless states (autopilot) performing daily routines without fully participating in what we are doing.  The mindless state creates stress and or dullness because one is thinking about something in the future or going over something from the past.  The practice of mindfulness whether formal (meditation) or informal (awareness of daily life), helps one to fully participate in whatever activity in which we are engaged.  This practice done in meditation will ultimately extend to our everyday lives.  As Ronald D. Siegel (2013) reports, mindfulness changes the activity of the brain and; therefore, it’s structure that in turn alters the activity of the brain, which affects behavior.  He also states that mindfulness practice improved both alerting (something new entering the awareness field) and sustained attention (following something over time without distraction).  Additionally, the meditator does not habituate to repetitive events but instead perceives each repeated event as new removing them from the mindless state.  Things like memory, detail recall, and decision making are improved especially in older meditators.  Things like increased problem solving and greater logical abilities are another benefit of mindfulness meditation.  There are many more benefits which I have not included.

A bit about mindfulness…

History

The concept of Mindfulness comes from the Buddhist Teaching of the Noble Eightfold Path.  The Eightfold Path is a breakdown of the fourth noble truth, called the truth about the path leading to the cessation of suffering and falls under the heading concentration (Samadhi).   This 7th item on the path refers to right (samma) mindfulness (sati).  I have heard “samma” (right) alternately defined as “integrated” or “whole”.  I’ve also heard it translated as “thoroughly”, “accurately” and “fully”.  The word right is problematic in English because it connotes position and inflexibility.  The word right also puts forth the notion of something that is rigidly moralistic.  “But what, O monks, is right mindfulness (sammasati)? Herein the monk dwells in contemplation of the body—the feelings—the mind—mind-objects, ardent, clearly conscious and mindful, after putting away worldly greed and grief.” (DN 22; MN 141 §13)  “Right” mindfulness means doing it fully (“ardent, clearly conscious”) and without distractions.  Mindfulness of breathing is spelled out more clearly in the Forty Concentration Exercises under Mindfulness of In-and-Out Breathing (anapanasati), as well as in The Four Applications (Foundations, Parts or Establishments) of Mindfulness (Sattipatthana).  After selecting a place to sit cross-legged in solitude, a meditator does the following: “mindful he breathes in, mindful he breathes out”.  “When making a long inhalation he knows: “I make a long inhalation”; when making a long exhalation, he knows: “I make a long exhalation,” etc.  (MN 10; DN 22 §129)

Mindfulness in Western Psychology

The iteration of mindfulness in Western Psychology adds some additional instructions onto the type or quality of awareness.  John Kabat-Zinn defines it this way, “Mindfulness can be thought of as moment-to-moment, nonjudgmental awareness”.  He wants the practitioner of mindfulness not to judge whatever it is they become aware of during meditation. Buddhist psychologist Jack Kornfield describes mindfulness as “an innate human capacity to deliberately pay full attention to where we are, to our actual experience, and to learn from it”.  Jack directs us to the “actual experience” and how it is something that teaches us.  These added dimensions help to address some issues that are unique to Westerners and their psychological functioning. 

Resources and texts of interest:

The Science of Mindfulness: A Research-Based Path to Well-Being – Professor Ronald Siegel

The Buddha’s Path to Deliverance: A Systematic Exposition in the Words of the Sutta Pitaka – Nyanatiloka Thera

relaxed cat

 

Direct Audio Download>>

As I am about to begin another year of study in the Nalanda Institute’s Contemplative Psychotherapy program, I will be diving into the world of Mindfulness-Based Psychotherapy and Buddhist Psychology, leaving briefly the compassion (Mahayana) and open embodied (Tantrayana or Vajrayana) approaches of the previous year.  I am suspecting that one doesn’t fully leave these behind but rather brings these views along for the ride.  In any case, I thought I’d revisit some mindfulness practices that have been important in my psychological and meditational development.

Above the text portion of this page, you will find a Soundcloud audio player with a meditation track entitled “BodySensing: Full Body Relaxation”.  This particular meditation borrows from training material that I received during an iRest training with Dr. Richard Miller.  It is a full body relaxation meditation that has it’s roots in Western science’s progressive muscle and autogenic relaxation techniques and the energetic chakra systems found in various Yoga traditions.  Miller’s version doesn’t tense or relax the muscles like Dr. Edmund Jacobsen’s approach, nor does it impose relaxation state qualities upon the body like Johannes Schultz and Wolfgang Luthe’s Autogenics.  Miller’s strategy rotates the attention around areas of the body according to a motor and sensory cortex map and requests the meditator to bring that portion of the body into awareness.  He adds to this body scan movement through the Chakra system or the subtle body energy system.  He believes this system of very subtle energies points to our “True Nature”.   As Miller would say, “Usually our listening is oriented toward objects.  We rarely stop to consider the deep energies that animate these objects.”  This idea of true nature fits very nicely with the Tibetan Buddhist notion of the limitless expanse of being and with Dr. Joe Loizzo’s human-shaped bubble imagery.  Our “true nature” is far more than our identification with a physical body.  It is the boundless interplay between the body and space and space and the body.  Miller’s approach allows one to be open to whatever the experience is rather than imposing notions of relaxation.  That said, I subtitled this meditation, “Full Body Relaxation” because it is ultimately calming and healing.  This body sensing practice is a mindfulness of body practice that may free us to experience deeper levels of meditative absorption.  This practice invites us to meet the experience just as it is, without avoiding or attaching.  As time allows, I will provide some more iRest guided meditations on my site.

Shinzen Young also does some interesting guided meditations using sensations in the body that allow one to follow natural patterns as they arise.  He utilizes the labeling of sensations as global and or local and pinpoints whether the sensation is growing or fading.

Resources and texts of interest:

The iRest Program for Healing PTSD: A Proven-Effective Approach to Using Yoga Nidra Meditation and Deep Relaxation Techniques to Overcome Trauma – Dr. Richard Miller – This is a more recent written work. The quote above is from an iRest Level One Training Manual.

Break Through Difficult Emotions – Shinzen Young

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