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.

 

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.

 

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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Thangka Deity Face

This is a healing mentor / role modeling visualization audio guided practice for clearing inner strife and building outer resiliency. This guided practice helps you to call on an idealized role model to support you when facing fears and challenges or simply to feel at rest and ease in your waking life.  At the beginning are basic breathing exercises to help settle the mind prior to partaking in the meditation. This meditation is roughly based on deity practice in the Tibetan Buddhist Tantric visualization tradition.  Please read about role modeling visualization in a recent 3 part series of posts on the subject.

Soundcloud link to audio, if you do not see the player.

 

crooked tree

 

A meditation to build inner strength and resources  to engage with the human community. A healing reflection to help you deal with difficult people. If you prefer to download this guided meditation, click the down arrow link in the upper right hand corner of the image below.