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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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I am a licensed Counselor and Psychotherapist in Tucson, Arizona. I am a long time (22+ years) practitioner of meditation and postural yoga. I know first-hand the exploration potential of mind-body practices. I received my Bachelor's degree in Humanities and Philosophy from Shimer College and my Master's degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Adam's State University. I also completed a 2 year certificate program in contemplative psychotherapy at the  Nalanda Institute.  My interests include developing and optimizing mind-body practices for my clients and helping other therapists gain a better understanding of how to use these practices in a mental health setting.  I've studied with some thoughtful and generous teachers in the fields of psychotherapy, philosophy, and contemplative practice (primarily Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Yogis). 

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