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

orange light in concrete room

 

In this post, I am sharing my experiences designing and leading mindfulness meditation groups for youth at-promise. The summary of my experiences below is part of a personal capstone project for the Nalanda Institute’s Contemplative Psychotherapy program.

This past year, I used mindfulness-based meditative interventions for at-promise youth.  I came to realize that sitting and following the breath or another object during meditation presented difficulties for the youth. I imagined these difficulties might have stemmed from a struggle with anxiety and lack of confidence. Many participants have been told they are incapable of sitting and paying attention. Internalizing these beliefs can make the practice seem challenging and frustrating.  I thought giving them an experience of relaxation and personal power or confidence before meditating would help their ability to sit calmly through the meditation.

I used the following basic structure for the group:  We held a brief discussion about the practices we’d be doing and what to expect. The youths were given the option to leave the room quietly if remaining still and quiet became difficult. I stated I trusted them to know when they were unable to maintain silence. This rule worked well. I rarely had to ask people to leave the group. I described the type of meditation we would do and an outline of expectations. I let them know they could lie down or sit for body sensing and then would sit up for guided mindfulness meditation. With few exceptions, the youth chose to lie down on the floor, with knees perched on a chair or legs flat on the ground.

I guided them to close their eyes, take a few deep breaths, then allow my voice to guide them through the parts of the body. I used a full body relaxation meditation that has roots in Western science’s progressive muscle and autogenic relaxation techniques in a form similar to Richard Miller’s “Body Sensing” approach. Miller’s version doesn’t tense or relax the muscles or direct the experiencer to relax like other approaches. Miller’s strategy rotates 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 subtle body energy system. Miller believes this system of very subtle energies points to our “True Nature.” As Miller stated, “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 great 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.

I made some adaptations to Miller’s body scan by bringing in Dr. Joe Loizzo’s idea of the human shaped bubble as inspired by Tibetan Buddhist Vajrayana practices. As the Miller scan moves the body into space, I request they dissolve the world of ordinary appearances (the universe, galaxy, solar system, Earth, continent, country, state, city and room around them. I direct meditators to dissolve or leave the ordinary body behind. I bring in Loizzo’s visualization of the body dissolving from solids (flesh and bones) to liquids, to gases and heat. I request the meditator to leave the ordinary body behind and re-emerge as Loizzo’s Tibetan Buddhist Vajrayana inspired human shaped bubble. I describe the openness and flexibility of becoming a bubble. I allow them to rest in this state for a period on their own.

After several minutes of feeling the human-shaped bubble body in space, I would guide them to return the universe, galaxy, solar system, earth, location and room to its ordinary appearance. I would have them return to their ordinary body as well. I would then, guide them to come to a seated meditation position and “rest in pure awareness” for a few moments. I noticed after the body scan, dissolution and return to the ordinary body that the youths were completely relaxed and able to sit still.

I guided them to notice their breath, sometimes having them count their breaths backward. From there, I’d guide them to just meditate on the breath or through the other three foundations of mindfulness. Sometimes, we closed with a simple mantra recitation about change or loving kindness.

After the meditation, I left some time for discussion about experiences during the meditation. I found that combining some elements of Vajrayana practices (dissolution of ordinary appearances and body) with mindfulness practices were helpful. Using the body scan and imagery of the human shaped bubble allowed youth to relax and build confidence before seated meditation. The dissolution of the ordinary body and appearance structures helped the youth relate to themselves and to mindfulness meditation differently. I also noted my sensing where the group was during meditation helped me understand when guiding was an impediment or aid in their experience. If the group exhibited extraordinary calmness and alertness during the meditation, I guided them less. If they were struggling, I guided them more or provided a mantra to build concentration further.

Building the youths confidence and providing a deeper level of relaxation before mindfulness meditation proved useful in this case, helping eliminate doubt and performance anxiety around the practice. Utilizing Richard Miller’s techniques of body scanning meditation and bringing in the dissolution and re-emergence based on traditional Vajrayana meditation practices, I was able to give meditators a launching pad of confidence in their abilities to successfully approach the practice of ordinary mindfulness meditation.

The following are a few quotes from the post-meditation discussions:

  • “I think everyone should meditate.”
  • “For a moment, I turned into my knee.”
  • “I feel calm.”
  • “I am chill.”
  • “I’ve never meditated before and didn’t know if I could do it. I did it.”
  • “That was crazy.”
  • “Miss, do you smoke weed?”
  • “I was out in space.”
  • “I’m not gonna lie; I was pissed off when I came in here. Now I feel calm.”
  • “I stopped feeling anxious.”
  • “I moved through my body.”
  • “I could hear your voice, but I felt like I was asleep.”

Resources of interest and References:

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

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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