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

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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giant soap bubble

 

The Human Shaped Bubble: Exploring Your Potential

If you’ve read some of my past articles discussing meditations based on Tibetan Buddhist Tantric practices (role modeling / healing mentor guided meditation), I use Loizzo’s notion of the meditator emerging as a human shaped bubble after dissolving the ordinary body (self).  Loizzo’s latest work “Sustainable Happiness” is a tome that addresses Tibetan Buddhist Tantra in light of Western Psychology and Psychotherapy.  In this work he describes the dissolution process in meditation as “psychological death” or “making death a path to openness”.  In some traditional Tibetan practices the dissolution follows a pattern of solids to liquids to fire to gases. This dissolution of the body and reemergence as embodied openness (human shaped bubble), allows for the meditator to completely change their orientation to challenges and obstacles.  At times, I give these instructions to meditators as seeing the newly emerged self as a powerful, flexible and expansive being.  I like to think of it as losing the limited sense of self or the small self and trading it in for the power of openness.  When I guide people through this practice and would like to have them not to lose all sense of self, I ask them to allow their small, limited self to dissolve or step into the background for a moment. This isn’t a complete obliteration of the self, but enough of a suspension of the ordinary self to change one’s relationship to personal challenges.  Some practitioners may find it useful to completely dissolve the self if they possess adequately balanced ego strength, but this isn’t absolutely necessary.  In either case, if one is not identifying with the ordinary ego centered self, the possibilities for healing are more creative and much greater.

I often do directed and personally tailored versions of guided meditations with clients, detecting a theme during a therapy session that seems to come forward as an underlying challenge for some of the things discussed in a session.  I may notice worry, trust or self-compassion issues occurring in the session and suggest them as themes for reflection.  I often discuss these themes and see where the client is at with them as a topic of relevance.  If they confirm that this theme resonates with them, I will move on to guiding them through a personally tailored meditation practice.  In some cases, I introduce the obstacle or challenge directly using a meditation that helps them to befriend the challenge.  I may direct them to try to make contact with worry, trust or self-compassion.  In the role modeling meditation I direct them to show the mentor the specific challenge we discussed, which is often more readily visualized after the preceding therapeutic discussion of the matter.

When the meditator make’s contact with the specified challenge in the guise of a human shaped bubble or open embodiment, I am guiding them to consider it in light of a powerfully opened and somewhat elusive form of self.  It is orienting the transformed body, in a way that allows for ideal openness and flexibility when dealing with challenges.  When doing the role modeling version of a guided meditation the meditator is facing the role model with the power of their own openness which primes them to easily borrow the role model’s capable nervous system.

Try the brief reflection below: You may do this with eyes opened or closed.

Take a few deep breaths imagining the in breath going all the way down to the lower belly and the out breath coming up and out of the lower belly and out through the nostrils.

Return to noticing your normal breathing.

Count your normal breath backwards from 10 to 1.

Allow the counting to dissolve.

Imagine the Universe (as you see it) and allow it to dissolve around you.

Allow the galaxy to dissolve.

Allow the solar system to dissolve.

Allow the planet, continent and your current location to dissolve around you.

Now allow your limited or small sense of self to dissolve or move into the background and re-emerge as a human shaped breathing bubble or more expansive, powerful, flexible and capable self.

Place yourself at the top of a mountain overlooking a still clear blue lake.

Sit briefly in silence.

Return to your waking sense of self and allow the room around you to materialize.

Allow your notion of the planet, solar system, galaxy and universe to return to the way it normally appears.

Return to the awareness of your breath and as you breathe in feel expansion and as you breathe out release.

Slowly open and close the eyes with the in and out breath until you are fully alert with eyes open.

What was this experience like?

Note:

I see potential in this for the queer community (inclusive of LGBTQIA) in that meditation practices that cultivate embodied openness, bring new tools with which to experience humanness outside of the gender binary.  Emerging as a human shaped bubble (openness) orients one to a potentially non-gendered perspective.  Furthermore, the Tibetan Buddhist Tantric practice of visualizing oneself as a female bodied deity, male bodied deity or integration of both (not dependent on the practitioners identified gender) as a mean’s to liberate oneself, may play a role in coping with and transcending the binary.  Additionally, gender in these practices reaches beyond itself and represents the notion of opposites.  These opposites which are also inextricably merged, are at times represented as sun and moon, heat and cold, method and wisdom or wisdom and compassion. I would posit that these practices are a call to transcend social and cultural conditioning.  Perhaps incorporating the binary and ultimately dissolving it reorients one in light of past biases.  Male and Female archetypes are fraught with bias, but the nature of a Tibetan deity is ultimately elusive and may take on other gendered forms.  This also has the potential to be utilized creatively mixing gender and identity in new ways or not identifying with any gender at all.  It is a chance for not only queer communities, but all human beings to see beyond gender and sexuality labels.  These Tibetan practices may be interpreted as ultimately dissolving the gender binary system of the practitioner, even if not consciously designed to that end. I would like to revisit these thoughts in future posts.

Resources and texts of interest:

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

Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others – Sara Ahmed

galaxy

  

Please read my earlier post that outlines my initial direction and intention for a group intervention for at-promise youth. Things changed quite a bit from the initial approach, but I believe the spirit was maintained.

My experience creating and facilitating a meditation group with at-promise youth helped me to see that flexibility and really listening to youth were my most important interventions.  This group combined the more western psychological approaches of group therapy with meditation and movement. I had a rough idea of what I wanted to do and proceeded to hone the development of the group via my experiences facilitating. As I began to implement the group I realized some changes needed to be made. Initially I wondered what the subject matter for each group would be, but after I began I noticed themes arose. I came up with four or five topics that seemed to be relevant for these youth. The topic for each week of group would be the following: Trust, Unfairness, Struggle, Worry and Change. Initially, I would open up the group by presenting a topic of discussion and allowing youth to talk about a situation in their life that related to the topic at hand. At times, this went well, but at other times one or two youth would monopolize the discussion and continue to talk, go off topic and need to be redirected several times. This isn’t uncommon in our groups in general, but I thought I may avoid this situation by changing the order of group events. Another approach was to begin with breathing exercises. I would do two to three minutes each of deep belly breathing, alternate nostril breathing and slow kapalabhati. Each type of breathing was followed by noticing natural breathing (without effort) for a minute or two after the deliberate breathing exercise. The first time I conducted the group opening with breathing it went well. Subsequent times I did this, I had issues depending on the youth in the group. It is interesting to note that though some youth remained the same in the group for four or five weeks, a good number of them would change. I had to adapt the group when new kids came in to the facility. In addition, I would use images and poetry that related to the topic of the group in order to stimulate more thinking and creativity around the topic. I ultimately came to settle on all of the elements of group and would adapt the order based on the number of kids and the energy of the group. Group events roughly looked like the following:

Group rules (always at beginning of group)

Image and or poetry relating to topic of group and discussion

Discussion and examples of topic from life

Breathing exercises

Movement exercises (yoga, qigong or other energetic work)

Guided Imagery I (w/o role model) and discussion

Guided Imagery II (w/ role model) and discussion (optional) – role modeling and healing mentor meditation based on Tibetan Buddhist Deity meditation practice.

Closing recitation – “May I be peaceful. May I be happy. May I be free from suffering.”

I found that being flexible with the order of events and cutting out events when more important and fertile discussion arose was helpful. I would make sure to get in one or two guided imagery practices and some form of movement.

I discovered it was helpful for the group if I selected certain members to be present from week to week. I found that having kids who I identified as “leaders” and who seemed to have an “affinity” for meditation and yoga were good to have in the group. I would make sure that at least one of them was in the group from week to week. I would often exclude youth who had difficulty being open and focusing around specific peers, who they may have had problematic relationships with prior to detention. I would discuss this with them individually, letting them know why I did not want them attending group the next week. If I noticed one youth could not focus on breathing without giggling with a friend during group I would take time to discuss the situation with them and if it did not improve I would not have them partake in group the next week. I would work with staff to identify youth who naturally reached out for support and had an air of seriousness about them. I left it open that if a youth who had been asked to not join group due to problematic behaviors in prior groups, had an opportunity to speak with me one on one about rejoining the group. On more than one occasion I had a youth approach me and ask if they could rejoin the group. This had the effect of making the group something special that they wanted to join.

I had basic rules about confidentiality (what is said in this room, stays in this room), one mic (one speaker at a time) and respect. At the beginning of group I would allow the youth to explain the meaning of each rule. It was helpful to re-iterate the rules when youth needed reminding during group.

The initial guided meditation involved counting the breath backwards, letting go of counting and focusing on natural breathing. I utilized basic mindfulness approaches to settle the mind. As far as sitting posture went, I used the analogy of a garden hose and the difficulty of water flowing through it when it is bent. We often sat in chairs around a table, but some members after being in group for a couple of weeks wanted to sit cross-legged on the floor. After noticing the breath, I would have them imagine themselves in a place where they felt comfortable and relaxed. I would present the option of a special room or place outside as a place where they may feel relaxed and at ease. The youth would report that they would really feel like they went somewhere else and at times we would need to process sadness, when they came back into “ordinary life” to realize they were still in their current situation. Once the safe place in their mind was established, I would have them visualize the topic of the group. For example, if the topic was being treated unfairly, I would have them visualize a situation they identified earlier in group or the feeling of unfairness in general. I would request they observe it with curiosity as if they were a scientist with a subject or watching a movie play before their eyes. I would request they also move in to feel it in the body. Then, after visualizing and feeling unfairness. I would have them put their hands over their hearts and repeat to themselves, “I am fair to myself”. I would ask them to repeat this over and over as a mantra. I would then ask them to dissolve the words, images and the scene around them until they were sitting in the room. Next, I would bring them to notice the breath and get a sense of their body in the room on the ‘in and out’ breath. Finally, I would have them slowly open their eyes and return to the group in the room.

After the meditation we would discuss any experiences that happened during and after the meditation. Some youth would express that it was challenging for them to sit still. Some would describe what it was like for them to be in a place where they felt comfortable and relaxed and were able to describe this in some detail. One youth stated that he didn’t realize he could just do that (imagine) anytime he wanted and would like to do it when he is sitting alone in his room. Another youth stated that when we repeated the phrase “I am fair to myself” he had difficulty “giving myself a break”. This turned into a discussion about the difficulty of having self-compassion.

The second guided imagery meditation intervention involved bringing the role model into a similar scenario of unfairness. At times, I would have them visualize the mentor in front of them as they showed the mentor their current struggle with unfairness or as they visualized the scene of unfairness. At other times the mentor would enter from the side and put their hand on their shoulder. I would describe the mentor transmitting their support and mastery (power) to the youth from their heart to the youth or from their hand into the youth’s body. This support and mastery would fill their body in the form of light. Initially I did not specify criteria for the role model, other than to say “leader, teacher, wise counselor, elder, super hero, author, religious figure….” during the meditation. This gave the youth an opportunity to go with whomever came to mind. After the meditation, I had more than one youth comment that the role model they chose was unable to help them. They reported that the role model they chose may not be the right one for the job. This turned into a discussion on the qualities of a role model. I eventually added a group session that dealt strictly with identifying a role model.

The success of the group seemed often to boil down to how flexible I was in delivering my interventions. When I was least able to adapt to the group dynamic was when I felt things lose energy. However, even these situations became learning situations for all of us, when openly discussed. The youth would often be able to articulate why they were struggling and feeling antsy in group and we were all able to process it together. My distress tolerance played a fairly big role in the collective distress tolerance of the group. My history of meditation and distress tolerance as well as my comfort in delivering guided meditation also played a role. I am interested in conducting assessments at the beginning and end of group at some point in the near future to measure any interesting results. I am posting narrative quotes and summaries that I collected below:

Group Feedback

Youth reported that the meditation was relaxing and that when he dissolved the world and the universe the negative things also dissolved. Youth reported it was nice to feel positive things.

Youth reported that during the reflection he saw himself changing and was able to visualize what he wished to change. Youth reported if felt good to notice change and feel supported.

“I had trouble visualizing a role-model / mentor. I had an idea of who I wanted it to be but I couldn’t see them clearly. What do you think that means?”

“This time I listened, followed along and focused and it worked.”

Youth was able to identify an effective role model in her life. Youth stated she had some difficulty with the visualization due to anxiety but that she is capable of “seeing things”.

Youth reported that when change showed up during the visualization she saw herself and that she had a difficult conversation with herself. Youth reported that she found herself difficult to get along with and this is what she needs to work on.

Youth reported that during the visualization she saw herself in a new light and that she hopes others see she has changed.

Youth stated when she reflected on a place that she feels comfortable in, it made her sad to be where she is now.

“I realized that the role-model I chose could not help me and that I needed to find a better one. I will think of a new one for next time”

“I chose Nelson Mandella as my role model.”

“I was sitting on a mound of dirt, next to a pond and had a conversation with a lizard.”

Youth reported that during the visualization he pictured himself on top of a mountain and entering a house with a family that appeared to be his family. Youth interpreted this as the possibility of having a healthy family in the future, something he did not think possible prior.

Youth reported during the reflection (role modeling meditation) he saw his past deeds play out before his eyes and he came to himself as a role model or a potential role model. Youth reported that this shows him he has to be there for himself in the future and that he has the ability to change.

Youth reported seeing a needle in front of him and how he is struggling with not using drugs.

Youth reported seeing two roads to travel down and that he has to make a decision about which one.

Youth reported that when they repeated “I am fair to myself”, they had trouble giving themselves a break.

“Caused me to see the person who was being unfair to me and think about fairness on both sides.”

“Hey, what were you guys doing in there with your eyes closed?” Youth stated this and asked to join group next time.

“Do you know what astral projection is? I felt like I was really up in a tree. Like I was really there.”

“When I let trust in, it was my mom. We had a long conversation.”

“I had trouble seeing trust. I didn’t see anything.” A peer responded by saying, “maybe that is because you don’t trust anyone”.

“I feel like a huge weight has been lifted”

“When I imagined myself on top of a mountain I looked down at our city and thought of how what I normally think of as big seemed completely different.”

“The lake I imagined was really clear and blue. I couldn’t believe how real it was.”

Resources

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

The Lineage Project

  

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.