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

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