Vipassana Noting:  A Good Meditation Method For Many Clients

In the last several years there had been an explosion of interest in meditation.  There are many methods  of meditation and no one type fits everyone.  The methods I have tried are:  chanting  a  mantra;  just noticing and/or counting the breaths; staring at a simple, inanimate object like a leaf or a candle for many minutes;  guided meditation by a guru or meditation teacher;  Metta, which is thinking and feeling loving kindness toward oneself and others;  meditating while walking. 

What works best for me is Vipassana Noting,   a  Tibetan method which is  simple but powerful.  I sometimes introduce it to clients whom I think can benefit from it.  Here are the steps and its focus:

    •  Firstly,  in a quiet, peaceful room,  sitting in a comfortable but upright position.  The use of a meditation pillow is fine, but so is a comfortable chair with a straight back.

     •  Secondly, the person closes his or her eyes and takes some deep breaths into the belly, then exhales fully, then pauses briefly before the next deep inhale.   I have found that what works best for me is counting to 3 on the inhale, 5 on the exhale and 3 after exhaling.  The latter is just a pause, not holding the breath.   I do this breathing pattern  half a dozen times. 

    •  Thirdly, the major duration of the meditation session is noting the part of the body in which the person is experiencing sensations, and saying that   either out loud or silently.

    •  When the meditator  becomes aware of thinking thoughts, she or he  just says the word “thinking” and then returns to registering the bodily sensations    The important point is that the person not to try to stop thinking , which is impossible,  except for some expert meditators, but just not getting lost in the thoughts, which most people, particularly those who are obsessive,  do most of the time. 

I will demonstrate:

I am sitting on my desk chair with a pillow behind my back.   I close my eyes, put my hands in my lap, palms up.  I focus in on my body, notice I am feeling a bit tense all over and that my breathing is shallow.  I take a deep slow breath in, counting to 3.  I then exhale slowly and gently, counting to 5.  When I reach the end of my exhale, I pause,  and gently, without stress,  count to 3.  I then take the next breath.   I  do this about a half dozen times. 

When my breathing is calm, I then turn my attention to my body.  I notice my feet on the floor and say “feet.”  I then notice my right hand and say “right hand.”  I next notice my legs and say “legs.”  I then notice I have been thinking about writing this blog and, instead of pursuing my thoughts,  I say “thinking,” and return to my body sensations, which now is my chest and I say “chest.”

I keep doing this until the timer on my smart phone signals the end of the time I have allotted to my meditation session.

This method can be done anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour.  I recommend newcomers start with 5 minutes,  at least once a day.  Later on, as they begin to enjoy the process, they can increase the duration.

I say that this is a very good type of meditation for many people in therapy for these reasons:

     1. The method is simple.

     2.  It gets the mediator out of  compulsive thinking with its endless chatter and also gives the mind something useful to do, i.e., to notice the body and say the word for that part of the body.  Many people think that in order to meditate, they have to stop thinking, but that’s almost impossible unless someone has been meditating for years.

     3.  It increases body awareness, which is grounding and calming.  This can be very helpful, even necessary, for clients who are very anxious. 

     4.  It can also helps clients later on, when they have been meditating for awhile,   become aware of their emotions.  I find that many  of my clients, particularly males,  pay a great deal of attention to what they are thinking, very little to their emotions.   Bodily  awareness is necessary to be emotionally aware, for emotions are centered in the body.

I suggest the readers of this blog tell me what their experience is while doing it.  I would be pleased to enter into a dialogue about this method and meditation in general.

Comments (4)

gretchenquiggApril 7th, 2017 at 1:43 am

I’m interested to hear more about your reasons for incorporating meditation into work with your clients.
I find that having the space to “just be” for a while allows unfinished business (meanings and feelings) to come into awareness where I can deliberately deal with them. If I sit for a while, the material gets handled, and I can be more “present”.
I feel most comfortable with “following the breath”, preferably sitting an a quiet room with my unlooking gaze on an empty wall. The verbal labeling in Vipassana jars me, feels like tying a knot on top of a knot.
I like to “sit” for about twenty five minutes, and if I want to have another session, do five to ten minutes of “walking meditation” between.
Ideally, I like to do some stretching before meditating. The process tends to break up body tension that would be in the way of “being in touch”. (I wonder if engaging in vigorous physical exercise might be helpful to people who are feeling depressed.)

Stephan TobinApril 7th, 2017 at 11:18 am

Thanks for your comment, Gretchen. As I said in the beginning of this posting, everyone has to find their own meditation method. I’m glad that what you do is helpful to you. I myself find the noting method works best for me, probably because I tend to be very “heady” and this method helps me to feel more grounded and present-centered. I can’t say I “incorporate” meditation into my work, but occasionally will ask clients if they want to try it out, thinking it could be helpful to them. So I will demonstrate for a few minutes and then have them do it for about 5 minutes. They practically always say they feel calmer and more aware of their bodies when they finish, but only some of them do it on their own afterwards

pmrApril 11th, 2017 at 12:36 pm

Thank you for speaking of this issue. I have been meditating for many years and it has helped me to be calm, stay in the moment, and to bring (magically almost) the peacefulness from my meditation experience into my active life. I have incorporated much from Vipassana Noting style that you mention into my two forms of Meditation, Sitting with the Witness and Breath to Heart. So, I start meditation always by focusing on my body parts.

In a professional setting, I sometimes meditate with my clients for a short time it what might look like a guided meditation, but then encourage them to do it on their own if they enjoy it. Meditation is effective for some clients in reducing ruminating thoughts associated with depression and anxiety much in the way that you explained your process of moving away from thoughts. I do agree with you that the type of meditation that works for each individual varies widely.

Stephan TobinMay 3rd, 2017 at 7:53 pm

I also sometimes introduce meditation to clients whom I think might benefit from doing it. I just do about 5 minutes ad have them do the Noting. They practically always say that they feel calmer and more present sensorially, ie., vision is clearer, more in touch with their bodies, more in touch with themselves emotionally. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to want to do it in their own.

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