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.