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-   -   Isn't mindfulness meditation exposure therapy (http://www.behavior.net/bolforums/showthread.php?t=267)

Cesar Bujosa December 21st, 2004 09:48 PM

Isn't mindfulness meditation exposure therapy
 
I have concluded that Mindfulness meditation is a form of therapeutic exposure. This is why I believe it seems to have efficacy in treating numerous conditions:

pain management (Kabat-Zinn, 1982, Kabat-Zinn, Lipworth, & Burney,1985, Kabat-Zinn, Lipworth, L., Burney, & Sellers,1987), anxiety(Kabat-Zinn, Massion, , Kristeller, Peterson, Fletcher & Pbert, et al., 1992), psoriasis (Kabat-Zinn, Wheeler, Light, Skillings, Scharf,, Cropley, et al., 1998), depression (Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, 2002), immune functioning (Davidson, J. J. in press) and heart disease (Tacon, McComb, Caldera & Randolph, 2003). It has been incorporated to treat symptoms associated with borderline personality disorder (Linehan, M. M., 1993a, Linehan, M. M. 1993b), eating disorder (Kristeller, & Hallett, 1999) and generalized anxiety disorder (Roemer & Orsillo, 2002)

There is a radical acceptance of ourselves and our conditions when we interrupt thought and imaginings. We're left with "what is." This results in an adjustment to the presence of fear producing impressions and recollections. We habituate our emotonal wounds and existential terror. Meditation is interrupting escape, and compulsion just like exposure therapy.

It seems to me that mindfulness meditation seems to integrate imaginal exposure and in vivo exposure into one package. It's an awsome therapeutic tool. However, REBT, CBT and other functional therapise have been using mindful toleration of our core fears and symptoms for the last 50 years.

The problem with mindfulness meditation in America is that the practice is so foreign to what we're used to. We must proceed along the track of advancing the therapeutic application of mindfulness meditation, however we are in the early stages of its acceptance. Some day it will be an established norm. But for now, we are lucky to have numerous other approaches that provide therapeutic exposure. I would guard against relying to much on mindfulness. I say this as a committed meditator and therapist.

Lindsay Smith January 15th, 2005 06:18 AM

Re: Isn't mindfulness meditation exposure therapy
 
In 2002 my wife & I visited friends in Mombai. I had previously mentioned to Varni that I wanted to hear some Classical Indian Music & go to a Meditation centre. Varni's sister in law sang several Hindu hymns in praise of Lord Siva for me after lunch & Varni's mother took me in a motorised 'trishaw' to the Raga Yoga Centre that she belongs to.

I was introduced to a 'sister' in white sari. In India women wearing white sari are usually widows. The 'sister' & told me about Raja Yoga practises & showed me into Large meditation area with a wooden floor. Meditators sat on the floor & focused attention on a large spiral diagram rather like the one that was in early hypnosis books. No mantras, chanting, instruction, movement, music. Simply look at the diagram. I was also taken to a small rectangular room with benches on the side walls & the spiral diagram opposite the door. People were looking at the diagram.

I often give my hypnotherapy clients homework to do 'whenever they need to or want to.' Often it is just to sit erect on a stool or chair & stare at the wall, closing & resting the eyes if they get tired & then opening the eyes again to look. I also suggest that they monitor their posture, their breathing, physical sensations, ideas & thoughts that may occur & so on. Cheers

Lindsay Smith January 19th, 2005 07:23 AM

Re: Isn't mindfulness meditation exposure therapy
 
This afternoon a young instrumental music teacher came to see me about performance anxiety on recommendation from the mother of one of her students. So we discussed her work & her concerns & about 'just getting students to show up' for class & band. We discussed educational goals. The short term goal may be just to teach a small skill like getting a smooth soft sound from the trumpet. And how to do just that. It takes a lot of breath control & mind control as well. The performing arts are full of opportunities that mix theory & practise on many levels. It boils down to follow me, 'the demonstration' & discuss 'the effort' then try again. Slowly, slowly & mindfully skills are aquired without the need for anyone to be anxious.

Recently I read 'Five Past Midnight in Bhopal' by Dominique Lapierre & Javier Moro, a beautifully written book about the night of December 3, 1984 when toxic gas escaped from an American pesticide plant killing between 16 & 30 thousand people, 'the most murderous industrial disaster in history.' Page 334 tells how a sadhu meditating under the great tamarind tree in Kamla Park watched impassively as people fled the deadly cloud. All through the night the Naga Baba, naked holy man remained cross legged in the lotus position. He had lived there for 35 years ever since a five day samadhi, spiritual exercise in which he was buried alive, had turned him into a holy man. His only possessions, a pilgrims' stick with Shiva's trident & a food bowl. Detached from all desires, material things, appearances, aversions he spent his days meditating & rolling beads. His gaze seemly vacant behind half closed eyelids he seemed indifferent to the chaos that surrounded him. Monomethylamine & phosgene asphyxiated dozens of men & women around him. Trained to breathe only once every 3 or 4 minutes by his ascetic exercises the Naga Baba did not inhale the vapours from the passing cloud & was the only person to survive in Kamla Park.

Lindsay Smith January 20th, 2005 06:18 PM

Re: Isn't mindfulness meditation exposure therapy
 
Cesar says, "The problem with mindfulness meditation in America is that the practice is so foreign to what we're used to."

'Mindfulness' is about being aware of what you are doing while you are doing whatever it is you are doing. Buddha in the Pali instructions told his listeners to be aware of the breath, the coming & going of the breath, the flow at the nostrils, the movement of the chest & abdomen & so on. We all breathe so that is somewhere to start & there is nothing 'foreign' about about breathing.

Paying attention, being 'mindful' about other everyday things such as walking can be an exercise in 'mindfulness.' An old Chinese friend, now gone told me that a Buddhist monk staying at his house took 3/4 hour to very slowly & mindfully to walk the length of his lounge & when he told me that I recalled reading a report of a British soldier who after WW2 did some Buddhist training in Burma. The abbott took him to a small hut where he was to practise walking up & down, slower & slower paying close attention to what he was doing. Food & water was placed at the door of the hut once a day to sustain him.

I went to a Taiji workshop years ago where the instructor, Wee Kee Gin took us through the form increasingly slower & slower. It was very demanding mentally & physically. The purpose, to build up mental focus, balance & strength.

Lindsay Smith January 30th, 2005 03:41 PM

Re: Isn't mindfulness meditation exposure therapy
 
Meditation is fundamental in Buddhism. To practise Meditation adopting a belief system is not necessary. Neither is that so with Tai Chi training even though one of my students 20 years ago told me that he couldn't keep doing TaiChi after he became a 'born again' Christian because his preacher said that TaiChi was the work of the devil. I wonder about what Jesus would think about what people have said & done in his name since he walked the earth. Especially since a lot of what he taught was Buddhist, Hindu doctrine anyhow & quite different to the god of wrath stuff of the Jews. After all he did go into the desert to pray. Was he doing meditation or was he praying? That is a interesting question. Is prayer to the Christian is a different act & idea to what it is to a Moslem, Jew, Buddhist?

Try this site for some insight.

http://buddhism.about.com/library/blbudmed.htm?nl=1

Lindsay Smith January 30th, 2005 03:44 PM

Re: Isn't mindfulness meditation exposure therapy
 
What evidence is there that Jesus taught Buddhist Hindu philosophy. Try this site.

http://reluctant-messenger.com/issa.htm

Lindsay Smith February 27th, 2005 03:07 PM

Re: Isn't mindfulness meditation exposure therapy
 
http://buddhism.about.com/od/mindfulness/index.htm?nl=1

This site gives the 4 foundations of mindfulness & a lot more.

Lindsay Smith March 2nd, 2005 12:31 AM

Re: Isn't mindfulness meditation exposure therapy
 
'MEDITATION FOR DUMMIES' written by Stephan Bodian.. Former Editor-in-Chief, Yoga Journal is a very useful instruction manual that covers all the essential techniques. Mindfulness is the important thread tying the instructions together.

Healer March 5th, 2005 09:12 PM

Re: Isn't mindfulness meditation exposure therapy
 
I'm just throwing this out as something to think about.

It's my experience that when one first starts to practice meditation the "thinking" mind plays an enormous role in the process. So, it may feel, and it may be, that mindfulness meditation is indeed a form of exposure therapy for CBT patients. One must in fact "think" about what one is thinking about and try to change the thoughts and feelings, I think. I don't actually practice this form of meditation. You give the example of accepting what is--acceptance. However, the thinking mind still thinks it's a good idea to accept, but the feeling mind often holds on for dear life to fear, loss, and all those other horrible vexing emotions--just like with CBT. And repeated practice--exposure--seems to alleviate the pain over time.

However, it has been my experience with meditation, that after YEARS of practice, grace sets in. Another mind begins to emerge. Acceptance. Detachment. And most of the other things that are described and seem as though are brought on by a thinking mind aren't. And, it's not exposure that releases pain. In fact, it's not even a thought process that releases pain. Thinking actually blocks the process. Another mind, which defies description, emerges. Things like acceptance just happen. This I think is what a goal of meditation is, if meditation has a goal.

Let me give you an example. I fear elevators. I ride them anyway. I have my tricks that make it less painful. Several years ago, I spent a few days at a meditation retreat. I stayed in a hotel. After meditating all day, I pushed the elevator button, the door opened, I said to myself, "I fear elevators." Because I was still experiencing that meditative state, simply acknowledging the fear seperated me from the fear, and I road an elevator, fully aware of my fear, but without fear. This was totatally seredipitous. I didn't use any technique. I wasn't even practicing mindfulness. In fact, again, it's not the type of meditation that I do.

One the other hand, several years passed, and I now live in a building and am forced to ride many floors in an elevator several times a day. At first my fear was as strong as ever. It didn't/doesn't matter if I acknowledge my fear as I step into the elevator, I'm still afraid. However, after many months, I finally can ride the elevator without much fear, due to exposure, except when unexpected things happen, like getting on an up elevator when I expect to go down.

I think that mindfulness can act as a form of exposure therapy, but the state that ultimately emerges after practicing meditation is not the result of exposure. It is not the result of the thinking mind either.

Jamie Peterson, Ph.D. March 7th, 2005 02:29 AM

Re: Isn't mindfulness meditation exposure therapy
 
Since my Masters is in Theological Studies (Christian) I feel compelled to add to this thread, although I'll probably regret it. I do respect all religious practices, and believe that any one of them leads in a helpful direction - a spritual practice of any kind is often a helpful addition to any path of (emotional) healing.

But just as a sort-of picky, academic note - Jesus was, in fact, a Jew. So the idea that he didn't teach the "god of wrath stuff of the Jews" is rather ludicrous. Almost everything Jesus said (save for his parables) he was quoting from the Hebrew Scriptures (the Jewish Bible - HIS bible). There is no evidence that he was teaching Hindu or Buddhist practice - no evidence he taught anything but a purely Jewish practice...which includes the God of the Psalms who is "slow to anger, and abiding in steadfast love"...the God of Israel who proclaims "comfort, comfort my people"...I could go on and on about this "God of love stuff of the Jews" - perhaps suffice it to quote Jesus' most famous line, which he took directly from the book of Leviticus: "love your neighbour as yourself".

Perhaps the therapists should leave the broad-sweeping, overgeneralized religious reflections to the theologians. Your remarks come dangerously close to anti-Semitic.

Healer March 7th, 2005 03:58 AM

Re: Isn't mindfulness meditation exposure therapy
 
Jamie, surely your aren't referring to my message. I don't even practice a form of meditation with a religious focus. And, I can't find any religious reference in what I wrote. My remarks, thoughts or feelings could not be freer from anti-semetism.

Lindsay Smith March 8th, 2005 04:52 AM

Re: Isn't mindfulness meditation exposure therapy
 
Thanks for joining the discussion.

I have added another site about the early 'St Thomas' church that was established in India in the first century. The Arabs & Jews & others traded via India & SE Asia & China in ancient times. In the years from when Christ was 12 until he was 30 he could well have travelled in search of knowledge & adventure.

Lindsay Smith March 8th, 2005 04:57 AM

Re: Isn't mindfulness meditation exposure therapy
 
Just one of many sites on the early church

http://www.answers.com/topic/saint-thomas-christians

Lindsay Smith March 8th, 2005 05:31 AM

Re: Isn't mindfulness meditation exposure therapy
 
I understand, I think, what you are saying having lived in Singapore in the early 1970s where high rise is a fact of life.

We all have fears & most of us find ways to manage our emotions. A few times I have experienced the sort of fear you describe. I was born in New Zealand & as a young man spent a lot of time in the Southern Alps mostly walking the tracks in the mountains. On one trip I was leading the party up a loose rock & scree slope that lead up to a pass. When I came up to the pass several climbers I had not seen before were standing there looking down at me climbing up towards them & at my friends clambering up behind.

I turned & looked down at my friends & the view. It was very steep & a long way down. Immediately I felt weak & dizzy as if all my strength was gone. I turned & looked up at the climber standing quite close to me & said, "I'm stuck." He casually reached out his ice axe & I hooked my axe on to his & I felt a surge of strength go through me. I walked up the last few paces easily. I'm not sure what happened there. I don't know how a modern psychologist would try to explain what happened that day.

When I was in Singapore in 1988 & the tower in Raffles Place was nearly finished I took the fast lift up the 57 floors to the top & looked out over the city. I was alone in the lift & alone at the top. The floor was bare cement & there were cables & equipment lying around. I enjoyed the view but did not experience any fear.

I know that some people experience fear in lifts but do not fear heights. This is an interesting issue but I think the practise of 'mindfulness' is mostly about learning how to hold focus & be aware the inner being than about banishing fear or any other emotion. Maybe in time by continually practising mindfulness meditation it is possible to become serene & not fear anything nor be distracted by any emotional concern at all.

Healer March 9th, 2005 08:01 PM

Re: Isn't mindfulness meditation exposure therapy
 
Sigh. Yes, mindfulness does seem to be detachment from feelings, or at least separation from them. "I know how I feel." "I know what I think." "I choose thoughts." I can do that without or with therapy, and still remain miserable. I can do that without meditation.

To me, the way that I practice meditation, when I experience the grace of meditation, I don't have to choose. I don't get whipped around by feelings. There's another mind that emerges. The enlightened mind. That mind knows the feeling and is separate from it. It can choose.

You see, I've experienced so much doing meditation. The way that I experience meditation it leads me to interpret that what I read in different traditions, religious, is often describing the mystical experience, or the separation that I describe. There's no need to "make" oneself accept. It happens naturally. There's no need to have to choose thoughts over feelings. Both exist, and another mind intervenes painlessly. (BTW, none of this is a common experience for me, or easy to experience.)

I don't know. Maybe my experience is unique. There is just so much to experience with meditation, beyond this description or mindfulness.

My question then, is mindfulness a practice in overriding emotion and chosing thought instead? Do thoughts create happiness--always--or a better way of life--always? Again, I don't need meditation to do this.

Lindsay Smith March 10th, 2005 06:50 AM

Re: Isn't mindfulness meditation exposure therapy
 
Healer
"I know how I feel." "I know what I think." "I choose thoughts." I can do that without or with therapy, and still remain miserable. I can do that without meditation.

My understanding of 'meditation' is that once a person 'gets there' feelings & thoughts evaporate. Even the awareness of breathing, of being evaporates. So thoughts & feelings are completely suspended.

I asked Swami Poornamurti about 'disappearing,' being completely unaware of my own existence during a meditation session as if I'd just dissolved into the inner space. His comment was, "that happens sometimes, don't expect that to happen all the time." When I asked what should I study, what books should I read he simply said, "just do your practise."

Your comment, "I know how I feel, I know what I think, I choose thoughts" seems 'Cartesian to me. "I think therefore I am."

In the meditative state the lake of the mind eventually becomes still & calm & clear so there are no waves, no ripples, no disturbances, nor even feelings or thoughts.

Teachings of Swami Satyananda, volume 3, page 173 ..

"If you supress these [negative] thoughts, they return again to the depths of your unconscious mind where they play havoc. These subconscious impressions often cause introversion..."
On antar mouna p178 ... "This is a practice of seeing the mind, observing perceptions & accepting experiences... Be a silent, impartial witness to all the functions of the mind. Observe the part of the mind that thinks & the part which rejects thoughts....p178 "Millions of samskaras, latent impressions buried in the depths of the mind, are always coming up & influencing our behaviour, personality & destiny. ... close your eyes & be aware of what you are thinking."

It may be that you are aware of all of the above & more already & that you have been to many meditation retreats & workshops & so on. My comment then is that as the saying goes, 'you are what you eat, you are what you think.' There is no need to feel miserable. You have the power to change what you think, how you think & what you eat. You have the power to change where you live & who you associate with, what you do & how you think & feel about who you are. Cheers & Good Luck.

Healer March 10th, 2005 11:27 AM

Re: Isn't mindfulness meditation exposure therapy
 
Ah, yes. I do know all of these things. I have experienced many things in meditation. However, they aren't as easy to "do" as one would be lead to believe, at least for me, and from what I read.

You quote from Hindu traditions here. I believe that all meditations roads lead to the same place, or among a group of possible experiences depending upon the person. I am guessing that for most people, the point that I am trying to make, is that meditation is more of a thought process than that of a huge shift in consciousness in the beginning, and as they understand it. I may be wrong. This may be why it seems like exposure therapy to people, rather than a profound change in the mind that has little to do with exposure therapy. I may be wrong.

I like your optimism. We all do have the option to change, but there would be fewer therapists and self-help books if change was that easy. In fact, maybe we'd need only one or two of both if change was easy. Furthermore, there are real obstacles in life. I'm quite sure I will never be a concert pianist, for example.

Lindsay Smith March 15th, 2005 03:59 PM

Re: Isn't mindfulness meditation exposure therapy
 
My own personal daily meditation training is Taijiquan & Qigong from 6-7+am every morning with a group in the park on the riverbank. It may be that you do not have the opportunity to learn these arts with a competent teacher but you could do walking meditation.

Google has many sites & where you can find useful information. I know others who have studied Buddhism intensively that have found active physical work is of great benefit. In yoga ashrams only an hour or two per day is given to yoga & seated meditation. The rest of the day is taken up with some form of physical work. Relax the body to relax the mind. It's a matter of balance. Being mentally exhausted but having plenty of physical energy to burn is not good.

Dave Birren April 1st, 2005 05:17 PM

Re: Isn't mindfulness meditation exposure therapy
 
Lindsay Smith asked what evidence there is that Jesus taught Buddhist philosophy and offered a website to look into. I think if one reads the Gospel of Matthew it's easy to see Buddhism in the background, especially in the Sermon on the Mount, which IMO is straight Buddhism.

Healer April 11th, 2005 07:55 AM

Re: Isn't mindfulness meditation exposure therapy
 
A number of years ago, when I was getting a graduate degree, one of the topics of interest in classical art and archaeology was the influence of the East on religion in the West, if I remember correctly.

Dave Birren June 7th, 2005 05:39 PM

Re: Isn't mindfulness meditation exposure therapy
 
Jamie Peterson wrote: "the idea that he [Jesus] didn't teach the "god of wrath stuff of the Jews" is rather ludicrous. Almost everything Jesus said (save for his parables) he was quoting from the Hebrew Scriptures (the Jewish Bible - HIS bible). There is no evidence that he was teaching Hindu or Buddhist practice ... "

If you read the Gospel of Matthew, you may find many parallels with Buddhism, especially the Sermon on the Mount, which in my view is straight Buddhism with a slight cultural twist.

I'd like to point out that mindfulness meditation, which has its foundation and most complete instructions, in Buddhist texts, is not a religion, as Jamie seems to suggest. Mindfulness involves working with the mind and requires no beliefs or other religious associations.

Dave Birren

James Spiar July 28th, 2005 01:17 AM

Re: Isn't mindfulness meditation exposure therapy
 
Mindfulness Meditation takes it's name from the 7th Noble Truth of The Eight Fold Path of the Buddha's teaching. It has been formalized in the Buddhist Tradition of Vipassana, found primarily in Bhurma, but also in Northern India, and now, due to the teachings of Buddhist teachers like Joseph Goldstein and Jack Kornfield who brought over several well known Buddhist teachers, it is not popular in the West.

Clearly, Mindfulness has a Buddhist origin and is part of that religious tradition. However, Buddhism is primarily a practice, and a religion in terms of a way of living. It does not postulate a diety, and therefore differs from the Judeo-Christian tradition. Yet Mindfulness clearly is a Buddhist based practice, and to divorce it from this religion robs the practitioner of much of the practice of mindfulness.

Chate Sivasomboon October 31st, 2005 03:56 AM

Re: Isn't mindfulness meditation exposure therapy
 
Dear Healer

Are you the same one as "Meditator" who has posted similar themes in this section in past few years? I read it but didn't attempt to reply then. Now I have registered specifically to attempt to reply your questions, but not regarding the aspect of psychotherapy, but in regards to mindfulness meditation practice of the Theravada Buddism as mentioned by Dr. James Spira above.

Congratulation for your meditation achievement which is very unique and few meditators get it, so it is difficult to find those who would understand what you said. Your experience is very important for Mindfullness/Vipassana/Insight meditation of Theravada Buddhism; an important milestone for further spiritual progress. It is a dissociation of awareness from the object of awareness which usually are entangled with each other; the awareness part is very clam and quiet while the object of awareness, which could be various mental states, is separated away, out of the awareness boundary, but still in contact, like water and oil in the same container. It is as if there is another very calm and still observer looking at a mental object beyond his/her self boundary. This experience is similar to that of ordinary people looking at a material object in the surrounding environment but replacing the material object by various mental perceptions such as pain, discomfort or agonized somatic or visceral feelings, or fear, etc.

This state of mind can be achieved in many ways; one way as you have described is by practicing a deep calming meditation (Samatha meditation); the mind remembers this very calming state and when a meditator comes out of this deep calming meditation and continues mindfulness meditation practice immediately, the power of deep calming meditation will enhance their mindfulness practices such that they can discern this body, feeling and various mind states with clarity and with spontaneous acceptance and detachment, which they don’t have to decide or make up their mind to do so; It’s beyond intention. Those who walk this way will achieve what is like another independently floating and glowing mind, persisted all days and nights, amid the chaotic and unruly mind and the very suffering body. It is called “the one who knows”; however this is not the final liberation yet. This method is used mainly by the Forest monk tradition of Thailand and this way of practice is called Samatha-led Vipassana meditation. Those who practice like this are called Samatha-yanik and those who have been liberated by this method are called “Jeto-Vimutta = liberated by mind power.”

This state of mind can also be entered by many other ways such as when mindfulness meditators do it wrong and get stuck and trapped in a very stressful and distressing circumstance such that they suddenly decide to stop doing it, abandoning the strong will or desire to become meditators or to achieve, immediately the compressed mind will spring back forcefully into this state of mind and then “Ureka.” This state might also be aroused by very intense fear or very frustrating and depressing mental states; read the first few pages of “The Now” by Eckhart Tolle.

Another way to develop this mind state is to do direct Vipassana meditation but it must be done properly (it doesn’t mean correctly**) and the mind state akin to what has been described above will occur, but with much weaker intensity and lasting very shortly. It may be called a broadly-open, present-centered, self recollection. This state is beyond intention as well and you have to trick it to occur as frequently as possible in daily life activities, without an intention to do so and might not attempt to hold on to it; the mind will gradually remembers it and it will become stronger in intensity, occurring more frequently and lasting longer; however it might not be comparable to that obtained after the deep calming meditation, but it is enough for usage in developing direct Vipassana meditation. The Pali technical term for this state is “Sati-Sampajanya” and when it arises, the mind state just preceding it may be spontaneously dissolved or coexist in parallel without causing mental agony. However, since it is quite weak, it may not occur in a circumstance with very strong emotional components. It is not the same as the ordinary mindfulness that make people understand their thought contents, or understand what they read, or enjoy movies. It takes times to develop this “sati-Sampajanya” until the mind ceases to entangle with either good or bad mental states. Then further spiritual progression will set in by itself. Those who walk this way is called Vipassana-Yanik and those who have been liberated by this way are called “Panya-Vimutta = liberated by pure wisdom.”

There are various traps or pitfalls in both ways of practices and practitioners of both sides are usually quarrelling with each other as to what is the correct method of practice.

Healer December 29th, 2005 06:40 PM

Re: Isn't mindfulness meditation exposure therapy
 
Thank you for responding. It's nice to get some validation for my experience. I think that the various traditions have different words for the experience, as well as slightly different expectations for what it "should" be, although I may be wrong. I'm in no way an expert, just a participant. Maybe someone would like to write more about these different states or terms.

I guess I would suggest that anyone interested in understanding whether mindfulness is just exposure therapy go to a few meditation classes with more advanced meditators and listen to them describe their experiences. Usually, in the classes that I have taken, we all describe our experiences in the meditation, and they don't resemble anything that would be considered a reaction to exposure therapy.

Chate Sivasomboon January 30th, 2006 11:26 PM

Re: Isn't mindfulness meditation exposure therapy
 
Healer wrote “ Maybe someone would like to write more about these different states or terms.” OK, I’ll do it.

Calming meditation VS Mindfulness meditation.

The following writing was from what I have learned from many teachers, who are monks or lay people as well as my own experiences in meditation. It might be wrong and not all Theravada meditation practitioners would agree to what I wrote.

There are two types of meditation in Theravada Buddhism: Calming and Mindfulness, which are diagonally opposite. There are forty techniques for practicing calming meditation; for mindfulness meditation, it is based on the teaching of the four foundations of mindfulness and the teaching of mindfulness breathing.

One example of calmness meditation is loving-kindness meditation. When we think of our lover, the mind latches on to the image projection of our lover, automatically accompanied by multiple resonating mind qualities, which are summarily called love (such as sustained attention, excitement, happiness.) So, we raise up the mental projection of our lover in our mind, and resonating mind qualities automatically follows, causing sustention of these mental complexes within the mind. With skillfulness in calming meditation, we can drop the projection of our lover, while the accompanying mind qualities are still being sustained, and actually resonated stronger, with suppression of other incoming perceptions. At this stage, the perceptions of body projection, body sensation and sound may be vanished; only love permeates the entire sphere of our perception and now we can experience love without a lover! It is a very amazing kind of love; love that is completely devoid of anxiety, doubt, anger, or depression. This is the kind of meditation that was recently studied which showed increase in the energy of the EEG gamma wave spectra, if I remember it correctly. We may choose any loving object instead of our lover. This example is for demonstration of the concept of calming meditation: mental projection object + accompanying mind qualities which causes sustention of the complexes -> effortless sustention of the accompanying mind qualities, without paying intense attention to the primary mental projection -> suppression of the incoming perceptions: body & sound perceptions. It is not that exotic; if we reflect on our ordinary happy or fun activities such as when we are glued to reading an exciting fiction or playing something; it is quite similar in the beginning states. For another example, we can raise an image of a colored glass ball in our mind, and try to sustain this image projection. In order to do so, we must give it a lot of practices, make it fun like playing. The practice session must be accompanied by relaxation and happiness, not stressfulness, anger or frustration. (Think about playing; otherwise, the mental projection is hardly be able to sustain.) After a while, the image projection can be more easily sustained, and we will have a sense that we can control this imagery at our will, with accompanying sustained metal qualities: rapture (fun), happiness and pointedness. Similar to the above, for deeper states of meditation, these accompanying mind qualities are becoming more vibrant and self-sustained at ease without much attention being paid to the primary mental object. When the body projection, sensation and sound perception are vanished, this state is called the first rupa-jhana state. There are four rupa-jhana states and other four higher arupa-jhana states. From the first to fourth rupa-jhana states, various dominant mind qualities are successively dropped, with only pointedness remained in the fourth rupa-jhana states. For arupa-jhana states, it is a progression from the rupa-jhana states, which begin by dropping out the primary mental projection object, and instead paying attention to the vast space, which is surrounding our primary mental object. With further induction of higher meditative states, it will progress up to the vast conciousness state, the great voidedness state, etc.

The primary goal of calming meditation in Theravada Buddhism is to assist mindfulness meditation or it must be followed by insight meditation. (See “Culasunnatta sutta”, which is available in English on the Net; the last part of the sutta is an insight meditation within the calming meditation.) The experiences arising in this kind of meditation are just experiences, nothing more than that, and more important, the real jhana states are very difficult to achieve; it is much easier said than done.

For mindfulness meditation, the practice is based on the four foundations of mindfulness teaching (Mahasatipattatana sutta: The bases of mindfulness work), which is divided into four sections: recollection of the body(Kaya), feeling (Vedana), mental phenomena(Citta), and general phenomena(Dhamma), with many subsections within each section. The first two sections contain both calming and mindfulness meditation techniques, depending on a specific subsection. Those of the last two are of mindfulness type only. To understand mindfulness meditation, I would like to make some analogy. Supposed there was a party within a room which had only a single chair at the center, people continually coming in and going out of the room, taking turn sitting on the chair, or hanging around. In calming meditation, we just fixed someone sitting on the chair in this mind room and just fixedly stared at this one until the perceptions of the rest within the room were vanished, with induction of accompanying mind qualities as described above. But for mindfulness, the mind stance is different; there must be a stepping back quality in the mind or a quality of a noninvolved observer (Healer knows it well), and let people take turn sitting on the chair naturally, not fixed the mind vision only to the chair, but opened broadly to those staying around and those coming in and going out. Briefly, it is the practice aiming to lessen the engagement of the central vision of the mind and open more to peripheral mind visions (or noises.) By this way of practice, the mind will slowly build up the quality that enable it to recognize if it is being entangled or engaged into various mental complexes or not. When the mind recognizes that it is entangled, it can be spontaneously reverted back into the broadly-open, non-fixed-staring mode, without an intention. Then we can begin to neutrally and “simply see” our mind movements without being engulfed into the processes. This practice of “simply see” is not easily mastered either, since we are always engaged or entangled with our mental complexes, and we cannot intend to do “simply see”, otherwise we would fall into a fixed staring mind mode, expecting something to happen to see. Breathing meditation and slow moving meditation can be either calming meditation or mindfulness meditation, depending on the mind stance of the practitioners.

The process of “simply see” by itself is self rewarding; it is light (as opposed to dull, heavy), calming, open up for incoming perceptions, with a feeling of neutrality or calming well-being. The mid-term goal of mindfulness practices is to develop this mind state, and to have it occurs as frequently as possible in daily activities. Further spiritual progression will come by itself as we begin to see that any mind state does not last and we cannot control our mind states at will; we cannot sustain a good mind state forever and we cannot totally prevent bad mind states from happening; what we can do is just “simply see”, without an intention to see.

Some can easily directly observe their own mind and they will be able to practice the Citta mindfulness meditation, by following and observing the varying states of the mind such as happiness, calmness, agitation, anger, stupor, sensual desires, or being occupied by thoughts, etc. It can be done by frequent spot check of our own mind state at each moment without an attached comment. Other may begin by practicing the body section first, by “coupling” the mindfulness state with an open perception of the sensation of the body, sensation of body movement or sensation of breathing, without fixed staring or making a mental imagery of body parts. Frequently coming back to open perception of body sensation, body movement sensation or breathing sensation, the mind will be distracted from an engaged mind state that exists at that moment, and skillfulness will be gradually developed until we can “simply see” our mind movements.

These practices must be done by following observation of what already has happened, not by anticipating. Those who are interested may experience this short-lived, open recollection state repeatedly by simply carry on a vibrating alarm clock that can be set to vibrate every 5 minutes and go on doing normal, non-risky activities as usual, or try going to the movie, or shopping malls, etc. The clock will remind you if you have already plunged into various mind states; mainly if you are fixed staring at something or drowned into a flight of thoughts. But beware, your enjoyment of the activities will be ruined, especially for watching a movie. An example of mindfulness practices: supposed we went into the garden and we saw a beautiful flower, most people would know the flower was beautiful if they were not absent-minded. For those who were well verse in seeing their mind, they might recognize the following accompanying mind states: they were staring at the flower with loss of the open mindfulness state; their attention was fixed to the flower; likeness or attraction was arising in their mind; or they were occupied by thoughts related to the flower. After they recognized these states, the mind would be spontaneously reverted into the open mindfulness state. Those who are progressing well on the path may be able to recognize even small ripples of various mind impulses such as minute degrees of attraction or aversion, before they progress into full blown thought-emotion complexes.

I once enrolled into the course: Dr. Kabat-Zinn’s “Mindfulness-based stress reduction and well-being program”, conducted by a psychologist in SF, almost 10 years ago. It followed the teaching four foundations of mindfulness as described above: from body observation in the first week progressing to the observation of mind phenomena late in the course. But at that time I did not get at the concept of “simply see” or had the experience, and just went through the course. Later I went serendipitously into a deep meditative state a few times, and after coming out, had an experience similar to what Healer described. But the deep calming meditation was and still is very difficult for me to get into, so I reverted to pure mindfulness meditation based on one particular body-based subsection (Sampajanya subsection); it is the technique which “couples” the open mindfulness state with ordinary body movements which occur in the entire daily activities. So movements serve as triggers or reminders of the mindfulness state. However, the experience of a detached observer originated from the deep meditative state, very much helped me understand the mindfulness teaching.

Now we can see that in calming or mindfulness meditation, we do not prime ourselves with positive thoughts, and when we encounter a difficult situation, there could be two ways of response: Firstly, plunge ourselves into a calming state, by induction of a claming (semi-)meditative state, such as by paying attention to a few breaths for those are skillful with breathing-based calming meditation techniques, which will be resulting in automatic suppression or attenuation of the incoming senses of agitation and negative thoughts, or secondly, by spontaneously stepping back from the engaged mental state and just be mindful of the evolving events or “simply see”, being detached without thought processes involved, and the perceived mental complex confronting us may be spontaneously dissolved because we no longer feed it with our thoughts.

The mindfulness state can also occur in a dream, especially when a bad dream or a night terror happens, the mind will be automatically reverted back to calming state similar to when Healer encountered his/her own fear in an elevator. I’m not just kidding; I have had it three times, and I woke up just a moment later with calmness. Later I heard a sermon of my teacher saying that those who practice mindfulness well, bad dreams will no longer happened, since they will be able to recognize this intense emotional state even while dreaming. (I think it is very relevant to the study and induction of “lucid” dreaming.)

Cautions: Calming meditation may have negative side effects if not done well; many schizoid mental phenomena may arise, and if not properly handle, it might be devastating. For mindfulness meditation, it is quite safe to do but the progression is rather slow, and it takes many months in order to appreciate changes. The mindfulness meditation was designed 2,500 years ago in order to instill new positive habits that will gradually replace old deep-seated negative habits ( = Anusaya, in Pali word), so it takes a lot of time and commitment. (It take times for our neurons to make new synapses and forming new neural circuits.) And it may not be done while we are working using thought projections; Artists must beware: their intense emotional creative sessions might be interrupted.

Cesar Bujosa March 4th, 2006 11:40 PM

Re: Isn't mindfulness meditation exposure therapy
 
I am not terribly surprised that my comment on mindfulness has resulted in so many responses. In 2004 I suggested to the forum that mindfulness functions like exposure therapy which tends to habituate the presence of Anxious Pathology born of core emotional wounds (schema complexes).

The numerous responses were likely due to the exanding awakening that psychology is providing mindfulness meditation new language that can greatly clarify it processes and its efficacy. A relatively simple example:

Common emotional wounds can be thematically profiled as Schema Complexes--to name a few: Abandonment, Defectiveness, Emotional Deprivation, Mistrust, Social Exclusion, Failure, Vulnerability, Entitlement etc.
These complexes are troubling as they form conceptions that can supplant and distort perception.

Schema complexes are not formed solely from enduring misfortunes like not having one's needs met or being deserted. They require the attachment of some type of avoidant coping like having to Look Good, Habitually Seeking to Redeem Honor, Habitual Lying, Getting Over, Getting Back, Aquiring, Being Seductive, Being Judgmental or Chronic Anesthetizing and Burying Thoughts.

It appears to me that mindfulness can function as a replacement for all avoidant coping. This is is how it heals: When the avoidant coping mode is replaced with the adaptive coping mode of mindfulness, it severs the complex. The result is that the old emotional wound gets accepted, reintegrated and you get symptom reduction. Feeling abandoned or feeling emotionally deprived becomes and mere mental event rather than a current reality that must be reacted to. The over emphasis on the emotional wound is diminished as we awake to the understanding that our fear is a mental event with little survival value.

What I have just profiled in psychological terms conceptualizes an emotional healing. However it also provides us a perspective on the nature of mindfulness. A post Freudian-Scienced Based-Western Culture is investigating Mindfulness--and the West is doing an awesome job.

Some of our Western Teachers, secular psychologist and Scientist are fully valid devotees as they are devoted to the pursuit of liberation. New language, new conceptualizations and new blueprints are being developed to map out the path to enlightment.

Today I am asking myself: "Isn't enlightenment breaking through the veil formed from our Schemas and their projected conceptualizations. Aren't I failing to perceive my real circumstance because I am mistaking conception for perception? What does seeing without schema-driven conceptualizing look like? "

Healer March 6th, 2006 03:34 PM

Re: Isn't mindfulness meditation exposure therapy
 
"Isn't enlightenment breaking through the veil formed from our Schemas and their projected conceptualizations."

Yes. But, all that I write is from my experience of samadhi.

" Aren't I failing to perceive my real circumstance because I am mistaking conception for perception?"

It seems to me that you are doing a very good job of discerning conception from perception. After all, you are asking the question. So, you understand and experience both.

Enlightenment, from my experience, is as much a different emotional/mind state as major depression or PTSD is from an untraumatized state. Very special circumstances in the mind have to occur in order to experience it. However, it's far easier to set yourself up for major depression and PTSD than it is for enlightenment. Many more people suffer from depression and fear than those who have managed to experience enlightenment--I think.


"What does seeing without schema-driven conceptualizing look like? "

Enlightenment, freedom from schemas, is clarity, well being, and knowing. It's first knowing without words, which moves to feeling, and then words to describe the knowing. It's a state the perceives outside of the feelings that schemas create, and allows one to chose from a state of well being how to respond to the feeling that the schema is creating.

Put another way, that enlightened state is a role of well being and clarity, which allows one to chose that role that one will have when observing and feeling a schema. It's experiencing the feeling of a schema without being whipped around by it.

The schema conceptualization (feeling) still exists. There's another mind that is separate from it. This has been my experience.

But, I have a feeling that it's something that can't be captured in words. You have to experience before you can know.

You ask specifically about seeing. Do you "see" when you experience your schemas? People tend to experience their intuitive world with their senses--feeling, seeing, hearing, etc. They use language to describe the way that they intuit their world. "I see what you are saying." "The way I hear it." "I feel that." I tend to default to feeling schemas, but my second strongest intuitive sense is seeing, but I can't imagine seeing a schema.

Chate Sivasomboon March 8th, 2006 08:03 AM

Re: Isn't mindfulness meditation exposure therapy
 
In my earlier posting, I have avoided mentioning the word enlightenment( Nibana or Niravana) since it may sound too weird for people here, and it is unproven scientifically. It is also beyond the goal of psychotherapy which aims to bring those with mental troubles back to the ordinary normal mind states. Well, it has been mentioned and some questions have been raised, so I write the following just in case that someone might be interested to follow the path of Vipassana for their own liberation, according to Theravada Buddhism.

Actually in Buddhism, all ordinary people are considered psychologically abnormal, living beneath the shroud of one greatest schema: “I & Myself,” which causes every one to hold tightly to the idea that “I must be happy and I must avoid suffering (by all means and forever)” , and constatly devise all schemes to achieve this goal, and get whipped around as a result. The enlightened mind state is actually described as “normal.”

According to Theravada Buddhism’s theory of enlightenment, Healer is exactly right to state that the moment of enlightenment needs a special mind state. In this state, the mind will spontaneously pass into a brief moment of intense concentration (Samadhi) of at least the first rupa-jhana state and then break through the veil of “I & Myself” conceptualization to have the first glimpse of liberation; the state of perception without a perceiver (No I being tagged.) Then the veil will close up to shroud the mind again. The wisdom will occur that “I & Myself” is mere conceptualization, which is called Sakkaya-ditthi. (Ditthi = view, concept; Sakkaya-ditthi assumes that this body and mind are I and Myself.) The platform for this act of severing to occur is the full “Sati-Sampajanya” state: the exact state that Healer has experienced, but the object of awareness at this moment is the mind itself. That is why we need to cultivate the mind state of “Sati-Sampajanya” and to have it occurred as frequently as possible in order to investigate our own mind. This first enlightenment stage will spontaneously occur (but unpredictably when) after strong equanimity has been built up in the mind (the stage of Sankarubekka-yana; Sankara = mental concoction, Ubekka = equanimity, Yana = wisdom; neutrality to good and bad states of the mind.) But even though this conceptualization has been cut through once, strong attachment still remains. Further cutting through of the attachment to the body will occur in the third stage of enlightenment and the cutting through of the attachment to the mind itself will occur at the final fourth stage of enlightenment, which is the stage of complete throwing of the body and mind back to the Universe where they belong (Patinisakka; those who read mindfulness breathing sutta will see this word in the last section.) In one sutta, the last sentence says: the cutting (of wisdom) through (the veil of Ignorance) of me (Buddha) was similar to that of a little chick breaking through its eggshell.

A little more about mindfulness meditation. Recollection of feelings (Vedana) are divided into body feelings, which are roughly categorized as pleasant and unpleasant, and mental feelings which are categorized into pleasant(attachment), neutral and unpleasant(aversion.) When we are angry or depressed, we certainly know that we are angry or depressed and usually we tell ourselves by thinking “ I am angry or I am depressed”, but this is not yet a mindfulness practice. These two mind states are usually associated with aversion towards: 1. The mentally projected contents or objects of thoughts which we “want” to change or get rid of (well, for anger, it is our enemy and for depression, it is ourselves) and 2. The accompanying unwell feelings of the body (somatic and visceral) and the mind which are resulted from the mind state of aversion. When we feel angry or depressed, we usually fixedly stare into these mind states, and even when we recognize that we are thinking about these mind states with resultant cessation of thinking, these states usually would not be spontaneously resolved. There would be lingering unwell feelings remained for some times after the thinking processes have already stopped. If we observe carefully, we will see that we harbor some aversion toward these lingering unwell feelings accompanying these mind states; it is aversion within aversion which must be recognized. Only when we are skillful and can just “simply see or feel ” with neutrality, not harboring this secondary aversion or when we recognize it, only then these confronting mind states would be spontaneously resolved.

For those who are skillful in entering deep calming meditative states, the golden period for observation of their own mind is when they gradually transit back from the deep calming meditative states toward the normal ordinary mind state. Be observant of the progressively emerging mental phenomena during this period; don’t just simply wake up, and walk away. Keep practicing this way, you will be skillful in seeing your mind and you might experience the mind phenomenon similar to that of Healer. According to the texts, the useful calming meditative state is the fourth rupa-jhana state, which comprises of pointedness and equanimity, with happiness being dropped away. The needed mind quality in the deep calming meditation is equanimity (not happiness), of which its power will anchor or enhance the mind position of detachment and neutrality while observing the various emerging mental states during this transition period.

Progression along the path of mindfulness depends on the ordinary psychology of rewarding: a self–relying, harmless happiness or fulfilling contentment of calming well-being substitutes for a transient, harmful happiness which is dependent on other people or surrounding circumstances, and eventually followed by unhappiness. By this way, we can stop pursuing many suffering-generated, happiness hunting schemes. By mindfully investigating our own mind, the state of calming well-being will arise, leading to diligence in mindfulness practices, which will generate more abundance of the calming well-being moments in daily life. And the nature of the sustained state of calming well-being will anchor the mind, leading further into the stage of Samadhi (here, means a firm, unwavering mind state, does not means calming meditation) and Ubekka (equanimity), which is the last frontier of the ordinary mind states before the mind will be spontaneously catapulted into the first enlightenment stage. ( The 7 factors of enlightenment: Sati, Dharma investigation, Diligence, Happiness, Calming and relaxation of the mind, Samadhi, Ubekka.)

Finally I would like to quote a Pali chanting phrase: “Aehipassigo Opanayigo Pujjuttung Vetituppo Vinyuheti” : Come to see and test the teaching by yourself. Bring the teaching into yourself by investigating your own body and mind. You will see the results by yourself and only by your own efforts, no one else can help.

Cesar Bujosa March 17th, 2006 10:19 PM

Re: Isn't mindfulness meditation exposure therapy
 
Thank you Healer and Chate for your extraordinary contributions to the discussion. I am impressed with how readily Healer adapted to the idea of Schemas. Though I deal with Maladjusted Schema in my work, I recognize that all schemas (mental constructs) form in terms of our needs, drives and desires. Schemas are indeed as Chate suggested :"the veil of “I & Myself” conceptualization."

I have become quite resolved to experience a liberation from "conceptualization." I imagine I have been in this venture for quite a while, yet I am in a rather new phase. I am entering this phase with the question: How much cognitive change can occur with a samadhi/moksha/satori experience? How healing is the single experience devoid of ongoing meditation?

Some 40 years ago I had a startling encounter with an unanticipated reality while experimenting with LSD. The observation of timelessness and the recognition that "I was not what I thought" has indeed left an impression (to say the least about it). Though the experience was meaningful, it failed to save me from regressing into self-delusion and egoism. The schemas support our neurosis. Is the neurosis restructured upon reentry?

Cesar
www.mindfulrecovery.com

Healer March 31st, 2006 01:04 PM

Re: Isn't mindfulness meditation exposure therapy
 
"How much cognitive change can occur with a samadhi/moksha/satori experience? How healing is the single experience devoid of ongoing meditation?"

I am probably not the one to be answering these question. I only write from my experience, although I have had some wonderful experiences.

From my experience, a single experience with Samadhi was life altering. A few large, and many small. One can meditate for a very long time, if not a lifetime, without ever experiencing Samadhi I think. But from what I have read, even if the benefits from meditation are not life altering, or even obvious, people do seem to experience change from ongoing practice. I am not sure I would say that that is true for me, but I think that the benefits from meditation may be more subtle. It is Samadhi that has altered my life.

As my guru has said, big Samadhi, small Samadhi, meditation, contemplation, it's all part of it.

From my experience, I tend to think that there are some minds that are super-meditators just like there are great pianist and chemists. I'm not one of them. I just got lucky.

"Some 40 years ago I had a startling encounter with an unanticipated reality while experimenting with LSD. The observation of timelessness and the recognition that "I was not what I thought" has indeed left an impression (to say the least about it). Though the experience was meaningful, it failed to save me from regressing into self-delusion and egoism. The schemas support our neurosis. Is the neurosis restructured upon reentry?"

Neurosis is restructured upon re-entry, and sometimes some of the change seems lost over time. That's my experience. But even when it seems lost, I have been left with the memory of the experience that is also life altering. I remember the feeling of tremendous love and well-being. I can practice going back there in meditation. I can develop it in my life. I can play with it in meditation/contemplation and make if more of me, and that is what I do.

I find that meditation does what psychotherapy tries to do, but can't. No one can know from the outside looking in what is happening in another person. Often, it's not obvious to ourselves; Samadhi makes it known. That's the brilliance of the mind in meditation.

The answer is always found within.

Cesar Bujosa April 23rd, 2006 09:25 PM

Re: Isn't mindfulness meditation exposure therapy
 
Healer: Thanks so much for your response. I was hoping you would comment. Perhaps I anticipated what you stated: There was life altering change. Samadhi would form a schema of the experience. I am happy for you.

I have the sense that normalizing samadhi is important. I can see samadhi happening somewhat unpredictably. Like you said--you got lucky. Or, perhaps you are disposed. Samadhi chooses its vessel. I imagine that ongoing meditation is critical, without it preoccupation seems inevitable. Fixation is attachment and ironically suffering.

Thanks again

Healer July 22nd, 2006 09:32 AM

Re: Isn't mindfulness meditation exposure therapy
 
I'm glad you appreciated my response. It is my experience, and accurate for me. I can't speak for everyone. I do not practice the Buddhist technique. I actually find it emotionally painful, and not because of its exposure element.

I'm wondering, if you are still reading, if you would be interested in responding to a question I posted about schema therapy on the Cognitive Therapy Forum.

Chate Sivasomboon July 23rd, 2006 11:05 PM

Re: Isn't mindfulness meditation exposure therapy
 
Hi Healer and all

Practicing of Samadhi into a deep state, and experiencing separation of awareness from an object of awareness, like fear, pain or seeing our body as if it is another object equal to the surrounding objects, is definitely taught in Buddhism, especially in the Forest monk tradition of Thailand. One monk says “as if there are two minds or two cittas”, while the other says “see our own feelings with a sense of separation like that of oil and water.”

When I first experienced separation of awareness from fear, I didn’t know what it was until I read a book by one of the masters of the Forest tradition. But I didn’t continue practicing deep Samadhi, since I am not endowed with this ability. I got it serendipitously. Like you say, this special ability is endowed to some people only, like that of a great violinist or a champion tennis player. The Buddhist commentary texts written a thousand years ago acknowledged this point. That is why there must be the other way for people who can’t cultivate deep Samadhi, that is the way of direct Mindfulness.

“ I do not practice the Buddhist technique. I actually find it emotionally painful, and not because of its exposure element.” : I think you mean that you do not practice the direct mindfulness method of Buddhism. “I actually find it emotionally painful.”: Well this direct mindfulness method is usually mentioned as a parched and dry method, especially by Samadhi-first schools. The main problem of this direct Mindfulness method is that the real mindfulness state is difficult to establish, making practitioners fixedly entangle into various emotional states, absorbing into emotional states and struggling against them. This is a wrong practice. Those with Samadhi power can rise above an emotional state much more easily. Mindfulness when practice well, generates a sense of well-being.

But in reverse, Mindfulness, when practice well can also lead into a deep Samadhi. Usually most cultivate Samadhi in a forward fashion. The mindfulness-led Samadhi is a kind of backward method. In Buddhism, Samadhi can be sustained when its various opposing mind states do not appear. Mindfulness can make you discern or identify a mind state which is a Samadhi nemesis, and drop it away, then the mind will enter Samadhi by itself.

A moment of separation can also occur to those who practice direct Mindfulness. I have attested to this. Many years after my first separation, I experienced another separation when I was talking to someone and I recognized that I felt uneasy, suddenly the mind separated into stillness, and amazingly, all the spoken words flowed through me without attached meanings. They were just only sounds and I could choose to comprehend them or not. A monk whom I heard of recently, after practicing mindfulness, his mind is always flipped into stillness, brightness and well-being all the time when mindfulness occurs, (but this is considered a hindrance in Vipassana.)

In Buddhism, who will do which method of meditation, depends on one's own predilection which was described in the ancient commentary texts but I don’t know if it was accurate. Not every one can do Samadhi, and not every one can do direct Mindfulness. I hope one day, Psychology of Spirituality can elucidate these individual differences and can prescribe a particular method of practice or treatment for each person, like that of gene therapy in Medicine.

Healer, I like you comments; you are a great practioner and a great obeserver. You hit at the right point when questioning about the Mindfulness practice earlier in you posts. I try to explain to others what it is and how it works, since many will go this way. I hope one day you will reach the state of sustained mental separation in dalily life, with a free-floating and bright awareness, detached from all perceptions.

Happiness to all.

Healer July 27th, 2006 09:32 AM

Re: Isn't mindfulness meditation exposure therapy
 
No, I really don't practice Buddhist meditation. I learned meditation from a New Age healer who uses imagery, sound, movement, moving energy and a focus on chakras. Recently, I have been meditating with a guru, Hindu, very much a mystic, who uses only chanting. (And yes sound can effect meditation, responding to a previous thread.) I've tried and read about Buddhist meditation. I think I understand, and of course, all meditation essentially has a similar element--focus. However, I don't fully understand direct and indirect meditation from your text. I intuit that you mean that indirect meditation is an attempt to remain focused on what's running through the mind--"I feel anxious, my knees hurt, I miss my cat, I can't pay my bills." And in so do, one eventually strips away the pain, and becomes aware of peace. While direct meditation starts at peace or well being, and when something disturbing comes up one pulls himself back into peace, or is direct meditation, meditation on one thing, like a color?

That being said, I had some thoughts about exposure therapy and meditation. Surely, awareness of pain is exposure, but as Chate points out, you can become terribly tangled up in the emotion. I think that there is another element to meditation that heals. That is what is often called direct knowing. This applies well to what I have been reading about healing traumatic loss.

Just to note, from what I understand, there are two things that are hard to meditate away, loss and physical pain. That being said, I've been reading recent work on healing traumatic loss. Robert Neimeyer particularly has cited three tasks involved in that healing, and I hope that I paraphrase him correctly. (1) Gathering and knowing the fragmented parts of the event, those dissociated, making the event coherent. (2) Becoming aware of the emotional response that the event/s have created. (3) Inserting this into the life the life story so that somehow it fits.

When you say exposure, I assume you refer to trauma. With trauma, thoughts and emotions are shattered/scattered, although they are known, for some reason the pieces of the events along with the emotions just don't fit together. They are there, but they aren't there. Life becomes an act of living through the trauma first, and not living life. It's very hard to live in true self, seamlessly. That's my sense anyway.

Meditation can cultivate an event/skill of direct knowing. That which is confused, or cut off, or known but yet unknow just shows up. I think of the scientist who gets the answer in a dream. But it's more than that. There's an answer, but that which is scatter, shattered, known but unknown joins ordered healthy ego/consciousness. And then the emotional mind is so thrilled to have that order, in a flash there's peace. Healthy self/ego knows what to do, how to fit the shattered, now ordered pieces in life. The solution the mind offers up usually has little to do with what an outside observer would suggest as step to healing. Often those suggestions are more detrimental and confusing than doing nothing. What seems obvious on the outside isn't what's happened on the inside. I hope that I have explained this well.

Is there an element in schema therapy that taps into this? Imagery, I think, resembles exposure therapy. Does it work on the mind at this level? This direct knowing seems to resemble EMDR to me.

Chate Sivasomboon July 28th, 2006 06:49 AM

Re: Isn't mindfulness meditation exposure therapy
 
Dear Healer

Meditation: Focusing vs Non-focusing

Sorry, there are many terms and many traditions of meditation, so it may be confusing when using these terms and I do not refer to psychology terms since I am not a psychologist. My focus is on the mental separation experience that you described, when you encountered you own fear in an elevator. The separation experience is actually at the heart of Vipassana. In this separation experience, it is as if there are two layers of mind, one that perceives fear and one that is calmly aware, isn’t it. Vipassana means wisdom or insight and wisdom or insight cannot definitely occur if we become tangled up in emotions all the times, even in meditation. How to build up or cultivate this separation quality of the mind? Two methods in Buddhism. One is built up on focusing first, while the other depends on a “non-focusing” technique. The latter technique is like when you are looking at a dim light source in the dark. If you focus on this dim light source you won’t see it, but if you use your peripheral vision, you can see it.

The first one is to practice meditation by focusing on something first, concentrating on one object of the mind until sustained stillness and peace occur, which I think, is similar in all traditions. This will produce mind stillness and mind power, and I call it Samadhi. Now in the deep state of concentration, there will be no disturbances, just stillness only, so we cannot study our own mind at this stage. But when we get rising up from this deep meditative state, all perceptions begin to flow and mental projections arise. Usually we just submerge ourselves back into these projections on our mind screen and return to a normal wake up state. But for some people, the power of Samadhi makes them continuingly aware of the retained stillness while perceptions and mental projections begin to flow through the mind. Separation can occur at this stage; one layer perceives an undisturbed stillness, while the other layer perceives various mental objects or emotional states. So we can feel an agitated emotional state without agitation. Wisdom arise that a perceived mental object or a percieved emotional state is not a part of I or Mine, and it is just only an object of perception. Some may have this separation after walking out from their meditation session to do something else, or even after a few days afterward. This technique is called Mindfulness after calming meditation.

The second method is to directly expose to emotional states without priming with focusing and calming meditation as described above. I call it direct Mindfulness. This method is difficult since we usually become tangled up in an emotion, because we always get used to focusing on our emotional perceptions. To practice this method, we must keep practicing the technique of just simply knowing without sustained focusing into a particular mental object; being aware without focusing or staring into our mind screen, to counter our tendency to being tangled up in an emotion. By using what is like peripheral vision of the mind, we can keep afloat from an emotional state. The practice will convey the sense of spacious, open, panoramic-like perception, with flowing through of mental phenomena, and without fixation to a particular emotional state. This experience will be a reference point that makes us aware if we are being caught up in any emotional state or not. When we recognize that we become tangled up in an emotion, the mind can be automatically reverted back into the open non-focusing mode by itself, with also spontaneous dissolution of the emotional state at that moment, (but not permanently, not a permanent healing.) This mind state can last very shortly and I call it the real Mindfulness. There will be a fast alternation between Mindfulness and various emotional states. Wisdom arises from seeing that various emotional states are always dissolved and are not a part of awareness or a part of I or Mine; they belong to the part of the perceived. This technique is a kind of rapid, brief and repeated mini-separation from emotional states, which occurs throughout daily life or in a meditation session. It is like making a dotted line of which each dot on the line can be compared to a short moment of mindfulness. Beginners will have a sparse dotted line. Those who are skillful will have a dense dotted line almost resembling a continuous line. Or it could be compared to clasping of the hands; touch-separate,…..,touch-separate,….. This is how the direct mindfulness method works. Emotional states always keep arising in our mind but with Mindfulness, the mind can be detached from them repeatedly for all day. Mindfulness practitioners will have more and more abundant moments of mindfulness in daily life and being less occupied by emotional states, and a sense of well being will be gradually built up. It is a technique that enables us to know an emotional state, without being overwhelmed by it.

So the word meditation is confusing. I hope you understand my meaning; one that uses focusing first and the other that uses a “non-focusing” technique.

Healer July 31st, 2006 06:49 PM

Re: Isn't mindfulness meditation exposure therapy
 
Thank you for your explanation, it is very clear to me now. Since I do not come from your tradition, I did not understand completely what you were writing about. It fascinates me that without using Mindfulness techniques, but focusing on senses essentially, I developed both abilities. I don't really have to meditate to do it; I can just choose to do it. I never received instruction on how to do it, nor did I learn the language that you apply. It just came by an act of grace one day, in the way that you explain your experience. It was rather dramatic.

This sort of demonstrates to me what I suspect. All forms of meditation lead to the same place. However, the experiences among individuals vary despite the form or tradition.

wilderness artist November 22nd, 2009 08:51 PM

Re: Isn't mindfulness meditation exposure therapy
 
I have just joined this forum so it is all new to me, even things posted in 2006.

I would like to add a bit about mindfulness meditation. I was at the American Holistic Medical Association's Conference in Cleveland this month, and one of the keynote addresses was by HeartMath. HeartMath has done extensive research on the heart-brain, the gut-brain, and the brain we all think of as the brain. It turns out that the heart brain has stronger electrical energy, and breathing into the heart while feeling appreciation calms stress through coherence, or balance in the autonomic nervous system. (I am a lay person, so may not be stating it perfectly correctly.) Athletes call this state being in "the zone". Breathing into the heart while feeling appreciation sounds very much like mindfulness meditation to me! Meditation comes in many forms.


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