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About the Sit4Health™ technique

In other places, what I call Sit4Health™ you’ve heard referred to as “contemplative practice,” “mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR),” “centering prayer,” “contemplative prayer,” “Transcendental Meditation,” “mindfulness meditation,” “salât,” “vipassanā,” “bhakti yoga” or “zazen.” I call this consciousness-training technique Sit4Health™ to welcome attenders to a secular approach without the cultural trimmings, but will often refer to the practice simply as “meditation” since that’s the most popular term in use today.

The above family of techniques have in common a conscious attempt to:

A. focus attention in a non-analytical way;

B. not dwell on discursive, ruminating thought;

C. attend solely to the present moment,

D. and be aware of awareness itself.

These techniques also have an array of attributes NOT in common, which are historical, cultural or religious elements not germane to the health benefits Sit4Health™ can provide. “D” above is particularly prone to accrue cultural explanations of who, what or why there is the sensation of an extra-dimensional witness in certain states attained during meditation. We are not going to address spirituality during Sit4Health™ sessions, except to note that other states of conscious exist beyond our usual waking, sleeping and dreaming states which we can attain through this practice and that help us step outside of the ego (personality) perspective that makes most of us more or less miserable.

Attaining a heightened state of unitary consciousness can free us––to varying degrees––from fear, hatred, anger, compulsiveness, and other unpleasant or dysfunctional feelings and behavior. As a mental health counselor, I’m dedicated to helping folks free themselves from these issues and have found meditation very effective for mitigating stress and being able to self-regulate distressful emotions and behaviors.

One of the basic tenets of meditation is that passive awareness is a natural, elementary, direct form of experience ordinarily overwhelmed and obscured by the ego-supporting activity of the mind. The purpose of Sit4Health™ is to reclaim the capacity for this experience and its many health-inducing benefits.

You will learn focusing techniques to gain equanimity, so your brain will to be able to chose “responding” as oppose to “reacting” to stress, thereby supporting mental health. Also, over the last four decades due to increasing understanding of neuroplasticity, the science of neurophysiology has discovered many ways meditation supports physical brain health. Neuroplasticity means we can—usually unwittingly—change physical attributes of the brain through the activity of the mind. As Dr. Dan Siegel says, “what fires together wires together.” For example, angry behavior creates neuronal structures that are prone to select anger as a behavior.

Here’s an article from the Huffington Post presenting 20 Reasons Meditation is Good For Your Health.

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While there is there is no one way to meditate, here are some basic instructions to get you started:

1. Sit comfortably on a chair with a straight back or cross-legged on a cushion on the floor. Do not slouch. Sit as erect with your backbone as straight as is comfortable. The straighter your backbone, the easier it is for your bodymind to breathe and the more easily energy can flow up and down your spine to all areas. If you choose to sit on a chair, put both feet flat on the floor to enhance a sensation of stability, groundedness and balance through connection to the earth.

2. Eyes slightly open if there are not too many distractions. Head tilted approximately 20 degrees and eyes down approximately 20 degrees from center. Neurophysically, this position enhances the chances of attaining a meditative state. Dim the lights so as to not trigger the highly light sensitive brain into activity. However, some light helps to maintain attention. Meditating in darkness promotes sleep.

3. Fix gaze softly on a small object like a pebble, a leaf or a candle flame, so the eyes do not move. This decreases activity in the visual processing parts of the brain allowing the meditative state to arise more easily. You may, of course, shut your eyes but the eyeball has a tendency to move under your eyelid and you may find yourself drifting off to sleep.

4. Breathe normally focusing attention on your breath either as it enters your nostrils, or be aware of your belly or on your chest rising and falling. At the beginning, elongate the out breath to decrease neurological firing and assist in relaxation. Then just breathe naturally.

You may also pay close attention to a sound such as a ticking clock, the sound of waves or even traffic passing in the street. Sensing takes the place of thinking. Awareness is focused through your senses, attentively noticing all that you sense. No time for thinking now. Your consciousness begins to move out of the brain, leaving the analytical mind behind.

5. You may silently chant a focusing word, e.g. ONE, on each out breath, or count your out breaths from one to ten. If you lose count, start over without self recrimination. If you choose to not chant or count, when you notice your attention has wandered from your attention device, you may silently say a refocusing word of your choice to signal a return to focusing on your breath, e.g. BREATHE.

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Some effects of a meditation practice gathered from personal experience and various published sources:

How-to Tips:

Some Favorite Books

The Brain that Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science by Dr. Norman Doidge. Penquin Books, 2007.

Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom by Dr. Rick Hanson. New Harbinger Publications, 2009.

Calming Your Anxious Mind: How Mindfulness and Compassion Can Free You from Anxiety, Fear, and Panic by J. Brantley. New Harbinger, 2003.

Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness by Jon Kabat-Zinn PhD. Hyperion, 2012.

Destructive Emotions: How We Can Heal Them by D. Goleman. Bantam, 2003.

Emotional Alchemy: How the Mind Can Heal the Heart by T. Bennett-Goleman. Harmony, 2001.

Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness by Jon Kabat-Zinn. A Delta Book, 1990.

Meditation in Action by Chögyam Trungpa. Shambala Press, 1991. This book was originally released in the early 70s and reprinted in 1991 by Trungpa’s wife, Diana Mukpo.

Mindfulness and the Transformation of Emotion by J.M.G.Williams, J.D.Teasdale, Z.V.Segal, and Jon Kabat-Zinn. Guilford, 2005.

Mindsight: the New Science of Personal Transformation by Daniel Siegel MD. Norton, 2010.

My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor. Viking, 2006.

The Secret Teachings of Plants: The Intelligence of the Heart in the Direct Perception of Nature by Stephen Buhner. Inner Traditions/Bear & Company, 2004.

The Truth of Suffering and the Path of Liberation by Chøgyam Trungpa. Shambala Press, 2009.

The Spectrum of Consciousness by Ken Wilbur. A Quest Book, 1977.

Wake Up to Your Life by K. McLeod, Harper, 2001.

What is Meditation: Buddhism for Everyone by Rob Nairn. Shambala, 1999.

Zen and the Brain by James H. Austin, MD. The MIT Press, 1999.

Here’s a quote I love from Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior by Chögyam Trungpa, a former Tibetan monk who set Buddhism aside and taught a secular approach to “sitting practice.”

“Regard your home as sacred, as a golden opportunity to experience nowness. Appreciating sacredness begins very simply by taking an interest in all the details of your life. Interest is simply applying awareness to what goes on in your everyday life––awareness while you’re cooking, awareness while you’re driving, awareness while you’re changing diapers, even awareness while you’re arguing. Such awareness can help to free you from speed, chaos, neurosis and resentment of all kinds. It can free you from the obstacles to nowness, so that you cheer up on the spot…

…You may wonder what the best approach is to helping society and how you can know what you are doing is authentic or good. The only answer is nowness. Now is the important point. That now is the real now. If you are unable to experience now, then you are corrupted, because you are looking for another now which is impossible. If you do that, there can only be past or future.

…Periods in history when great art was created, when learning advanced or peace spread were all now. But after now happened, those cultures lost their now… The vision of an enlightened society is that tradition and culture and wisdom and dignity can be experienced now and kept now on everyone’s part…

Enlightened society must rest on a good foundation. The nowness of your family situation is that foundation. From it you can expand. By regarding your home as sacred, you can enter domestic situations with awareness and delight, rather than feeling you are subjecting yourself to chaos. It may seem that washing dishes and cooking dinner are completely mundane activities, but if you apply awareness to any situation, you are training your whole being, so that you will be able to open yourself further, rather than narrowing your existence.

You may feel that you have a good vision for society, but that your life is filled with hassles––money problems, problems in relating to your spouse or caring for your children––and that those two things, vision and ordinary life are opposing one another. But vision and practicality can be joined together in nowness.

Too often people think that solving the world’s problems is based on conquering the earth, rather than touching earth, touching ground…trying to conquer the earth to try to ward off reality. There are all kinds of deodorant sprays to keep you from smelling the real world and all kinds of process food to keep you from tasting raw ingredients…

…live on this earth, the real earth, the earth that grows crops, the earth that nurtures your existence. You can learn to live on this earth… how to pitch a tent, how to ride a horse, milk a cow, build a fire. Even though you may be living in a city in the 20th century, you can learn to experience the sacredness, the nowness of reality. This is the basis for creating an enlightened society.”

 Note: this document is revised intermittently.  Please check back for new information. draft 1.10.14

 

December 20th, 2012 | Permalink

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