Welcome to the 21 Day Meditation Challenge.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Notes from class

I am taking the Psychotherapy and Meditation course with Tara Brach and including my notes here. Please keep in mind that the information here is copy written and meant for personal use and not public distribution. Also, because they are notes, do not be bothered by grammar. Respect. Thanks!

Session One: Introduction to the Course

We live behind a false veil, an exterior that keeps us separated from who we truly are. Trapped behind this cloak, we build stories and beliefs that may temporarily serve our safety and well-being, but that ultimately separate us from the reality of our lives. Beyond this veil is the great sea of potential for living fully, with an understanding of our true self. In this session, we begin to uncover the layers that we’ve created and to learn how the practice of mindfulness can open us to the realization of our true identity.

The trend of bringing meditation into the psychotherapy practice is because of science. Meditation frees the heart and mind. The essence of the training of professionals is the capacity to come into the presence of Now. There is aliveness in this moment. This is another way of saying coming home to who we truly are.
The Key to teaching client's Healing and Freedom: Trust the power of heart and awareness to awaken in all circumstances. In Buddhism, heart and awareness are the two wings. The heart = compassion & amplification of awareness = clear seeing and having moments of awakening. Another way of saying this is to "practice loving presence".

The process of healing is the process of coming home to loving presence or coming home to who we really are.
The 3 main objectives being explored in this course are:
Basic core principles of Buddhist Psychology
Meditations focused on loving presence
How to implement these principles and practices into the clinical practice

How does this work in your own heart and mind? Your own practice is essential. It strengthens present-centered attention (dealing with wondering mind), it arouses compassion and empathy, and it arouses affect tolerance in our own inner states.

When you put a cup of salt in a basin of water, the water becomes salty. When you put a cup of water in a lake, there is very little difference.

There is a transmission of energy between you and your client when your practice is solid.

The Power of Intention: Everything rests on the tip of one’s motivation (Tibetan Buddhism), this essentially means that it is essential to reflect on what really matters, in any circumstance.

Sincere reflection: Open to what is right here, feel the breath, notice the sense of arriving: in this moment, this body, this heart.
What is my intention for this training, what really matters? Notice what it is about your life’s mission that you really care about? Using the quote of Mary Oliver “Tell me, what is it that you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Aspiration and motivation are essential to the process of discovery and growth. This guided reflection will create a space to ask the question, “What really matters to me, and what is my motivation?” These questions help you set the ground before you wholeheartedly enter this process.
Before you begin, find a comfortable place where you will not be disturbed and listen to the reflection with an open heart and mind. Use the space at the end of the reflection to record your thoughts.

Questions for Reflection:

What are your intentions for this commitment?

What thoughts or images came up for you about your aspirations?

How has motivation been a support or a block in your past endeavors?

Realistically, what type of time commitment are you able to make toward your individual practice during this course?

We create, out of necessity or forgetfulness, a covering that can protect us from all manner of pain and trauma. Suffering occurs when we mistakenly believe that this false layer is our true self. In order to fully realize our identity, we need a technique for recognizing those times when we identify with the covering. That technique is mindfulness, which is the act of being in the present moment. This segment will further explore the roots of our suffering, and begin to investigate the antidote of mindfulness.

Buddhist philosophy on suffering has it’s connection with several schools of psychotherapy. Wisdom, generally speaking, merges at the core with several schools of thinking.

Perception of separation: We suffer because we identify with the concept that we are a separate self.
With taking form (by becoming human), we identify with form. Primal mood of the separate self is fear. With more self-concept/self-consciousness, the more we are driven by fear. As a consequence, this self-identification leads to greater attachment, i.e. holding on to good experiences and running from circumstances that are unpleasant. Separation causes us to feel this mechanism in a very deep (and unconscious) way.  This is truly the essence of negative ego effects such as proving, obsessing, blaming, self-numbing, defend and so on.
There is a fundamental mistrust at the core of it all. Trust is a sense of belonging. Ego is necessary, but our reptilian brains are highly active. We are designed to be vigilant. (Fight or flight).
Our nervous system is designed to be aware of what are the consequences are when things go wrong, rather than what happens when things go right. This is a product of the sympathetic nervous system which rules our fight or flight tendencies. It is a very old system because before we evolved to our current human form, we needed this system to survive. There is a built-in a built-in bias towards the negative. This is what makes us Velcro for pain and Teflon for pleasure.
We learn from failure and it is very hard to extinguish that conditioning. Our mood of fear becomes full blown when we get caught in the cycle when our ego identification gets hitched to that looping. Core patterns, both conscious and unconscious, dictate the level of pain that we endure on a regular and consistent basis. In other words, who we are is identified with the loop that causes suffering.
In fight or flight, we cannot connect to the wholeness and openness of love.
We get so caught up in our own survival that we lose connection with this great mystery that we are co-creating with.
Inquiry requires us to investigate the basis of this:
  • ·         Degree of bonding as children
  • ·         society pressures
  • ·         genetics
  • ·         culture

Each of these contributes to the trance of unworthiness.
This is how we fall victim to our identity with our insufficiency.
All negative behaviors related to not having deep levels of health and intimacy are rooted in the idea that “something is wrong with me.”
This is also what drives us to seek spiritual meaning. This is the other side of the perception of separation.  There is a possibility to believe in the depth of our wholeness. There is a possibility to venture beyond our conditioning, both by confronting it and by choosing to be vulnerable in spite of it.
We can live today with fear, or we can drop into who we are, our essence.
Pay attention to the identification of our conditioning. Our real sickness is home sickness. Home sickness is the tendency to not love who we truly are are, despite our imperfections.
We leave home by leaving the present moment. When we leave, we suffer. It also makes the people who love us suffer. We cover our purity in order to make it, in order to survive. But we suffer when we take the covering to be real, and not the purity that rests within it.

Questions for Self-Reflection:
Are there any instances in your life in which you identify with insufficiency?
What are some ways you self-judge yourself or your actions?
What are the results, big or small, of those self-judgments?
What do you feel would be essential to include in your idea or definition of mindfulness?
What, if anything, has changed or been added to your understanding of mindfulness?
How might you incorporate mindful attention into your daily life?
How might you use this exercise in the process of helping others, in a personal or clinical setting?

The benefits of mindfulness have been proven in research settings across the globe, but what is really happening when we train in mindful attention? Session one concludes with an exploration of the psychological processes at work behind this training.
Two powerful questions to implement into the practice with clients:
What is happening right now?
Can I be with this?
R = Recognize
A = Allow

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