333 -Meditation Techniques for Reducing Distress and Improving Health and Happiness
Counselor Toolbox

 
 
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Meditation Techniques
Presented by: Dr. Dawn-Elise Snipes
Executive Director, AllCEUs.com Counselor Education
Host: Counselor Toolbox Podcast

Objectives
~ Learn the benefits of meditation
~ Identify the goals of meditation
~ Describe how to get started with meditation
~ Explore 15 types of meditation
Benefits of Meditation
~ Reviews to date have demonstrated that both “mindfulness” and “mantra” meditation techniques reduce emotional symptoms (e.g., anxiety and depression, stress) and improve physical symptoms (e.g., pain) from a small to moderate degree
~ Mindfulness meditation was found to show moderate improvement for
~ Anxiety (44%)
~ Depression (52%)
~ Pain (31%)
~ Effects were seen during treatment and maintained at the 3 and 6 month marks.

Benefits of Meditation
~ Eight weeks of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) increased thickness in the hippocampus, which governs learning and memory, and in certain areas of the brain that play roles in emotion regulation. There were also decreases in volume in the amygdala, which matched the participants’ self-reports of their stress levels. Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density Psychiatry Res. 2011 Jan 30; 191(1): 36–43.
~ “People who learned mindfulness were many times more likely to have quit smoking by the end of the training, and at 17 weeks follow-up… Meditation helps people “decouple” the state of craving from the act of smoking” Brewer JA, Mallik S, Babuscio TA, et al. Mindfulness training for smoking cessation: results from a randomized controlled trial. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2011;119(1-2):72-80.
~ Mindfulness meditation has shown utility in the treatment of other addictions as well. Brewer JA, Elwafi HM, Davis JH. Craving to quit: psychological models and neurobiological mechanisms of mindfulness training as treatment for addictions. Psychol Addict Behav. 2012;27(2): 366-79.

Benefits of Meditation
~ “Long-term meditators had better-preserved brains than non-meditators as they aged. Participants who’d been meditating for an average of 20 years had more grey matter volume throughout the brain. Forever Young(er): potential age-defying effects of long-term meditation on gray matter atrophy. Front. Psychol., 21 January 2015 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01551
~ Mindfulness meditation decreases activity in the area of the brain network responsible for mind-wandering and self-referential thoughts – a.k.a., “monkey mind” which is typically associated with being less happy, ruminating, and worrying about the past and future. Meditation experience is associated with differences in default mode network activity and connectivity PNAS December 13, 2011 108 (50) 20254-20259; https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1112029108

Goals of Meditation
~ Reducing negative emotions, cognitions, and behaviors
~ Increasing positive emotions, cognitions, and behaviors toward self and others
~ Altering relevant physiological processes (immune, inflammation, bp etc.) and pain perception
~ Boosting one’s ability to empathize with others
Getting Started
~ Start with 2 minutes a day
~ Do it first thing in the morning or right before bed
~ Consider doing it with a friend or family member
~ Don’t get caught up in how…just do it. Spend 2 minutes focused on the present moment
~ Focus on your breaths and/or your heart rate
~ Come back when you wander
~ Develop a loving, nonjudgmental attitude
~ Don’t worry about clearing your mind, just practice focusing your attention
Getting Started cont…
~ Do a body scan
~ Notice the light, sounds, energy
~ Stay with whatever arises. Instead of avoiding feelings like frustration, anger, anxiety, just stay, and be curious.
~ Get to know yourself. Learn how your mind works. By watching your mind wander, get frustrated, avoid difficult feelings … you can start to understand yourself.
~ Become friends with yourself with a friendly attitude instead of one of criticism.
Types of Meditation
~ Focused attention meditation
~ Focusing the attention on a single object during the whole meditation session. This object may be the breath, a mantra, visualization, part of the body, external object
~ Use caution in those with a hx of dissociation
~ Zen Meditation
~ Keeping the back completely straight, from the pelvis to the neck. Mouth is kept close and eyes are kept lowered, with your gaze resting on the ground about two or three feet in front of you
~ Focusing on breath — focus all your attention on the movement of the breath going in and out through the nose.

Types of Meditation
~ Focused Attention Meditation
~ Vipassana Meditation
~ Vipassana” is a Pali word that means “insight” or “clear seeing”.
~ Starting with mindfulness of breath to achieve “concentration.”
~ The object that is the focus of the practice (for instance, breath) is called the “primary object”
~ A “secondary object” is anything else that arises in your field of perception – either through your senses (sound, smell, itchiness in the body, etc.) or through the mind (thought, memory, feeling, etc.).
~ If a secondary object grabs your attention simply note it with a label like “thinking,” “memory,” “hearing,” “desiring”

Types of Meditation
~ Focused Attention Meditation
~ Open monitoring meditation
~ Instead of focusing the attention on any one object, we keep it open, monitoring all aspects of our experience, without judgment or attachment. (sitting, hiking, sunbathing)

Types of Meditation
~ Mindfulness Meditation
~ Mindfulness meditation is the practice of intentionally focusing on the present moment, accepting and non-judgmentally paying attention to the sensations, thoughts, and emotions that arise.
~ Pay close attention to the movement of your breath
~ The effort is to not intentionally add anything to our present moment experience, but to be aware of what is going on, without losing ourselves in anything that arises.
~ When you get distracted, recognize it, and bring the attention back to the breathing
~ There is a big difference between being inside the thought/sensation, and simply being aware of it’s presence.
Types of Meditation
~ Loving Kindness Meditation
~ Sit in a meditation position, with closed eyes, and generate in your mind and heart feelings of kindness and benevolence.
~ Start by developing loving-kindness towards yourself, then progressively towards others and all beings.
~ Oneself
~ May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at ease.
~ A good friend
~ May you be happy. May you be well. May you be safe. May you be peaceful and at ease.
~ A “neutral” person
~ A difficult person
~ All four of the above equally
~ And then gradually the entire universe**
Types of Meditation
~ Loving Kindness Meditation
~ Sometimes seemingly opposite feelings such as anger, grief, or sadness may arise.
~ With whatever patience, acceptance, and kindness you can muster for such feelings—direct loving-kindness toward them.
~ This person, too, just wants to happy, and we all make mistakes
~ To send loving-kindness does not mean that we approve or condone all actions, it means that we can see clearly actions that are incorrect and still maintain a connection of kindness
~ Find one good thing about this person
~ There is no need to judge yourself for having these feelings.
~ Sample Loving Kindness Meditation
Types of Meditation
~ Mantra Meditation
~ A mantra is a syllable or word, usually without any particular meaning, that is repeated for the purpose of focusing your mind. It is not an affirmation.
~ Guidelines I suggest for picking a word:
~ The meaning is the most important. Choose a word/sentence that represents something you want to develop more in yourself, feel more, or connect to. It could be love, peace, freedom, awareness, light, courage, etc.
~ The sound of the word needs to speak to you. The only way to realize this is by repeating it for a few minutes, and observe how you feel before and after.
~ Repeat the mantra with the flow of the breath
~ Repetition of the mantra helps you disconnect from thoughts
~ Practice for a period of time, or for a set number of “repetitions” – traditionally 108 which represents the ultimate reality of the universe
Types of Meditation
~ Mantra Meditation
~ This is the traditional progress of the practice:
~ Verbal recitation — you repeat it out loud. This engages more of your senses, making it easier to keep your attention focused.
~ Whispering —This practice is subtler and deeper than the verbal recitation.
~ Mental recitation — Repeat the mantra only inside your mind.
~ Spontaneous listening — You are no longer repeating the mantra, but the mantra goes on by itself in your mind.
~ https://liveanddare.com/mantra-meditation
Types of Meditation
~ Yogic Meditations
~ Third Eye Meditation — focusing the attention on the “spot between the eyebrows.” to increase the “silent gaps” between thoughts.
~ Gazing Meditation — fixing the gaze on an external object, typically a candle or object. It is done with eyes open, and then with eyes closed, to train both the concentration and visualization powers of the mind.
~ Sound Meditation — Starts with meditation on “external sounds”, such as calming ambient music (like Native American flute music). The student focuses all his attention on just hearing, as a help to quieten and collect the mind.
Types of Meditation
~ Tantra Meditations (108 http://www.shivashakti.com/vijnan.htm)
~ Tantra is derived from the Sanskrit, tan, meaning “expansion,” and tra, meaning “liberation.”
~ Activities
~ When one object is perceived, all other objects become empty. Concentrate on that emptiness.
~ Concentrate on the space which occurs between two thoughts.
~ Listen to the Anahata [heart chakra] sound.
~ Contemplate on the universe or one’s own body as being filled with bliss.
~ Contemplate that the same consciousness exists in all bodies.

Types of Meditation
~ Tantra Meditations
~ Light meditation
~ Sit in a comfortable, upright meditation posture. Bring yourself fully into the present moment by becoming aware of the sensations of your physical body and the movement of your breath.
~ Now, focus your awareness on your right foot, and imagine that your right foot is being filled with golden light. Visualize it. Feel it filling each part of the foot—the toes, the sole, the arch.
~ As you inhale, feel the body part filling with light and warmth and as you exhale feel that light spreading throughout the part.

Types of Meditation
~ Christian Meditation
~ Contemplative prayer — Which usually involves the silent repetition of sacred words or sentences, with focus and devotion. (Rosary, serenity prayer)
~ Contemplative reading — or simply “contemplation”, which involves thinking deeply about the teachings and events in the bible. (Stations of the Cross, rosary)
~ “Sitting with God” — a silent meditation in which we focus all our mind, heart and soul on the presence of God

Types of Meditation
~ QiGong (Chi Kung)
~ “Life energy cultivation”
~ Physically, slow gentle qigong movements warm tendons, ligaments, and muscles; tonify vital organs and connective tissue; and promote circulation of body fluids (blood, synovial, lymph).
~ More exercises
~ https://www.consciouslifestylemag.com/qigong-exercises-healing-energy/

Types of Meditation
~ QiGong (Chi Kung)
~ Sit in a comfortable position. Make sure your body is balanced and centered.
~ Relax your whole body
~ Breathe deeply, from the abdomen
~ Calm your mind
~ Place all your attention in the “lower dantien”, which is the center of gravity of the body, two inches below the navel. This will help accumulate the qi (vital energy) in this natural reservoir.
~ Feel the qi circulating freely through your body.
Types of Meditation
~ Guided Meditation
~ Guided Imagery — Makes use of the imagination and visualization powers of the brain, guiding you to imagine an object, entity, scenery or journey.
~ GI can reduce stress and elevate the immune system; cell-specific imagery affects corresponding WBCs, neutrophils, or lymphocytes Int J Neurosci. 2008 Jun;118(6):839-55; Biol Res Nurs. 2008 Jan;9(3):205-14, Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2016;1373(1):13-24
~ Immune Enhancement
~ Put the flat palm of your hand over your thymus gland under the middle of your breastbone.
~ Imagine the warm energy from your hand is slowly and steadily entering the thymus gland. Filling it with energy. Feel it creating white blood cells like popping popcorn

Types of Meditation
~ Guided Meditation
~ Guided Imagery — Makes use of the imagination and visualization powers of the brain, guiding you to imagine an object, entity, scenery or journey.
~ GI can reduce stress and elevate the immune system; cell-specific imagery affects corresponding WBCs, neutrophils, or lymphocytes Int J Neurosci. 2008 Jun;118(6):839-55; Biol Res Nurs. 2008 Jan;9(3):205-14, Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2016;1373(1):13-24
~ Progressive Muscular Relaxation— Helps you achieve a deep relaxation in your whole body. It’s usually accompanied by soothing instrumental music or nature sounds.
~ Affirmations — Coupled with relaxation and guided imagery, the purpose of these meditations is to imprint a message in your mind.
~ https://headintheclouds.typepad.com/head_in_the_clouds/links-to-free-online-guided-meditations.html

Summary
~ Meditation has been shown to help people cultivate happy feelings
~ Meditation can tame monkey mind and improve concentration and clarity
~ Meditation can reduce blood pressure and improve sleep
~ There are a variety of different types of meditation, it is important for people to find one that “fits” for them
~ A note of caution should be used with people with trauma histories to avoid recapitulating the traumatic experience.