Tag Archives: Meditation

The Benson Relaxation Method

The essential factors:

  1. Repetition of a word, sound, phrase, prayer or muscular activity.
  2. Passively disregarding everyday thoughts (which inevitably come to mind) and patiently returning to your repetition.

The method summarised:

  1. Pick a focus word, short phrase, or prayer that is firmly rooted in your belief system
  2. Sit quietly in a comfortable position
  3. Close your eyes
  4. Relax your muscles, progressively from your feet to your calves, thighs, abdomen, shoulders, head and neck
  5. Relax slowly and naturally, and as you do, say your focus word, sound, phrase or prayer silently to yourself as you exhale
  6. Assume a passive attitude. Don’t worry about how well you’re doing. When other thoughts come to mind, simply say to yourself “oh well,” and gently return to your repetition.
  7. Continue for ten to twenty minutes.
  8. Do not stand immediately. Continue sitting quietly for a minute or so, allowing other thoughts to return. Then open your eyes and sit for another minute before rising
  9. Practice the technique once or twice daily. Good times to do so are before breakfast and before dinner.

You can also elicit the Relaxation Response while exercising. If you are jogging or walking, pay attention to the cadence of your feet on the ground - “left, right, left, right” – and when other thoughts come into your mind, say “Oh, well,” and return to “left, right, left, right.” Of course, keep your eyes open! Similarly, swimmers can pay attention to the tempo of their strokes, cyclists to the whir of the wheels, dancers to the beat of the music, others to the rhythm of their breathing.

(Adapted from the AHPC Training Manual by Don Robertson)

Watch Your Thought Come and Go

Meditation Exercise: Leaves on the stream (by far my favourite and what I practice most)

This is an eye-closed exercise. First read the instructions and then when you are sure you understand them, close your eyes and do the exercise. (Or you can use the recordings at the end of this post)

Imagine a beautiful slow-moving stream. The water flows over rocks, around trees, descends down-hill, and travels through a valley. Once in a while, a big leaf drops into the stream and floats away down the river. Imagine you are sitting beside that stream on a warm, sunny day, watching the leaves float by.

Now become conscious of your thoughts. Each time a thought pops into your head, imagine that it is written on one of those leaves. If you think in words, put them on the leaf as words. If you think in images, put them on the leaf as an image. The goal is to stay beside the stream and allow the leaves on the stream to keep flowing by. Don’t try to make the stream go faster or slower; don’t try to change what shows up on the leaves in any way. If the leaves disappear, or if you mentally go somewhere else, or if you find that you are in the stream or on a leaf, just stop and notice that this happened. File that knowledge away and then once again return to the stream, watch a thought come into your mind, write it on a leaf, and let the leaf float away down the stream.

(It doesn’t matter how vivid or clear the imagery is, as long as the concept is there, that you notice your thoughts, and let go of your thoughts once you notice them)

Continue doing this for at least 5 minutes. If the instructions are clear to you now, go ahead and close your eyes and do the exercise.

(Continuing reading AFTER the exercise)

You can think of the moments when the stream wouldn’t flow as moments of cognitive fusion, while the moments when the stream does flow are moments of cognitive defusion. Many times we become fused to a thought without even being aware of it. Thoughts about this exercise can be especially “sticky”. If you thought “I’m not doing this right” or “this exercise doesn’t work for me,” these too are thoughts that you may become fused to quite easily. In many cases, you may not even notice them as thoughts. Other particularly sticky thoughts are emotional thoughts, comparative ones, and temporal or causal ones.

A recording of the exercise in English (starts after 5 seconds):

Leaves on the stream - 12 minutes

Leaves on the stream – 11 minutes (starts quicker, less guidance towards the end)

A recording of the exercise in Mandarin: 

“河流上的飘叶”录音I

“河流上的飘叶”录音II

(类似的内容,只是前面的指示稍微不同;5-6秒后指示才开始)

Is Meditation for you?

The patient called up to ask about her diagnosis, saying she’s applying for a meditation course (V******), and she’d have to clarify all her illness and past medical history, and also the type of medicine she’s taking and what they’re for.

This patient recently had a relapse and came back to us. She made the call just few days after the visit.

This is a course completely non-commercial. The participants only have to do some donations after the 10-day course, so that the course can continue to benefit others (especially if you find it beneficial, you’ll probably like to donate more, so more people get the benefits). It teaches some mindfulness training, and you explore yourself and your mind “deeply”. (to understand the course better you should visit their website or contact the relevant personnel, it’s not the focus here).

In the past there have been patients from the clinic who went for those meditation courses, whether they are commercial or not those courses usually lead people to a better, calmer self with clearer insight and mind. But unfortunately, quite a few of them had a relapse after attending those courses. Some of them have to quit half-way.

I’m not saying that those courses are bad, since mindfulness training and meditation are found to be beneficial for most people; but they may not be suitable for certain group of people, e.g. those who have a mental illness history, or still currently take medication or undergo psychotherapy for their psychological problems. This is especially the case when the problems are psychotic related or based as their psychotic symptoms (e.g. visual/auditory hallucinations) may be exaggerated during meditation. An assessment by the attending clinician may be more appropriate before going for it.