The Eastern mind-body practices aim to integrate the multidimensional essence of a human being into a unified whole and return her/him to the Absolute. It can be managed through a wide range of techniques that gradually harmonize the mind and develop a more subtle perception. Meditation is the deepest personal spiritual experience. The goal of meditation techniques is to give our consciousness positive directions completely changing the state of mind.
Meditation helps to lift the veil created by constantly active mind that hides reality from an individual. Being immersed in the world from the very beginning, our consciousness tends to see all things as certain tools that fosters the emergence of egocentric “I”. A limited world created by our thoughts is seen as the space full of contradictions that results in the feelings of loneliness, unhappiness, isolation, alienation. Perception of the world in the context of belonging leads individuals to a mechanistic way of thinking, which under certain conditions can cause physical and mental illness. Meditation serves as a means of changing this distorted worldview.
Unable to find a place of harmony and peace in the outside world, people turn their eyes inward in the hope of finding peace and balance. Meditation purifies anxious mind and makes it more flexible. It is the best way to overcome automaticity of thinking, to eradicate existing patterns of behavior, and to develop human abilities and talents.
Author: Tetiana Danylova, ORCID: 0000-0002-0297-9473
Meditation “Leaves on a stream”
This meditation is a helpful tool based on a cognitive defusion, i.e., the ability to separate from our thoughts and allow them to come and go.
This tool was created by Hugo Alberts (https://www.researchgate.net/profile/ Hugo_Alberts) and Lucinda Poole (https://www.linkedin.com/in/lucinda-poole24a122121/).
It aimed at developing the ability to get rid of problematic thoughts.
Sitting in a comfortable position, allow your shoulders to drop and relax, and plant your feet firmly on the ground... Or, if you are sitting cross-legged, feel the sense of contact between your feet and the seat and the floor beneath you.
Now gently close your eyes, and for the next few breaths bring your full focus of attention to your breathing. Notice the feeling of the air flowing in through the nostrils, down into the lungs, and down into the belly as you inhale... and on the exhale, feel the release of any tension as you let the air out slowly.
Now, imagine that you are sitting by the side of a gently flowing stream... This might be a stream that you know, or it might be something you create in your mind using your imagination. There might be a light breeze blowing as you sit here, dappled light glistening on the water, and soft green grass beneath you... imagine the stream however you like – it’s your imagination (10 secs).
Now imagine that there are leaves floating on the surface of the stream, and these leaves are gently flowing past you, down the stream.
For the next few minutes, see if you can take every thought that pops into your head and place it on a leaf...
Now your thoughts may show up in your mind in the form of words, or pictures, or something else.
However a thought arises, simply place it on a leaf, and let it float by.
Do this regardless of whether the thoughts are positive and enjoyable, or negative and challenging. Simply place each on a leaf, and let it float down the stream... (10 secs).
If you notice that your thoughts stop momentarily, just continue to watch the stream. Sooner or later your thoughts will start up again... (20 secs).
Allow the stream to flow at its own rate. There is no need to try and speed it up. The aim here is not to wash the leaves away – the aim is to allow them to come and go in their own time... To just sit and watch (20 secs).
If your mind says something along the lines of “I can’t do it” or “This is stupid”, place those thoughts on leaves, and let them float by... (20 secs).
If a leaf gets stuck, let it hang around. There is no need to force it to float away... simply sit and watch as sooner or later another leaf will come along and give it the nudge it needs (20 secs).
If a difficult feeling arises, such as boredom, impatience, or anxiety, simply acknowledge it. Say to yourself “Here is a feeling of boredom”, “Here is a feeling of impatience”, “Here is a feeling of anxiety”, and place those words on a leaf... (20 secs).
Now from time to time, your thoughts will hook you, and you will lose track of the exercise. This is normal as our attention naturally wanders, and it will happen time and time again... As soon as you realize this has happened, simply come back to your stream... (20 secs).
Continuing to place each thought that pops into your mind on a leaf, and watching it slip by... (30 secs).
Again and again, your thoughts will hook you. Remember, this is normal. As soon as you notice this has happened, simply come back to your stream... (30 secs).
As the exercise comes to an end, begin to let go of your imagined stream and bring your attention back to where you are... notice what you can hear... what you can feel... and when you are ready, open your eyes and notice what you can see...
You might like to take another minute to sit quietly before carrying on with your day... holding on to this sense of presence and spaciousness from thinking.
And now discuss the following questions:
■ What did you notice?
■ How did you visualize your thoughts (i.e., words, images, or something else)?
■ Did you mind get hooked by thoughts? If so, were you able to unhook yourself and come back to the stream?
■ Did any negative or painful thoughts show up? Were you able to place these thoughts on leaves and allow them to float by at their own pace?
■ How do you feel now?