A study reveals that self-guided positive emotional imagery training has great potential to improve the everyday emotional well-being overcoming negative emotions.
It is shocking when problems “just go away” after practicing a powerful technique. I’m not talking about while feeling good in the midst of using a technique but afterwards.
Eye Movement stress clearing comes on fast, very fast (like under a minute). Suddenly a troubling thought, feeling, or visualization goes, goes somewhere but in our head, heart, or body.
Self-hypnosis has a way of doing its thing so quietly in the background we frequently forget not only the problem but that we used hypnosis to get rid of it! “What are you talking about? I never had a problem with that. You must be thinking of someone else.”
Mantra meditation tunes our emotional reactivity way down. Quietly but firmly inner resources that had been hidden away come into the foreground. Our thinking is astonishingly clearer. We see more options out of nowhere. We a natural confidence pops up. What was overwhelming before we started mantra meditation seems like no big thing.
Alpha production practices have the same general effects as mantra meditation but also release large amounts of positivity. Positivity should not be confused with positive thinking. Positivity is a natural upwelling of good mood and capabilities such as heightened creativity, optimism, and a connection to the world that makes us want to approach life problems. Goodbye to avoidance or running away.
This does feel weird when it happens to us the first few times.Can this be true? Can we feel good even while thinking about our problems? Where did all these options come from? Confidence? Wow.
These techniques, few in number, are what I call: the ultimate techniques. The get to the heart of stress-relaxation and give us everything we are seeking.
This sounds too good to be true, but it is a common side-effect of these very special techniques. It will happen to you, too.
As we become more focused on purposeful activities of any sort, we focus our eyes more and more sharply. In the midst of high stress, we develop tunnel vision of a shocking degree (see law enforcement writings). But hard eyes don’t always give us the best results; Extreme focus can be blinding.
Do not look at your opponent’s sword, or you will be slain by his sword. Do not look into his eyes, or you will be drawn into his eyes. Do not look at him, or your spirit will be distracted.
– Morihei Uyeshiba, Founder of Aikido
We are especially blinded to the world if we routinely hold hard eye focus regardless of what we are doing. In effect, as far as our body and brain go, we are holding ourselves in high alert, ready to battle mode. How can this be? All I want to do is get some stuff off my things to do list? That is easy to do. We make each activity something else to: “get out of the way,” “knock off the list”, “get over and done with,” “behind us,” etc. We take this ready-for-battle energy and turned it into the energy for getting things done, large and small.
The body responds in an opposite way if we take some actions that the body is undergoing at the moment, and reverse them. We can slow breathing, slow down our movements, ease our muscles, and reduce our thinking, and, sure enough, the body will go from a state of higher energy into one of more relaxed stance.
From Hard Eyes to Soft Eyes
The goal is loosened up our eyes, both in the midst of a stressful situation as well as generally. Soften eyes comes from tuning down sharp focus on a specific spot to a more open gazing. Peripheral vision is a perfect counter balance.
1. Look at some object at arm’s length or slightly beyond.
2. Notice how you are focused on the object.
3. Now shift your awareness to what you can see in your peripheral vision (no turning of your head, of course).
4. Keep to the sideways awareness for a while then slowly move your vision forward by sweeping gently forward your focus. Do this back and forwards for a few trials.
Now try this in your daily life. As you walk, mix forward-looking to the soft, more diffused viewing affordable by placing your consciousness on your peripheral vision. Play with this for a few days.
When the next stressful event happens, remind yourself to try this.
Les Fehmi, the well-known biofeedback expert, developed Open Focus several decades. Open Focus is a mix of several things, but it involves awareness of diffuse wide-seeing over sharp focus. Fehmi has seen that as people learned how to widen their view, their brain and body let go of gripping day-to-day life, emotional and physical pain. Replacing that was a more restful state that was more open to the moment, open to new opportunities, and generally left people brighter, clearer, and calmer.
Open Focus Training
Effects of life-event stress and hardiness on peripheral vision in a real-life stress situation
The Power of Peripheral Vision
Soft eyes in horseback riding
Excellent collection of writings on soft eyes
Soft eyes and academic study
Peripheral vision in Jiulong
I alert people to what they will experience once they start applying stress reduction techniques to their most stressful situations. Frequently, things feel worse! How could this be? I thought stress reduction techniques work by cooling things down such as stress hormones or our emotional brain systems. Cooling should make us feel less anxious, confused, angry, defensive, etc., right?
As beginners, our anxiety can increase and our bodies can feel pretty bad. I think this happens for a couple of reasons:
- We put some of our focus on how our bodies are feeling in that moment. Frequently when we are reacting to a high-stressor, we go to our well learned responses which can be quite separated from body awareness. We are thinking a mile a minute and our emotions are following familiar paths and forms of expression. Our body does not get its due even though they are very involved in the situation. When our focus returns to our body we can feel our breathing is off, or our bodies are pumped up with stress hormones, or our hands are shaking and more. That doesn’t feel good at all.
- We split our focus from just what’s happening to working our technique. That’s a heck of lot to juggle.
- We probably discover that we have not practiced the technique enough to know it well so we find ourselves trying to remember all of the steps.
- We probably discover that the experience produced by the technique feels too unfamiliar to make us feel comfortable doing it in a high stress situation.
Diminishing the Tornado and Passing Through the Doorway
The increased discomfort caused by the forces above is the tornado. The doorway is where we can pass from high discomfort of a body and mind in stress, to feeling better and having more control over ourselves. There are three things we can work on to make getting through the doorway easier or even possible.
- We can diminish the power of the tornado by getting very familiar and practiced with our stress tools. Daily practice, in the face of lessor stresses, can really sharpen our mastery.
- We can learn to expect the tornado and therefore have a better chance of persisting with our technique. When discomfort rises (hello, tornado) we stick with our stress tool and not back off. Most of the time, eventually it will produce some results (perceivable stress reduction and/or clarity of thought/feeling).
- We can expose ourselves to the stressor or similar stressors and bring the discomfort down. As the level of stress decreases the power of the tornado to rattle us diminishes. When a situation is less stressful, the tornado may not even appear. The balance between the stress and the effectiveness of our stress reduction technique will be such that the technique matches or exceeds the capacity of the situation to produce stress. Piece of cake.
Funnel cloud photo – Public Domain. Credit: OAR/ERL/National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL).
I hear this all the time: “I’ve tried meditation but I just don’t get anywhere because I can’t slow my mind down. I can’t relax.”
Not unusual since most of us start this way. I was never given much instruction, nor did I see others getting advice about how to ease into meditation. The instruction was all about meditating itself. As a beginner, I was expected to come into the hall, take my cushion and get down to hard work. Most people can’t go from the frazzle of everyday living to slowing down to zero miles per hour. We stretch and limber up for physical activities; how about a way to stretch and limber up for meditating?
Here is what I suggest to make the transition from rushing to the meditation hall to getting well underway with meditation:
1. Once seated, take a few deep breaths, to an in-count of 4 or 5 and an out-count of 4 or 5.
2. Mentally tell the muscles of your forehead to “let go and relax.” Keep repeating these words and the command to your muscles to make your forehead (from temple to temple) as calm as possible. Give attention also, to the muscles over the eyebrows and at the bridge of the nose. Surprise yourself and see how relax you can get those muscles.
3. Extend the relaxing of muscles to around your eyes. Again, take the time to relax those muscles as completely as possible.
4. Relax your jaw muscles in the same way.
5. Relax the front of your neck, from under the chin to your chest.
6. Lastly, relax your tongue.
Now….begin your meditation practice.
The media has exposed us to all sorts of exotic, hard-to-learn, long-time to master methods of stress management. Zen masters, biofeedback pros, hypnosis experts, and yoga gurus have their place and make great copy but they don’t have the corner on all things related to stress. Learning a few simple and powerful techniques can change your life. Got two minutes? Learn the following techniques. Spend some time to master them and you will have three friends for life.
Find Yourself by Finding Your Body
When we are in the thick of things our attention is cast outward and frequently carries our projections of what we think we are seeing in the people and events of the moment. When we are caught inwardly, we are away from our basic and simple selves and are in the past, future, or in some sort of analysis. When we need a break from either or both, all we need to do is find ourselves by finding our bodies. When we find our bodies, we pull back our projections and outward bound attention and we stop our mental time-travel.
1. Withdrawal your attention from the outside events and from your inside mind chatter and direct it towards finding your body.
2. Scan your body from head to toe, not looking for anything too special but just feeling your body
3. Repeat the scan but this time focus on scanning in the middle of your body. For instance, start at the top of your head and assume that you are focused in the middle of your head, the middle of your throat, the middle of your chest, middle of your stomach, and the middle of your pelvis. Next, feel yourself scanning down the middle of one arm and hand and next the other. Next move to each leg. The goal is feel the solidity of your body.
4. Repeat these scans as many times as you wish to bring your attention more and more to your body.
Flow Along With Your Breath
Your breath takes care of itself and it works sort of like the sea. Waves of air are drawn in and the tides of air go out. Watching the smooth rhythm of your air waves takes your attention, mind and heart along on this easy journey.
1. Come back to your body and find your breath.
2. You don’t have to change its speed or depth. Just start to follow it by focusing on the in and out of your breathing at the tip of your nose, at the up and down movement of your chest/belly, anywhere you can see the changes of inhalation, pause, exhalation.
3. Follow the flow.
Contacting the World
We contact the world in many ways but the most basic is the small area where we place our body against the surface of a chair, couch, bed, or ground. This is truly contacting the world. It is point that has some tactile and gravity pressure sensations and it is a good way to anchor us within simple reality for a moment or two.
1. If you are seated, be aware of where your butt, hips, and back touch the chair. If you are lying down, feel the larger area that is in contact with the surface of what you are touching.
2. Note all sensations of this intersection across the entire area that is in contact.
3. Hang out there as long as you want.
Technique Ratings and Notes:
Speed to relaxation onset: Quick
Level of relaxation experienced in first 2 minutes: Mild to moderate
Where can it be used: Anywhere
How noticeable when being practiced: Invisible
Best use (pre-stressful event, during stressful event, post-stressful event; general relaxation): All uses
Difficulty/speed to learn: Easy and fast
Equipment required: Perhaps a watch but a watch is not really necessary; go on feel.