Sheri's Healing Program
The following exercise is an excellent way to relax, calm your mind, and fill your body with oxygen. Since every cell of your body requires oxygen, this is an excellent way to rejuvenate yourself. At the same time, by focusing your mind on your breath you temporarily remove your focus from all the busy thoughts that usually consume your attention. This, in and of itself is of great value, because it allows you to relax however, there is another benefit as well, for when you focus on your breath, an amazing phenomenon occurs: you are able to step back from inside your thoughts and view them from a completely new perspective. This is often referred to as “Cultivating the Witness” because in a very real sense, you become the witness to your own thoughts. Instead of instantly reacting to them, which is the common thing to do, you observe them. This is very enlightening for it allows you to clearly see what you are concentrating on just below the surface of your awareness. This process is amazing and most certainly humbling, but it is essential if you are ever going to understand yourself and the very important role YOU play in shaping the days, weeks, months and years of your life.
Even more powerful, however, than all those insights, is the connection that you can make with your Inner Ally, which is my word for your soul or inner self. This is one connection that we all would benefit from making. Most of us sense this inner part of ourselves, and even long for a closer connection to it, however, we have been taught to look outside ourselves for practically everything from support to gratification. We haven't been taught to look inward and trust the wisdom that exists within us. However, by focusing your mind on your breath and removing your focus from your thoughts, you create enough space to sense this inner self, which certainly is a wise ally.
Following is the first step in my healing program, "Focused Breathing." All the other healing exercises stem from this one and will be presented in sequence. These exercises are a compilation of many techniques and ideas that I studied and worked with in my attempt to become well and stay well. I started working with this first breathing exercise in 1971 and I still use it today! Let's begin.
1. Start by finding a quiet place where you can sit or lie comfortably. If possible, turn off everything that might distract you. Ideally you want to have a quiet space, but you can do this exercise anywhere from the doctor’s office to sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic in a taxi. I don’t recommend doing this while driving a car.
2. Begin by inhaling and exhaling through your nose. (If you have a cold you can use your mouth). Now focus all your awareness on the tip of your nose and imagine that you are the gatekeeper at the gates of a big city and that it is your very important job to watch the coming and going of your breath.
3. Focus solely on your breath and feel it as it passes in and out of your nostrils. As you breath in think, “I am breathing in cool” and as your breath out think, “I am breathing out warm.” Feel the cool air as it enters your nostrils and the warm air as it leaves you. “Breathing in cool, breathing out warm. Breathing in cool, breathing out warm. In cool, out warm. In cool, out warm. Try to maintain your focus on the breath.
4. Inevitably your mind will wander. This is normal and common. Most people find that their minds wander off constantly. Like a monkey swinging from branch to branch, your mind may swing from one thought into another. For example: "What did she say? I can't remember. It had something to do with the dog. Did I remember to give the dog water? Damn, this isn't working! I'm supposed to be breathing. I can never do anything right. Did I remember to give the dog water?" On and on, like a young puppy, your mind will wander off. As soon as you realize that you have lost the awareness of your breath, as if you were training a puppy, gently lead your mind back to your breathing. Again and again your mind will wander off. Again and Again you will return yourself to the breath.
5. Breathing in cool, breathing out warm. Breathing in cool, breathing out warm. In cool, out warm. In cool, out warm. You will find that eventually, from this process of catching yourself lost in thought and continually returning to your breath, that you will begin to see your thoughts from a different perspective. You will be able to step back from your usual stance in the middle of "monkey mind". All of a sudden you will realize that you are not your thoughts at all, but the awareness in which all those thoughts take place! Now you can sense that beyond all of your thoughts there is your consciousness, your inner self, and this part of you is bigger than your thoughts and wiser and deeper and saner! Every time that you override your thoughts by returning to your breath you identify less with those thoughts and more with your inner self, which begins to give you the power to override "monkey mind" and its trappings. You are also able to see the thoughts more objectively and to begin to challenge the ones that are harmful to you.
6. For now, work solely on catching yourself in thought and returning to the breath. In cool, our warm. In cool, out warm. In cool, out warm. When you find that you are thinking and not focusing on breath, gently lead yourself back to the tip of your nose and feel the air as it enters and leaves you. In cool, out warm. In cool, out warm. In cool, out warm. Back to breath. Always coming back to breath. Sense the vast you that breathes and thinks, gets lost in thought and comes back to breath. Who is that? It is not your thoughts. What is that? It's undefinable. But it's you and it's far more than your thinking mind. Just be with it.
Now that you have learned how to sit quietly and observe your thoughts, you’re going to combine this activity with some note taking. You will simply notice the thoughts that come into your mind while you are attempting to stay with your breath, and jot them down. Your thoughts will show you what kinds of thoughts continually come up for you. Initially you may spend a good deal of time just observing your thoughts and seeing what surfaces. It’s kind of like going fishing in your own mind.
TRACKING YOUR THOUGHTS---NOTING AND JOTTING
1. Get a pen and something to write in. I suggest getting yourself a journal to use just for this inner work.
2. Sit or lie comfortably and begin the FOCUSED BREATHING exercise in step one. Focus all your attention at the tip of your nose and imagine that you are the gatekeeper at the gates of a big city and that it is your job to watch the coming and going of your breath. Feel your breath as it enters and leaves your nostrils. As you do so think: breathing in cool, breathing out warm. Breathing in cool, breathing out warm. In cool, out warm. In cool, out warm. Keep focusing on your breath until you are able to step back and witness your thoughts.
3. When your mind wanders off, (and it will) it will wander into some kind of thought. When you realize that you are lost in thought and no longer in contact with your breath, note the thought that you are thinking and jot it down in your journal. Then return your awareness to the breath. Watch and feel the breath as it enters and leaves you. Again your mind will wander. Again, at some point, you will realize this. When that happens, note the thought that you were thinking, jot it down and return again to your breath. After you have done this for at least 10 minutes, close your journal and go about the rest of your day.
DEFINING YOUR THOUGHTS---YOUR HABITUAL THOUGHT PATTERN LIST
1. After you have noted and jotted your thoughts down a number of times, take out your journal and look over what you have written. Examine the thoughts and see if you can group them into categories. What types of thoughts are typical for you? Do you see the same kind of concerns coming up again and again?
2. People find that they do have habitual thought patterns. Some of us are worriers. Some of us make comparisons. Most of us are daydreamers and we probably all run the gamut of thoughts throughout any given day. However, it is common to see habitual patterns of thought surfacing over and over. You may even find that you have your top ten hit parade of recurrent thoughts.
3. Group habitual thoughts into categories. The most common categories are: planning, worrying, recounting, comparing, hoping, daydreaming, criticizing and judging. Here are some examples:
WORRYING---"Mary is late, she should have called by now!"
RECOUNTING---"I shouldn't have said that."
COMPARING---"I never look as thin as her." "She was always the smarter one."
JUDGING---"I am such a screw up." "He is a fool."
HOPING---"I hope I get into that school."
Spend some time with this and see what comes up for you. It's very important information because these thoughts are contained in your thinking mind and you spend a good deal of time with them. See what they are.
PINPOINTING YOUR SHADOW THOUGHTS---YOUR UNDERMINING LIST
1. Drawing from the contents of your Habitual Thought Pattern list, create a list that contains only your recurring self-critical thoughts. This list, your Undermining List, will show you at a glance all the ways in which your own thoughts undermine you. Examples might include:
"I am such an idiot." "Why bother? I know I won't succeed!" "No matter what I do I always screw it up."
2. Write down each negative remark. The more self-destructive the thought, the more it needs to be brought out into the open so that is can be addressed. Thoughts that are not seen, lurk like phantoms in the closet of your awareness. Once you bring them out into the open, they become a challenge to address. In the next step you will combat these thoughts with individual antidotes. For now, simply bring the thoughts out into the open.
CONSTRUCTING YOUR ANTIDOTE LIST
1. Take your Undermining List and create for each negative remark, an equivalent but opposite suggestion. Here are some examples:
"You're a loser."---"There is nothing wrong with me." "Look at how accomplished everyone else is."---I am fine just as I am."
2. Keep in mind that your Antidote List is more than a list of nice things to say. When you combine Suggestion with Focused Breathing you can begin to uproot negative beliefs and insert positive ones in their place. Do not underestimate the power of suggestion.
CHARACTERIZED BREATHING---COMBINING SUGGESTION WITH FOCUSED BREATHING---AS TAUGHT BY HARRY EDWARDS
1. Find a comfortable place to relax and begin Focused Breathing. Focus your attention on the coming and going of your breath through your nostrils. Breathing in cool, breathing out warm. Breathing in cool, breathing out warm. In cool, out warm, in cool, out warm. Use your focus on breath to bring you into the witness perspective where you are simply observing your thoughts, undisturbed. When your mind wanders off, gently lead it back to the breath. Remember that you are not your thoughts, but the awareness in which they occur.
2. While staying focused on your breath, start inserting the positive suggestions on your Antidote List. You are combining deep breathing and suggestion, a powerful combination for reaching your unconscious mind and and over-riding outdated, negative ideas. Look at your list and see what words of encouragement you have written down, and then concentrate on one phrase at a time as you breathe. For example, when you breath in think: "I am worthy of love." As you exhale thing: "There is nothing wrong with me."
3. Repeat your Antidote Suggestions coordinating them with the in breath and the out breath. It is not necessary to work with all of them at once. Instead pick from the list those areas that you most want change and work with those first. Here is one that I created over 30 years ago and it has been very useful to myself and my students:
As you inhale say to yourself, "My being is good." As you exhale say to yourself, "My body is good."
As you inhale say to yourself, "My life is good." As you exhale say to yourself, "And I am good."
Very simple but very effective, this 6 step program will help you to expose and reconstruct your personal belief system. This is something that you can do on your own in your own time. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
Attached is a healing energy exercise combining meditation, characterized breathing culminating with the connecting up with loved ones on the other side, creating an energy exchange. Hope you enjoy it!