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As a therapist and counsellor based in Sydney, I feel that Inner transformation starts with inner work and meditation. In Process therapy and Buddhism the method of working is also the goal. In developing the ability to live completely in every moment, this is the path and the fruition.
Process therapy however, understands meditation as a process which needs to include different techniques as they are needed by the individual over time.
David Roomy in ‘Inner Journey to Sacred Places’ says that inner work involves us with our own centre and that a definition of ultimate centering is enlightenment. It is possible to believe that we can become enlightened in this lifetime, or put another way, that we can `individuate” and become whole.
‘Inner work is a discipline for working towards one’s full realisation.’
Robert Johnson says that the point of inner work is to build consciousness and to gain insights into what life presents us. He believes that within the unconscious lie hidden strengths and resources waiting to be discovered. Any form of meditation that helps us open ourselves to the unconscious can be called inner work. Jung observed that Australian Aboriginal people spent two thirds of their waking life in some form of inner work, through religious ceremony, interpreting dreams, having visions and spiritual quests. I would maintain that this is also true of practicing Tibetan Buddhists, through meditation, visions, chanting, and religious ceremony. What they have in common is that their approach to the inner world has been maintained and is not separate from their external life. Their daily life is imbued with symbolism and meaning from their dream time.
Arnold Mindell, who founded Process Psychology and is an expert therapist and conflict facilitator, in his book, ‘Working on Yourself Alone’ gives practical tools to working with our inner realities. He identifies the different channels in Process therapy and the different meditation aspects based on them. Our sensory channels are the way in which we receive and grounded sensory information. Mindell says that if we know what channel we are perceiving in, we are already at our goal, as knowing how we perceive means that we can work with ourselves. Therefore asking ourselves which channel we are in, already raises our awareness. There are channels that we are already aware of, called occupied and other channels that are further away from our awareness, called unoccupied channels.
For example, within a meditation practice, we may be consciously visualizing a deity, with intricate detail and therefore our visual channel is occupied. However, we may not be so aware that we have a song or tune or mantra running through the back of our mind. In this case, the auditory channel is more unoccupied in the moment. If we realise this is happening and choose to chant mantra rather than visualize, then auditory becomes more occupied.
Arnold Mindell includes different methods within each channel that belong to varied traditions. Within the proprioception channel are Hatha yoga, relaxation techniques and counting the breath. Within the visualisation channel is concentration and meditation and dream work. Within the auditory channel is mantra, drumming and prayer. Movement includes Tai Chi and Sufi dancing and within the relationship channel is Tantra, Taoist alchemy and Siddha yoga. In the world channel is American Indian vision quests.
Towards Process Work Meditation
Meditation techniques are for opening the heart, stilling the mind and making them one, for grounding the soul in the body and uniting the spirit in both. In ‘Working on Yourself Alone’ Mindell say’s that,
`many Buddhist teachers are in principle, open to all experiences, techniques and religions, but in practice they tend to stress an inner focus which represses fantasies, spontaneous thoughts and ideas and emotional affects.
He discusses whether a method of inner work can be explored so that both Western and Eastern ways are included. Then meditation is a ‘process which includes various techniques as they appear in the individual over time. ‘
Meditation allows the person to benefit from an exchange of energy with an unidentified source of energy. In the quiet of meditation, a person is more able to tune into a force of ‘energy’ that helps the meditator renew and replenish herself. Meditation is often advocated as an inexpensive, self-regulated and effective procedure, which results in deep transformation of identity, life-style and relationship to the world.
James Bugental says that when we realise that our truest identity is as process and not as fixed substance, we are at the edge of freedom and yet, the realisation of the endless possibilities of awareness make us fearful and lost. The world which we think is solid is merely our construction. Being in the moment now, as described in Buddhism is also within therapy’s insistence on paying attention to the subjective life. This creates a transformation and change and begins to focus the person more inward than outward.
There are hundreds of different techniques, practices and systems of meditation. Some use the breath to focus and calm the mind, some use awareness as the basis of the meditation, chanting, eyes open or shut, sitting, standing, walking, in silence or noise.
Shamatha, or calm abiding meditation is based on the mind resting one-pointedly on an object, which can be the breath or an external object such as a picture. The mind becomes very calm, relaxed and stable and rests in peace. Vipashyana meditation is clear awareness or insight meditation which means that we can look at things in a very direct and clear way. `When both are developed, the result is that we have the freedom to focus with one pointed concentration on anything and develop wisdom so we can see the true nature of mind. Our mind becomes workable, in that we can do whatever we want.
Process psychology meditation is different. As Process workers would be interested in amplifying and unfolding what is happening in our mind. Process meditation is usually fluid and follows the shifts that happen inside a person in several channels, whether proprioception, visual, auditory etc. Process work meditation ‘can never be left. From the viewpoint of the awake meditator, all of the many separate worlds, whether they are inner or outer, death or life, physical or mental, are all aspects of the same mysterious universe; all are different channels of luminous signals and meaningful information waiting to be unfolded by you.’
Meditation is a tool or technique which can be an ongoing renewable source, not only for developing stillness and peace of mind, but also to ignite the inspiration which is inside all of us or re – inspire us, when we have lost touch with that feeling or experience. It helps us realise who we truly are and embody our potential.