Introducing Your Clients to Brief Meditations
Psychotherapists often ask about ways to introduce mindfulness and meditation to clients. There are other posts on this Blog that offer basic introductory information on both content and process. Here I will simply introduce you to four brief, basic meditations for clients suffering from anxiety and/or depression, along with pervasive cognitive “stuckness” on unhelpful thoughts and related emotions. Once our clients – and ourselves for that matter – get stuck on unhelpful cognitions and emotions from the past, we need to move to the present moment and be there in calmness and safety. Of course other interventions are required when psychosis, intoxication, or extreme emotional dysregulation occur; meditation is not the recommended response in these conditions. One of the best ways to introduce your clients to meditation is to simply allow a gentle focus on the breath, just as it is. Relaxation-focused manipulation of the deep breath, especially for client with untreated trauma and polyvagal complications, may lead to the opposite effect – stimulating anxiety. Once your client can focus gently on her/his breath and benefit from brief exposures, he/she may be ready for brief meditations.
Below I have noted four scripts for you to use or modify as needed. Follow the rule-of-third by introducing the meditation cognitively (explain it); then with your client’s due process permission, do the brief meditation (in the body); and, after five or less minutes stop and process the meditation cognitively (talk about it). Always allow your client to stop the meditations at any time if they desire to do so. Comfort and safety are key values of psychotherapy process and relationship. If you or your client have doubts about comfortably completing the meditations, your client may prefer to be phased into them. Do this minute-by-minute by breaking down the five minutes into shorter time periods. Complete one or two minutes (half the scripts) rather than the full five minutes. Since mindfulness and meditation have been proven in thousands of studies to be helpful in anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and emotion regulation (trauma and addictions), the more comfortable your client feels, the more likely he/she will continue practicing. It is sometimes helpful to remind your client that if/when distraction occurs, that is the time to simply bring attention back to the task at hand. Return attention again.
- Five-Minute Meditation for Opening Up the Flow of Energy – Sit, relax, and breathe calmly with your eyes open. If you are comfortable with your eyes closed, that is fine. If you like your eyes open, you may want to glance gently downward toward the floor about three feet in front of you. Do your best to hold your head in a relaxed and level position. Now loosen your jaw and notice. Practice releasing any tension that you may be carrying in your throat. Let it go very gently, and open up your throat. Now bring attention to the area of your heart center, and imagine a warm, glowing, gentle inner light there. Notice the feeling. Allow it to nurture you. To end simply be with your natural breath; after a few breaths, allow it to bring you to full attention. This meditation is over.
- Five-Minute Meditation on Not Judging – Sit, relax, and breath naturally with your eyes opened or closed. Be as quiet inside as you can, and practice non-judging. Simply notice what comes into awareness for you, but without judging or evaluating it. Simply allow yourself to be with it. If your eyes are open, please close them if comfortable. Notice what comes into awareness BUT without judging or evaluating. If your eyes are closed, please open them; simply note what comes into your awareness BUT without judging or evaluating it. Be as quiet inside as possible – enjoy the silence if it is there. Count five breaths and end this meditation.
- Five-Minute Meditation on Letting Go of Your Thoughts – Sit, relax, breathe calmly or naturally, and allow your eyes to remain opened or closed. Pay close attention to the thoughts (sometimes voices of others) in your head. If unhelpful thoughts arise, do your best not to react; instead simply notice without responding or reacting. Perhaps your thoughts are about people, places, things, images, body feeling, or personal experiences. As consciousness presents you with each item, one by one, simply notice and LET IT GO. Do your best NOT to get entangled with them; do not engage with your thoughts, or carry on conversations in your mind. Thoughts are just thoughts! As each one come into awareness, just practice non-judging and LET IT GO. Allow each thought to arise and fall – just LET IT GO! Yes, just let it go. Now complete a few in-out breaths, and end the meditation.
- Five-Minute Self-Acceptance Meditation – Sit, relax, breath naturally and have your eyes opened or closed (it is up to you). As you sit simply allow thoughts, images, feelings to arise and fall; just notice them without engagement – LET EACH ONE GO. Be the “watcher.” Try not to get hooked by them. Now repeat this statement to yourself: “May I accept and love myself just as I am, with imperfections.” You may note this statement in your mind and be more specific be replacing “imperfections” with another word. Repeat this statement several times without distractions. Now rub your hands together until you feel heat. When your hands feel hot, gently place them on your face – covering your eyelids, cheeks, etc. Just sit there in your warmth and notice. Be the warmth. Feel free to rub your hands again and repeat the process. Count to five and end this meditation.
Anthony R. Quintiliani, PhD., LADC
From the Eleanor R. Liebman Center for Secular Meditation in Monkton, Vermont and the Home of The Monkton Sangha
Author of Mindful Happiness