“To become your own psychologist,” says Lama Yeshe, “You don’t have to learn some big philosophy. All you have to do is examine your own mind every day.”
Over the years I put together my own healing program combining the techniques and ideas I had accumulated from years of study and working with teachers in the field. From Harry Edwards to Ram Dass to Jane Roberts and Seth, I incorporated those techniques that worked best for me and I still use them today. Because of my own need to find a practice that would help me to have more energy and think more positively, I wove together a cohesive meditation/healing program that I think you will find very useful.
The program always begins with “The Gatekeeper Meditation Technique” which teaches you how to focus your awareness on your breath and this allows you to take a step back from your usual mental position, which is right in the center of your daily thoughts and concerns.
This place where your consciousness usually hangs out has been referred to as “The Under-dream.” We all have an ongoing underdream, you know that steady flow of thoughts that constantly runs through our minds. Some call it “The Still Small Voice” but its not so still and its not so small because, guess what, it holds your attention.
And so you will begin to focus on your breath, however, there’s a little problem here because as soon as you attempt to focus soley on your breath, your thinking mind (better known as “monkey mind”) will spring into action and you will be bombarded with thoughts from every direction. Many people at this point will simply give up believing that meditation is not possible for them because their mind swings back and forth through one thought after another, kind of like the way a monkey swings from branch to branch!
But this meditation is not about silencing your mind but about changing the position of your awareness from one that stands in the middle of all your thoughts to one that is able to observe your own thoughts rather than react to them. In fact, by using the breathing technique you become able to “cultivate the witness,” which means that you will be able to observe your thoughts from a witness perspective. This perspective is the first step in developing true self-awareness because when you become aware of your Habitual Thought Patterns (HTP) and see the ways that you habitually react and speak to yourself, you will be in a position to change some bad habits that are limiting you from being happy. Keep in mind that you can’t change anyone else and you can’t alter the fact that life is always changing around you, but you can get a handle on how you respond to events and how you talk to yourself in both good and difficult times.
After years of trying out different meditation techniques I learned the following technique from listening to a Ram Dass lecture series on CD called “Spiritual Awakening.” As soon as I heard it, it appealed to me because I liked its focus of breath, but I also liked the introduction of the visual image of The Gatekeeper. It really helped me focus my attention on my breath and it goes like this:
- Start by finding a comfortable place where you can remove yourself from the everyday distractions of your life. You can sit or lie down, depending on what is more comfortable for you.
- Focus all of your attention at the tip of your nose.
- Imagine that you are the gatekeeper at the entrance to a big city and that it is your very important job to watch the coming and going of your breath.
- Breathe in through your nose keeping your attention at the top of your nose and feel the cool air as it enters at the tip of your nostrils.
- Exhale through your nose and while keeping your focus on the tip of your nose feel the warm air as it leaves your nostrils.
- Keep repeating this, slowly Breathing in cool, breathing out warm. Breathing in cool, breathing out warm. In cool. Out warm. In cool. Out warm.
- At some point, you will realize that you have lost the feeling of your breath coming and going, that you can not feel the cool air entering or warm air leaving your nostrils. This will be your first clue that your mind has wandered. When you realize this, simply return your focus to the tip of your nose and resume your position as gatekeeper, watching the coming and going of your breath.
- Repeat this for at least 5 to 10 minutes, returning time and time again to the breath.
At some point, you may think to yourself, (well I did) “What is the point of this anyway? All I’m doing is breathing, getting lost in thought and returning my focus back to my breath. I don’t get it.” But two very important things happen when you stop thinking and return your focus to your breath. The first is the realization that you are not your thoughts! If you can look at them objectively, then you cannot be them. You realize that you are the awareness in which those thoughts are taking place, but you are not those thoughts. The second thing that happens is that as you are returning to your breath you get a bird’s eye view of your thoughts, in essence, you get to witness your thoughts from outside of them. We usually have a thought and then you simply react. We might become uneasy, or we might become angry or, if its a funny thought, we might laugh, but we just react. However, by returning to breath you prevent yourself from any full-scale reaction as you witness the thought from the perspective of an observer.
- This in itself is very powerful. I recommend that you purchase a small notebook or journal to keep by your side as you begin this work, for it will become a part of your practice to note what the thought was and jot it down. For example, you might write, “remember to put my keys in my bag” or “boy I really messed up.” It doesn’t matter what the thought is right now, but that you simply note it, jot it down and then return again to your breath. This is the first step and what I would like you to practice for the first month. Simply practice The Gatekeeper Meditation Technique and note where your mind went when it wandered away from your breath. If you can do this a few times a week for 10 to 20 minutes you will find it very enlightening.
- “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built.”Rumi