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Helping a Friend: MBSR or Straight Up Anapanasati?

Hi everyone,

A couple of years back my own stress was so bad an ambulance got called out one day! A dear friend of mine is now in a very familiar position and has asked me to teach him meditation. When I started, I just did anapana and after about a month I'd seen such a huge benefit in well being that I booked my first 10day retreat...

My friend needs stress relief first and foremost. He does have an interest in what I'm pursuing, but clearly needs to see some results before even really thinking about it much. So the question is, do I sit him down and teach him the basics of anapana, or do I walk him through the structure of the 8week MBSR course? (I have a book here, and understand all the techniques so it should not be too challenging despite my lack of "qualifications")?

Anapana worked for me and would give him a good foundation should he wish to pursue it further. I was thinking of adding some body scanning to help him develop full body awareness over time.

MBSR is tried and tested for stress relief, and I can just follow the recipe. It also teaches these techniques, but its treatment of mindfulness of breathing (anapana) is minimal.

I lean toward the first option, but I wonder if anyone here has experience or thoughts to share?

RE: Helping a Friend: MBSR or Straight Up Anapanasati?
Answer
1/15/13 2:29 PM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
Bagpuss The Gnome:
Hi everyone,

A couple of years back my own stress was so bad an ambulance got called out one day! A dear friend of mine is now in a very familiar position and has asked me to teach him meditation. When I started, I just did anapana and after about a month I'd seen such a huge benefit in well being that I booked my first 10day retreat...

My friend needs stress relief first and foremost. He does have an interest in what I'm pursuing, but clearly needs to see some results before even really thinking about it much. So the question is, do I sit him down and teach him the basics of anapana, or do I walk him through the structure of the 8week MBSR course? (I have a book here, and understand all the techniques so it should not be too challenging despite my lack of "qualifications")?

Anapana worked for me and would give him a good foundation should he wish to pursue it further. I was thinking of adding some body scanning to help him develop full body awareness over time.

MBSR is tried and tested for stress relief, and I can just follow the recipe. It also teaches these techniques, but its treatment of mindfulness of breathing (anapana) is minimal.

I lean toward the first option, but I wonder if anyone here has experience or thoughts to share?


Well, my first concern is: is your friend receiving treatment from a psychiatrist or a psychologist? If this person is having dangerous levels of anxiety, that would be the first line of defense, not meditation.

Assuming those bases are covered, it seems like something pretty low-key in terms of meditation might be called for. Basic grounding in the body - as taught in MBSR - could be of some benefit, especially if it's used in conjunction with some kind of cognitive therapy.

In general, I wouldn't take too lightly the issue of "qualifications", as you put it. Anxiety can run the gamut from annoying to life-threatening with lots of areas in between, and it's not always clear where a person falls and exactly what intervention is appropriate, which is why having professional assistance can be useful.

RE: Helping a Friend: MBSR or Straight Up Anapanasati?
Answer
1/15/13 3:16 PM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
My take is, any improvement in present moment awareness, self-awareness, awareness of one's own reactivity, is a beginning in basic coping skills that a lot of people just don't have. When I see people looking for answers to stress, I recommend anything that features mindfulness (especially of the breath) that is something they want to do. It could be yoga, tai chi, etc.

But your friend asked you to teach him meditation. Maybe he has noticed a change in you that he would like to experience for himself. Why not give him the real deal? You'll probably be better as a teacher if you're conveying something you really believe in and are passionate about

RE: Helping a Friend: MBSR or Straight Up Anapanasati?
Answer
1/15/13 3:25 PM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
I think your leaning toward the first option is right. The directions are simple and nearly impossible to forget or "misremember", as is employing the actual technique. No books necessary. I think a straight up samatha technique is what will give you the bang for the buck (or quid) you're looking for.

I know a couple of people who break out the MBSR reference materials from time to time solely as a stress relief technique. I often think they'd be better off with something simpler, like using a plain old seed mantra (bija) that is not coordinated with the breath (or coordinated with the breath--why not?). You can even grab one using one of the old TM (Transcendental Meditation) mantra tables floating around online, and there's always the perennial favorite OM.

There are a whole lot of people out there who learned basic TM years ago and continue to do two 20 minute rounds with their mantra everyday. As a basic technique there's a lot to be said for that! (Yes, I'm ignoring other aspects of TM above any beyond the basic technique...)

RE: Helping a Friend: MBSR or Straight Up Anapanasati?
Answer
1/15/13 3:49 PM as a reply to Eric B.
Fitter:
is your friend receiving treatment from a psychiatrist or a psychologist?


Of course not. He's British.

He's not at a dangerous level yet I think. But I do recognise the territory he's in. He's living entirely in his own head. He is his thoughts. And that fundamental issue is as you know, a vicious circle that will eventually express itself in the body as well.

Some Guy:
My take is, any improvement in present moment awareness, self-awareness, awareness of one's own reactivity, is a beginning in basic coping skills that a lot of people just don't have. When I see people looking for answers to stress, I recommend anything that features mindfulness (especially of the breath) that is something they want to do. It could be yoga, tai chi, etc.


Yes. I would send him to yoga class if it weren't for the shocking state of what laughingly passes for yoga in the UK emoticon Im a pretty experienced (though again unqualified) yogi. If I go the breath route, I would like to incorporate some yoga for when he has time.

For example:

20 - 30mins light yoga practice. Just enough to mobilise the joints, stretch the major muscles, help improve posture and all the while connect the body with the breath. (i have a great routine for this that I do myself often)

10-15mins systematic relaxation though body scan meditation.

20 - 30mins mindfulness of breathing.

When he has time. Do the whole thing in an hour. When not, skip right to the breath and sit for 20mins.

Eric:
I think your leaning toward the first option is right. The directions are simple and nearly impossible to forget or "misremember", as is employing the actual technique. No books necessary. I think a straight up samatha technique is what will give you the bang for the buck (or quid) you're looking for.


The point about simplicity is well made. And on this note, it may be worth putting aside yoga and body scan until a practice is established. With Anapana there's nowhere to hide. Nothing to procrastinate over. He can either do the practice, or not.

I am not keen on mantra at all. He actually went to a TM open evening. Once I realised what it was, I told him to run! Though i do take the point re concentration, he'd probably see quick results --but then this does not provide a basis for further practice should he wish it.

RE: Helping a Friend: MBSR or Straight Up Anapanasati?
Answer
1/15/13 10:37 PM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
10-15mins systematic relaxation though body scan meditation.


as in goenka? not always relaxing in my experience if that's what you meant, i also ask cuz I've heard of other meditations referred to as body scanning.

RE: Helping a Friend: MBSR or Straight Up Anapanasati?
Answer
1/16/13 1:54 AM as a reply to Adam . ..
Adam . .:
10-15mins systematic relaxation though body scan meditation.


as in goenka? not always relaxing in my experience if that's what you meant, i also ask cuz I've heard of other meditations referred to as body scanning.


No. More of a yogic style. A similar thing, but you talk about relaxing each body part, feeling it relax, noticing the sensations of relaxation etc. If they can feel it, then what we might call impermanence (the sense of tingling/vibrating) is talked of in terms of prana and through the breath you spread that awareness of prana through your body.

RE: Helping a Friend: MBSR or Straight Up Anapanasati?
Answer
1/16/13 7:59 AM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
Bagpuss The Gnome:
Fitter:
is your friend receiving treatment from a psychiatrist or a psychologist?


Of course not. He's British.


LOL! I didn't realize we were using British Logic. In that case, why can't he just stop off at the pub on his way home every day?

RE: Helping a Friend: MBSR or Straight Up Anapanasati?
Answer
1/16/13 8:36 AM as a reply to Fitter Stoke.
We used to do that 15yrs ago, but now our livers (and wives) won't let us...

RE: Helping a Friend: MBSR or Straight Up Anapanasati?
Answer
1/18/13 12:59 PM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
The session went very well today...

In the end I taught my friend to follow the sensations of the breath whilst making a note of thoughts and distractions. Watching them arise and pass away, then returning to the breath. Vipassana soup if you will...

He loved it. Now he just needs to do the practice. I hope he does.

RE: Helping a Friend: MBSR or Straight Up Anapanasati?
Answer
1/15/13 6:29 PM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
For anxiety... anapana is so simple and has a calming effect. I suggest anapana until he wants to make a stronger commitment and do a retreat emoticon

RE: Helping a Friend: MBSR or Straight Up Anapanasati?
Answer
1/19/13 3:13 AM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
Howdy Bagpuss TG,
You didn't describe the source of your friend's stress which might make for more targeted / precise suggestions. Nevertheless, some of us know how stressFULL some of the stages of insight can be so following MCTBs advice on avoiding DN problems by not even starting if you're not willing to follow through might apply here.

As you know many mainstream therapists suggest simple mindfullness as the best way to battle "Burnout" or general existential stress or anxiety. I spent a little time following the program on the Advanced Yoga Practices "AYPSite" website. Their focus is on gradual, self-steered, integrated body mind practices which claim to reduce or eliminate many of the side effects we know here as the Dark Night.

I think there is something to it. I would steer your friend in those directions and warn him about getting too aggressive.

Good luck.