Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety

Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety Gordon 11/18/15 2:19 PM
RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety Noah 11/18/15 2:50 PM
RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety Ian And 11/18/15 9:42 PM
RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety This Good Self 11/19/15 2:27 AM
RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety Ian And 11/20/15 12:27 AM
RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety This Good Self 11/23/15 7:23 AM
RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety bernd the broter 11/23/15 6:33 PM
RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety This Good Self 11/23/15 8:54 PM
RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety This Good Self 11/24/15 8:25 AM
RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety bernd the broter 11/24/15 6:01 PM
RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety This Good Self 11/25/15 6:50 AM
RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety bernd the broter 11/25/15 5:05 PM
RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety This Good Self 11/26/15 2:24 AM
RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety Richard Zen 11/18/15 11:59 PM
RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety Gordon 11/19/15 11:22 AM
RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety Incandescent Flower 11/24/15 2:08 PM
RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety Gordon 11/24/15 2:32 PM
RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety Incandescent Flower 11/24/15 4:23 PM
RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety bernd the broter 11/24/15 6:15 PM
RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety Incandescent Flower 11/24/15 10:22 PM
RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety Gordon 11/25/15 12:00 AM
RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety Noah 11/25/15 12:17 AM
RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety Gordon 11/25/15 12:22 PM
RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety Noah 11/25/15 12:29 PM
RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety Gordon 11/25/15 12:59 PM
RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety Noah 11/25/15 10:44 PM
Gordon, modified 6 Years ago at 11/18/15 2:19 PM
Created 6 Years ago at 11/18/15 2:19 PM

Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety

Posts: 9 Join Date: 11/18/15 Recent Posts
Hello All,

First post, and hoping that I might tap into the collective expertise on how to skillfully practice given the circumstances present in my life. I welcome any and all input and want to say thank in advance for the help.

Context might be helpful so I’ll provide a little background while trying to avoid a life story. I’m currently in my mid 30s.
I grew up in a troubled household with a verbally and sometimes physically abusive father. At the age of 10, my parents went through a custody battle and our father won custody by essentially intimidating my siblings and me to express desire to live with him when in reality we wanted to live with  our mother.

In my early 20s I experienced my first major bout of depression and anxiety that was rooted in sexual performance anxiety and feelings of inadequacy. In short, I had a very difficult time being intimate with my first real girlfriend because I was worried about performing poorly which made fear intimacy with her which led to the end of the relationship. This caused me to spiral into a depression where I ruminated on any and every sexuality related topic from wondering if I’m gay, to feeling that my penis wasn’t large enough, etc. It was a very rough time for my, but somehow I recovered.  

The rest of my 20s were more stable, but when serious events happened like loss of a job or relationship, I would feel the return of these dark feelings although they weren’t as extreme as the experience in my early 20s and I made it through.

Then, in my early 30s I started to notice a tingling sensation in my throat that resulted in a lot of throat clearing and coughing and I started to obsess about this for a number of years. Some doctors were saying that it’s reflux, others would say that it’s stress, and I never really got a clear answer on this. The constant worry plunged me into a deep depression in late 2013 and I ended up taking Zoloft to help me out of this period.

It was during this time that I committed myself to meditation practice that was largely focused around concentration whereby I focus on the breathing and return to my breathing if I wander away in thought.

The goal was to use meditation to explore the roots of some of my mental habits especially those that led to depression and anxiety as to eventually mitigate against revisiting them. So starting in early 2014, I would meditate 30 minutes per day in what could be called a samatha focused practice.

I was mostly stable for the rest of 2014 and through the first half of 2015. In April of 2015 I travelled to Peru to drink Ayahuasca and participated in 12 ceremonies.

It was a strange experience that I won’t go into detail about here, but I did feel a bit depressed when I returned however it lifted within a few days.

I continued my meditation practice and all seemed well until about two months ago when work stress triggered a major plummet back into depression and anxiety. I haven’t been able to sleep well, felt suicidal many times, and have felt very discouraged about almost everything in my life including my practice.

I am under the care of a psychiatrist and currently taking medication.

In so far as my practice is concerned, in the last two months I’ve immersed myself in reading about meditation and learned for the first time about the dark night and other meditation phenomena.

I don’t know that I’m in the dark night already, but if not, I don’t want to risk it with insight heavy practice so I decided to double down on focusing on concentration practice with the first goal of reaching and mastering the 1st jhana.

My thought process is that if I can attain the first jhana, I’ll have a refuge to go to if depression and anxiety visit and this will help my balance the suffering of those states with the joy of the jhana. 

If I’m able to do this, and then master the next 4 jhanas, I’ll dive more into insight practice with the eventual goal of stream entry which is regularly talked about on this forum.

So far, I'm getting to the point where I can get focused on my breath consistenly enough to feel pressure building in my forehead that stays for up to a minute or so and then drops off. Depending on the session, this forehead pressure can come and go many times which leads me to beleive that I'm on the right track towards jhana. 

With that, my questions are as follows:


- Does this sound like a reasonable plan?
- Can concentration practice be destabilizing to someone in the throes of depression and anxiety?
- Are there better alternatives that I may seek?
- What resources would be recommended to enhance my practice? 

Thanks again for all the feedback!
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Noah, modified 6 Years ago at 11/18/15 2:50 PM
Created 6 Years ago at 11/18/15 2:50 PM

RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety (Answer)

Posts: 1467 Join Date: 7/6/13 Recent Posts
Hey Gordon:

 Does this sound like a reasonable plan?


Yeah, it does.  Focus on the factors of jhana arising in the proper order, within the first jhana (meaning, good, solid technique).  Also, read IanAnd's 'General, All-Purpose Jhana Thread', which is stickied to the concentration subforum.  I think this is how hard jhana arises.  Don't focus on going through the jhanas really fast.  What I have found is that this can be done through scripting, but the soft jhanas that arise won't have as many healing properties.  

- Are there better alternatives that I may seek?
- What resources would be recommended to enhance my practice? 


Use law of attaction!  Focus every day on the exact, positive, opposite of what you seek.  The key is consistent, daily effort for at least three months with this positive visualization stuff.  The other key is to not have any expectations... no "are we there yet!?   is it happening yet!?"

I have come out from some serious depths of mental illness, in large part due to contemplative training.  I would be down to skype to share more details of my journey if you want.

Cheers,
Noah
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Ian And, modified 6 Years ago at 11/18/15 9:42 PM
Created 6 Years ago at 11/18/15 9:26 PM

RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety (Answer)

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Hello Gordon,

I'm sorry to hear about your mental dilemma. The good news is: I have some experience in this area, having travelled there in my late twenties and undergone a similar bout with depression during that period of my life. Just for the record, I'm thirty-five years beyond that now, and it is a distant memory, but not so distant that I cannot relate to your story in a very sympathetic way. Some of the same inadequacies (dark feelings) and general causes (familial dysfunction) you list were part of my reality then, too.

What I eventually realized was the root cause of this circumstance was low self-esteem rooted in some painful experiences that I hadn't "experienced out" (i.e. gotten out of my system). My guess is that when those feelings are not overwhelming you, you feel pretty normal and reasonably content, and in general consider yourself a quite capable chap. Yet, it doesn't take much to set off those esteem-issue feelings of inadequacy. And they can take you quite deep before they let go and leave you there. Does this sound familiar?

At the time I was undergoing my bout (late 1979 to late 1980) I searched for someone or some method that would help me figure out and treat this mental illness. There had to be a simple answer that I just wasn't seeing. I had no experience in this, and so I relied upon my intuition to guide me. Psythotropic drugs were just coming on the scene back then, but I wanted nothing at all to do with them, and was determined to avoid them at all costs. I first took a very wary look at psychotherapy with a Gestalt therapist, although I was somewhat skeptical of commercialized psychotherapeutic modalities and their effectiveness. I had heard stories of famous people at that time (Woody Allen in particular) who ended up spending 15 years in therapy without ever graduating. I attended one session with this therapist, and despite his rather gentle approach, left with the impression that I might be under his care for quite some time without making any real progress while making him wealthier and me poorer. I therefore never returned.

Next, I tried self-hypnosis. It seemed to me that if I could get rid of my negative thought patterns, that might help me get back to ground zero. At least it seemed a reasonable hypothesis at the time. I found a local man who had built up a good reputation for being able to teach this and took three different courses from him lasting the first five months of 1980. And while it did help to calm me down some, it didn't really get at the root causes of the illness enough to burn them off. I looked into Norman Vincent Peale's The Power of Postive Thinking and Maxwell Maltz's Psycho Cybernetics, but neither of those methods really addressed the root cause of my dis-ease.

I was interested in learning about meditation, but did not see that at the time as being a viable cure-all for the malady I had. I had a keen interest in spirituality and had studied Eastern Philosophy in college, coming away with a positive impression of the Eastern modalities of Hinduism, Taoism, and Buddhism as being able to address personality deficiencies better than Christianity and other Western religions, and was interested in exploring them in more depth. But first things first: I needed to deal with this depression that was hanging over me like a fog slow to lift.

As fate would have it, I happened to run into someone (an old-Catholic priest) who had been trained in both Western and Eastern thought (although he had remained affiliated with a Western religious order). He displayed everything I wanted to be like: articulate, intelligent, educated, self-confident, and experienced in the practicalities of life with a postive mental attitude. To make a long story short, I ended up taking a training seminar that he had developed, and ended up training under him for nine years.

One of the first things he taught me was that we (as injured people, with reference to my depression) bury pain in the body without ever becoming aware of it. Whatever we cannot confront, we bury in the body. A more accurate way of stating this is that those moments of pain become buried in the mind and stay there until we are able to see it as it is (confronting it) and blow off the energy valence that holds it tight against the seam of our discomfort. Long story short, after eight weeks under his instruction (which included learning about and practicing meditation, which he taught me) the black cloud I had been under for the preceding year had disappeared. At least temporarily, and I was able to begin getting back to ground zero. Eight weeks, I could hardly believe it!

At least I was out of the hole I had dug myself into. In the years that followed, I had subsequent bouts with milder versions of this dis-ease, but never again sank to the depth of where I had been. It wasn't until about twenty-five years later that I realized that depression would NEVER EVER bother me again; but this occurred after two self imposed private retreats during which I studied and practiced the Dhamma night and day for a total of five years. It took seven years altogther (there was a two year break between the two retreats), but after that time the road ahead was clear and free of mental hangups.

Enough about me. You had some questions.

Gordon:

Does this sound like a reasonable plan? ... The goal was to use meditation to explore the roots of some of my mental habits especially those that led to depression and anxiety as to eventually mitigate against revisiting them.

While that is an admirable goal, which actually might be achievable given that you were beginning at ground zero in this endeavor, that does not seem, at present, to be the case as far as you have described it. "I am under the care of a psychiatrist and currently taking medication." That does not sound like ground zero just yet (to my way of thinking).

If my understanding is correct, you are currently dealing with life on a negative basis, below ground zero. Let's say negative 2 or negative 5 (or whatever stress level you sense yourself being at, given that it is in negative territory). While a practice in meditation certainly won't be harmful, its efficacy in stemming the tide of your dis-ease may be limited, especially without the proper guidance.

Gordon:

Can concentration practice be destabilizing to someone in the throes of depression and anxiety?

That depends on what you mean by concentration practice and how you actually practice it. Generally speaking, though, it shouldn't cause a problem. But that also depends upon the individual.

Development of concentration alone won't be of much help if it is not followed up with some kind of practice that will produce the insight necessary to break up the psychological attachment to whatever painful moments are being subconsciously held onto.

Gordon:

Are there better alternatives that I may seek?

Depending upon the severity of your condition, most definitely. But finding the right person to assist you might take a bit of effort. There is a lady who wrote a book titled I Can't Get Over It, A Handbook for Trauma Survivors whose name is Aphrodite Matsakis. The book emphasizes many of the same modalities that were used on me. If you can find someone who does what she does, you would be in good hands. Do some research.

Failing that, there is a method I came across a few years ago that I tried on myself which seemed to produce some positive results. It is known as EMDR or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy. It may be effective as a bandaid therapy as well as something that can address deeper issues. If you do a bit of research and reading about it, it may be something that can have a real effect. You can start here: http://www.emdria.org/?2 and here: http://www.emdr.com/

Anything you can do to get off and stay off the use of "medicative" drugs will be a plus.

Gordon:

What resources would be recommended to enhance my practice?

That could end up being a long list. But for now, let's just focus on something to help with attenuating and eventually eliminating the present malady.

You might want to consider picking up the book by Matsakis I mentioned above. Though I haven't had occasion to finish reading the book, there's a great chapter (Chapter Seven) near the middle of the book titled "Feel the Feelings" which will help you to put some things into perspective with regard to being able to face up to areas that cause anxiety. Some of the subheadings in the chapter are: The Necessity of Feeling, Fear of Feeling, Take Your Time, Managing Your Emotions, Preparing Yourself, Exercise: Identifying Your Fears About Feelings, PTSD -- Anger, Grief, or Helplessness, and Anger and Grief -- The Intimate Connection.

That should provide you with something solid to chew on for a while.

In peace,
Ian
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Richard Zen, modified 6 Years ago at 11/18/15 11:59 PM
Created 6 Years ago at 11/18/15 11:57 PM

RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety (Answer)

Posts: 1656 Join Date: 5/18/10 Recent Posts
Gordon:

With that, my questions are as follows:


- Does this sound like a reasonable plan?
- Can concentration practice be destabilizing to someone in the throes of depression and anxiety?
- Are there better alternatives that I may seek?
- What resources would be recommended to enhance my practice? 

Thanks again for all the feedback!
Hi Gordon,

I think your situation is very common and I definitely have had similar situations to you. Most of us here on this board or in other areas related to stress relief have gone through similar situations of abuse (verbal being a potent one) and admitting that there is a problem is very important.

I think from my experience I felt that meditation helps with equanimity but a thankful-love practice for all the things that did go right is equally important. When you get the oxytocin out it can make the brain feel very clean and sane for long periods of time. Lots of Brahmaviharas practice rounds out concentration and insight practices from being too (spock-like) dry in emotions. Healthy emotions feel exactly that like...healthy.

For meditation I would be careful of keeping it compartmentalized on the cushion but add it into daily life. A welcoming practice can really help you deal with things that are not of preference (including crappy meditation experiences). 

Try and search for talks from Thanissaro Bhikkhu on how to enjoy the breath and to spread it out to other parts of your body. I would also look at intentions. Everytime your attention span moves that's an intention. There are fight or flight responses that are activated as your attention span surveys the environment looking to like or dislike something. Learn to do a sky-gazing practice to let go of attention to objects (including mental objects) to get direct stress relief. You can study Atammayata which is in a similar vein.

Really enjoy and be thankful with meditation to keep it from being too aversive. That's the take away.
This Good Self, modified 6 Years ago at 11/19/15 2:27 AM
Created 6 Years ago at 11/19/15 2:25 AM

RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety

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Ian And:


One of the first things he taught me was that we (as injured people, with reference to my depression) bury pain in the body without ever becoming aware of it. Whatever we cannot confront, we bury in the body. A more accurate way of stating this is that those moments of pain become buried in the mind and stay there until we are able to see it as it is (confronting it) and blow off the energy valence that holds it tight against the seam of our discomfort. Long story short, after eight weeks under his instruction (which included learning about and practicing meditation, which he taught me) the black cloud I had been under for the preceding year had disappeared. At least temporarily, and I was able to begin getting back to ground zero. Eight weeks, I could hardly believe it!

In peace,
Ian

Ian, could you please say some more on this process?  Was it a matter of feeling/expressing your feelings and having him accept them?  Or something more complicated?  Can this be done on one's own?

The reason I ask about doing it on one's own is that most psychologists cannot handle the depth and power of my emotions.  They get scared by the degree of sadness and anger and it doesn't work.

Regards,
Gordon, modified 6 Years ago at 11/19/15 11:22 AM
Created 6 Years ago at 11/19/15 11:21 AM

RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety

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Noah, Ian And, Richard Zen

Thanks so much for the great comments. I'll look more deeply into the suggestions and take them into consideration. 

In reference to Richard Zen's comment on Loving Kindness, I struggle with that practice because I don't necessarily feel the emotions tied to the metta phrases such as: May I be happy, May I be peaceful, May I be free from suffering

I've read that many feel it doesn't matter if the internal responses to the metta phrases are felt at first, and that if you continue, your practice will grow stronger. That said, because of the lack of feeling, I opted to focus on mindfulness of breathing. Perhaps I should alternate between sitting sessions of Metta and Samatha? 

Thanks!
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Ian And, modified 6 Years ago at 11/20/15 12:27 AM
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RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety

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Well, hello CCC. Fancy meeting you here.

CCC:

Ian, could you please say some more on this process?

With pleasure.

You asked: "Was it a matter of feeling/expressing your feelings and having him accept them?"

If you would stop and think for a moment, you would realize the ridiculousness of this question. How could someone else accepting your recap of your story liberate you?

No, the answer you are seeking is already present in the quotation you excerpted. "Whatever we cannot confront, we bury in the body. A more accurate way of stating this is that those moments of pain become buried in the mind and stay there until we are able to see it as it is (confronting it) and blow off the energy valence that holds it tight against the seam of our discomfort."

When the mind is confronted with an overwhelming painful experience that it does not want to confront, it treats that experience as an unconscious moment, without experiencing it out. In other words, it doesn't fully experience the moment, it blanks it out as though it never happened. The energy from that unconscious moment remains buried in the body, and like a ticking time bomb is ready to go off whenever we experience anything that is similar to the moment we blanked out.

A simplistic analogy might be: You are walking along and suddenly someone throws a rock that hits you in the head. It opens up a wound that needs stiches to close. You are not able to process the experience, and so it becomes buried in the body. Sometime later you encounter a rock that looks like the one that hit you. All the sudden, you get a headache without understanding how it was caused.

The mind makes unconscious associations, and the time bomb (resulting headache, or whatever unwholesome reaction) goes off. Only by re-living the initial painful experience and allowing yourself to experience fully the emotions (sadness, anger, resentments etc.) and whatever else may be associated with the pain connected to that experience and realizing it for what it was will the attachment that is locked away in the experience be released.

The only catch is: it takes a person who is emotionally mature enough to be brutally honest with themselves and who is willing to accept their part in the matter before the pain is released. I'll give you an example from my own life.

When I left the religious order that I had invested seven years of my life to, I harbored a lot of resentment toward the man who was my religious superior. I laid blame on him for some of the things that I had had to endure needlessly. There were experiences that he put me though which at the time I viewed as being unnecessary. He also, toward the end, broke some agreements we made at the outset of our relationship. And the agreements we made were his idea, not only to set parameters for him but for myself. The resentment had been building during the months leading up to the moment I actually left as I reviewed my experience within the order. I knew that if I decided to actually leave, that I could never come back. I was leaving something that I had poured my life into with people I knew who for the most part I respected and who respected me, and it was a difficult decision at which to arrive. Yet, in the end, I had to do what was right for me.

On the outside, away from his influence, I began to notice unhealthy thought patterns that had been conditioned into me as a result of his influence. It took me about three years to consciously clear those patterns from my consciousness and to reestablish a more wholesome outlook. All the time harboring this resentment. I was in contemplation one day thinking again about all this when suddenly I realized that although my mentor had played a role in the experiences I underwent, that I, too, had also played a role, contributing to the experience. As soon as I realized that I had allowed it all to happen, a great weight felt lifted from my mind, and suddenly I was free. I no longer carried around that resentment.

It didn't change what had happened, but it did change the way I now saw and reacted to what had happened. I vowed to myself that I would never again allow that to happen to me. And I moved on with my life.

It takes a brave and brutally self-honest person to do something like this. Not everyone can readily confront their worst experiences in order to objectively process them.

You ask: "Can this be done on one's own?" Honestly, after having seen some of the things you've written and the attitude you express, I don't know if you are up to it. You will have to, probably for the first time in your life, take a good long and hard look at yourself and come to some determination about how honest you want to be with yourself. You may not understand this, but that is my honest evaluation.

CCC:
"The reason I ask about doing it on one's own is that most psychologists cannot handle the depth and power of my emotions. They get scared by the degree of sadness and anger and it doesn't work."

Not only does this possibly say something about the caliber of psychologist that you have run into, but it also may be saying something quite ugly about you that you have yet to realize about yourself. I don't know this for certain, but all the telltale signs are there to suggest that the likelihood is better than fifty fifty. If this is how the therapists that you have seen have reacted toward you, there must be a good reason for their fear of allowing you to explore the depths of your experience any further. Have you ever stopped to consider that?

Whether or not you are able to dig deep down inside yourself to acknowledge your own involvement in your pain is up to you. Only time will tell.

In peace,
Ian
This Good Self, modified 6 Years ago at 11/23/15 7:23 AM
Created 6 Years ago at 11/23/15 7:18 AM

RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety

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Ian your post has a bit of a nasty tone to it. 

If you don't like me, just be honest. 

But don't say "In Peace" when you just want to have a cheap shot at me.  It's no help.  I already know I play a part in my own pain.  Experiencing it fully does not help.
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bernd the broter, modified 6 Years ago at 11/23/15 6:33 PM
Created 6 Years ago at 11/23/15 6:32 PM

RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety

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C C C:
  [...]I already know I play a part in my own pain.  Experiencing it fully does not help.

Fulfilled preconditions for healing:
[ x ] experiencing pain fully
[?] having the right relationship to the pain
[] access to the juxtaposition experience

http://www.shrinkrapradio.com/330.pdf

What is required, the brains own intrinsic rules for reconsolidation requires this first step of reactivation and this second step in which while the target learning is emotionally reactivated, so this first experience of reactivation is still happening, concurrent with it a second experience of the vivid contradictory knowledge. So that a mismatch. The neuroscientists who have focused on this often call it a mismatch experience in which the expectations in the target learning and the knowings in the target learning are sharply contradicted by this other equally vivid, equally real feeling personal knowledge and personal perceptions and experience
This Good Self, modified 6 Years ago at 11/23/15 8:54 PM
Created 6 Years ago at 11/23/15 8:53 PM

RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety

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bernd the broter:
C C C:
  [...]I already know I play a part in my own pain.  Experiencing it fully does not help.

Fulfilled preconditions for healing:
[ x ] experiencing pain fully
[?] having the right relationship to the pain
[] access to the juxtaposition experience

http://www.shrinkrapradio.com/330.pdf


Thanks very much.  Sounds a variation of re-framing.  Reading the pdf now. 
This Good Self, modified 6 Years ago at 11/24/15 8:25 AM
Created 6 Years ago at 11/24/15 8:25 AM

RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety

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Seems like a powerful approach, bernd.  The power lies in the therapist's ability to accept the patient and his painful truth.  First elicit it, then accept it.  That allows the patient to see how/why/if he wants to continue with the symptom.
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Incandescent Flower, modified 6 Years ago at 11/24/15 2:08 PM
Created 6 Years ago at 11/24/15 2:08 PM

RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety (Answer)

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Keeping in mind what Ian, Noah, and Richard have shared, I would recommend that you start with investigating reactivity in your own mind, how it comes up, what causes it, and what are useful and healthy ways for understanding it and dealing with it. It might take just sitting and seeing whatever comes up in your thoughts and inclinations in a non-judgmental, open manner.

As for kindness practice, have you tried other methods besides the verbal formulation method? If you're interested, there are many resources available online. If you're stumped as for where to look I could point you to a few places.
Gordon, modified 6 Years ago at 11/24/15 2:32 PM
Created 6 Years ago at 11/24/15 2:22 PM

RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety

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Incandescent Flower:
Keeping in mind what Ian, Noah, and Richard have shared, I would recommend that you start with investigating reactivity in your own mind, how it comes up, what causes it, and what are useful and healthy ways for understanding it and dealing with it. It might take just sitting and seeing whatever comes up in your thoughts and inclinations in a non-judgmental, open manner.

Thanks for the response. Is sounds like you are suggesting more of an insight oriented practice here as opposed to the concentration heavy practice that I've been focusing on. Given that I'm currently experiencing a mood disorder (anxiety/depression) I came to the conlusion that insight practice would be better suited for a time when I'm a bit more stable hence the pursuit of calm abiding.

Incandescent Flower:
As for kindness practice, have you tried other methods besides the verbal formulation method? If you're interested, dthere are many resources available online. If you're stumped as for where to look I could point you to a few places.

I've only practiced traditional Metta with phrases such as: May I be happy, May I be free from suffering, etc

I would love to learn more about the practices that you're referencing. Thanks!
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Incandescent Flower, modified 6 Years ago at 11/24/15 4:23 PM
Created 6 Years ago at 11/24/15 4:09 PM

RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety (Answer)

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You're right. You asked for concentration practices, and I gave you an insight practice. The whatever-comes-up practice is a rather direct insight practice, and can be pretty raw. But it might be worth saving in your memory bank for a later time when it seems like it might be the right way forward.

I will warn you though that often insight practices come part and parcel with concentration practices, such that at a given time the best way forward in your practice might very well be to switch to an insight-oriented method. An example is, if you find yourself suddenly able to manipulate your experience in meditation such that especially pleasant states are accesible to you, without being honest about and confronting your attachment to them, you will find that your practice can become like any other addiction, something you crave and try to covet from the rest of the world. I know this because this happened to me for a time, and it has had consequences on my relationships that have yet to fully reveal themselves. This again may be something just to keep in mind at this point, but it is a very real pitfall.

I'm on a mobile phone right now, when I'm on a computer next I'll link some ideas about different metta practices, and maybe some other things, too.

Best to you,
Kyle
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bernd the broter, modified 6 Years ago at 11/24/15 6:01 PM
Created 6 Years ago at 11/24/15 6:01 PM

RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety

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I'm not sure how important the therapist's accepting something actually is.
I was merely pointing out that experiencing stuff fully is not a sufficient (you correctly said that much), but still a necessary ingredient.

In fact, this was implicit (though somewhat hidden) in what Ian And said - because there is (often, at least) a connection between the juxtaposition experience and the painful experience.

I don't understand his reasoning in the last paragraph, but let's not get into that here, because it's derailing the thread.
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bernd the broter, modified 6 Years ago at 11/24/15 6:15 PM
Created 6 Years ago at 11/24/15 6:14 PM

RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety (Answer)

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[quote=]Incandescent FlowerAs for kindness practice, have you tried other methods besides the verbal formulation method? If you're interested, dthere are many resources available online. If you're stumped as for where to look I could point you to a few places.
I've only practiced traditional Metta with phrases such as: May I be happy, May I be free from suffering, etc

I would love to learn more about the practices that you're referencing. Thanks!

END OF QUOTE (browser or server keeps eating the closing quote bracket. dafuq?)

The practice with the phrases can seem tiresome, but if it works for you by all means go and do it! Give it some time (say the equivalent of a 10-day retreat), then reevaluate.
Insight meditation may or may not help you (in extreme cases get you to an even worse place) at the moment, but Metta certainly won't harm.

Some alternative ways to practice Metta:
1) Analayo mentions that the Metta Sutta instructs people to imagine actively radiating Metta.
2) Visualizations work wonders for tons of people. Remember someone who was really nice to you, with whom you felt really safe. Really create a vivid memory/imagination/internal movie. Bath in the resulting feeling. Source: Linda Graham.
3) I've experimented with mixing the Metta phrases practice with actively accepting certain kinds of hindrances. Details in my practice log if you're interested.
4) Combine all of the above and try whatever the fuck you want.
My impression: Metta works without problems for those on 'Ground Zero'. (Ian And's words) If you're far below it, it may throw up big hindrances. Then, traditional teachers may have no idea what you are actually facing. Therefore, don't really on 'formal Metta meditation techniques' too much.
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Incandescent Flower, modified 6 Years ago at 11/24/15 10:22 PM
Created 6 Years ago at 11/24/15 10:22 PM

RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety (Answer)

Posts: 87 Join Date: 10/27/14 Recent Posts
Gordon,

Here is a link to a thread started by Bill F. a while ago, about Brahma-Vihara jhanas, with lots of linked resources in the replies that you might useful, as well as a somewhat overly complicated description of an "imaging" practice that I laid out, which involves using mental pictures of people and "seeing" them happy, which I generally use instead of the phrasing practice:

http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5665773

I would pay particular mind to Bill's linked quote from Bhikku Analayo about his discovery, with the help of Bhikku Boddhi's instruction, of the "spatial" metta technique of directing metta outwards, as often I have found that approach to be very intuitive to me (though other times it has seemed utterly foreign).

Another practice idea from Nikolai: http://thehamiltonproject.blogspot.com.au/2010/12/nicks-christmas-cheer-boom-boom-super.html

In short, I think it's worthwhile to experiment to find what works for you, and that the more techniques you find to work for you depending on your circumstances/present mindset, the better it is to be aware of them. But remember that with metta, it's about gaining momentum, and so you must at least give the technique a chance, as the first part of a metta sitting is most often the most difficult and dry. Once you get it moving it will do it all by itself.

I will also link this practice unrelated to metta simply because I think it's a very good foundational practice, and I use it in some form or another just about every day. You may find it useful in dealing with anxiety issues:

The 10 Points Practice: http://www.dharmaocean.org/meditation/learn-to-meditate/learn-to-meditate-foundational-practices/

Best of luck to you,
Kyle
Gordon, modified 6 Years ago at 11/25/15 12:00 AM
Created 6 Years ago at 11/24/15 11:41 PM

RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety

Posts: 9 Join Date: 11/18/15 Recent Posts
HUGE thanks again to eveyone who has chimed in on this thread! I'm looking to explore all suggestions with time and have a lot of homework emoticon

Quick question in reference to the concentration piece of this thread keeping in mind that I've been practicing mindfulness of breathing for a couple of years now. Only in the last few months with my newfound commitment to reach the 1st Jhana has my concentration practice seen a slight shift. Prior to that, I practiced mindfulness of breathing focusing on the breath at the abdomen rather than the nostril area which is where most teachers advocating Jhana suggest. I read focused and fearless by Shaila Catherine and am familiar with Leigh Brasington’s work as well as other prominent teachers of Jhana practice. About two months ago I made the shift to a focus in and around the nostrils paying attention to the sensation of breathing in that area.
 
A few weeks ago I started to notice and even fixate on the saliva accumulating in my mouth as a byproduct of watching the breath at the nose area. I then began to notice that my tongue sits in a funny place between my teeth and this “fixation” on the mouth area can be a bit frustrating. I’m still trying to reconcile this newfound awareness of the tongue and mouth area and feel that it may the way that the nostril focus almost pulls the tongue towards the area between the teeth. A lot of times I’m in a sit and just moving my tongue around or swallowing which can derail a sit.
 
Would love to hear how experienced Jhana practitioners on this forum handle the placement of their tongue and general holding of the jaw and such. Am I being a bit neurotic or does everybody go through some strange fixation early in their practice? 
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Noah, modified 6 Years ago at 11/25/15 12:17 AM
Created 6 Years ago at 11/25/15 12:17 AM

RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety

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I'm not an experienced jhana practitioner.  I have read/heard from multiple resources (specifically in Zen where they provide details for every aspect of posture) that purposely placing the tongue on the roof of the mouth can help prevent salivation problems and the impulse to swallow.
This Good Self, modified 6 Years ago at 11/25/15 6:50 AM
Created 6 Years ago at 11/25/15 6:50 AM

RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety

Posts: 946 Join Date: 3/9/10 Recent Posts
bernd the broter:
I'm not sure how important the therapist's accepting something actually is.
I was merely pointing out that experiencing stuff fully is not a sufficient (you correctly said that much), but still a necessary ingredient.

In fact, this was implicit (though somewhat hidden) in what Ian And said - because there is (often, at least) a connection between the juxtaposition experience and the painful experience.

I don't understand his reasoning in the last paragraph, but let's not get into that here, because it's derailing the thread.

I like everything I've read so far.  And those experiments on the website.  I feel grateful and sad it's taken so long to find this.
Gordon, modified 6 Years ago at 11/25/15 12:22 PM
Created 6 Years ago at 11/25/15 12:22 PM

RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety

Posts: 9 Join Date: 11/18/15 Recent Posts
Noah:
I'm not an experienced jhana practitioner.  I have read/heard from multiple resources (specifically in Zen where they provide details for every aspect of posture) that purposely placing the tongue on the roof of the mouth can help prevent salivation problems and the impulse to swallow.


Thank you Noah! Where do you place the tongue, and/or arrange the jaw in sitting?
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Noah, modified 6 Years ago at 11/25/15 12:29 PM
Created 6 Years ago at 11/25/15 12:29 PM

RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety

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I never heard them get more specific than just "tongue on roof of mouth."  So I don't know like, what surface area of the tongue, if thats what your asking, lol.
Gordon, modified 6 Years ago at 11/25/15 12:59 PM
Created 6 Years ago at 11/25/15 12:59 PM

RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety

Posts: 9 Join Date: 11/18/15 Recent Posts
Noah:
I never heard them get more specific than just "tongue on roof of mouth."  So I don't know like, what surface area of the tongue, if thats what your asking, lol.

Ha, I was just asking if you personallly place the tongue on the roof of your mouth when sitting or just let your mouth be as it is. I tried placing my tongue on the roof of my mouth the last few sits and it's apparently something I'm not quite used to and as such, a distraction. 
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bernd the broter, modified 6 Years ago at 11/25/15 5:05 PM
Created 6 Years ago at 11/25/15 5:05 PM

RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety

Posts: 376 Join Date: 6/13/12 Recent Posts
What experiments on which website do you mean?
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Noah, modified 6 Years ago at 11/25/15 10:44 PM
Created 6 Years ago at 11/25/15 10:44 PM

RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety

Posts: 1467 Join Date: 7/6/13 Recent Posts
Na I don't obsess about that so I don't do it.  I just let my tongue and jaw rest naturally.  Whenever I do get obsessive I just makea rule, one way or the other, and stick to it.
This Good Self, modified 6 Years ago at 11/26/15 2:24 AM
Created 6 Years ago at 11/26/15 2:24 AM

RE: Concentration practice to address depression and anxiety

Posts: 946 Join Date: 3/9/10 Recent Posts
bernd the broter:
What experiments on which website do you mean?
Meant to say 'research'.  Same thing I guess.

http://www.coherencetherapy.org/discover/research.htm

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