Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Is Stress Reduction Meditation Even Possible? by Michael Logan

Is it even possible to do stress reduction meditation in a fast paced society where taking two twenty minute breaks to sit quietly and chant a mantra could cost you your job?

While it may not be possible to do Transcendental Meditation as described above on the job, I do believe it is very possible to weave stress reduction meditation thoughts through the course of your day.

I have watched folks in the addictions recovery community train themselves to create thoughts to gratitude or say the Serenity Prayer to themselves or out loud to change their feelings from overwhelm to calm.

Prior to learning tools like the above, the one thing that always worked to make them feel good was a substance, but as I heard an anger management client say yesterday, one beer is never enough.

Learning to weave thoughts of gratitude through the fabric of their thinking and to really feel the change in physiology that follows that is seen as gift.

Relief from stress is just a thought away, and when you couple that with deep breathing, stress reduction can be available anytime anyplace. By the way, I am a great fan of being able to change my internal physiology when involved in a session or a whenever I want, so gratitude thoughts, deep breathing, the Serenity Prayer, appreciating nature, heart rate variability biofeedback, and Open Focus, described below, are very useful to me.

There are a couple of tools that I think are very useful in the awareness of stress and the change the thought to change the feeling equation, and the first of those is Open Focus by Les Fehmi, Ph.D., who has recently written a book; The Open Focus Brain.

"From Publishers WeeklyA longtime clinician and researcher in biofeedback, Fehmi (with the assistance of science writer Robbins, author of A Symphony in the Brain) advances his program for learning to relieve stress by attaining what he calls open focus—a more diffuse, flexible form of attention that, paradoxically, allows one to focus better and in a more relaxed way. According to Fehmi, most of us habitually operate in a narrow-focus stress mode that results in anxiety and a host of physical problems, including digestive upsets, rashes and migraines. Fehmi draws on his experience with neurofeedback (brain-wave biofeedback) to explain how we can shift our brain waves to attain open focus. These mental techniques help you to experience your body and even your heart in a new way and change how you perceive the space around you. Fehmi grounds his plan in research and patient anecdotes showing the techniques can reduce pain and improve relationships and athletic performance. Fehmi acknowledges the results of open focus are similar to those from meditation, but even readers skeptical of Eastern spirituality may find Fehmi's science-based program useful. (The accompanying audio CD was not heard by PW). (July 10)

I came across Fehmi's Open Focus work in the early 1990's when I read a book called Mega-Brain, and I decided to try it out, bought the cassettes, which I still have, and still use with clients. Once you get a feel for Open Focus you can remind your self of it any time you want to and I guarentee you will know stress reduction meditation.

I often use Open Focus as a prelude to heart rate variability biofeedback training, which is the second of the two tools that I utilize frequently as a stress reduction meditation.

Heart rate variability biofeedback, which is actually called emWave now, is a computerized biofeedback tool that will teach you to control the time between heart beats. It is a simple process to learn, and once you are confident that you have it down, and you will feel the difference, you can cue the feel good physiology of heart rate variability biofeedback on any given heart beat.

So Open Focus, which deals with your cognitions and heart rate variability biofeedback, which is a physiological tool first, offer an unbeatable combination in my mind for an easily induced, brief, heart beat by heart beat or thought by thought stress reduction meditation.

If you learn them, I know you will be able to generate many 'gratitude is the attitude' thoughts, and the Serenity prayer will flow.