Counselling and Meditation Exercises
Gestalt Therapy is all about raising personal awareness. On this page we hope to introduce you to some simple counselling and meditation techniques which aim to raise your awareness. We will add new exercises on a regular basis and if you follow us on face book you will receive notification of when a new exercise is added. The exercises are not in any particular order so you can choose whatever exercise catches your interest right now.
Counselling Exercise - Introjection
For this exercise you will need 30 minutes undisturbed time a note book and pen. An introject is a statement, such as a belief or opinion, that originally came from outside of us that we have swallowed whole and believed without question. We introject a lot as children from the adults around us as we need to learn from them and we believe what they say. Some introjection is neccessary and useful such as introjecting that the fire is hot and dangerous. However, some introjects are harmful and causes us distress throughout childhood and subsequently into adulthood. The most harmful introjects come in the form of negative beliefs/opinions about us that are expressed to us. For instance being told we are 'stupid', 'lazy', 'too demanding' or 'in the way.' If this is said often enough and by a person in a position of power, such as an adult, we believe it, after all, they are the adult, they know what they are talking about. So we begin to believe that we are stupid, lazy, too demanding and in the way.
We carry these negative beliefs into adulthood, and, of course, they influence the decisions we make. The person that believes themselves to be stupid will not have the confidence to pursue an educational opportunity, or the person that feels they are too demanding will shy away from looking for support when they need it.
There are two important things to realise about introjects. One is that the original statement was just another's belief or opinion it is not a fact, in fact, the opinion expressed says much more about the person expressing it rather than you. For example, the adult that expresses you are 'too demanding' is resistant to what you are asking for perhaps because they are busy, preoccupied, not able to meet your need or tired, but rather than express their reality they say you are too demanding. Or the person that says you are 'stupid' is experiencing impatience, but again rather than express this they make it about you being stupid. The second important thing to realise is that we forget that these introjected opinions originally came from outside of our selves and they become core self-beliefs, as if we created them ourselves. By realising that these core negative self-beliefs are not facts but only someone elses challengable opinion we reduce their power, we can consider and question them, chew them over rather than swallow them whole, spit them out if we wish and provide space to create our own more supportive self-belief system.
Unearthing negative self -beliefs: First make a list of the negative beliefs you have about yourself. Next put the age you feel you were when you first experienced this belief. Then put the name of the person(s) you feel gave this belief to you. Spend some time noticing your feelings and sensations. Consider how much value you put on this persons opinion, what might have been going on for them at the time? Remember their view is not a fact just an opinion. You may like to journal further on the impact this negative self-belief has on your life right now. Do you need to hold onto this belief, what other more positive belief could you hold instead, how would a more positive belief affect your thinking, feeling, behaviour? Spend some time journaling about a more positive belief, notice how you feel doing this.
Self-Support Versus Self-Sabotage
For this exercise you will need 30 undisturbed minutes a notebook and pen. We all exhibit patterns of thinking and behaviour with which we either support or sabotage ourselves. These patterns may be so habitual and ingrained that we lose the awareness that we have a choice over what we are doing, this is fine if the pattern supports us but not so great if we are habitually sabotaging our well being. However, we can cultivate our awareness and so actively choose to support ourselves and not to engage in sabotage. This is illustrated in the following Native American tale;
A Grandson seeks out his Grandfather because he feels sad and frustrated with his lot. The Grandfather listens carefully to his Grandson and says "It sounds to me like your feeding your wolf of despair." The Grandfather explained that we each have 2 wolves in our heart, the wolf of hope and the wolf of despair. The wolf of despair feeds on our fears and sorrows, convinces us we are worthless and life is too hard. The wolf of hope, on the other hand, nourishes and supports us, allows us to feel support from others and believe our world is a supportive place. "How come my wolf of despair is so strong?Where is my wolf of hope?" asks the Grandson. "The wolf you choose to feed will become the stronger and will win, its time to look at how you feed your wolf of hope" replied the Grandfather.
So what does it mean to feed the wolf of despair? It involves compulsive negative thinking about the past and future, workaholism, addiction, exhausting yourself, putting your needs last, beating yourself up, telling yourself your no good or worthless, bullying yourself, putting up with abusive relationships......the list goes on.
Feeding the wolf of hope means to value yourself, to encourage yourself, to put your needs first and look after yourself, eat well, rest well, exercise, spend time with people you enjoy, be creative, be in the now..........again the list goes on.
Take your notebook and list all the ways you feed your wolf of despair, all the ways you undermine and sabotage yourself and allow others to do the same. Next, list all the current ways you support and encourage yourself and allow others to support you too. Spend some time reading the lists and notice how you feel, notice any sensation you feel in you body. Allow youself to be curious about the lists, ask yourself some questions, for instance;
What would it be like to stop sabotaging yourself, what might happen if you stopped, how might you feel, how would you change? How might you feed your wolf of hope more, how can you increase your self support and support from others? How would you feel, how would you change? You might like to write down some concrete steps you can take to decrease your sabotage and increase your self-support.
Meditation Exercise - Body Scan
This is a meditation exercise where our focussed attention moves through different parts of our body, it is excellent for heightening our awareness of what is happening right now in our body. A lot of the time we may not directly experience our body but rather think about it and generally these thoughts are not favourable! We judge our bodies for being too this or too that. Or we ignore, blame and disown them, for instance, the nagging back pain or hunger which we ignore for as long as possible because our mind says its not convenient right now. This exercise is about reconnecting with our body, directly experiencing our physical self without judging, ignoring, disowning. The body holds a lot of useful information, through paying attention to sensation in the body we can discover how to increase our health and well being.
For this exercise you will need up to 45 minutes undisturbed time, a warm, quiet place where you can lie down in comfort, make sure that you have all the blankets and cushions you need to be comfortable. You may like to google 'body scan meditation' and you will find guided meditations that will talk you through moving from one part of the body to the next. You can do it on your own though by just staying with each body part for as long as feels necessary and then moving on. The aim of the body scan is solely to maintain focussed attention on the body, each time the mind wanders all you have to do is gently bring yourself back to the part of the body your focussing on. We use our breath to maintain focus by breathing into and from the part of the body we are focussing on.
Firstly lie down and make yourself comfy. Close your eyes and bring your awareness to your breath flowing in and out of your body, follow your breath coming all the way in and flowing all the way out, feel the rise and fall of your belly, spend a few minutes following your breath. Now transfer your attention to the toes of your left foot, imagine your breath going all the way down to your toes. Feel any sensations in your toes and stay with this, exploring your toes. Now slowly move your attention through the rest of your foot, the ball of your foot, your instep, the top of your foot, your heel etc each time focus your attention and imagine your breath travelling to this region. In this way you move up through your ankle and left leg to your pelvis. Then you focus on your right leg starting again with the toes back up to your pelvis again. From here slowly move your attention and breath to your abdomen and lower back, upperback and chest thus moving up through your torso till you finally focus on your shoulders. Next go to the fingers of both hands simultaneously and move up through your arms to your shoulders again. Now allow your focus to move through your neck and your throat, slowly through each region of your face, over the back of your head and finally to the top of your head. Allow your focus to widen to your whole body feeling your breath come in through the top of your head and flow out of your toes and then in through the toes and out through the top of your head, stay with this for a few minutes. Bring your awareness back to the rise and fall of your belly and gently begin to move parts of your body, such as hands and feet, when you feel ready slowly open your eyes, you may want to remain lying down for a while longer before moving.
If you wish you can make note of any important sensations or experiences during the scan or how you felt before and after.
Counselling Exercise - Cause-Effect Thinking
For this exercise you will need at least 30 minutes undisturbed time, a notebook and pen. The aim of Gestalt Therapy is to raise personal awareness and with this heightened awareness new, previously unconsidered choices and options present themselves. However, we can have resistance to becoming more aware, this resistance oftens materialises in the form of cause-effect thinking where we convince ourselves that by doing one thing it follows that we have to do another. Such thinking goes along the lines of:
'If I look into my anger (cause), I will have to leave my job (effect)'
'If I talk about my sadness (cause), I will have to end my relationship (effect)'
The outcome in these thoughts is imagined and yet we convince ourselves that it is inevitable, that there is no room for any alternative outcome, so these thoughts stop us in our tracks. In cause-effect thinking there is no discussion or consultation with others and there is only superficial consultation with yourself, it is based on assumptions with no real exploration.
Make a list of any cause- effect beliefs you may have, and spend some time exploring the assumptions behind these beliefs. How do you feel about these assumptions? How does this thinking impact on your life? You may like to journal about what you are learning about yourself. Next, experiment with creating a gap between the cause and effect by allowing some space to develop between your intention and imagined outcome, you can do this by writing:
'If I look into my anger.........' and take a few breaths and stay with what comes, see if anything new emerges.
A key aspect of cause-effect thinking is that we imagine the outcome in isolation. You may like to further explore your belief system by sharing it with another, through exploring with others new insights can emerge.
Counselling Exercise- Projection
For this exercise you will need 15 undisturbed minutes, paper and pen.
Make sure that you are comfortable and warm, close your eyes and bring your awareness to your breathing, allow yourself a few breaths in and out. Now imagine a colour and all you associate with that colour, spend a few minutes experiencing the colour. Now, through writing, begin to describe yourself as the colour and what it represents to you using 'I statements.' For example, 'I am green. I am natural. I am many hued. I am bright. I am growth. I am healthy. I am delicate................' keep writing for as long as you can. You may have both positive and negative associations with the colour. When finished look over what you have written, notice how you are as you read, what feelings, thoughts, sensations do you experience. Can you identify any of the statements you have written as being about you? Are there some you are uncomfortable with? Any surprises? What have you discovered about yourself? Gestalt is about raising awareness about all aspects of our self so we can experience and engage in life in a more complete way. We hope that this exercise has increased your self awareness.
Counselling Exercise - Withdrawal
For this exercise you will need 20 minutes undisturbed time a notebook and a pen. We all have a finite amount of energy with which we have to complete our daily routine. To be exhausted of energy seems to be a common complaint for ourselves and our peers. It is a worthwhile question to ask yourself, how do I spend my energy, do I spend it in my own best interest or not? Do I waste any of my energy and if so how? One of the ways we can use our energy is on other people, we run around doing tasks for others or engage in conversations or interactions that drain or bore us, rather than conserve our energy for ourselves. Some of this is of course necessary to support those around us, but the vast majority of the time we give others our energy because we think we 'should', to be liked, to not cause offence. We pay the price by becoming exhausted with no energy left for ourselves and may begin to resent those we give our energy to.
In Gestalt Therapy we talk about experiences in terms of contact and withdrawal. Contact can occur within ourself when we become fully aware of our thoughts, feelings and sensations in the present moment. Contact also occurs beween ourself and the 'environment' be that another person, situation, book etc. Good contact is when our whole self is engaged with the environment/ourself, in this moment nourishing exchange and change can occur. Good contact is how we experience life to the full.
We all need to withdraw from others, to be alone, to utilise our energy in contact with ourselves. We need this space to rest, to refresh, to re-evaluate, to check-in with ourselves. In healthy relationships, we like being with the other person. We enjoy the feelings of closeness, warmth and contact, it is a pleasant and nourishing experience. But no matter how much we may love the other, we must withdraw at some stage and be alone. This is a natural rhythm of contact and withdrawal, like the sea moving in and out along the shore.
To increase your awareness of your own pattern of contact and withdrawal with others ask yourself the following questions and note down your responses:
1. Do you have a sense of your own pattern of contact and withdrawal from others?
2. Do you notice when you don't allow your rhythm? Are there interactions where you follow your urge to withdraw and interactions where you dont?
3. Notice how you feel when you 'put up with' an interaction where you feel bored or resentful. What physical sensations does this provoke, for example, muscle tension or shallow breathing.
4. Notice how you feel when you allow yourself to withdraw. What physical sensations does this elicit?
Counselling Exercise- Time Awareness
For this exercise you will need 30 undisturbed minutes, a pen and note book. New year, new you? One of the most important awareness's we can establish that can affect choice and change in our lives is the knowledge of how we spend our time. Once we establish how we spend our time, we can make choices about continuing as before or changing. In considering change we may meet resistance in the form of 'shoulds' or duties we have set for ourselves or allowed others to set for us. For example, 'I should babysit my niece every Friday' or 'I have to be available to take emails and phone calls for work at the weekends.' These are based on beliefs we hold, often to do with being liked, nice and virtuous. It can feel good to do things for others and sometimes it is necessary. However, if we do not make time for ourselves we soon begin to feel resentful, put upon and that others are making unreasonable demands. Yet it is ourselves making the unreasonable demand, expecting our self to keep functioning at the expense of abandoning our own needs, nurturing and desires.
List your major activities for this week. How much time did you spend at each one? Categorise these activities into those that you did for yourself and those you did for others. For each activity consider if you did it because you wanted to or because you felt you should. For each activity you wanted to do finish the sentence 'I want to do this activity because..........................' For each activity you felt you should do, examine your belief system by asking yourself 'I do this because....................What would happen if I didn't do it? What is the payoff for me in doing something I don't want to?' Explore your beliefs and feelings about each activity, be honest with yourself about your motives and examine the possibility of change.
Counselling Exercise- Taking Stock
For this exercise you will need 20-30 undisturbed minutes, a note book or journal and a pen. This exercise is about taking stock of your feelings, thoughts, sensations, behaviours and wishes in a certain situation. It allows you to explore, experience and reevaluate aspects of your life that you go through habitually. Firstly, choose some aspect of your life which you feel you may want to look at perhaps your relationship with a sibling, parent or partner etc or your career, your physical fitness level, your social life, your spirituality, your creative adventurous self. See what area of your life you are naturally drawn to and go with that. Now write down the headings shown below, the sample below uses the example of a relationship with a sibling;
|My relationship with my sister||More of||Less of||Stay the same|
Spend some time exporing all the feelings, sensations, thoughts and behaviours you experience in your chosen life area. Note each feeling etc down as they occur to you in a list. Notice which feelings etc come first, notice those you welcome and those that you resist. Next categorise each feeling etc under 'more of', 'less of' or 'stay the same' depending on your wishes right now. Spend time looking at the table you have created what feelings and sensations arise in you as you do this. What does the table say to you? Does it tell you to spend more or less time in your chosen relationship, do you need to play more, exercise more or less, spend time nurturing your spiritual or emotional self? Consider what the table is telling you, what might you be comfortable doing to make this happen.
Meditation Exercise - Focussing on Breath
In this sitting meditation we use our breath as the anchor point to rest our attention. This practice of using the breath is called Shamatha Meditation in Buddhist teaching. Shamatha means 'calm abiding.'
For this exercise we recommend you take 15 minutes daily. In the beginning it may be useful to do several short meditations separated by short breaks within the 15 minutes and gradually lengthen your meditation to the full 15 minutes. You may then extend beyond the 15 minutes if you wish. The time should be quiet and undisturbed and you should be warm and comfortable in your sitting position.
How you sit is important. For the purpose of explanation we are assuming you are sitting in a chair, rather than in the Lotus position. The crown of your head should be pointing to the ceiling, spine straight without leaning to the side, shoulders relaxed, chin lowered so that the neck is straight, knees should be in line with your hips and your feet flat and pointing straight forward. Eyes should be closed or with their gaze lowered and hands gently resting in your lap.
Now bring your attention to your belly, notice it fall and rise with your breathing. Start to focus your attention on your breath, follow the full passage of each in breath and out breath. Allow your mind to rest its focus only on your breath. There is no need to control or change your breathing, simply let it flow in and out.
Inevitably thoughts will come, 'Did I switch off the immersion? I must remember to ring Mary. I hope John is there tonight'.........etc etc. When this happens the only instruction is to gently come back to your breath. You do not need to suppress thought, stop thought or get caught up in it, just come back to your breath. In the beginning you may have to bring yourself back every few seconds, that's normal and fine, you are gaining the very valuable awareness of how much uncontrolled thinking you do.
During this meditation we are employing mindfulness which is the moment to moment awareness of immediate experience. Awareness is knowing what we are doing, while we are doing it. Mindfulness is also exercising gentle control of our mind and not letting it run amuck, i.e. the practise of bringing our attention back to our breath. Being in a state of mindful awareness is sometimes referred to as being 'present.'
In this meditation we are sitting simply for the sake of sitting, to follow our breath in and out. It is not to attain a goal such as a special state. This meditation is about using focussed attention to stay present to our breath and not allowing external influences to control our mind. In this way we can reduce unnecessary suffering, distress and anxiety caused by our minds being pulled into negative and frightening compulsive thinking.
The above describes a formal way of practising mindfulness meditation through focussing on the breath but there is also plenty of scope for valuable informal practice. While you are eating, brushing your teeth, washing the floor, taking a shower, walking, waiting in a queue or in traffic your breath is always with you and you can gently bring your attention to it and stay a few moments.
Everyone has the capacity for mindfulness within them; it just takes consistent practice to cultivate presence.
Counselling Exercise - Visualisation
For this exercise you will need 10-15 minutes undisturbed time, you may also like to do this exercise with a partner with one person reading the instructions while the other does the visualising. Visualisation can be a really imaginative and useful way to increase your self awareness. There are many different ways of using visualisation, such as relaxing or seeking internal direction on a particular issue.
Firstly make sure that you are warm enough and sitting or lying comfortably, visualisation begins with turning your focus inwards and following your breath, as in meditation. Close your eyes and bring your awareness to your breath, follow your breath closely as it flows in and out, allow your mind to quieten. Notice any tension you are holding in your body and allow yourself to move to become as comfortable as possible. If you find yourself thinking acknowledge your thoughts and gently come back to your breath flowing in and out. Continue this for about 2 minutes.
Now imagine a jar full of muddy water just in front of you, the mud is swirling, dispersed through out the water, as if it has just been shaken. As you watch, the mud slowly begins to settle to the bottom of the jar and you notice that there is something in the jar becoming increasingly apparent as the mud settles, what is it? Pay close attention to the emerging figure in the jar, if you want to, take it out and place it on the palm of your hand. Look closely at it from all angles, notice its size, shape, colour, smell, does it move? Spend a few minutes examining it in minute detail. Does the figure have something to say to you? Listen. Do you have something to say back? Allow a dialogue to flow between you for a few minutes.
Now spend time saying goodbye and then slowly bring your awareness back to your breath flowing in and out. If you find yourself thinking, gently bring yourself back to your breath. After a few minutes open your eyes and come back into the room.
Were you surprised by your figure, was it familiar? Think about the qualities of the figure; size, shape, shiny, dull etc can you own any of them for yourself? What did you like about it, what didn't you like? How do you feel right now? What was the dialogue like, what did you learn? You may like to make a few notes for yourself about this experience such as important feelings, body sensations or insights.
Explanation of Exercise- this exercise is about projection. The figure in the jar is an aspect of yourself, examining it, talking to it will give you insight into how you are right now. We hope that you may learn something new about yourself.
Counselling Exercise- Journaling
For this exercise you will need a journal, a hard backed or spiral bound notebook with unlined paper is good, a pen and some coloured pencils or felt tips. You need to set aside some time for journaling this can be every day or several times a week. Some people recommend doing it first thing in the morning. You can write for a set length of time, 10-30 minutes, or for a set number of pages. This time needs to be quiet and undisturbed. The best thing to do is to experiment to find the best time and routine that suits you.
Journaling is a great way of increasing self awareness, it provides some time when your focus is internal on thoughts, feelings and experiences. It provides a here and now map of your interior. There are a number of different ways to journal, in this exercise we are recommending free association writing also referred to as stream of consciousness writing. This means you just write without stopping, what ever occurs to you. Spelling, grammar and whole sentences do not matter, what does matter is that this is a free, honest expression of yourself in this moment. If what occurs to you is "I can't think of anything to write, this is stupid.........." then write that, just keep going. It does not have to make sense to anyone except you. Words are not the only medium of expression, you can include drawings, doodles, scribbles, symbols, paste things in, this is your jounal and you can be as creative in expressing yourself as you like.
Free association writing is good for circumventing our internal censor or critic, the voice that says "You can't write that" or "You can't draw." Our censor/critic can paralyse our expression with judgements, marks out of 10, criticism, perfectionism, comparison etc. Give yourself permission to write free and fast despite the censor, if the censor shows up, put it down on the page.
A journal can be used for the following:
- To bring yourself into contact with sensations, feelings and thoughts
- Increasing your awareness of how you treat yourself
- Changing how you treat yourself
- Expressing difficult feelings
- Problem solving
- Looking at relationships
- Rehearsing conversations
- Setting goals
- Using your imagination in stories, poems and drawings
You can write uncensored letters that don't have to be sent
You can ask yourself a question, and answer it - you maybe surprised by your wisdom
And more........... a journal can be what you need it to be right now.
Part of keeping a journal is that it should be private. You need to feel that you can write anything you like, free from others reactions and opinions. You need to have the freedom to be honest to "get things off your chest" worrying about others reading it will get in the way of this free expression.
Occasionally, you may wish to read over what you have written over the last while, this can be useful for spotting themes or patterns in behaviour, feeling or thought. For example, you may discover that you criticise yourself a lot or that you are always energised/exhausted after meeting a certain person.
Keeping a journal can be tough sometimes, fun other times and can provide a wealth of information about yourself.
Meditation Exercise - Compassion Meditation
For this exercise you will need to set aside some quiet, undisturbed time every day (or as many times a week as possible), we recommend 15-20 minutes. If you are new to meditation you may like to start with 3-5 minutes and build up the time slowly. This meditation uses words, feelings and visualisation to open up your heart and mind to compassion for yourself and others. The compassion meditation requires an object of focus and unlike other meditations the focus is initially on others rather than yourself. It is recommended that you begin the compassion meditation focussing on those you care about. It can be useful to practise loving-kindness meditation first, in order to familiarise yourself with this kind of guided meditation (see loving-kindness exercise below).
You may sit or lie down for this meditation whichever is most comfortable for you. Ensure that you are comfortable, warm and that the space is quiet and undisturbed. Become aware of your breath coming in and out. Allow your mind to become quiet, acknowledge any thoughts and gently bring yourself back to focussing on your breath. Become aware of your body, notice any muscle or mental tension that arises and spend some time relaxing this tension. Notice the rhythm of your heart beat, the flow of life and energy within you. Begin to focus on someone you love, picture them and notice your feelings of love and care for them. Become aware of their sorrows and struggles in life and feel how you extend comfort, share their pain and meet them with compassion, this is the natural response of the heart. Begin to inwardly recite the following phrases:
'May you be held in compassion
May you be free from pain and sorrow
May you be at peace'
Continue holding this person in your heart and repeating the phrases. After a few minutes, become aware of your own sorrows and struggles and extend compassion to yourself using the following phrases:
'May I be held in compassion
May I be free from pain and sorrow
May I be at peace'
In subsequent meditations, when you are ready, you may wish to include others, starting with other loved ones. You may wish to further extend your compassion, a step at a time, to friends, to the wider community, to people you experience difficulty with and finally to all beings.
You may experience feelings of resentment, sorrow or despair during this meditation. This does not mean that you have failed. Acknowledge these feelings and use them as the basis for actively practicing compassion and forgiveness for yourself, rather than beating yourself up about them. The level of compassion you can cultivate for yourself is directly proportionate to that you can direct to others. You may experience the desire to 'fix' someone's problem, relax, breathe and be gentle with yourself. The intention is to meet the sorrow with a compassionate heart, not fix the pain of the world. Compassion can take some time to develop, be patient, gentle and compassionate with yourself.
Counselling Exercise - Life Pie
For this exercise you will need a sheet of A4 paper, pen, a large plate, journal or notebook and at least 20 undisturbed minutes.
Draw around the plate and divide the circle into 6 pieces like a sliced pie. In each of the slices write one of the following words:
The centre of the pie represents 0 and the outside of the pie represents 10 where 0 means you are unsatisfied with this area of your life and 10 is fully satisfied. Consider each segment one at a time in relation to your life right now. Allow yourself time to sit with what comes when you do this. Pay attention to any body sensations, feelings or thoughts you may have. Take your time. For example do certain segments make you feel joyful, fearful, frustrated, sad, excited? How do you feel this in your body?
In each segment place a dot where you think you belong on the scale of 0 to 10. Now join the dots. Look at the pattern made. Notice the areas of your life where you feel satisfied and those you feel lacking. Notice how you feel about the overall pattern is it familiar, are there some surprises? Be aware of your sensations and feelings.
In your notebook or journal note 3 concrete things you will do to bring more balance to your life pie. For example to increase fun/adventure can you make more time for someone you have fun with or join a class that would be fun for you?
This is an exercise you can revisit regularly and note any differences to your life pie.
Counselling Exercise - Raising Awareness Here and Now
For this exercise you will need 10-15 minutes and repeat it as often as you feel is beneficial. You may also like to keep a written record of your experiences over time.
Background to exercise:
Have you ever reached your destination and can't remember the car journey, looked at the clock and wondered 'where has the time gone?', sat in a position that is uncomfortable for your back but only realised this when you go to move? If so, you will know that we are not always aware of our immediate personal experience. If this disengagement from ourselves becomes habitual you may feel like you are drifting through life not fully engaged, making poor choices for yourself or that life is something that 'happens to you' which you have no control over and it becomes a problem.
This exercise is about becoming aware of 'what is.' It encourages you to connect with yourself and stay with your immediate personal experience in this moment. This may be referred to as being in contact with your actuality.
This exercise is simple but can be surprisingly difficult. In the beginning it may be easiest to do this in a quiet, undisturbed setting but this exercise can be done anywhere and can bring interesting results in different settings.
Firstly, try for about 5 minutes to focus your thoughts only on what you are aware of right now. The focus is on your immediate experience through your senses. For example, you may become aware of sound through your ears, cold through your skin or sensations and feelings within you. Use sentences such as:
'At the moment I am aware of ........'
'Now I am......'
'Here and now I notice..........'
Your experience maybe internal, such as feelings and body sensations 'Now I am aware of a tightness in my stomach' or external 'Here and now I notice the tap dripping.'
This exercise brings you into the present moment, your immediate experience can only happen in the present moment. Of course, we can think about the past or anticipate the future but we do this in the present moment. It also connects you right here with your internal self and your immediate surroundings; you cannot experience anything that is beyond the range of your senses. In other words it brings you into contact with your own personal 'Here and Now.'
This exercise may bring up resistance in the form of boredom or annoyance. It may also bring up fear or anxiety, especially if habitually you are not used to full experience in the here and now. This anxiety may manifest itself as boredom, impatience or tiredness. You are discovering you have resistance to connection with your immediate personal experience; this is interesting information rather than a reason to think you are doing it wrong.
A good idea is to repeat the exercise over a number of weeks and to keep a journal of doing this exercise including what you were aware of, any resistance you experienced, how you felt before and after the exercise.
This connection with your internal self e.g. feelings, sensations and immediate external surroundings is important. Often we can put others needs before our own or go along with something without considering what it means for us. Paying attention to your feelings, sensations, thoughts in the here and now puts you in the picture; it provides valuable information as to how you are. Habitually using this connection you can consult with yourself, consider the information you receive and make choices that are in your best interest.
Meditation Exercise - Loving-Kindness Meditation
For this exercise you will need to set aside approx 15 minutes quiet, undisturbed time every day (or as many times a week as possible.)
The purpose of this meditation is to promote an attitude of loving- kindness and friendliness towards yourself and others using images, words and feelings. Meditation stills the chattering mind and allows the body to relax. It brings us from a state of 'doing' to a state of 'being.' In this state of being we are connected to ourselves rather than the outside world. This connection allows us to increase our self awareness. The loving-kindness meditation is also about intention, the intention of kindness towards yourself, the intention of care for your wellbeing. Sometimes we can be habitually harsh with ourselves, bully ourselves and treat ourselves worse than we would anyone else. This meditation is an experiment in being gentle with yourself.
You may sit or lie down for this exercise, whichever is best for you. Ensure that you are comfortable, warm and that the space is quiet and undisturbed. Close your eyes and become aware of the passage of your breath moving in and out of your body. Allow your mind to become quiet, acknowledge any thoughts that come and gently bring yourself back to following your breath. Begin to inwardly recite the following phrases in rhythm with your breath.
"May I be filled with loving-kindness,
May I be well,
May I be peaceful and at ease
May I be happy"
Repeat the phrases continuously throughout the meditation. As you repeat the phrase see yourself as you are right now and sense yourself held in loving-kindness. Allow your feelings to permeate your body and mind.
Repeat this meditation over a number of weeks. You may notice a sense of loving-kindness towards yourself increasing. Notice how this shows itself , write down any changes you experience such as feelings, thoughts or behaviours towards yourself.
In the beginning this meditation may feel silly, awkward or mechanical. You may feel angry or irritated. If you find this, it is especially important to be patient and kind with yourself. Allow whatever comes in a spirit of friendly curiosity. In its own time, even though it may feel challenging, loving-kindness will develop.
When you feel ready you may wish to expand your loving-kindness meditation to include not only yourself but also others who are important to you. You can include other people by picturing them during the meditation and changing the phrase to:
"May s/he be filled with loving-kindness" etc
Eventually, you may wish to further expand your meditation to include all beings changing the phrase to:
"May all beings be filled with loving-kindness" etc
You may wish to further experiment by including people you experience difficulty with, wishing them too loving-kindness, notice how you are with this.
While it is good to set aside dedicated time to do the meditation you can also do it anywhere, for instance, on the bus, supermarket queue, traffic jam, waiting room etc.
Counselling Exercise - Projection
For this exercise you will need paper, pen and 15-20 undisturbed minutes.
Think of someone you admire, this can be someone you know personally or someone you know of, like an author or film star. Spend a few minutes considering the qualities possessed by this person which earn your admiration and respect. Write down the list of qualities you value in this person. Notice how you feel as you look at the list.
Now, think of someone you dislike or even hate. Again this can be someone you know personally or someone you know of. Spend a few minutes considering the aspects of this person which you dislike and irritate you. Write down the list of qualities you dislike in this person. Notice how you feel as you look at the list.
Now, come back to the admirable list and ask youself do any of these traits you have listed apply to you? How many of these good qualities can you recognise in yourself? Notice how you feel doing this - do you feel uncomfortable owning your good qualities, are you surprised by anything? Note down how you feel, any body sensations and any insights you may have.
Now, come to the dislikeable list. Again, ask yourself which, if any, of these traits apply to you? What do you have in common with this person? Notice how you feel doing this - can you own some qualities easier than others, are you surprised by anything? Note down how you feel, any body sensations and any insights you may have.
Explanation of exercise - This exercise is about projection. Projection is when we project aspects of ourselves onto others like projecting a film onto a screen. We tend to project aspects of ourselves when these aspects are considered unacceptable by others or our self. We disown the projected part which means we may condsider others talented but not acknowledge our own talents, or, we may call others impatient but fail to recognise impatience in our self. Gestalt is about raising awareness of all aspects of the self, including the previously disowned parts, so we experience a more complete picture of our self. If we can become aware of our projections we have a choice around what to do with the disowned part. We hope that this exercise has increased your awareness of how you project aspects of yourself.