Enlightened Therapy: Facilitating the Meditative Process for Mind-Brain Change

 

C. Alexander Simpkins, PhD & Annellen M. Simpkins, PhD

Half-Day Workshop

 

Meditation is widely accepted today as having many health benefits. An ever-growing body of research reveals that meditation can be a valuable therapeutic tool. This workshop will teach what meditation is and what it does to the brain and mind. We provide an overview of significant neuroscience and efficacy research, and also teach how to integrate it into treatment.

 

The second part of the workshop guides the audience to experience meditation. Meditation provides a variety of specific methods to build cognitive and emotional skills. People often think that meditation is one technique, such as mindfulness, but the many diverse forms of meditation offer a multitude of varied mental skills. The therapist who is educated in the different forms of meditation will have a variety of techniques to individualize treatments. Today’s therapist can benefit from including a variety of meditation methods, not only to help clients, but also as a form of personal stress reduction and cognitive/emotional enhancement.

 

(1) Meditation: Research, Theory, and Applications

 

Research: Many forms of meditation have been researched for their effectiveness with a broad range of populations and problems. Neuroscience and effectiveness studies will be presented. All the methods taught here have been researched, thereby offering therapists tested methods to add into practice.

 

Theory: Meditation springs from rich philosophical and spiritual traditions each with an interesting paradigm. Therapists can expand their own thinking by learning about these paradigms with their different assumptions leading to new possibilities. This workshop offers a brief overview of meditation traditions from Yoga, Buddhism, Daoism, and Zen. Each theory is described, with its key concepts, cognitive correlates, and unique approach to mental training. These clear descriptions will help for making intelligent choices about which meditation to use and when.

 

Applications: Meditation has been researched for specific problems such as stress, anxiety disorders, addiction, mood disorders, and schizophrenia. Case examples, and advice for how to work with special populations such as children and psychotics help form links to practice. Therapists will find lasting solutions to enhance therapeutic work at every phase.

 

(2) Experiencing Meditation

 

Meditation is a time for sitting quietly, seemingly doing nothing. In the empty moment, meditation can be discovered. To Westerners, sitting quietly and doing nothing is often seen as a waste of time. How can anything significant be accomplished by doing nothing? The answer requires a shift in perspective. Then, what seemed at first to be a non-activity is its own kind of activity. Broadly considered, meditation falls into two categories: one empties the mind of thoughts and the other fills it with chosen thoughts. We use mind to represents cognitive processing, always in close relation to brain activity. Some meditations direct attention deliberately to an inner or outer object of focus. Others are indirect, objectless, and open-ended. These variations bring about different mental states. For example, Yoga develops the ability to

withdraw attention from the outer world and focus it inwardly. By contrast, Zen trains practitioners to be alert and aware in every moment. Therapists will benefit from experiencing these cognitive differences for themselves to help in incorporating the appropriate method with clients. Meditation, being a non-conceptual experience, is best learned through doing. Attendees will “warm up” by training their mental tools such as attention and visualization. Then they will then learn key traditional meditation methods step-by-step including concentration, breathing, mindfulness, Wuwei (letting be) Qi Gong, (energy raising), zazen (emptiness), and loving kindness