My Inner Mindful Meadow
In the 60’s we were told to, “Tune in, turn on and drop out!” Timothy Leary and Stanley Owsley attempted to break us out of the trap we didn’t even know we were in. Strapped onto a conveyer belt we were to go to school, go to college, get married, go to work and end up in the suburbs with 2.3 children and live happily ever after. To jar us out of that mindset, or conditioning, they recommended LSD. I became and enthusiast and a psychedelic evangelist or if you prefer a dealer. I truly believed that this was our only way out of the conditioning that had put blinders on us before we even knew they were there. We were domesticated like farm animals into thinking that society and its overlords were guiding us out of benevolence when they were actually fatting us for the slaughter. The Vietnam War, racism, the military industrial complex, the sexual abuse being exposed within the major Christian denominations, the sexual revolution and the birth of rock and roll all were the fuel in youth culture of the day to empower the message that Leary was promoting and Owsley was manufacturing. If you remember in detail what actually happened, you probably weren’t there.
We had something there, a key concept, but the deliver system was a little messed up but at the time desperate times called for drastic measures. Since that time after tuning in, turning on and dropping out I said to said to myself, “What’s next?,” and then moved on.
At that point I discovery personal spirituality and also the beginnings of Cognitive Behavioral psychology and was surprised they were actually compatible. Along the way I have come to understand that the meat computer between our ears is not the latest IBM or apple. It was capable of getting us through life using two programs, although it can only run one program at a time. The doing program, the one that gets us up and out into the world and the being program (experiential) that helps us stop doing and step back to take stock of our situation within and without. The doing program is subjective and the being program is objective. In this day and age we become stuck in our doing program as we are overwhelmed with our schedules, traffic, relationships and responsibities. Our ability to move into our being program or the experiential aspect of our brain can be compromised like a limb that atrophies from disuse. It takes hard work through therapy for many clients to get access to this aspect of their brain usage. Mindfulness Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is key in getting them into this experiential state. This is far more safe, practical and ethical that giving your client LSD. Through mindful breathing, other mindful exercises and specific use of metaphors I help clients move into this mode of thought so that they can objectively examine their lives, their choices in life and the path that they choose into their future.
After thirty five years as a therapist I have come to depend on some basic metaphors and allegorical stories that clients can relate to and this one is one of my favorites. I first get the client to master mindful breathing which can take a month or so of practice. When they have this set of tools down pat then I introduce them to my mindful meadow. I first describe my way of experiencing this aspect of experiential thinking, then lead them into practice and then let them custom make their own experience so it is tailor made for them.
Mindful Inner Meadow: We start after a mindful breathing session, sitting upright, knees slightly below our hips, back straight but relaxed, arms to our sides, hands on our knees and eyes closed. We begin this mind exercise by walking across a prairie where it is dry, windy and with a glaring sun above representing our daily life. We know where are going, to a meadow deep in a forest, deep within ourselves. We move through the dry grass into the outskirts of the forest with trees sparsely spaced and begin to see bird sign and song. Slowly we enter the forest, cool and shaded, cathedral like and we begin to feel the calm that surrounds us. As we enter deeper into this forest, or deeper into ourselves we relax and then lose their shoes and socks, while some when on their own prefer to lose all of their clothes. As we approach the edge of the forest and our inner secret meadow we see the first of seven stone stairs that will take us down into the meadow that is deep within us. As we put our bare foot on the first step the contrast is delightful, cool, dry and smooth. We then count the seven steps down, each time experientially feeling our bare foot touch the smooth, cool and dry stone beneath it. We pause at the bottom step and settle both feet on the cool smooth stone surface of the last stair. Then we step onto the manicured grass or our inner meadow. Another great contrast for us to experience, now feeling the cool, moist and soft grass under our bare feet. We move into the meadow at the core of our being. I lead go to a stone well with water so clean, clear and cool that it looks almost empty as you can see the stone wall all the way to the bottom. We take a cup that I keep there and take a deep drink of this clean, cold water which always refreshes me to my very core. We then spend some time lying on the grass in our inner meadow and allow thoughts to come up that seem to appear unbidden. When we experience these thoughts objectively we are desensitized to them, seeing them as just mind events. Sometimes issues from our childhood visit but now in this safe place we can view them objectively. Clients have made some amazing leaps in growth when visiting their inner meadow and some with sleep disorders use this metaphor when in bed and never make it out of the meadow but wake up to their alarm going off in the morning. When it is time to leave reverse the order, walk back across the grass, onto and up the seven stone stairs, experiencing the contrast between the lawn and the stone stairs. Then entering the forest’s calm and cool interior before rejoining daily life back on the prairie.
Try this exercise. Custom make it for yourself after you use my version a few times to get the hang of it.
Back in the sixties, we sang, “Take a trip and never leave the farm.” In 2015 visit your inner mindful meadow and get into an experiential state that will refresh and invigorate. Thank you, Leary and Owsley, for pointing the way but thank you Mindfulness and CBT for leading us into experiential states without blowing our minds but by finding them.