On-line Instruction with Charles
Back From 10:
This counting meditation is designed to improve your ability to hold the
mind steady, without wandering. It is not very elegant or spiritual, but
it does strengthen your "concentration muscles." Practicing
this meditation is like an athlete who lifts weights to improve his or
her golf swing. There are 3 main variations of the counting back meditation.
Each one is slightly harder than the previous one. The important point
to remember is that the goal is not to reach 1 as many times as possible
before losing count. The goal is to learn how to notice the slightest
waver of the mind, so that you can bring it back to the meditation again.
Every time your mind wanders, and you bring it back to the exercise, it
is like doing a push-up - you get a little bit stronger.
The secret to success
is to notice the first flicker of attention loss and take immediate steps
to bring yourself back to full attention. If you do not notice the first
fleeting excursion of the mind, it is less likely you will notice the
second or third, and 10 minutes later you will be thinking about work,
politics, or something, and you will gain little benefit from the exercise.
But if you notice the first flicker and immediately come back to the exercise
with full attention you will get stronger with each passing minute.
The best way to notice
if your mind has wandered is to listen to the way you say each number.
If there is any doubt, no matter how small, as to whether you are at 6
or 5 then you have lost your place and should start over. Listen to the
inflection of count... do you say 6!!! or is it more of a 6.....? Remember,
if there is any question about what number you are on, you must have wandered
or you would know!
Do not judge success
by how far you get or how many times you can count back to 1 without losing
your place. As you get better, the exercise gets harder, not easier! If
you breathe rapidly, say at a 5 second interval, it is easy to stay on
track, but as you improve, you breath slower - some people slow down to
one breath every 30 seconds or slower - it becomes increasingly difficult
to sustain focus.
These exercises can
help you see the inner workings of your own mind, and how it can lure
you away from your meditation and into daydreaming or worrying. To illustrate,
let me share with you an experience I had while practicing this technique,
some time past.
I breathed in and
counted silently "10" as I breathed out slowly. I breathed in
silently, and counted "9" as I breathed out. As I was breathing
in, I was startled to realize that although I was almost certain I was
at 9, I was not 100% sure, only 99.99%, and that if someone put a gun
to my head and asked me again, I would probably admit that I was not as
sure as I at first thought. I experienced a breakthrough in understanding
the exercise as I realized that I must have allowed my attention to flicker,
if only for an instant, otherwise I would know beyond all doubt that it
was 9. I realized that what mattered was not the quantity of the concentration,
but rather the quality. I was better to sustain perfect focus for a few
seconds than 99% focus for a few minutes. I considered the diamond which
is examined. If it is flawed, it is broken into smaller pieces in an effort
to obtain the largest flawless diamond. Then I realized that I spent 5
minutes thinking about diamonds and meditation instead of practicing meditation,
and I sheepishly returned to my meditation breathing out to "10."
This was an eye opener for me. I had no idea how devious and subtle my
mind was, and how easy it had been to lure my attention away after a single
This exercise gives
you the opportunity to catch yourself straying and see the process in
yourself, and so come to understand it and so come to recognize it and
eventually to rise above such obvious tricks into a new and more subtle
arena of mind-play.
1) The easiest variation
involves employing simple breath awareness as you count backwards from
10. Count 10 as you breath in, and 9 as you breathe out, and 8 as you
breathe in, and 7 as you breathe out... when you count 1 breathing out,
start back at 10 as you breathe in again and repeat until you lose your
place. Each time you lose your place, start over again at 10. Do not visualize
the number, only sound it in your head silently. Visualizing makes the
exercise too easy. You can either stretch it out like "tttt....eeeeeeee.....nnnnnnn"
over the length of you breath or else just say it normally.
2) If this exercise
gets too easy (you make it from 10 to 1 fairly often) then try a more
difficult variation: breathe in to 10, breathe out to the sound AUM, breathe
in to 9, breathe out to the sound Aum, breathe in to 8... and if you get
to 1, start over.
3) The hardest variation
requires you to breathe in silently, and count 10 as you breathe out,
inhale in silence, count 9 as you exhale... again, if you reach 1 or lose
your place, start back at 10.
Counting Back From
One. The Counting Back From Ten Meditation Technique was adopted by Herbert
Bentson who studied what he called the Relaxation Response and brought
the detrimental effects of stress to the public's attention. He wired
college students up to monitors that could detect stress levels and taught
them this counting back meditation, but found that after an initial drop
in stress, many students then experienced a rapid and unexpected skyrocketing
of stress levels. When he questioned these students, he found that they
had gotten embarrassed or frustrated when they lost count before completing
even one cycle.
Counting Back from
One: Herbert Bentson decided to make the exercise easier so that students
would not compete with themselves or others and suffer anxiety when they
were supposed to be relaxing. He instructed the students to count back
from 1 and when they reached 1, or lost their place, to start over....
"One...........One.............One........." This adjustment
seemed to work well and he began teaching it to the public. One man who
learned the technique thanked Mr. Bentson for taking all of the religion
and mysticism out of meditation so that someone who did not believe in
God could still practice and receive the benefits of meditation. Mr. Bentson
was surprised a few days later when a priest thanked him for keeping the
spirituality intact with his meditation, reminding students of the oneness
of God and the universe... One.... This is a nice meditation because you
can read into it what you choose to, and, in fact, you are free to choose
your own word if there is one you are more comfortable with. Be sure that
the word or phrase you choose has positive connotations, and a pleasant
sound to you, and that with repetition it does not dissolve, but rather
grows stronger and more clearly defined. This is the hallmark of a good
Expanding Paradigms Newsletter
If you would like to stay in touch, please email us by clicking on one of the following options:
Out of Town (Newsletter is sent 2-3 times a year. Includes essays and event updates)
___________________________- or -
Austin Area (Newsletter plus monthly invitations to free Full Moon Yoga & local events)
/ Retreats /
Yoga Classes / Meditation
/ Full Moon Yoga / Private
Instruction / Yoga Essays
/ Speaking / Yoga-Retreats.com