As a hypnotist, I find some great ideas for self-transformation in the most diverse and interesting places. Recently I re-read "Good Life, Good Death," by Gehlek Rimpoche. I highly recommend it for those interested in states of consciousness, honest appraisals of life and death, and Tibetan Buddhism and culture.
I have met Rimpoche before, having lived for some years in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor Michigan, where the Lama now lives. Several of my friends were active in Jewel Heart, his organization. One friend is practically an ordained nun.
Rimpoche struck me as very real, and down-to-earth. And yet he was also very happy-go-lucky. I saw him as almost silly. He has been affectionately described as an Asian Winnie the Pooh. At any rate, I found him to be very big hearted in light of what he and his people have suffered over the last fifty odd years.
I first read "Good Life, Good Death" last spring (2003). It kept me company on the Metro North train late at night. I then took it for any one of a number of books based in mindfulness—much like the books of Alan Watts, which I had read voraciously in my youth.
Last fall, at the request of a friend, I attended a lecture that Rimpoche gave at St. Barnabas' church on Park Ave. I was really quite taken aback. Here was a great speaker--a speaker who could hold an audience's attention with an analytical meditation on attachment and impermanence. He moved ideas from the personal to global, universal examples. His question and answer period was masterful. I was astounded at his ability to hold his own with a skeptical, Western audience.
This recently merited a further reading of "Good Life, Good Death." As I read, I was quick to see what I would call several neurolingusitic patterns peaking at me from its pages. The most blatant example is that of the Sunset Exercise.
In the early 1970s, a handful of psychologists embarked on studying and modeling the behavior of the best brief therapists of their time. It is important to remember that psychologists then still largely believed that only long-term, depth analysis would produce any measurable gains for the psychologically afflicted. So, when Richard Bandler, John Grinder and their compatriots founded Neuroloinguistic Programming (NLP), they were on the cutting edge of their field. They and their methods were, and still are, highly effective means for quickly installing new beliefs and behavior changes for their clients.
"Anything you can do, I can do better."
In essence, NLP’s main creed is "if someone can do it, I can do it." By modeling certain behavior, it can be replicated by the one who models it.
For instance, I get a lot of crazy looks from clients who have phobias, because one of the first things I ask them is, "You say you buckle up with fear when even thinking about speaking in public? I’m curious, how do you do that?" Having the client show me their body posture, their mental representations (what they hear, see, taste, smell), or what feelings they may have during certain behaviors serves a two-fold purpose. It allows me to model their experience to help them more diligently, and it empowers them by showing them that their behavior is a process that they created, and can change.
Much of the clinical work involving NLP led to the creation of patterns—methods to elicit behavioral excellence quickly and elegantly. There are many volumes filled with patterns, and largely, they are positive spins on how we build and can change behavior.
Once I began studying them in earnest, I began to find ideas for patterns in many areas books, magazine articles, a turn of phrase in a conversation, and even in songs. Often I find myself having to elaborate extensively on the kernel of an idea. But other times, the pattern jumps up right at me with little or no need of adjustment on my part.
The Sunset Pattern
This exercise helps to relieve one of negativity and anger. I have taken a few liberties with it, adding language that is appropriate for intensifying what Rimpoche has written, and couching it in a more formal structure. But it is essentially the same exercise from pages 69-70 of the book.
It should be noted even if you are not familiar with patterns per se, familiarity with guide meditation or visualization will help. If this is your first try at patterns, just follow the instructions below. It’s very simple, and is based on experiences from your everyday life. You may wish to record the exercise onto a tape and play it back. Or, just read the exercise and follow the steps.
1) First, sit or lie down in a comfortable position with your eyes closed down. Take a few nice, easy, deep breaths. Allow your lungs to fill up like a bellows or a big balloon.
2) Next allow yourself to recall a time in the past, or a current situation that has you feeling much anger or any other negative emotion. It could be a situation, a person, or series of events. Whatever it is, just allow yourself to fill your mind with thoughts about it. See it, hear it, sense it, and feel those feelings. Does it feel like it is in a part of your body? If so, where? Just make a note of it, and take all the time you need to truly experience those feelings.
3) Now, allow those feelings, thoughts, and sensations to disappear, and imagine that you are standing on a hilltop, or mountainside, facing the warm glow of the sunset. Whatever season you may enjoy—the warmth of summer, the colors of autumn, the promise of nature’s rebirth in spring, or the crisp, cool air and snows of winter—whatever is most pleasing to you, just imagine being there now. Take in all of the details--the smells of nature, the sound of birds, the feel of the breeze on your cheek, the image of the flora and fauna. If you have a hard time imagining, that’s okay. Just get a sense, or impression of the scene.
4) And as you’re enjoying that, allow yourself to recall those negative thoughts and feelings again. Intensify them again, just as you did in step one. Take all the time you need to, in the next few moments to feel them, see them, or hear them.
5) Now as you are doing that, imagine that you are now able to breathe in deeply all of the goodness of the scene you have just imagined—breathing the goodness of the Universe into your lungs, filling them deeply. And as you exhale, all of those negative thoughts and emotions are literally exiting your mouth or nostrils. Watch as they drift off over the hills and mountainside, and drift away with the setting sun. Breathe softly three, nine or twenty-one times. Just let the positive thoughts and feelings enter you with each in breath, and the negativity flow away with each exhalation.
6) Now allow your mind to go blank. Drop all thoughts of the exercise, and allow yourself to rest within yourself. If you need to, just imagine the color white filling your inner field of vision. Take a few moments to feel the peaceful sensation that you have created for yourself.
7) And as you are enjoying that, try to imagine the incident and the negative feelings again. If there are any negative feelings still lingering, just go back to that natural setting, and breathe in the positive, and exhale the negative into the setting sun. Perhaps you can just let those negative thoughts and feelings dissipate as they are absorbed by the warm goodness of the sun. Whatever it takes to make you know that they are gone for good, that is the right way to do it. When you sense that they are gone for good just take a few deep breaths. Feel the energy returning to your body. Open your eyes and look around as you feel better than before.
You can do this exercise whenever you may notice that a situation is too overwhelming, or if you would like to "clean house" with regards to a person or event from your past. There is no right or wrong way to do the exercise, but for the best effect, follow the language I have given you. Practice for as long as it takes to clear the situation from your consciousness.
Notes: Gehlek, Nawang, "Good Life, Good Death," Riverhead Books, 2002