It is about time that mindfulness and psychotherapy got better connected. Cutting right to the chase, is there a way that heart rate variability biofeedback can help with the meditative practice of mindfulness?
I believe that Heartmath or heart rate variability can be an excellent adjunct to mindfulness and psychotherapy, as can EEG or brain wave biofeedback.
You may ask what are my credentials for my claim.
My first experience with meditation was with Transcendental Meditation, in the 1960's after the Beatle's popularized their guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, which I thought would help me make my search for spiritual growth more effective. I loved my initiation and my practice, but I lived with a bunch of guys near our old college campus who were sceptics and if they saw me sitting quietly eyes closed, they would pelt me with pizza boxes and empty beer cans, so I quit the practice until much later, when I combined it with Heartmath or heart rate variability biofeedback. I was surprised that my old mantra came to mind so easily.
I was reminded of the link between what we call mindfulness and what others called prayer and meditation when I began work in the alcohol treatment business in the 1980's and that connection was in the Big Book of AA, where the 11th step called for daily prayer and meditation.
The program of AA also had connections to the work of William James and Carl Jung, which initially took my understanding of the term mindfulness to the archetypal realm and to James' Varieties of Religious Experiences, and about that time I came across Michael Hutchinson's book called Mega Brain which indicated, or so I thought, that there were some technological shortcuts one could take in the search for Nirvana.
Of course, we in the West were the only ones looking for shortcuts to Nirvana, the folks in the East who use meditation for spiritual pursuits understood that regular practice was necessary to really grow in the experience.
In fact, if I remember correctly, one of the central themes of Tibetan Buddhism was to prepare for the moment of death, so that you could focus your concentration, and get through the tests there and leave this wheel of life, so meditation was a lifestyle.
But meditation and mindfulness were not part of psychotherapy in the West in a big way until Jon Kabbat Zinn began his work with mindfulness in heart patients, if I remember correctly.
At that point we began to look at the benefits of meditation in psychotherapy, particularly in the addictions and stress management arena's.
Research discoveries are keeping us on our toes though.
I think the folks who discovered neurogenesis, and have studied neuroplasticity have given a boost to the regular practice of mindfulness, and the folks who have developed the Heartmath heart rate variability biofeedback tool have made a tremendous advance I think in combining mindfulness and psychotherapy, as have the folks who have explored EEG or brain wave biofeedback.
Brain waves cycle per second, so you can train attentional styles in very short increments, based on the EEG model.
The Heartmath model involves learning to pay attention to your heart beat, and managing the time between heart beats, so attention can be learned and physiology managed in short increments, and I think the biofeedback aspect of Heartmath heart rate variability biofeedback gives one a quick leg up on mindfulness, which is a process involving examining thoughts and attending to thoughts of relaxation for example.
So I believe it is very doable to combine Heartmath heart rate variability biofeedback, which has a cognitive component involving the recall of positive memories, and mindfulness and psychotherapy and accomplish a number of very important and healthy objectives.
Heart rate variability biofeedback is easy to learn, easy to maintain with the right commitment, feels good, has tremendous health benefits including increased neurogenesis and neuroplasticity.
Folks are routinely intrigued by Heartmath, and are surprised that it is so easy to learn.
Mind Sparke Brain Fitness Pro is an excellent attention training tool for your mindfulness.
Very early in my personal growth experience, a wise person taught me to use the phrase "gratitude is the attitude" when I was resentful or afraid and that phrase has helped me feel better tens of thousands of times.
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