Dan Siegel, MD, on His Week of Silence

Here, Dan Siegel, who has looked at mindfulness practice in terms of attachment, wellness, pragmatic ways to use it in psychotherapy shares his experience of going to a 7-day retreat. He definitely experiences some of the “mess” of meditation. The article appears at the psychotherapy networkerHere’s a brief excerpt from the article, entitled “Quieting the Mind and Liberating the Self”:

But by the end of the first day of practicing this concentration aspect of the meditation, my confidence level has definitely plummeted. I thought I had what the instructors call “good attention,” but, in fact, my mind is repeatedly not cooperating with the instructions to “just focus on the breath.” After a few moments, it seems I can barely make it through an entire breath without having my mind pulled toward different thoughts like a dog zigzagging on a walk, drawn this way and that by enticing scents along the path.
Our instructors tell us that this continual wandering is a totally natural part of the mind itself, and suggest we try just to focus on half a breath at a time: the in-breath, then the out-breath. This helps a bit, but my mind still goes strolling off in all directions. This is sometimes called a “proliferation of the mind,” we’re told–the way the thoughts generate more and more conceptual thinking. The “solution” to this dilemma, once we become aware that our minds have been hijacked by stray thoughts, is to calmly return to focusing on our breath, over and over and over–at least a million times, it seems to me, during the 45-minute session of sitting meditation.


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Clinical Psychologist practicing in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.

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