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The Buddhist Archives of Dr. Alexander Berzin

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The Sensitivity Handbook: Training Materials for Developing Balanced Sensitivity

Alexander Berzin
July 1999
Revised February 2003

Part I: Dealing Constructively with Sensitivity Issues

Exercise 2a: Quieting the Mind

I. While focusing on someone not present

1. While looking at magazine photos first of an anonymous man, then of a woman, a boy, a girl, and an elderly couple

  • Consciously reaffirm the decision to quiet your mind
  • Breathe normally with a three-part cycle of exhalation, rest, and inhalation
  • Look at the photos, one at a time, and while exhaling, imagine that any verbal thoughts, mental stories, mental movies, upsetting emotions, or feelings of dullness that arise leave with your breath – either by visualizing the mental object as a cloud temporarily obscuring the clear sky of your mind, or by dispensing with a graphic representation
    • Breathe out paranoia about extraneous mental activity recurring and the mental tension for thoughts, images, or disturbing feelings to arise at all
    • Maintain focus by listening to the group facilitator occasionally saying the key phrase "let go," or by sometimes saying it silently to yourself
    • Pause briefly
  • Look once more at the photos, one at a time, and feel each word of any verbal thought or mental story that arises to be occurring as if through a process of writing on water – arising and disappearing simultaneously
    • Feel any mental movie, upsetting emotion, or daze that arises to be appearing as if through a process of momentarily projecting a picture on water
    • Maintain focus by using the key phrase "writing on water"
    • Pause briefly
  • Look again at the photos, one at a time, and apply first the letting-go procedure for releasing any extraneous mental objects that arise, and then the writing-on-water method for more persistent problems
    • If repressed emotions of sadness, anxiety, insecurity, or fear suddenly arise, feel the wave of emotion pass like a swell on the ocean and then feel it is gone
  • Maintain focus by using the key phrases
    • "let go"
    • "writing on water"
    • "swell on the ocean"
  • Once you have achieved a quiet mental space, breathe normally while gazing at the photos with an objective, accepting mind

2. Apply the combined method of letting go, writing on water, and an ocean swell, while focusing on a photo or on a thought of a mere acquaintance

3. Repeat the procedure while focusing on a photo or on a thought of someone with whom you have or have had a warm and loving relationship involving few regrets

4. Repeat the procedure while focusing on a photo or on a thought of a loud, overbearing relative who perhaps pries too strongly into your life, but who has not actually hurt you

II. While focusing on someone in person

1. Repeat the procedure while focusing on the group facilitator

  • While he or she sits still
  • While he or she gets up and walks around

III. While focusing on yourself

1. Repeat the procedure while looking at your hands

2. Repeat the procedure while looking in a mirror

3. Repeat the procedure while looking at two photographs of yourself from different periods in the past, one at a time

[ Corresponding Chapter 2 in Developing Balanced Sensitivity ]