Your Goal: Decondition defensive vedana from all thoughts & memories.
The MIDL method of Deconditioning develops the higher skill of deconditioning emotional charge and feeling tone (vedana), attached to thoughts and memories.
The mind attaches a pleasant or unpleasant feeling (vedana) to each memory in order to sort them into dangerous or safe. When a memory is accessed, this feeling is released triggering a conditioned emotional response within our body.
A habitual pattern based on attraction or aversion then unfolds (the tendency towards indifference arises if no feeling tone is present). By understanding how this process works, you can remove the feeling tone from memories quickly, thereby removing the conditions necessary for motivating habitual defensive patterns, bringing the anxious cycle to an end.
Stripping back the feeling tone within this data base, alters the way the mind perceives present experience and leaves it open to interpretation in regard to appropriate relationship.
The appropriate relationship is then conditioned by sila (harmonising) which is supported by panna (verified wisdom), which become the data base for the mind.
Hence the importance of Right View.
Deconditioning is dependent on your earlier training in the ability to manipulate the stress response through the use of slow diaphragmatic breaths.
During earlier MIDL training you also learnt how to ‘borrow’ the deflation of your body with each out-breath in order to abandon any mental engagement/resistance to the memory.
First you create the conditions for meditation, relaxed, sitting on the chair/floor, present, safe in the room. you then bring to mind a memory that was preselected and hold it gently in mind.
To decondition the emotional charge and its attached vedana, it is not necessary to know what the memory is about or how it come to be; it is your relationship towards it that is important.
You then observe the emotion that is released from the memory, it is helpful to remind yourself that you are safe by softening into your body.
Once awareness is grounded in your body, start to notice the unpleasantness of the emotion as it releases within your body, understanding that it is just a danger signal produced by your survival mind as a signal of danger; unpleasant feeling cannot hurt you in any way.
You are safe.
You then use slow, softening breaths, to soften/relax your relationship towards the unpleasant feeling, towards any resistance. Not trying to make it go away, accepting it, letting it be.
This is done using a cycle of five breaths and is focused on both physical and mental relaxation. If this is successful you will notice that when you open your eyes, it is difficult to do and happens slowly as it will take your mind a while to re-engage with the world.
If, however, your eyes want to open fast, then it is a sign that you did not reach deep mental relaxation and need to refine your ability to soften.
You then ask some simple questions on your current experience, be careful not to bring the unpleasant memory to mind at this stage so that you do not influence these results:
"Is the emotion in your body stronger after the five softening breaths, the same or weaker than it was before?”
1) If it is ‘stronger’ then your resistance is high, and another method should be entered into, or you should return to learning how to soften with each out-breath.
2) If it is the same, then there was some resistance in your relaxing and you should try to relax/abandon more deeply next time.
3) If the emotional charge is weaker, then your ability to soften is good and your mind has started to weaken the danger signal (vedana) attached to the memory.
If it became weaker, then generally after another 5 repeats of the same process you will be able to hold a traumatic memory in mind without any reaction at all.
Other memories can then be accessed methodically, start with an easier, less painful memory and gradually progress as you develop confidence in the process.
For this meditation bring an unpleasant memory or thought to mind and observe any changes within your experience of your body & breathing. Notice it feeling of unpleasantness/unease, and deeply soften into the feeling of I don't like, I don't want, to teach your mind that right now is safe.
This is a high skill, MIDL technique, and during this training mindfulness meditation becomes very real. We intentionally trigger painful memories to develop understanding of the heart / mind and to decondition Vedana (feeling tone) from these memories.
If you want to try this MIDL deconditioning technique, do so at your own discretion. If you have not done the earlier training and developed your mindfulness, concentration and softening skills then you are likely to become lost within the emotional charge and resist the unpleasantness.
In this case you either need to commit to the MIDL systematic training or have someone skilled in this technique to guide you to develop this skill.
Before doing this meditation, select the memory that you are going to work with during the session.
Memories are linked, so your mind may swap from one to another while using this deconditioning technique. Whenever you notice that the memory has swapped, gently bring your attention back to the one you are working with.
Always stay with the emotional charge within your body rather than the story contained within the memory. You could even write it down before starting to direct your attention.
Begin by sitting comfortably and bringing your awareness to the experience of just sitting in a chair or on the floor, this will be your grounding point to reality. Once settled, bring one difficult memory to mind and gently hold it within your awareness. Learn this skill by starting with a memory in which the emotional charge is not too strong.
As you bring this memory to mind, notice the experience of emotion as it arises within your body, particularly around the centre of your chest. Know that this is just a reflection of the past, it is not the reality of what is happening ‘now’ and cannot hurt you.
Break up the experience of the emotion within your body into sensations: such as 'hard', 'tight', 'heavy', 'warm' etc. Notice the underlying feeling of unpleasantness that fills the experience of the emotion like a flavour / taste (the vedana). and soften / relax deeply into your relationship towards the unpleasant feeling (attraction/aversion) using the softening into skill.
Note: The softening into skill is the accumulation of Meditation Skills 28-32: Relaxing intention. Re-engaging the diaphragm. Extending the out-breath through the nose. Relaxing the eyelids. Relaxing the frontal lobes.
When combined, these five softening skills turn off all aspects of the stress response except for the release of adrenaline/cortisol in the body. However, softening lowers the unpleasantness of this stress reaction, thus lowering the response through mindful non-participation.
When the original triggers are deconditioned from the mind, through softening, adrenaline/cortisol are no longer triggered to release in the presence of the experience/stressful situation.
Do not try to make any unpleasant feeling go away, but rather deeply relax into it, holding it gently in mind and accepting it. Abandon all participation with it, soften all effort. Do this for five softening breaths, allowing your breathing to return to normal after the fifth softening breath.
After opening your eyes, give your body a shake to release the residue of any physical tension held within your body. Then without bringing the memory to mind again, check the strength of the emotional charge within your body to gauge the deconditioning based on the below formula.
Step 1: Sit in a comfortable meditation posture.
It is helpful to sit in a comfortable meditation posture or chair for deconditioning, one that you can completely and fully let go and relax. Your focus during deconditioning is not on developing samadhi but rather on fully and completely letting go to help your mind in face of this danger, feel safe.
and ground your awareness within the experience of your body as it sits.
Step 2: Observe what it feels like to be present.
Observe what it feels like to be present, within your body – here, now - safe: grounding your awareness within the experience of your body as it sits.
Step 3: Bring your selected unpleasant memory to mind.
Caution: Bring to mind an unpleasant memory from the past.
Step 4: Observe any changes in your body.
Observe any change in tightness or tension in your body, particularly at the base of the throat, chest or belly.
Step 5: Observe its unpleasantness, sense of unease.
Observe its unpleasantness as a flavour or taste of the physical response and any general sense of unease around what is being experienced.
Step 6: Observe any aversion towards this unpleasantness.
Observe any aversion towards this unpleasantness as "I don't like, I don't want" within your mind and the effort that underlies not wanting it.
Step 7: Take five slow softening breaths and soften into this aversion.
Using five slow softening breaths, soften into this effort to resist, into your minds relationship towards what is being experienced.
Follow the meditation steps instructions six times, at the end of each softening checking your progress with three simple questions:
“Is the emotional charge in my body stronger, the same or weaker now that I have softened than it was when I first brought the memory to mind?”
If the emotional charge is stronger then you need to refine your mindfulness and softening skills, do not practice this meditation further. If the emotional charge is the same you need to develop your softening skill, there is still some resistance present.
If the emotional charge is weaker now, then your softening and mindfulness are strong enough. Apply five more cycles of deconditioning to this memory.
You are ready to progress to Cultivation 09: Condition Wholesome Qualities when:
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