My client agreed that she ought to be using Autogenic Training (AT) every day to support a feeling of peace and confidence. She agrees that feeling more peaceful would help. “But I get bored doing it,” she complains.

We know lots of benefits of meditation. I have been using Autogenic Training as my personal meditation strategy for over thirty years, and I make every effort to practice every day. I am never bored. What is going on?

The complaint, meditation is boring, is actually quite common. Early unbiased studies of Transcendental Meditation (TM) found only one in four or one in five continued to practice. Progressive Relaxation, the most common technique taught in graduate schools over the past thirty years, has about the same compliance rate. It also has the same benefits of TM, as contrasted with the in-house research claiming that TM was better than anything else.

In fact, the best research suggests that while there are many benefits of meditation, any approach, from self-hypnosis to mindfulness meditation gives the same general advantages. So how can we use that information to improve compliance?

I like to give people choices. My client that complained of AT did find that slow deep breathing was more enjoyable. She is more likely to practice breathing. Since the research suggests any approach is as good any any other, choices among AT, TM, Mindfulness, Progressive Relaxation, or self-hypnosis are useful.

What else can help? Well, since my visit the other day, I have been giving this a lot of thought. I will offer a strategy and invite your participation. Let me know what you think and offer your ideas, please.

I think that perhaps something missing in our orientation is a hidden agenda about time. Perhaps our western views are that time must be productive or pleasurable. To the untrained eye, meditation is neither. Instead of learning and growing, the meditator appears to simply sit. And instead of excitement or pleasure, again meditation appears passive. While I enjoy meditation, the evidence is that it is an acquired taste.

Here is a possible solution. Suppose we teach people to enjoy the feelings going along with meditation? We call this intervention savoring. It is the moment to moment focus on the inner experience. A good example of this is a quote by Helen Keller:

“I wondered how it was possible to walk for an hour through the woods and see nothing of note. I who cannot see find hundreds of things: the delicate symmetry of a leaf, the smooth skin of a silver birch, the rough, shaggy bark of a pine. I who am blind can give one hint to those who see: use your eyes as if tomorrow you will have been stricken blind. Hear the music of voices, the songs of a bird, the mighty strains of an orchestra as if you would be stricken deaf tomorrow. Touch each object as if tomorrow your tactile sense would fail. Smell the perfume of flowers, taste with relish each morsel, as if tomorrow you could never taste or smell again. Make the most of every sense. Glory in all the facets and pleasures and beauty which the world reveals to you.”

– Helen Keller

Here she parses the crucial element: “Make the most of every sense.” When we shift our attention from past / future to the immediate moment, there is a pleasant relaxing response. So would it help for us to first teach people about savoring? I propose we should try it and see if we can get a better compliance than 20% or 25%.

Focus on the immediate feelings of eating, for example. Notice the texture, the colors, and savor the odors. Focus! Note how much more enjoyable a meal is.

As you talk to friends, try to focus in on the immediate moment, again following Helen Keller. Fill up your senses. Besides the sights and sounds of a conversation, what else can you notice?

Go for a walk in the woods, as Keller recommends. Again fill up your senses with the moment. Discard thoughts on the future or the past and focus on the immediate moment.

Recall a favorite vacation. What did you see? Hear? Taste? Touch? Smell? Let yourself savor a memory.

With the savoring skill in hand, I propose that meditation is much more pleasurable. Instead of being driven by demands that one must “make the most of every minute” though learning, mastery, or pleasure, the experience itself of peacefulness becomes an end in itself.

Do you meditate? What has kept you in practice? Do you agree with my idea about savoring?

Have you been trained in meditation but you have dropped out? What was missing? What would cause you to pick up the practice again? If you try savoring, can you report?

Let the dialog begin.

By |2016-11-26T08:50:41+00:00October 16th, 2011|Articles|28 Comments

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  1. Jazi zilber October 19, 2011 at 4:14 am - Reply

    Discussion on why people do not do meditation

  2. Ray Erickson, LCSW October 19, 2011 at 7:28 am - Reply

    I’ve practiced meditation for over 30 years and I’ve been teaching meditation techniques in my practice for over 20 years. Although I don’t do it every day, I too can get caught up in the myth that time must be productive and if I’m not being productive, I’m not accomplishing anything. Of course I know that this is nonsense because when I do meditate I feel more balanced, more focused and better about myself and my life, no matter what is going on.

    I also teach patients about savoring as well. Some years a go I attended a workshop (at a yoga center) called The Yoga of Eating. It was based upon a book by Charles Eisenstein called Transformational Weight Loss. In this tiny little gem, the author has 3 rules to eat by.

    1. Eat whatever you want.
    2. Eat all that you want.
    3. Enjoy every bite you take.

    It is rule #3 that makes all the difference. He is talking about savoring your food, slowing down the process of eating and taking note of the tiny nuances of your food and how the texture and flavors change as you chew. He encourages you to listen to your body and pay attention to what it wants as opposed to what your brain wants. How many times to we eat a bunch of junk when our body is asking for a little protein?

    Now I haven’t lost any weight since starting this practice, but I sure am enjoying my food. I say put a little mindfulness into everything you do.

    • Kamron November 14, 2011 at 6:35 am - Reply

      Until I found this I thought I’d have to spend the day indsie.

    • Lark November 14, 2011 at 3:13 pm - Reply

      Free info like this is an apple from the tree of konwlegde. Sinful?

    • Bobs November 16, 2011 at 6:42 pm - Reply

      Enlightening the world, one hlpeful article at a time.

    • Buffie November 16, 2011 at 11:45 pm - Reply

      Whoa, thnigs just got a whole lot easier.

  3. Brian Barber October 19, 2011 at 7:46 am - Reply

    Thanks for bringing this topic up and your thoughts on it. I think you hit it right on the head. We westerners think time is for doing something and don’t see meditation as a “doing”. I like your thoughts about savoring and will employ that this week myself. It could be, too, that people who drop meditation are approaching it as a performance, something they need to do correctly. I spend regular time in solitude and silence. At times I journal, other times I pray. What consistently pulls me into that experience is the freedom to make it what I want it to be at that moment. But I have no expectation of performing or doing it right. It will be what it is at that moment and that’s enough. And how many experiences in life can you say that about? Great discussion topic. Thanks.

    • Deena November 14, 2011 at 4:03 am - Reply

      I relaly wish there were more articles like this on the web.

    • Nelia November 14, 2011 at 7:03 pm - Reply

      Never would have thunk I would find this so inidspeasnble.

    • Teiya November 16, 2011 at 6:25 pm - Reply

      This is an atrilce that makes you think ?never thought of that!?

    • Jaylynn November 17, 2011 at 12:21 am - Reply

      AFAICT you’ve cvoreed all the bases with this answer!

  4. Brad Waters October 20, 2011 at 10:00 am - Reply

    I started giving away an ebook on the subject because I feel that mindfulness and meditation either become a) too “mysticized” b) too proprietized or c) too overwhelming & complex. The base concept of mindfulness is a simple one. The practices of meditation are simple at their core. I’m not saying they are simple to practice – especially in the sense of feeling mastery – but the constant discourse and capitalization on its popularity make it unnecessarily complex. The body of opinion & information becomes huge and people have a hard time finding the concepts approachable. It has led people to wonder if they’re doing it right, if they’re going to the best class, reading the best book, following the right guru, etc. In this case, too much information is too much information. Mindfulness needs to be kept simple & accessible to all and I empathize with people who have been turned off due to over-saturation & capitalization.

    • Tike November 14, 2011 at 1:12 pm - Reply

      Great hamemr of Thor, that is powerfully helpful!

    • Lavonn November 14, 2011 at 7:29 pm - Reply

      You put the lime in the coconut and drink the ariltce up.

    • Linx November 16, 2011 at 10:32 pm - Reply

      Was toltaly stuck until I read this, now back up and running.

    • Berlynn November 17, 2011 at 1:23 am - Reply

      Surpebly illuminating data here, thanks!

  5. Michael Warren November 3, 2011 at 12:07 pm - Reply

    I think this is a great empirical question. What ARE the retention rates for savoring? I think savoring may be a wonderful way of getting people to be more present-focused, which may help establish foundational habits for meditation.

    However, I would caution agaist the foreclosed conclusion that any form of Autogenic Training is as good as any other. Perhaps this is true for certian DV’s, and among beginners with several weeks of practice. But this area of research is underdeveloped despite thousands of studies (many of which had poor experimental designs). New studies with an array of technique-specific dependent variables hold promise in differentiating these practices from each other (and even differentiating the effects of different styles of meditation).

    I recently ran a meditation intervention study that tested the effects of a social/relational style of meditation vs. a nonrelational style of meditation, in a sample of previously meditation-naive participants. I will say that there were only minor group differences the dependent variables. But relevant to this discussion, at 8 week follow-up 14/17 in the relational group reported that they still meditated, whereas 6/16 in the nonrelational group continued to practice. It seems that a relational component may contribute to greater interest in, and perceived benefits of, the practice.

    It would be useful to further ask people WHY they dropped the practice (or why they stuck with it for those who persisted). I wouldn’t be surprised to find a variety of responses, including boredom, lack of time, or even frustration.

    I think frustration is an interesting case, at least among my fellow graduate students who say, “I can’t do it right… it’s impossible to calm and focus my own mind.” This thought has certainly gone through my mind even to this day, after 12 years of practice. But one of the things we know from cognitive psychology is that people often poor judges of their own experiences (e.g., thought, emotion). Without a formal meditation practice, how often is an individal trained to observe the contents of their own experience? This meta-cognitive training is often a very new skill to the novice meditator, and, upon cultivating this skill, he/she can be frustrated about just how restless the mind is. Ironically, training in meta-awareness is at the crux of many meditation practice. If the above process is correct (and it would need to be tested), it opens a host of strategies aimed at reducing frustration while still systematically cultivating the meta-cognition that is needed for attention modulation and insight.

    • Dotty November 14, 2011 at 3:04 pm - Reply

      I bow down humbly in the perescne of such greatness.

    • Olivia November 14, 2011 at 3:40 pm - Reply

      Wait, I cannot ftoham it being so straightforward.

    • Davion November 16, 2011 at 10:53 pm - Reply

      I am totally wowed and peprared to take the next step now.

    • Destrie November 16, 2011 at 11:03 pm - Reply

      You have shed a ray of sunsinhe into the forum. Thanks!

  6. Buddy November 14, 2011 at 8:18 pm - Reply

    Hey, sutlbe must be your middle name. Great post!

  7. Matty November 17, 2011 at 12:17 am - Reply

    Time to face the music armed with this great inoframotin.

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