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Super Conscious

Robert K. Hall: Empty Chair, Full Heart

By Conscious, Conscious Living, Emotional Intelligence, Mental Intelligence, Super Conscious, Wisdom 3 Comments

Robert K. Hall

In the mid twentieth century, primarily in America, a new psycho-spiritual movement began to emerge, making use of ancient and modern healing practices from all parts of the world. Among the notable pioneers was Robert Hall, who began his foray into the new psychology by apprenticing with both Fritz Perls and Ida Rolf, each of whom had developed the own healing methodologies.  Dr. Hall also studied meditation under the Indian master Charan Singh, and learned Polarity Therapy from its founder, Randolph Stone.  Since developing his own unique practices, Dr Hall has earned and international reputation as an innovator of mind-body therapies.  He is the co-founder of the Lomi School of Somatic Studies, and, since 2001, director of El Dharma in Todos Santos, BCS, Mexico ( A beloved Meditation teacher, now emeritus on the Spring Rock Teachers Council, Dr Hall currently leads meditation and Gestalt retreats/workshops throughout Mexico.  He also published two volumes of poetry, two spoken-word CD’s with music, and recently in Mexico, two English/Spanish collections of essays on contemporary Buddhism, illustrated with his paintings and poetry. In June 2012, Inquiring Minds editors Barbara Gates, Kevin Griffin and Wes Nisker held the following telephone conversations with Dr. Hall, who was at his home in Mexico.

Inquiring Mind:  Robert, you have been working with emotions your whole life, professionally and, we presume, personally as well.  Do you think that as a culture we in the West are skillful in dealing with emotions?

Robert Hall:  I don’t think so.  As a therapist, bodyworker and meditation retreat teacher I have repeatedly found that people come to work with me who are in emotional upheaval, but they have no knowledge of what emotion is occurring or how it relates to their personal histories.  There is often a sense of energetic movement and chaos that is experienced in the body, but for the most part, the emotion is not identified.  The great success of Daniel Goleman’s work on emotional intelligence is very important, because a majority of people don’t have any idea what they’re really feeling.  When I started work as a psychotherapist, that was one of the strangest things I encountered.

IM:  Does meditation practice help people get in touch with what they are feeling?

RH:  Yes, especially the emphasis in Vipassana on paying attention to sensations of the body.  That helps connect people to their emotions.  However, in the early years of meditation practice in the West, the meditation teachers didn’t have much experience in dealing with emotions in their own lives, not to mention in the lives of students.  So for quite a long time there was a lot of confusion about how to work with emotions.

IM:  What would happen on a retreat if as student was crying a lot or seemed emotionally upset?  How would teachers deal with that?

RH:  Well, in the early days, they might not try to obstruct the emotion, but generally they would not refer to it as something to be attended to or talked about.  It was kind of allowed and at the same time, ignored.  You know, “It’s just your personality.  Let it go and come back to breath.”  The real work was to come back to breath.  The concentration practice was what was emphasized.

IM:  Was more attention given to the emotions in various psychological practices?

Ida Rolf – founder of Rolfing bodywork. Ida first taught her bodywork system to two MDs. Robert was one of those doctors.

RH:  Not Really.  There was a similar dismissal of emotions in the whole body-mind community.  When I was working with Ida Rolf, I had some cataclysmic upheavals of re-experiencing trauma, for instance, but she essentially ignored my turmoil and didn’t want to talk about it.  That was the attitude in a lot of the healing community in the seventies.  Once exception was Fritz Perls, who basically invented the psychological school known as Gestalt, and who was a very important teacher to me.  I think his contribution to psychology was to make it possible for people to feel and name their emotions.  He developed techniques, such as the empty chair conversation, where you have to explore your projections onto other people.

IM:  When you started teaching Vipassana meditation, did you abandon the techniques of Gestalt, or did you try to integrate some of that approach in your work with meditation students?

RH:  I was never able to fully integrate the Gestalt work in a retreat setting because the retreats were essentially silent.  However, in my work with small groups and individuals in private practice, I combined meditation with the Gestalt work.  I found that the ability to pay attention is very useful in Gestalt.

Recently I’ve started teaching retreats in Mexico where I fully integrate the two practices in a retreat setting.  The days take place in silence, but in the evenings, instead of Dharma talks, I will do Gestalt sessions.  These sessions show people the power of emotions, how to identify them, and how to embody and explore them.

IM:  Could you give an example of one of your Gestalt sessions?

RH:  I will sit in the open chair, the classical Gestalt format, and invite people to come forward one at a time to engage me in dialogue.  I make use of what I have learned in Gestalt over the years of bringing forth the conflicts within the personality, the polarities.  Quite often people get in touch with some deep emotion that gets worked through in the process.  And the people who are observing the process are living through it vicariously.
So here’s a typical situation: I call the open chair and a young woman comes forward.  She is in her late twenties and she starts talking with me about her life.  I must say that over the years I have developed an ability to sniff out repressed emotion.  I can feel it when it is present, and I usually know exactly what emotion is being repressed.  So this young woman starts complaining to me about her life and I fell that she is holding a lot of anger.  Then at some point she mentions her home life and starts to talk about her mother, and I hear in her tone of voice there is a lot of rage towards her mother.  So then I ask her to brink her mother to the empty chair and have a conversation with her.  At that point, all her projections about her mother come forward within the context of this conversation.  I have her talk to her mother and then change chairs and become her mother talking back.  When the work is really successful, at some point she realizes that all of the conflict is taking place within her own mind.  She understands that she is speaking to herself, not her mother.  And when that happens, wonderful awakenings occur.  Fritz used to call these awakenings “mini-satoris.”

IM:  In the Satipattana Sutra, the Buddha’s instructions for dealing with emotions or mind states (chitta) is simply to become aware of them.  ‘One knows a lustful mind to be lustful,” he says, or “One knows an angry mind to be angry.”  There is no moralizing or suggested fix.  All that is recommended is a simple and straightforward awareness.

RH:  That is really beautiful.  But I think that my work involves a little more than simple awareness, mostly because people don’t know how to identify the emotion.  It isn’t so easy to know “a mind with anger” partly because people get swept away by it.  So I assist them in experiencing the emotion in the body, at the level of sensation.  And in that way you start to know what anger feels like.  So then I might say “Repeat with me, this is anger.  This is anger.”  That way the connection is made.  Then I ask people to feel it deeply, as the energy of the body at the level of sensations.  Then they really start to know what anger is and what it feels like.  In a retreat setting, this understanding is very powerful, because of course, the concentration and quiet during the day has created a context for this exploration.

IM:  So describe how you would support this young woman in going back to her meditation process.

RH:  After deep work like that, which is often very dramatic, I will take time to talk with the retreatant about how the emotion is now coming into conscious awareness, and how the awareness itself is healing.  The light of awareness starts to dissolve the contraction in the body that has been holding the emotion.  One has to do this carefully though, because it can happen too quickly and become overwhelming.  There has to be an educational process that goes with it.

IM:  Do you find that over the years, meditation teachers have become more sophisticated when it comes to psychological issues?

RH:  Without a doubt.  I think Jack Kornfield has taken leadership in helping to bridge the gap between meditation and psychology.  At Spirit Rock there is also a lot of interest in Peter Levine’s work, Somatic Experiencing, and I think that’s really valuable.  In general, in the meditation community, emotion is no longer seen as an obstruction to awakening but as a phenomenon to be investigated as part of the awakening process.

IM:  Do you think it is important for people to explore an emotion in the context of their personal history?

RH:  Yes, in the beginning I might encourage people to explore how they came to have these particular feelings.  But then I will help them experience the emotion, and it’s always a bodily experience, one that involves paying attention to sensations.  At some point the body starts to become formless, and we are no longer doing emotional work.  The body becomes a field, an energy field, and we connect to the universal nature of the experience.  We have moved out of the work of psychology and into the spiritual realm.

Fritz Perls practically invented psychological Gestalt

IM:  In his Gestalt work, did Fritz Perls guide people to make that leap from the personal to the universal?

RH:  Fritz himself made the leap very often.  He was always looking for the point where the two sides of the ego, the polarities, would come to a stalemate.  He called that place “the impasse.”  At that point, a kind of transcendence could occur, an awakening out of duality.  I saw it happen many times.  But, after he left the scene, his followers and imitators didn’t seem to have his skill or sophistication.  Gestalt got relegated to some kind of pounding on the pillow and getting your rage out.  The transcendent aspect of it was lost.  Because of my experience of studying vipassana, I feel that I have held on to some of that skill, or at least to the greater purpose of the work.

IM:   What do you mean when you say the two poles of the ego reach an impasse?

RH:  Essentially, our consciousness is split: we see the world through a lens of opposites.  Fritz saw the split occurring within each of us, in the ego structure.  He called the two polarities “the top dog” and “the underdog.”  There is always the dominator and the passive one, and they are in constant conflict with each other.   Emotions arise out of those conflicts.  Gestalt is a way of isolating those conflicts within the ego and then working towards the integration of the two sides.  It’s brilliant really.

The dominant voice is usually parental.  The other voice is more childlike, and that voice is saying, “Hey, give me a break.  I am doing the best that I can.  Get off my back.”

An example of the inner dialogue might be one voice saying, “Listen, you’re too weak.  You need to stand up and take a position.  You need to make yourself known.”  The other voice says, “Yeah but people don’t like me when I do that.  And I don’t want people to dislike me.  That scares me when you talk that way.”  That’s two sides of one person.  You realize that that is simplified?

IM:  Yes, of course.

RH:  Another dialogue might include a voice that says, “I feel bad all the time.  I think there is something wrong with me.  I feel sick a lot.  It’s hard to get up in the morning.”  And then the other side says “Yeah, well if you ate better, you would feel better.  And if you did a little exercise you would feel better.  Why don’t you start taking care of yourself?”

Or one voice might say, “I am so alone.  I have never found a partner.  I need an intimate relationship.”  And then the other side says. “Yeah, well you remember the last time you had an intimate relationship. Remember how that worked out?”

Those kinds of conversations go on inside a lot of people.  The dialogue between the two voices is fairly continuous internally and often takes place below consciousness.  Often the conflict is felt as contraction and discomfort in the body, some restlessness and pain. The inner dialogue is reflected in the body as unpleasant sensations.

In the Gestalt work, what I try to do is bring the dialogue into awareness by acting out the two sides in conversations with each other.  In that way we are exploring the ego structure.  When we investigate those inner dialogues in public, people are deeply affected.  At a meditation retreat, people are silently observing their inner conflict, and when they see it acted out in front of them the light goes on: “Oh, I get it.  This is happening right now in my mind.”  People begin to see the drama as impersonal, as well as impermanent.  The emotions arising out of the conflict may no longer have such impact or control.  People will enjoy a taste of freedom.

Meditation: Soul’s Freedom & Bellow’s Breath

By body mind spirit, Breath, Conscious, Conscious Living, Podcasts, Spiritual Intelligence, Super Conscious No Comments

by Alan aAvidson

Meditation Talk: Your Soul’s Freedom + Meditation: Bellow’s Breath and Presence

I lead a weekly meditation at OutSmart Magazine. My bud Greg Jeu invites all his employees and anyone else who wanders in to sit with us.
Greg and I have sat in this meditation circle for sixteen plus years now. Our little group gives
me the chance to riff on my latest insights and research in the spiritual life.
Last week I gave a “festive” talk on Your Soul’s Freedom. Followed by a Bellows Breath exercise and Presence meditation.
The Bellows Breath is an excellent way to shift your energy and your mindset really fast. It really kicks up the chi…and relaxes the mind.
I thought you might enjoy listening in so here it is…
Let me know what you think, how you feel, what you shift. Please leave me a comment below…

Asleep, Awake, Aware + Full Body, Full Breath Meditation

By body mind spirit, Conscious, Mental Intelligence, Super Conscious, Unconscious 6 Comments

Asleep, Awake & Aware meditation talk + Full Breath, Full Body Meditation;

Includes the 1 distinction you need to know between Awake and Aware. And the three qualities of awareness in your brain.

I had the great pleasure last year to review the Nia White Belt, which is the six day intensive. The White Belt begins the in-depth training and embodiment of Nia’s principles for dancing and living through the world.
I took my first White Belt in 2006. I was thrilled to see how much I have grown since then. I was also pleased to see how much Nia and my teacher, Helen Terry, have transformed as well.
Helen gave one-of-the-best talks on presence, the body, sensation, and awareness that I’ve heard in thirty-plus years of studying meditation. Helen’s gift of razor-sharp clarity came during Principle Five: Awareness. In Nia we make the distinction between asleep, awake, and aware.
Mastering Your Five Vital Intelligences is another way of describing the journey to awareness and embodiment.
To that end your Featured Article this week is actually a meditation talk I gave, inspired by Helen’s teaching, called “Asleep, Awake, Aware.” Followed by a sensational meditation.
Do enjoy..

Know Your Mind, Shape Your Mind, Free Your Mind

By body brilliance, body mind spirit, Classes & Seminars, Conscious, Conscious Living, Health & Wellbeing, Mental Intelligence, Super Conscious, Unconscious, Wisdom 2 Comments

Click here for Alan’s Wisdom Warrior Training

Change your mind, change your life…

Creating  right “mind,” or shifting your mindset is essential for happiness, success, health, wealth,  joy, and enlightenment. What ever your goals in life.

This webinar-replay will show you simple, effective ways to help you shift your brain and your thinking so you can…

Be happy, joyful, and free,
Stop addictive behaviors,
Change self-sabotaging choices,
Let go of corrosive emotions,
Live your LIFE’s purpose,
Do work you LOVE (and get paid well for it),
Be free from FEAR (living in and reacting with),
Quit fighting “what is,”
Connect you to divine inspiration and creativity,
Spark Enlightenment.

Alan show’s you three specific tools and techniques to:

Know Your Mind, Shape Your Mind, and Free Your Mind.

Know Your Mind, Shape Your Mind, Free Your Mind

Janet Attwood: Three Keys to Loving Fully

By body mind spirit, Conscious, Conscious Living, Fun and Fabulous, Interviews, Mental Intelligence, Passion, Super Conscious, Wisdom No Comments

interview with Alan Davidson


Click here to learn more about Janet Attwood & The Passion Test

Janet Attwood - Passion Expert

Janet is the co-author of the New York Times Bestseller, “The Passion Test- The Effortless Path To Discovering Your Life Purpose”, and co-author of “From Sad to Glad: 7 Steps to Facing Change with Love and Power”.

As an expert on what it takes to live a passionate life, she has shared the stage with, The Dalai Lama, Sir Richard Branson, Jack Canfield, Lisa Nichols, and other top transformational leaders.

For her ongoing work with homeless women and youth in detention centers, Janet received the highest award for volunteer service in the U.S. from the President of the United States, The Presidents Volunteer Service Award.

Janet is co-founder of one of the largest online magazines in the world, Healthy Wealthy n Wise Magazine.

Janet lives in a community of over 3000 meditator’s from around the world in Fairfield, Iowa, and has been a practitioner and teacher of the Transcendental Meditation Program for over 40 years.

She is a certified facilitator of “The Work of Byron Katie” and a facilitator of the environmental symposium “Awakening the Dreamer – Changing the Dream”.

Janet is President of an organization in India, called, “The World United” whose sole purpose is to promote conscious, healthy and sustainable choices for a better world.

Janet is a founding member of the Transformational Leadership Council that Jack Canfield, the co-author of the Chicken Soup Series, put together after taking Janet’s Passion Test.