On Osho Dynamic Meditation - the processes in the brain and the benefits
By Anando Würzburger
How to „do“ it right?!
Osho Dynamic Meditation is a very engergising and emotionally strong meditation technique. It helps us release repressed emotions, which cause a lot of stress in our body. In my workshops participants who had taken trauma therapy seesions somewhere else before, asked me if entering emotions in such a strong way cannot be „ retraumatising“.
So they had developed fear of participating the meditation technique. This article was written as an answer to these questions and was published in the netherlands in the book Heling Van Vroeg Trauma( Healing of early trauma). It also offers insight to everybody to enter Dynamic Meditation in a helpfull way. Anando, Prem also known as Hara Anando is a trained Somatic Experiencing® trauma therapist and has been teaching Oshos meditation techniques since 1987 in the Osho Multiversity, Pune.
The first thing to understand is that Dynamic Meditation has been created by Osho to give the modern man a way to discover silence
As Osho puts it, the modern man is full of repressions and that in Buddhas time people were living more naturally, more in tune with their human nature and therefore more relaxed to begin with. So for them it was easy to sit down, just watch the inside, meditate and be silent. However when we sit down, we first notice the mind that seems to be louder then ever and we feel all the tension of a body full of repressed energies and emotions.
Dynamic meditation is, as Osho puts it, a cathartic meditation.
And here can be the first misunderstanding and misleading way of performing the meditation. When we hear of catharthis we think of emotional expression as we know it from bioenergetic therapy or other therapies working with emotional expression.
This already creates an image in our mind that directs our body during the meditation.
This image or goal is a product of the logically thinking and calculating left side of the Neocortex. As the left hemisphere is the part of the brain were past and future is located, we tend to repeat what we once have experienced in the past. In that way we re-strengthen this experience.
So when we approach Dynamic with our therapy oriented concepts, it is easy to go wrong and hinder that what could be healing
We need to follow the intelligence of the body.
This means that we need to listen to it and let it develop the movements by itself. The process that can heal and clean the body can only happen when we deeply understand how to follow the movements that arise from the core of our body. It is a shift from doing and moving initiated by the left side of the neorcortex, (the „doing and going for it“ side of the Neocortex which shows and reflects itself in each of the different stages of the Dynamic Meditation) to learning how to follow the movements of the body. In that way instead of forcing our body to perform according to our ideas and images, our system can learn to listen and follow its own self regulative, healing capacities
The body knows how to heal itself
The residues of trauma are mainly a consequence of incomplete processes which means that the body is being stuck in the freezing response to an event which at the time of experiencing it was overwhelming to our nervous system. Because of this freezing response the nervous system retained a great amount of activation. Through learning to follow the movements of the body, we allow the it to complete the instinctual reactions that the body would have liked to do and to release the energy that is locked up in the system. Peter Levine calls this process „the biological completion.“ At the time of the incident for whatever reasons we could not allow the body to complete itself and release the charge in the nervous system. For further reference please read „Healing Trauma“ by Peter Levine.
In the past situation it may have been our conditioned mind which did not allow us to act „uncivilized“ or other circumstances of the situation which prevented the body from completing all reactions and come back to a relaxed natural state.
Biological completion is based on the inherent intelligence of the body to regulate and heal itself
The Neo Cortex or as Bas Kast calls it the „Social Me“ with all its rules of how to be and its ideal and moralities does not allow that natural intelligence to function properly.
This is because that „Social Me“ is not oriented by the needs of the body but by the norms of what was „okay“ in the society and the group that surrounded us as we grew up.
Then there is also what Bas Kast calls the „Experiential Me“, which is rooted in what we call the gut feeling in the belly. In Japanese belly means “Hara“ and is translated as„the source of life“ which is the root of our life energy in the belly. Recent research has discovered a second brain in the belly which is connected to the brainstem or Reptilian Brain which is the oldest part of the brain. Together they constitute the oldest part of the human brain and are the root of our instinctual and self regulative reactions.
If we connect to the second brain or the hara we can more easily find what we need and what is good for us
Or in other words: in the belly we know what we want and need and we have the drive and force to go for it. This center is in many ways activated by the Dynamic Meditation, when we bring right attention to it. Connecting to the life source brings healing from the bottom up and in this way of reconnecting to our natural feelings of ourselves a lot of confusions in the mind can clear up.
When we listen to the explanations of a meditation we tend to listen with the left hemisphere of the Neo Cortex, our logical goal oriented side, and try to transfer the instructions we hear into the body. This is then reflected and mirrored in each stage as we perform according to the images previously created in our minds.
It is important to become aware of this habit of the mind and develop a broader understanding of the explanations so that the healing capacity that lies in the self regulative movements, the unwinding which originates from the inner intelligence of the body can happen. As far as the Dynamic Meditation is concerned I will now go through the stages, explain the principles and indicate what to look for.
The first stage:
Deep chaotic breathing through the nose with the awareness on the out-breath
„Breath as fast as possible, as deep as possible; bring your total energy to it.“Osho
When we hear as fast as possible our goal oriented and conditioned mind readily translates this into „go over your limits“.
People ask „what should I do when I get so dizzy, and when my head seems to be falling off and my neck is stiff.“ This is obviously a sign of overdoing. Because what we do not hear is: „as fast as possible“. As possible should be your guideline and then naturally your body will love to explore the new freedom that can develop in all the stages.
Total means whole
Osho says “bring your total energy into it“. When we hear „total“ we think in percentages, an unthinkable enormous more than what we are doing already. But Total simply means be with it with all that you are as a whole being. Total derives from the Latin word „totus“, which means undivided. And that is the intention of this meditation technique, to make you once again undivided. Because through undigested trauma and conditioning, through the repressions we had to hold in our system, we have become fragmented, split in our consciousness and in our body.
Breathing totally means to breath as a whole
Just be breathing and that is all. Enter into the world of the body and its natural capacities and powers in which you have lost the trust. Know that more aliveness is possible in your body, but do not hurt yourself and run over your natural capacity. Forget about looking and watching the neighbour moving and breathing frantically, just follow your own dance and expand yourself naturally.
Concerning the instruction „put your attention on the out-breath“, it is important to breath through the nose, because it balances the left and the right side of the brain. Chaotic breathing with the awareness on the out-breath brings a little chaos into our system, disrupts our routine and opens up the body for the next stage.
When you breath, use also the help of the belly
Use the whole body to support the breathing and use the whole body to breath with. If we only breath into the chest we active an emergency breathing pattern. Breathing with the belly activates the center. As dynamic breathing was used in the beginning years it was similar to an Yoga breathing technique called „Kabbalabati“ which aims at cleaning the organs. You can pull in the navel and the belly a bit on the out-breath. That activates the life center and helps to expel the Carbon-dioxide in the organs and in the body. You could also say expel the „bad“ chi.
Osho said that repressions in the body are bound with toxins. So bringing awareness on the
out-breath frees the body of toxins. That technique alone is already a cathartic meaning cleaning process.
Using the whole body to breath with you can also experiment with opening the arms and thus opening the chest to allow the whole body to breath. Allowing the rythm of the breath to change helps to reveal what is hidden and to open the holding patterns in the body.
Playfullness and relaxation, the base for meditation
With this attitude we cannot go wrong. Relaxation ensures that we do not force ourselves and go beyond the limits of our capacities. Playfulness is the base to slowly expand ourselves into freedom, natural liveliness and emotional health the qualities meditation can help us to rediscover.
Stay watchfull and grounded.
In this stage stay watchful with what happens in the body. Being watchful is often misunderstood as disconnecting from the body. It is important to be connected in your awareness with the body. Otherwise you could reenact the pattern from traumatic experiences to „leave the body“.
My experience has shown that for many people it is helpful to remember the connection to the ground through the legs and feet.
In trauma and in reliving trauma all energy and awareness moves up and out of the body. By staying grounded we can make sure that we do not overcharge our system (and slip back into overwhelming experiences of the past). Slowly we can expand the bodies capacity to charge and discharge. In that way we can slowly expand our resilience and come out of restrictions and imbalances in our organism.
The in-breath happens by itself - if we give time to it „Use your natural body movements to support the breathing.“ Natural and within our healthy boundaries is always easy and light in the joints. Only when you violate yourself, pain happens in the body.
Love and respect the body
Doing Dynamic Meditation you may discover that without having been aware of it before, you were treating your body like the monks in old times, trying to beat the „bad“ repressions out of yourself. The attitude towards ourselves and our body is reflected in the way we experience it. Take the way you feel in the meditation as an mirror.
Be aware and learn to take a respectfull and loving attitude. That is a big step towards healing. It makes the meditation an unfoldment into the joy of being alive.
The second stage:
Express everything that needs to be thrown out
The Dynamic Meditation opens opportunities, but it should be organic, that means fitting to your body and to wherever we are in our development as individuals.
The meditation can lead to an automatic repetition of past frustrations and despairs. It is a neck to learn to follow the healing that is inherent in the body. Also here the body should be the moving force.
One of the after effects of trauma is fragmentation
We disconnect from the memory and its emotions and from the places in the body where it is withheld energetically. In order to come out off this fragmentation we need to do little steps. Pushing ourselves can push us over our limits.
A playful, curious exploration of emotion and movement, with the „as possible“ in our awareness ensures that the second stage slowly brings together what has been split and dissociated. It empowers us and helps us to reconnect with our strength. Therefore it is important to follow Oshos direction of staying in movement and to explore the moving.
That ensures that we do not reenact a freezing reaction in the body, a re-traumatisation. Instead it gives us back the full range of emotional expression and frees the inhibition that keep unresolved trauma energy locked up in our nervous system.
In the Dynamic Meditation we are working with two poles: freeing the body by the expression of emotion and centering
The centering effect of meditation is as Spitzer puts it in his series „Gehirn und Geist“ (Brain and Mind) in the chapter on meditation the frontal cortex telling the Amygdala to keep cool, stay quiet. The amygdala is the part of our instinctive heritage which tells us when there is danger.
One indicator for residues of trauma in the body is an over reactive Amygdala which sends out over reactive warnings for instance when a certain sound occurs in the environment.
Centering is strengthening the ability to stay quiet. Recent research that Spitzer refers to has shown that tested students after one week of meditation were less „schreckhaft“, stayed cool. They were less nervous standing in front of a class at the blackboard while showing some mathematical equations than the students without the meditation experience. Test persons which only did relaxation techniques without meditation did not show these effects.
Centering happens only in meditation were we practice to watch without doing
Whatever the mind might be suggesting in the moment, we stay sitting and „just“ watch. In the beginning this act is difficult and requires more action in some parts of the brain. Later after some practice less activity is to be seen in the brain, when as Spitzer puts it the mastering of the art has happened. So in the beginning it is difficult not to follow the impulses that are being sent out by thoughts and activations by the Amygdala.
The third stage:
Jump and shout the mantra „hoo“
Centering happens especially in the third and in the fourth stage. After the second, the „freedom“ stage, as I like to call it, we are being aligned by jumping. The jumping and calling of the mantra awakens the life center in the lower belly. The sound of the mantra is intended to hit there and the vibrations of the jumping activate the center from the ground up. This helps to ground and to connect with the strength in the body.
Here also the maxim of „as possible“ is important. If jumping and making the sound results difficult, do it as good as you can within your possibilities and expand your capacity slowly.
An alternative to jumping is to make a forward movement with the hips on each „hoo“. But do not listen to the mind saying „I can´t“, expand slowly by building up your strength through connecting with the life energy and by inviting the strength to be there.
Be aware of what is happening in the body during that stage
Be aware of what is strengthening and expanding. It is helpful to notice the „force“, that way it can grow. So when awareness happens in this stage and you notice yourself growing into strength, you can grow out off negative thought patterns and self images of seeing yourself as weak or being a victim.
The instructions of Osho to awaken the life source aim at bringing the awareness into that positive resource oriented direction. Also the change from Expression during the second stage to watching the life energy moving in the third stage is important step for letting go of whatever emotion had been there and a step towards centering. It is strengthening the ability to center ourselves and watch emotional states. In that way we learn to contain the emotions and the energy in the body.
The fourth stage:
„Stop and freeze“
The instructions of this stage may be the most challenging ones, when you do not have much experience in meditation and the capacity of centering has not been developed yet. 15 Minutes of standing still in whatever position you are, are definitely a challenge. The centering that has been developing form the first stage onwards is going even deeper now. The ability to just watch whatever is inside without acting on the impulses is an important capacity of the brain that needs to be practiced. It is something that children have to develop over the years of childhood.
This capacity called „impulse control“ is performed by the Frontal Lobe of the brain. It is underdeveloped or missing in so called „violent criminals“, people that react by means of violence on the slightest occasion. It has been observed that clients who had had an injury in that part of the brain, had ever since been sexually „shameless“ following whatever impulse that came from the instinctual part of the brain.
The capacity of impulse control is what Spitzer calls the Frontal Lobe talking to Amygdala saying „keep cool“.
The callenge is to learn how to „watch“
as Osho puts it. For people who have experienced the freezing state in traumatic situations this stage can be an extra challenge. The body can associate the standing still with memories of the freezing reflex and re-enact the body memory of this experience. In such a case it is helpful to allow gentle movements and the possibility of opening the eyes to consciously orient oneself and to thus take charge of the situation. First signs of an re-enactment can be dizziness and nausea. It is good to give oneself the freedom to act instead of reliving trauma memory. In this way we then can slowly develop new trust into our ability to stay present and our ability to witness can grow.
The growing of presence and watchfulness has the effect of strengthening the ability to center ourselves. In the traditional far Eastern Martial Arts the capacity to center ourselves has been connected to the strengthening of the third eye in the forehead between the eyebrows.
The third eye is what is now known to be the frontal lobe in neuroscience, the center of the impulse control. The Dynamic on the one hand opens the life energy in the center and on the other hand the centering ability of the frontal lobe, thus giving us the quietness to watch instinctive reactions of the Amygdala that might get triggered through past memories and have nothing to do with the actual momentary situation. On the other hand it gives the body the possibility to unload the charge from the past that was withheld. It is a complete journey and each part has its particular function.
The fifth stage:
„Celebrate through dance, expressing your gratitude towards the whole“ Osho, The Orange Book.
We are what we do. Scientists talk of the Neuroplasticidity of the brain. By doing things and practicing we create and strengthen connections between neurons and even expand the used areas of the brain. More and more brain cells get involved until whatever we are practicing becomes an intrinsic part of us. Here in this stage we practice „celebration“. Celebration is an attitude towards life and torwards existence. It is something that can be learned.
So in this stage the task is to pay attention to look into this moment hearing the music, feeling the movements of the body, be grateful to existence and to feel gratitude towards oneself. People with therapy oriented minds often have difficulty with looking into that direction. So it is even more important to get the neck of doing it. Whatever mood, sadness or happiness, is there can be celebrated and expressed through dancing.
„Carry your happiness with you throughout the day“Osho.