How important is it to learn to alleviate our addiction to cyclical (ruminative) thinking?

The Sword Guided Imagery

In analogy, we can use a ‘sword’ as a form of guided imagery, e.g., in order to assist one in clearing one’s mind of internal dialogue, e.g., the next-best thing to actually emptying one’s mind. Being that many people find it fairly unviable to truly empty their mind of thought, the H’ou T’ou was invented…the Sword that works as a visualization/guided imagery technique which makes it a simpler matter to learn these techniques at the most basic level.

This guided imagery can be used in harmony/congruence with one’s exercising – walking, jogging, yoga, tai chi chuan, chi kung, etc., or simply sitting, standing, or laying down.

It is said that many centuries ago, a head monk at a Chinese monastery noticed that the latest monk recruits were not up to par. They had difficulty learning to empty their minds. Hence the warmhearted head monk invented the concept and types of the H’ou T’ou, e.g., the sword that alleviates/cuts out internal dialogue – abbreviation of the ‘weight’ of thought. This more easily allowed practitioners thereafter to be ‘lighter’ and to more easily learn to appreciate true meditation and all of its manifest benefits.

There are many versions of the H’ou T’ou guided imagery – in the traditions that I teach, coach, and endeavor to follow, ALL types of guided imagery fall under this protocol. Albeit this most basic guided imagery promotes a purely psychological and physiological harmony, e.g.:

Simply thinking the word “in” as one breathes in, and the word “out” as one breathes out.

As with all guided imagery, this is meant to keep one’s mind from thinking about anything else, curtailing the cyclical thoughts which most people have difficulty abbreviating. Most correctly, it is practiced in congruence with ‘advance’ diaphragmatic breathing (breathing in, pushing one’s abdomen out, breathing out pulling one’s abdomen in), or ‘reverse’ diaphragmatic breathing (breathing in pulling one’s abdomen in, breathing out, pushing one’s abdomen out).

Herein, each form of guided imagery will be set forth for a standing position, but it can also be done in a sitting position – sitting on a chair/stool, or in a lotus sitting posture. Eyes can be open or closed (it is recommended to practice it both ways).

A second most basic form of using this Sword is to again –

Breathe in and think “in” but count with each breath out, e.g., “one” through “10” and then start from one again.

This is especially important with treating insomnia, much like ‘counting sheep’, as they say. A third most basic form of using the Sword is set forth at the bottom of this article – How Much Gratitude Does One Need to be Healthy?

Simply put, one of the primary purposes of guided imagery meditation is to lessen or alleviate sadness, depression, frustration, anger, or any type of stress and anxiety; it is VERY difficult to feel those feelings if one is not thinking such thoughts.

In nurturing this tool, it can be utilized in stressful situations to promote calm clear-headedness. This and all types of guided imagery can lead one to the next step, which is to actually learn to genuinely empty one’s mind. In this tradition, it is working and working and working to play the part of a less and less blemished witness…a true and honest witness. It is said that nothing is more healthful, combined with diaphragmatic breathing AND fanning the sparkling spine-tingling ‘furnace’ behind one’s navel.

QUITE important in these traditions, is the notion that among the greatest gifts on this Earth is that there is ALWAYS room for improvement, greater and greater skill and insight – greater and greater mastery. It is also said that, employing these gifts, is a ‘glimpse of Heaven’ – True Meditation.

A third most basic Sword/H’ou T’ou guided imagery is set forth below:

How much gratitude does one need to be healthy?

Stand with one’s feet almost together (called a ‘humble stance’), and bend one’s knees comfortably. Put one’s tongue against the roof of one’s mouth (connecting the Governing and Central Vessels – congruent with acupuncture theory). Relax one’s face, shoulders, hands, and feet – it’s said, “if they’re relaxed, you’re relaxed.”

Realize that relaxation is a true skill – there is always room for improvement. Realize, we ALWAYS have some stress, no matter how relaxed we are. Be so relaxed that one is barely standing – in what we coin as a Swaying Willow demeanor. Gently roll the spine above the waist, forward and backward. This demeanor is much like a willow tree swaying in a gentle wind. Breathe in, all the way forward and backward, and breathe out in between. Constantly adjust one’s eyes so that one is always looking slightly above straight ahead, without focusing or staring (though it is done both with the eyes open and closed – begin with the eyes open).

Get the ‘engine’ of the (advance vs. reverse) diaphragmatic/abdominal breathing going. Breathe in, push one’s abdomen out, breathe out, pull one’s abdomen in. Pretend that one’s lungs are in one’s abdomen. One of the greatest gifts one can allow oneself, is all-of-the-time diaphragmatic breathing – there is nothing more healthful. If one practices this breathing for five minutes twice daily, in 30 to 60 days most people will realize all-of-the-time diaphragmatic breathing. It greatly enhances circulation, and promotes the secretion of relaxing, pain killing hormones (empirically substantiated).

Be in a spirit of gratitude and true appreciation. Be all in the moment. A true appreciation of the miracle of the moment. Ask oneself, “How much gratitude does one need to be healthy?”

Try not to think, just witness one’s breathing, relaxation, and subtle movement. Endeavor to play the part of a less and less blemished witness. If a thought comes to one’s mind, embrace it, see it for what it is, don’t hang on to it, just let it go – put all of one’s attention in just what one is doing.

Mindfulness meditation is putting ALL of one’s attention into just one, two, or three aspects of what one is doing at any given time. It is next to impossible to be upset, anxious, worried, depressed, sad, or frustrated, if one is not thinking such thoughts. This is a primary purpose of mindfulness meditation – it is the sword that cuts out internal dialogue and/or cyclical thinking – ideally all thought…BEING ‘light’. Thoughts are often ‘heavy’. — Dr Glen Hepker

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7 thoughts on “How important is it to learn to alleviate our addiction to cyclical (ruminative) thinking?

  1. Thank you, Glen. I will try.
    Long ago, when trying to shut out the relentlessly intruding memories of abuse, I started seeing a blast of fire replace the thought. I never liked using that, even though I didn’t mean it as an image of violence. Maybe this sword exercise will be better. Hugs.

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