Last updated on 18th August 2009
I usually encourage people to practise the first Autogenic Limb Heaviness exercises twice daily for at least a week before getting them to consider moving on to this Neck & Shoulders exercise. There are several important points that I try to get across in this second lesson. One is that better stress management and life skills are abilities that pretty much everyone would benefit from. The handout "Psychological & physical difficulties are so common that they are normal" highlights two important facts - "The first is that if you are having difficulties you are not alone - the majority of us have health problems of one kind or another. The second is that there is a huge need to do something about this situation. The challenge we face is in how we choose to respond to our predicament. Probably the single most important thing that we, as individuals, can do is to start living healthier lifestyles". Some of the Powerpoint slides that I show at this second session then emphasise the gains achievable through appropriate use of calming skills.
Other points of importance at this second session are being clear about the Neck & Shoulders Autogenic exercise itself - one can use either of the two downloadable MP3's (see below). The 12 minute and 19 minute exercises are simply shorter and longer variants of the same Neck & Shoulders focus. The other key issue that I emphasise particularly at this session is the challenge of focus and mindfulness during the practice. The longer 19 minute exercise explores this issue in fuller detail than the 12 minute exercise, so it's important to sometimes listen to the longer exercise.
The handout "Dealing with mental chatter" is one way of approaching the focus during Autogenic (or other meditation/relaxation) practice. The slides on "Attention & mind-wandering" illustrate that one is likely to quieten the mind more easily at the start of a practice session by making some (relaxed!) effort to focus. With Autogenics this typically involves really attending to the detail of what your muscles and body in general feels like as it releases. Giving the "busy mind" a challenge like this to "get its teeth into" helps the attention to become less dispersed. Other ways of seeing this issue of mindfulness like "The bus driver metaphor" can also be helpful. Notice what metaphors or images particularly help you. Besides the "wise fish" and "bus driver" descriptions, one can think of focus as being like trying to get on with an activity in a room where a neighbour has a radio on (the busy mind) a bit loudly next door, or where the traffic outside is fairly noisy. Another description is that working with an initially chattering mind in the practice is a bit like taking a loved, but rather naughty, child for a walk. It requires gentle firmness and patience - at least at the start of the session - to keep on track. What you'll usually find is that once the mind has quietened a fair amount, these "distractions" fade away, so as a good session progresses you may well not need to keep refocusing so "effortfully" to keep the attention on the practice.
Please try to practise at least twice daily - sometimes on your own for at least 10 minutes - and sometimes using either of the two recorded exercises. Of course occasionally you may not manage the twice daily sessions. That's OK - it's human - simply get back to regular practice again as soon as possible. There is a "Practice record" sheet that it's usually helpful to use, and a "Stress management reading list" that is a bit dated now but still includes several good books.
Autogenics, dealing with mental chatter - the "wise fish" metaphor for focus during relaxation/meditation practice ... and everyday life.
Autogenics, slides: attention & mind-wandering - slides that can be printed out as a six-slides-to-a-page handout giving information about brain imaging studies during attention & mind-wandering. This data has encouraged me - as a relaxation/meditation teacher - to encourage people to be a little firmer about the effort they put into maintaining focus, especially at the start of a relaxation/meditation exercise.
Autogenics, four aspects of inner focus - the model that I use to illustrate four overlapping aspects of inner focus.
Autogenics, problems are normal - see above for information about how I use this handout to "normalise" psychological & physical symptoms while simultaneously emphasising our ability to do something about this situation.
Autogenics, slides 1 to 8 - teaching slides used during this second Autogenic Training lesson.
Autogenics, slides 9 to 19 - further teaching slides.
Autogenics 2a: Neck & Shoulders, 12 minutes - 4.1Mb MP3 file. I encourage people to use either this 12 minute or the similar 19 minute Neck & Shoulders exercise (see below). They are the same sequence, it is just that the 19 minute exercise gives a bit more detail about maintaining focus/mindfulness.
Autogenics 2b: Neck & Shoulders, 19 minutes - 5.3Mb MP3 file
Practice record 2 - often helpful to keep a record of your practice to see how you do across the days.
Reading list, stress management - somewhat dated, but still contains details of several good books.