Process oriented psychology, processwork, Innerwork techniques from Arnold Mindell and Amy Mindell
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Process oriented inner work focuses on following the flow of one’s own experiences by noticing the most obvious body movements and signals, as well as subtler dreamlike experiences, and the most subtle, almost ineffable feelings and tendencies occurring within and around us.
It is a creative and dynamic mindfulness practice.
All of Arny and Amy’s books include innerwork exercises and ideas.
For more on process oriented innerwork, see especially:
- Working on Yourself Alone. (Kindle version released 2014) and
- Dreaming while Awake: Techniques For 24-Hour Lucid Dreaming
We hope you enjoy these fun Innerwork Tips!
INNERWORK TIP 1. PROCESS THINKING: A CHINESE PARABLE
The Cracked Pot
A water bearer in China had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water to his house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do. After 2 years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. “I am ashamed of myself because this crack in my side causes water to leak all the way back to your house.”
The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you’ve watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.”
Our view of this Story. Each of us thinks we are cracked in some way. But that is because we identify only with our identity –e.g. serving water to people– instead of serving people, and the flowers or atmosphere as well.
Our Tip. If you can’t change something, discover what it’s for.
INNERWORK TIP 2: HUMOR BEFORE INNER WORK.
Q. What does a processwork student say when she wants to park her car, before ordering a pizza?
A. “What is the Tao?”
Q. How does a process oriented meditation student order her pizza?
A. She says, “give me everything”
Q. How does she eat her pizza?
A. She follows the flirts, first the tomato, then the olive.
Q. How does she pay for her pizza?
A. She finds some money, bows to the waiter, becomes him/her and asks “What can I do for you?
Q. Why did she do that?
A. She knows she too serves pizza.
INNERWORK TIP 3: DON’T THROW OUT YOUR PROBLEM… YET!
A man who tried to get rid of a mouse, threw it in a little fire outside the house. The mouse caught on fire, but ran back into the house and burned it down.
The moral of the story (for us) is; find out what bugs you. But don’t throw it out! Use its nature in some useful way for yourself and others.
INNERWORK TIP 4: WHO ELSE CAN PLAY YOUR DREAM FIGURE?
If you don’t immediately understand a dream figure, ask yourself, who do you know who could play that figure. This other person will help you know what you associate to the figure. If you can’t find someone who could play that figure, ask who or what you would like to be there in that dream instead of that dreamfigure, in order to find out what the dreamfigure may imply.
Ask yourself, what you are doing, when you are not aware of what you are doing.
INNERWORK TIP 5: LOVE AND INNERWORK
To explore your present process, consider the following two experiences:
1. First, ask yourself, what are you noticing just now. Then, after noting that, ask yourself a second question. 2. Namely, what do you notice now, that you did not notice before? Is there something surprising or new in this second experience? How would your life change in the moment, if you were to appreciate this second experience?
We suspect that self -love might mean embracing both the first and second experience.
INNERWORK TIP 6: MASKS AND DREAMWORK
When you awaken with a dream, try the following; To interpret the dream place your hand in front of your face. Now pretend your hand is a mask. Then ask yourself who or what is behind that mask. The answer to this question may reveal new aspects of that dream and give you unexpected insights.
INNERWORK TIP 7: USE DIRECTIONS TO INTERPRET DREAMS
Before you work on a dream, ask yourself the following question. “Where am I headed in my life?” After getting an approximate sense of where you are heading in life, look at your dream as different aspects of your present life’s direction. Your overall direction may be helpful to your dreamwork.
INNERWORK TIP 8: EARTH-ORIENTED INNERWORK
Amy’s Earthwalker vision symbolizes for us, everyone’s basic ability to follow the earth. Earthwalker offers the everyday mind new possibilities. The gnome is suggesting a tip about innerwork. His tip is, relax. Meditate and feel the earth around you. Then ask the earth to show you which direction it wants you to walk in today. This answer might seem irrational to your everyday mind.
Keep your doubts in mind, but let your body and the earth move you in the direction the earth implies. Move in that direction until you know sense your own earthwalker-ability and what it suggests for your path today. It seems likely that our Aboriginal friends and ancestors, the world over use and used the Earth as one of their main guides in life. See Arny’s Earth Based Psychology for more.
INNERWORK TIP 9: LOOK IN THE MIRROR BEFORE YOU GO TO SLEEP
Get to know yourself! Every time you look in the mirror, just look at yourself. But not as you usually do. Look at your facial and postural signals, not just with a happy or critical view, but instead, with awareness. Notice signals that seem confusing or strange. Then increase or amplify these facial and postural signals, and explore what you experience as you “get into” these signals and their processes. Use an open mind to explore what these experiences are trying to express. Get to know yourself!
We recommend doing this, ESPECIALLY before you go to bed; you can save yourself some dreamtime this way.
INNERWORK TIP 10: SPIN LIKE A CHIPMUNK TO KNOW THE UNIVERSE
One day, Amy needed to find her deepest self. At that moment she looked down at her feet. To her surprise, she saw a chipmunk spinning like nothing she had ever heard of or seen before. The moral her story is this. When you don’t know what to do, look at the ground. Then spin until you almost get dizzy. Stop. Notice and follow your experiences. Perhaps like Amy, you will sense the “universe” or the “earth” moving you about.
(She said she felt enlightened, at least for an hour!)
Amy videoed and put the spinning chipmunk up on the web for everyone to see. (click here http://youtube.com/watch?v=w6OSMroCm20 ) That’s Arny trying to give the chipmunk some water. INACTIVE LINK - REMOVE REFERENCE??
INNERWORK TIP 11: THE BODY AND THE WORLD
A meditation that may be helpful with body and world problems is: The world is not me. And then, ah yes, the world is me! Whatever I notice in the world is my body, and I’ll work with it accordingly.
INNERWORK TIP 12: KERMIT THE FROG TEACHES ROLE SWITCHING AND WORLDWORK
Kermit seems to have had some education in process oriented therapy. He assists the creative song writer, Mr. Don Music while composing a song. He helps Mr Music learn to pick up flirts when the conscious mind can go no further with creativity. Kermit’s secret method seems to be:
Kermit the Green Frog shows how role switching happens automatically. First deny you are the other, then become the other etc. If Kermit and Elmo had a bit more awareness, world process might be easier. Click the screen to watch.
INNERWORK TIP 13: KERMIT TEACHES THE ABC’S OF DREAMING WHILE AWAKE…
Dreaming while awake means HOW TO CATCH FLIRTS
A. Work: use your everyday mind as much as possible
B. Get Upset: get furious, depressed and collapse at the edge:
C. Notice: and watch what the “dreaming brings”. Then pick it up to finish your project.
Hurrah for Kermit the Frog and Mr Don Music!!
INNERWORK TIP 14: THE PROCESSMIND IN DREAMWORK
How do we develop a “process mind” in dreamwork? Think about and experience the following: If you consider dreamsymbols as “things”, they are particles. But when you experience them, they can be energies. Therefore when working on your dreams, do as you normally do and associate to them. Then, when you are ready, don’t forget to allow the “symbol” to “move you.” As you step into their slightly altered “process” state, use awareness to understand what your dreaming mind is trying to tell you. When you are ready, it may be possible to embrace all your energies, one at a time instead of favoring one symbol over another.
INNERWORK TIP 15: THE EDGE
Pema Chodron is a leading exponent of teachings on meditation and how they apply to everyday life. She is widely known for her charming and down-to-earth interpretation of Tibetan Buddhism for Western audiences.
We loved her tip: “It really doesn’t make any difference where you meet your edge; just meeting it is the point.”
INNERWORK TIP 16: MUSICAL ASSOCIATIONS
If you come upon a dream figure or event you don’t understand, ask yourself, what song or sound comes to mind in association with that particular dream figure. This can be very illuminating.