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by Jack Schwarz(more info)

listed in meditation, originally published in issue 8 - October 1995

We have talked about meditation as a tool for self-discovery and observed that we should understand how to use it before beginning to work with it. This orientation will continue to be an important aspect of the discussions that follow concerning the actual techniques of creative meditation. The exercises begin with a series of methods to prepare you mentally and physically for the first part of the creative meditation cycle: reverie.

Reverie is a short, consciously guided daydream. Day-dreams, like the dreams of sleep, give us a taste of the meditative experience. They feel quite real, and we can think, sense, and undergo emotional changes and reactions in response to the dream events. We have all experienced with amazement just how vibrant and convincing daydreams can be. Everyone has daydreams. In the middle of some daily activity, you suddenly find yourself in a world of your own. Usually you become aware of the daydream only after it has begun. Often you hurriedly return to normal consciousness, hoping you have not missed anything important while you were gone. At other times the daydream may be too interesting to leave, so you remain and interact with it consciously, altering it to suit yourself.

We can learn from our experiences in dreams, just as we do from any interaction. When we meditate, we heighten the dream experience by consciously setting the stage, tuning up our senses so that we are aware of everything that happens, and then becoming a willing part of the dream. The difference between reverie and meditation is similar to the difference between daydreams and sleep dreams. In meditation, we cease to alter consciously what we experience, just as we do in sleep dreams. But in reverie, we continue to direct and change the situation, as we often can in daydreams. A reverie can put us in touch with our imaginations and can concentrate our psychic energies and draw them away from distractions. More important, they help us look at ourselves objectively because we learn to assume an attitude of non-attachment during reverie.Exercises

There are four basic techniques that you must become familiar with before you begin reverie and creative meditation so that you will be able to derive the most value from your experiences and encounter few distractions: the projection screen of memory, a means of transmuting the joys and sorrows of your daily life so that you are not concerned with them as you meditate; relaxation, the proper posture to assume during meditation so that bodily sensations do not interfere with your concentration; breathing patterns, patterns of inhalation and exhalation that are most compatible with an aware, contemplative state; and self-analytic review, a method for the observation and analysis of meditative experiences so that they can be applied to daily life.

Projection screen of memory

In your mind's eye, project all the day's activities, interactions, thoughts, and so on onto an imaginary movie screen. Most people find that they can concentrate better by closing their eyes when they experience the internal world. Begin with your first waking moment, and let your day roll by on the screen. Know that you are the projector. Who is the observer? It is also you, who are objective and uninvolved in the events shown on the screen. When you observe an event and judge it to be a negative occurrence, stop the film. Look at this frozen moment in time. Study this single image, and make an effort to see its positive side. Remember that every time a problem is born, its solution is created, too. See the solution in the problem on the screen. Perceive the wholeness of the situation by moving beyond your initial judgement of it and embracing it with an understanding of both its positive and its negative aspects. Weed out the guilt you have implanted in yourself as a result of your self-condemnation. Acknowledge what you have learned from this situation and your reaction to it, and forgive yourself. Then roll the movie again, and complete the picture of the day.

What has been accomplished by this first exercise is one of the most important aspects of meditation. You have already begun to exercise a power that is one of the most sought-after rewards of meditation. You have begun to transmute your negative acts into positive acts. You are created anew because your understanding is expanded. Nothing we do in our lives can be washed away. If what we have done is negative, it can be transmuted to a positive thing. Similarly, a positive thing can be turned into a negative event. But whatever it is, it will always remain in the universe. Exactly for that reason, it can help us to achieve a higher level of awareness. It is so very important in this life that we bring all our actions into harmony, that we create a whole out of all the things we have done. That is why we use this technique to empty our minds every day before we go into meditation. It enables us to see what it is we have to deal with.

We must not store guilt, fear, anxiety, or resentment in ourselves. The reward for the release of these dense blocked traumas will be that tomorrow we will be acting positively on the negative acts of yesterday. The first positive profit from any negative act or event is not feeling guilt or repentance. We profit from what is negative by becoming aware of it. Repentance is more a matter of common sense than of sackcloth and ashes. First we need to be aware of our shortcomings; then, through this awareness, and with earnest effort, we can outgrow them. Repentance means that we know that through awareness we will overcome them and learn self-forgiveness. Our future is based on our experiences in the past; hence, a more positive future can only derive from a more positive view of the past.

Rather than hold onto the negative experiences of the past, you should concentrate instead on growing. Be grateful for all the results of all your actions. Guilt itself can only restrain growth. You can grow only through the interchange of positive and negative. If you use them correctly, they are equally valuable.


Sit erect, and straighten your spine. This position is necessary to free the diaphragm so that you can breathe deeply and abdominally Meditative states are neither sleep nor waking consciousness, so that is why you sit instead of lying down or standing up. You must maintain the direct alignment of the spine because any curve or deformation will inhibit the flow of energy through the spinal column.

The goals of correct posture are to allow this free flow of energy and breath, to disperse tension, and to conserve energy. As you sit erect, support each of your limbs. If you sit in a chair, cross your feet at the ankles, or place them flat on the floor. Support your arms by resting your hands on your upper thighs, and keep your shoulders perpendicular to your spine. Remember that the spine continues into the head. Your chin should be down and parallel to the spine. This way the weight supported by the spine will be evenly distributed. Unequal distribution tends to develop pockets of tension in the body.

Even with correct posture, tension may build at the base of the spine, expressing itself in the tightening of the rectum. Deep paradoxical breathing (which will be described in the "Breathing Patterns" exercise) can be of use here because deep, slow breathing counteracts rectal tension. The downward movement of the diaphragm will level out the rectum and prevent tension.

Our organism, as an energy-storing and energy-producing element, is much like a charged battery. Energy is discharged through extensions (wires) attached to the battery. For the human body, the extensions are the head, the arms, and the legs. In meditative states, we want not only to be relaxed but also to conserve our energy. In fact, meditation has precisely this effect on the organism: it creates additional psychic energy. Again, however, I will warn you that meditation unfulfilled by practical expression throughout the day will create an overcharge, indicated by headaches, stomach aches, and other physical discomforts.

Posture for the conservation of energy during meditation varies according to the situation. If you are meditating in a group, there need be less concern with conserving individual energy than with absorbing the energy emanating from others in the group. Therefore, the hands are resting on the thighs, palms up and open. If you are sitting in a chair, you can place your feet flat on the floor at a comfortable distance apart. When you meditate alone, conservation of energy is important, so one hand can be rested on top of the other in the lap, and the legs can be crossed at the ankles. In this way, energy is rechanneled through the organism, rather than dissipated.

The lotus position is designed to achieve these two purposes (relaxation and energy retention). If you can comfortably intertwine your legs and rest your hands inside each other atop the crossed heels of your feet, go right ahead and do it. However, I suspect that for most of us, this position is uncomfortable, sometimes even after long practice. This is a case in which responsible adaptation is most obvious and appropriate. A half-lotus will do nearly as well. The goals are relaxation through comfort and (in private situations) energy circulation within the organism by keeping the body's extremities together. You cannot achieve either of these goals by forcing your body into an unfamiliar and uncomfortable pose.

When we meditate, we need to be able to stop thinking about our bodies. By achieving a relaxed flow of energy throughout our physical beings, we will not need to focus on this one aspect of being. Because they will merge into a unitary state with our other aspects (mind and spirit), our bodies will no longer disrupt our concentration.

Breathing patterns

Proper breathing will help to assure your spiritual development. You will have at your disposal your full intuitive and energetic capacities, and your body will be fully expressing this undiluted, unadulterated mental energy. Among the research projects in which I have participated, some concentrated on the self-regulation of physiological processes through controlled breathing. We found that the respiratory rate has a tremendous influence on states of consciousness. As the subject of these experiments, I had electrodes attached to my body to monitor changes in the electric patterns in my brain and in muscle tension and activity. We attempted to find out if certain brain wave patterns correlated with specific breathing patterns. We noted whether the breaths were long or short and when most of the air was drawn into the upper lungs (thoracic breathing) or deep into the lower lungs (abdominal breathing). The results showed that when my brain waves were in the alpha state (usually experienced as a calm, relaxed state of mind), thoracic breathing was equal to abdominal breathing, both rather slow and steady. In the theta state (subjectively experienced as a deep, still, non-attached condition with some hypnogogic images), the upper lungs were filling with air only as a side effect of the action of abdominal breathing. Oddly enough, my diaphragm was exhibiting rapid rhythmic patterns of movement at this time. When instructing my classes in different breathing techniques, I have found that altering breathing patterns is very effective in creating alterations in consciousness. This is a voluntary method of amplifying internal awareness as well as relaxing the body.

When we are not concentrating on our breathing, most of us are doing clavicular breathing. Movement is in the upper chest, in the region of the thorax where the clavicles are. This shallow type of breathing is very inadequate because it does not really fulfil our oxygen needs. The body cannot relax if it is constantly craving oxygen. In the meditative state, the energy level of the brain is not necessarily reduced, so oxygen is in as much demand as ever.

If we expand the area involved in breathing, deepen and broaden our intake using our non-existent wings, this is intercostal breathing. If we use the middle portion of the rib cage, the lungs can fill themselves a bit more fully. Both shallow and intercostal breathing, however, are characteristic of the beta brain wave state. Beta waves indicate a lack of concentrated energy; there is too much tension being produced by this limited breathing to receive and disperse the amount of oxygen inhaled.

A more satisfactory pattern is dual breathing, which involves both the thorax and the diaphragm. By bringing the abdomen into play, we give the diaphragm more space to move downward during inhalation, allowing the lungs to fill themselves more fully. This begins to achieve our main objective, which is to make full use of all our capacities--physical, mental, and spiritual. When our lungs are thoroughly filled by each breath, even the most sensitive parts of our organism will receive prompt delivery of the energy they require in order to operate at their greatest potential.

The breathing pattern that is most suitable for meditation is paradoxical breathing, which is mostly abdominal and slightly thoracic. When an individual breathing in this pattern is monitored for brain waves and muscle activity in the chest and abdomen, these two indicators become synchronized. The energy patterns relayed to the monitoring machines (the electroencephalograph and the electrocardiograph) by the electrodes on the head and body are aligned, harmonized. This type of breathing may be contrary to the way you think you should go about consciously increasing your intake. It is not enough to expand your chest, to fill the lungs fully. The diaphragm has to be allowed to expand fully as well, and this can only be done by expanding the abdomen to make room for the expanded diaphragm.

To begin paradoxical breathing, inhale deeply, and voluntarily pull in your abdomen. When you exhale, push it out again. This movement is contrary to normal abdominal breathing, during which the abdomen appears to expand as the lower lungs fill with air. It takes conscious effort to reverse this normal pattern and breathe paradoxically.

Next, begin a cycle of timed breaths. The first breath is characteristic of intercostal breathing, which dominates in the alpha state, with inhalation time equal to exhalation time. Mentally count the time for each movement:

Breathe in: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Hold in the breath: 1, 2, 5, 4
Exhale: 1, 2, S, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

As you concentrate, your inhalation will quicken, leading to this new pattern:

Inhale: 1, 2, 5, 4
Hold: 1, 2, 3, 4
Exhale: 1, 2, 5, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8


Inhale: 1, 2, 3, 4
Hold: 1, 2, 3. 4
Exhale: 1, 2, 9, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16

The ability to extend the exhalation so much longer than the inhalation shows that the inhalation must be very deep. The more oxygen you are able to hold in after a quick intake, the slower and longer your exhalation can be. The final stage of timed breathing that must be accomplished and set as a pattern for meditation is:

Inhale: 1, 2, 5,4
Hold: 1, 2, 5, 4
Exhale: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32

Once you have achieved this pattern and your body can exercise it comfortably, cease concentrating on it. You have regulated your breath, and it is time to move to the next stage of meditation. Even at this preparatory stage, the three-part cycle of bringing something that is unconscious to your awareness, regulating it voluntarily, and letting it go must be completed. Trust that it will retain the new form you have given it. In other words, trust yourself.

The next set of exercises will focus on another quality of breath. Visualizations that use the image of inhalation and exhalation can make you aware of the subtler psychic functions of breath as an energy that nourishes and cleanses you. Use these images (or other visualizations that you have created) whenever you feel that the particular awareness they offer you is helpful to your meditation. Alone, they are effective in producing a relaxed but energised state of being. Remember that all the exercises and methods in this book are ingredients that you can mix in your own ways for your own purposes.

While you are practising these exercises (or any meditative technique), train yourself to disregard your breathing pattern. If you happen to notice that it is no longer in the paradoxical rhythm, do not stop your meditation in order to correct it. Complete the exercise. During the period of review, consider why a different pattern instated itself. Then, on the basis of the effectiveness of the meditation, evaluate this other pattern.

a. Envision the air that you are inhaling to be a pale blue cloud. Inhale all that cloud. Then exhale it, carefully noticing any color changes in the cloud. Perhaps it will have turned pale gray, perhaps some other tone. This shows that you have absorbed the nutrients within it while it was in your body.

b. Expand your breathing apparatus from your nose to your entire covering, the skin. Imagine that all the pores are inhaling and exhaling. You can feel the tingling electric quality of pores popping open and closing up over every part of your body. It is very much like the sensation you experience after you have been out in the snow and suddenly come into a warm room. Feel every part of the surface of your body breathing in and breathing out the cleansing, vitalizing oxygen in the air surrounding you.

c. In your imagination, place a crystal or jewel on the center of your forehead. Now breathe through the jewel. Notice whether the inflow and outflow of air are colored. Do they undergo any changes in color? What happens to the jewel itself? Imagine it to be one color, then another, and observe what effect the breath moving in and out has upon the color of the jewel.

When you have completed any visualization or meditation, begin to come back to waking consciousness by transferring your focus from your imagination to your breathing, following it in and out, until it brings you into the external world.

Self-analytic review

When you emerge into waking consciousness after any meditative exercise, begin to analyze and review your experiences in the same way you used the projection screen technique to review the day's activities. This is an aspect of the introspective feedback we gain from meditation. You might follow this series of questions:

Mental observations: What were the mental obstacles? What thoughts arose to interrupt my concentration? Physical feedback: What were the physical obstacles? Did I become aware of any pressure, pain, or tingling sensation at any time during the exercise? Why did this particular sensation accompany that particular aspect of the experience?

Emotional response: Did I become emotionally involved with any aspect of the experience? Did this emotion arise at the same time as, before, or after any physical sensation? Why did the feeling occur in the context of that physical sensation?

By writing down and dating these experiences, you will have a record to show you each phase of your development. Some responses, such as stomach-aches, may disappear. Others, such as crying, may increase. Keep a journal to help you see your progress. If you wish, illustrate the journal with drawings of your meditative experiences.

Now that you have learned the different steps that prepare you for meditation, you can combine them into the dance of reverie. All the capabilities that have been brought to your awareness can be applied to fulfil the goal of reverie: to generate and refine a topic or symbol that can serve as the theme for a creative meditation. During a reverie, the paraconscious and subconscious minds deliver to the conscious mind images that can then be unveiled in creative meditation. In a guided visualization, unplanned changes or additions occur in the experiences of each person. These unique figures or events or objects are messages from the unconscious, spoken in a language that cannot at first be rationally understood. They need to be intensified and experienced more fully by meditating upon them.

To be an effective meditator, you must learn to accept the images, events, feelings, and perceptions that arise spontaneously during meditation. Rather than allowing your conscious mind to push them out of existence, you must work to preserve them. So be attentive—but not attached—to the unexpected aspects of your reverie experiences. These will become the most productive themes for your meditations.

Begin a reverie by assuming the proper posture for meditation. Adjust your breathing by following the sequence of patterns you have learned. It will take only a few minutes for the paradoxical pattern to be established. Then relax your vigilance over this function, and switch your focus to an imaginary point directly in front of you, about ten feet away.

Next create an environment for the reverie. Imagine a horizon and a simple scene leading up to it. Choose a landscape that is most comfortable and pleasing to you. Now imagine a path leading from you into the scene. Heighten your awareness of the scene. Notice every detail. Hear the sounds cooling from the wind or the birds. Feel the warmth of the sun or the cool moisture on the grass. What time of day is it? What season? Smell the scents of the earth or the flowers or some other aspect of your scene. Create the scene wholly, and perceive it completely with every sense. If it changes, allow it to do so until it finds its own best form. This setting will become very familiar to you because it will be the setting that begins each reverie and creative meditation. If it transforms over time, allow it to do so, and acquaint yourself with it each time you meditate.

As the creator of the scene, you will remain outside it. You will guide the activities and observe what happens during the reverie. You are the director, but in this play, you are also the actor. One aspect of your role as director requires that you now create the second you, mentioned earlier. The second you walks away from you, down the path, and into the scene. Notice how this image is dressed and what features characterize it. Verify that it is you. If the image does not look exactly like you, do not change it to be what you wish it to be or think it should be. Just allow your unconscious to create the image for you. Next check your mirror image as it walks away from you. Call to it, mentally command it to turn around and face you as you are now, sitting in your room. Feel the distinction between the two of you and your respective roles. Now send the image into the scene again, and begin to direct the reverie.


We published an exclusive interview with Jack Schwarz in issue 6. This article was extracted from his book Voluntary Controls. For more information or a list of books, tapes etc write to: Alethia, Box 2400 Mendocino, Ca. 95460 (707) 937-0602 or visit their website at

PS Jack Schwarz has sadly passed away, but his wife Lois is continuing his work via the website. Thank you to Darrell Cruz for the update!


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