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Technique 2: Clenching and relaxing

Technique 2:    Clenching and relaxing

Stop thinking and start feeling! This exercise allows you to really get in touch with your body and find out what it needs. Learn to feel how your body is coping with your life and everything it has experienced This exercise increases your body awareness.

Lie somewhere comfortable, preferably not on your bed (unless you are trying to get to sleep), and make sure you are warm enough. I like lying in the middle of the carpet with a cushion under my head and another under my knees. If you are feeling particularly bad, have a long bath or shower first or perhaps try the hot and cold water technique from level one before starting this.

Focus on your feet. Notice any feeling you can pick up from them. Become aware of everything you can feel, which foot feels more comfortable, whether you can feel your socks. Notice hot, cold, tingling, numbness, tightness, etc. Are there any areas you cannot feel? Does one foot feel bigger than the other? Is one sticking out to the side more than the other. Allow as much information to come through from your feet as possible. Then gently and slowly clench and relax your feet muscles.

While you are clenching it will be easier for you to feel exactly where your feet are. As you let go of them, see if you can stay in touch with how they feel. Does the felt sense of them disappear as you let go? As you relax, has the feeling changed? Can you feel tiredness, aching, tightness etc? If you can’t feel anything, try clenching again. Just notice how they are.

Don’t worry if the feelings are not clear to start off with. Ask yourself questions about the temperature, size, location, tightness, etc of each part and you may be able find answers them. For example, do both your feet feel the same height off the ground? You know they are physically at the same height, but sometimes one foot can feel much higher than the other, or much further away from your head than the other.

Then move on to the next set of muscles – the calves, and go through the same pattern of 1/ focusing on what you can feel in that place, 2/ clenching & relaxing, and 3/ feeling any reaction. This is not about making anything up, pretending or analysing. It is purely and simply about letting the feeling of your body come into your awareness. You don’t have to do anything other than let this information come to you.

Carry on throughout your body. If you start getting involved with one part of the body then go into as much detail as you like. Don’t be surprised if you start twitching or you suddenly feel changes of temperature or tingling or floaty sensations. Work all the way through your body focusing, clenching and relaxing and then noticing any reaction until you have worked through your neck, facial, and forehead muscles.

I recommend doing this at least 10 minutes or more everyday. At first you may not notice much. Don’t worry. The more you do it, the more you will relax. The more you relax, the easier it is to feel.

If a major distraction keeps popping up, like a thought, a pain or ringing in the ears, that’s normal, but just keep going back to the body. You may need to clench a few times before you can really focus on your body. Sometimes it takes a good ten minutes to really start being able to focus properly.

You can only ever really focus deeply on one thing at a time. If you are focusing on your foot with all your attention, then you won’t be focusing on your tinnitus, or other aches and pains. Its fascinating how the more you focus on parts of your body, the more you can influence how it feels. It gets more and more interesting the more experienced you get at it. For more information please read “Focusing” by Gendlin.

This is about receiving information from the body. You are feeling not thinking. Noticing, not analysing. Just notice what its like being you….

If you find areas you can’t feel at all, don’t worry. Just become aware of the numb bits. How far does this numb, mystery area extend? Where can you start feeling clearly again around it?

These patterns change all the time, even while you are focusing on them. Your body will feel completely different in ten minutes time, on a different day, in a different mood.

Are there any emotional feelings held within? Is there sadness behind your tight chest, for example, or a feeling of anger behind your legs that feel like they want to kick? Perhaps there is a feeling of too much responsibility in your seized up neck and shoulders.

When your mind starts to wander, just simply refocus on your body and start noticing how you feel again. If you are a cerebral person (most tinnitus people are) use the clenching technique to really anchor your mind back into bodily sensation.

This is the perfect exercise for when you can’t sleep. Tiredness is held in the body. If you come out of your thinking mind and connect with where the tiredness is held in the body, and how it feels, you are more likely to fall asleep.

Before you finish this exercise spend the last few minutes seeing if you can connect with what feels OK, comfortable, calm, safe, relaxed, easy, spacious etc. inside. What feels OK? Learning to get in touch with all these positive feelings is one of the most positive things you can do. I wonder how good you are at doing this? Can you say what feels OK in you just now? I don’t mean in your head, I mean something specific in your body that feels OK. There is usually plenty that feels OK, but we sometimes become experts at focusing on all the bad bits. Which do you do?

I went through a stage of practising this for about 45 minutes every day. I was amazed at how the worst tantrums and feelings of despair and anxiety could eventually be settled just by maintaining my focus. If you persist with this technique you will become aware of all the energy and how it is stored in your body. This awareness helps you let go of things. I can do it these days to let go of a headache or bad mood. It takes practice, but with practice it works.

From my experience of treating literally hundreds of people with tinnitus, I have found that those who set up a programme of therapeutic support and spend time working through this technique, make good progress. Give yourself a few weeks trying this every day and see how it is for you. Most people generally get a lot out of it, especially if they have spent a whole lifetime living in their heads! Ring any bells?

Technique 3: Better and worst list

Technique 3:    Better and worst list

Get a piece of paper and put a plus sign and a minus sign at the top. List all the things that you notice make you feel better under the plus. Whenever you find you are having a good day, take a look at what is going on add it to the list. Do the same with the negative side and know what things activate your tinnitus and make it worse.

Stick this list on a prominent place like the fridge for a month or two and build up more awareness of what works for you. Obviously you may reach some important conclusions about you, your lifestyle and your activities by the end of this. It may help you to become clear about what to avoid and what to work on.

You may feel that your tinnitus is fairly constant. If this is the case, notice when you feel things are more manageable, or when things become more unbearable. People often think their tinnitus is fixed, but on closer inspection notice it actually changes much more than they realised. What we believe is the case is very often different to the way things really are.

Technique 4: Knowing what matters to you

Technique 4:    Knowing what matters to you

One day I sat down and made a long list of all the things that I loved. I started slowly but after a few minutes I really got into it. Much to my surprise I ended up spending a couple of hours doing this and amazingly it brought up tears, and a much greater sense of clarity. I really recommend this.

Tell everyone to leave you alone for a while. No phone calls or interruptions are allowed. Get a large piece of paper and evenly spaced out all over it, write different categories of things that you could describe from your life, eg: people, animals, places, work, dreams, memories, plants, smells, activities, hobbies, body sensations, thoughts, pieces of music, philosophies, writers, poets, and so on. Then in clusters around these words list all the different things that you love and that really matter to you. Give yourself plenty of time.

If this sounds too complicated, just start writing a list of all the things you love. Make it as long as possible. Keep adding to it.

It sounds so simple, but as you do it you learn something important about yourself. Sometimes you can feel something open up inside. It can leave you feeling warm, expansive and quite simply joyful. NB Beware of the saboteur, as it really likes sabotaging this one! Thoughts like: what a load of nonsense, what on earth is this going to achieve, that’s too new-age for me, etc can actually be just a way of avoiding your heart. I made a decision to change my career path after doing this. It helped me get a sense of the kind of work I needed to do.

Technique 5: How do you view yourself?

Technique 5:    How do you view yourself?

Try doing the same thing, but this time base it on yourself. Write category words that could relate to you like: personality, looks, talents, strengths, interests, loves, originalities, clothes, taste, intelligence, desires, contributions, relationships etc. and then list all the good qualities about you. This can be an incredibly revealing exercise. You may well end up staring at the truth of how you treat yourself, view yourself and drive yourself around like a donkey. This can be a real heart-melter. Once again, tell the saboteur to jump in a lake while you have a deeper look at yourself. If you do this properly, you can really start to bring in a whole new depth to looking after yourself, a bit like becoming your own therapist. It literally helps you warm to yourself and appreciate you in a way that you quite often miss!

If there is any resistance to doing this, look at it. What are you afraid of? What is stopping you from loving and appreciating yourself?

Technique 7: Audiovisualisation Technique

Technique 7:    Audiovisualisation Technique

People with tinnitus are often given a masker to generate noise in their ears, which distracts them from their tinnitus. As they focus less and less on it, they become much more likely to let go of symptoms. Here I am offering a technique that can help you create an alternative to a masker using one of the most powerful tools you have – your imagination.

It’s easy to close our eyes and picture the face of someone we love, or remember a beautiful beach or view across the mountains. We can also remember sounds easily, and this technique develops this skill into an interesting tool for managing tinnitus.

If you practice this audiovisualisation a few times, you will find that your ability to focus on imagined sound will get clearer and clearer. The more your mind becomes focussed, the more choice you have with what you experience. With practice you can learn to hear a waterfall all around you while you are travelling on the Underground! More importantly, you can learn to hear a pleasant sound in your imagination that is much more agreeable than just sitting there with tinnitus, if its still around.

You will need 20 minutes of uninterrupted time to yourself for this exercise. Sit comfortably somewhere reasonably quiet where you won’t be disturbed. Read this slowly, and as you go along really allow your imagination to ignite and become vivid and colourful.

Get comfortable and take a couple of deep breaths. Clench and relax each part of your body working from your feet up to your face to help your mind settle and become more focused.

Imagine you are standing next to a small waterfall in a forest. Notice what it looks like. What colour is it? Is it in the shade or is the sun shining on it? Walk up closer to it and feel the cool dampness against your face and smell the earthy moss filling the air.

Hear how the water is trickling down between the rocks. Stop for a moment and really listen to this in your imagination. In places you can hear it dripping. Hear each drip dropping down into a pool of water. In other places you can hear it gushing more constantly and spattering against the rocks. You may need to close your eyes for a few seconds to really allow this to form in your mind.

Get closer and hear it through your left ear. Imagine the sound coming in through your left hand side as if the waterfall was pouring down just to the left of the chair where you are sitting. Then, slowly imagine you can move the waterfall behind you and hearing it behind your neck and back. You could almost shiver at the thought of cold water running down your back. Then slowly continue to move the waterfall so you can hear it to the right of your chair. Take your time with this and enjoy all the qualities of running water and how it sounds around you. Close your eyes and give this a try just now. Is it easier to imagine the sound on one side more than the other?

In another part of the fall you notice the water is gushing at quite a rate. Notice how it is spattering noisily onto a large rock at the bottom. The noise is uneven and sometimes quickens with a rush of more water, and sometimes slows down and sounds quieter.

Bring the waterfall round to the front of you. Get ready to turn it into a raging torrent. Notice that it has started to rain. You can hear it falling in the forest all around, pattering on the ground. Suddenly there is a clap of thunder and the sky darkens. The rain steadily gets heavier and heavier until it is spattering against the leaves of the trees, and pounding the ground everywhere. Let it turn into a tropical downpour of heavy, fat raindrops, lashing the trees and the sploshing into puddles all around. Can you still hear the waterfall? The noise is so loud now that if you needed to talk to someone you would have to shout.

The water is now tumbling and crashing down the fall. Hear that deep pounding sound as the wall of water plunges into the pool sending a foaming mass of bubbling water and spray in all directions. Feel the cool spray flying in your face and enjoy the invigorating feeling. Another clap of thunder and now the rain is lashing every square inch of forest. You can’t see more than ten yards ahead through the thick spray everywhere. The falls are crashing down in front. It is so loud that you can feel your chest booming with the pounding of the water against the rocks.

Slowly allow the darkness to lift, and the sky brightens and slowly the rain starts to calm down. The falls are still raging but the sound of the rain has gone. A ray of sunshine comes through and you are left with just the sound of water cascading into deep pools. Gradually let the water level subside and die back to a trickle. You start noticing drops dripping off the rocks and sploshing into the pools. You can hear drops falling off trees into puddles. You start to hear birds singing in the branches. Let the sound go back to a gentle and relaxing background noise.

As you read this, I bet you heard lots of noise in your mind. Its almost impossible not to. Try this again but with your eyes closed and you are in charge this time. Really enjoy your own creation of sound and get into as much detail as possible.

What is extraordinary with this exercise is that if you get into it, your mind lets go of tinnitus completely and really focuses on what you want it to. With practice you can really streamline your ability to hear in a sharp focused way which can help clarify silence away from tinnitus. I have found my ability to hear silence has been helped with this practice.

Once you have practiced this a couple of times, you can now try it when the TV is on, or when music is playing or while you are travelling on the train. In your imagination you can learn to focus all your attention on this imagined sound, even if there is a lot of noise and distraction around you. The more you enjoy and explore this technique, the more you will be able to stay focused. I often imagine the sound of a waterfall crashing around me if I have to take public transport. It makes me feel well.

I enjoy imagining the feeling of standing in the waterfall, so I can hear, smell, taste and feel the cool water rushing down all around me. I have got so used to doing this that it actually becomes invigorating, calming and refreshing. It is the perfect antidote to unpleasant situations that could potentially stress me.

The best sounds to imagine are ones that you love, whether it is the sound of your mother singing, the wind in the trees, children playing outside, or your best friend laughing. Whichever sound you choose, play with it in your mind. The more you change it and explore the possibilities, the deeper you can go into this part of your mind.

Here are some more interesting audiovisualisations to try out:

Song

Find a recording of a song you know really well and love. Sit down and play it from beginning to end and remind yourself of the words. Then when it has finished, sit in silence and play it again in your mind’s ear. See how far you can get. Can you hear all the words right up to the end?

When a new verse starts, change the voice to that of another singer. Try turning it into Welsh men’s choir, or that of an opera diva. Try to hear your own voice. Maybe you decide to hear an instrumental version with strings only and no voice at all. Have fun. The more ridiculous and funny it is, the more you are likely to find it easy to focus on.

Have the singer move up close and sing into your left ear, then into the other one. Have them change position and walk around you. Chose someone gorgeous and enjoy the coquettish way they are singing to you. The sexier the voice the easier it is to focus on.

Then imagine you are the conductor who wants to put them through their paces and speed up the tempo. Hear them struggling to keep up, then slow it right down.

Laughter

Hear yourself laughing, then hear people in your family starting to laugh too. Then hear people outside laughing, until the whole world is laughing loudly. Sitting on the bus, plane or tube, imagine how each person would laugh. Notice how each person laughs so differently. Waiting at the check-out watch people and imagine what each person would sound like howling with laughter. This is really good fun and puts you into a good mood even on an underground train in rush hour.

With a bit of practice, all these enjoyable sounds can take your mind off tinnitus. It is quite hard to hear your tinnitus when you are really focused on sounds in your mind. They lift your spirits and have a powerful impact on your mood and how relaxed you feel. I really encourage you to have a go, use your imagination and discover how much you can influence your whole central nervous system for the better!

Technique 8: Breathing technique

Technique 8:    Breathing technique:

This is a breathing exercise I have adapted slightly from a lecture given by Dr Leon Chaitow, a professor of health at Westminster University, London. He has dedicated many years of study to health in general and has done a lot of research on of breathing. It is amazing that in just a couple of minutes you can feel an instant calming and centring effect. If you are in a panic, or need to focus away from something, or just want to settle in any situation, please try this.

Start by breathing out through a small hole in your lips, as if blowing through a straw. Feel the pressure in your abdomen as you make a slight effort. This is your diaphragm that has to work for you to do this. Keep on blowing out until you know you want to breath back in, then stop for a second.

Close your lips, and then let go and relax. Have a holiday! As you do this, still with your lips shut, feel the air rush in back through your nose and fill your abdomen. Feel your belly really filling up. Then go back to the beginning again and start blowing out through your lips again.

The first few times you do this you may get a bit dizzy. If this happens, just go back to breathing normally for a few breaths and then try again. I recommend taking just ten of these breaths at a time but practising this often. Slowly as you keep revisiting this technique your breath starts to become more and more centred in the belly. This is where we breathe when we are relaxed and calm.

You can always tell a stressed out person because they breathe in their upper chest and you can often see the shoulders going up and down.

The best thing about this technique that the most important stuff happens when your lips are closed and you are not doing anything – ie when the air is rushing in all by itself. Feel how the air wants to rush freely down and fill your lower belly.

This technique is brilliant for letting go of those annoying thought patterns that can take over some times. Changing the focus from thinking to how you are breathing can massively shift your ability to concentrate clearly.  This technique helps you practice how to let go with each and every breath. It also changes the oxygen/carbon dioxide balance in every cell of your body. Over a period of time the rate of gas exchange becomes less extreme, and levels out. Instead of taking in masses of oxygen and expelling masses of carbon dioxide, you start exchanging less and less urgently so that the who body can settle and relax more. Try this and notice how you are breathing. I use it every time I need to gather my thoughts or want to calm down.

Technique 9: Orienting to midline

Technique 9:        Orienting to midline

This is a technique that is widely known amongst the Craniosacral Therapy, Core Process Psychotherapy community and people who meditate. Particular thanks to Maura and Franklyn Sills of the Karuna Institute in Devon, UK, who helped clarify this for me from their own deep centre of awareness. (I thoroughly recommend their courses for anyone who is interested in finding out what’re really going on inside.)

The intention is to develop an awareness of your midline, your central vertical axis. This is the part of you that connects your crown down your spine to your tailbone. Awareness of your midline can help you feel really centred and clear, and provide a sense of connection to other people in a manageable way, especially when you come into contact with challenging situations.

All you need to do is sit vertically and comfortably with a straight but not rigid back. Feel your sitting bones on the chair or cushion. Feel your head and notice if it is directly above your tailbone. Sit comfortably with this sense of head to tailbone and feel your way up and down the spine. Become aware of how vertical you are and what the spine feels like.

Does it feel straight? Can you feel one half of your body closer in to the middle than the other? Maybe you have a sense that your midline is slightly ahead of you, or that it is very hard to feel at all. Just notice how it is for you. Become aware of whether it is clear, out of focus, narrow, broad, floaty, strong, vague, and so on.

Once you have a felt sense of this midline, extend it down into the ground like a plumb-line. Imagine a strong connection down through the floor into the earth. Try and get a felt sense of this like a fluid and magnetic density coming out of you and linking into the ground. Notice if anything starts feeling different in the base of your spine as you do this.

Sometimes you can feel floaty feelings up and down your spine. It becomes much stronger and easier to feel if you are surrounded by other people doing the same thing. Your local meditation centre would be a good place to explore this. If you are in the presence of someone else that has a very clear midline, then you may naturally come into resonance with them and find it becomes easier to feel in yourself.

When you have a clear midline you feel grounded and connected to the earth and have a strong sense of being centred. From this space it is easier to notice what is going on inside you and around you. If you lean forward, you can feel the line moving through the earth backwards. If you lean to the left, you can feel a pendulum of energetic connection swinging to the right beneath you. If you lean backwards, it moves forwards under you. The midline is just a continuation of your own central axis and moves in line with that.

Try extending your awareness above your head a little and see if there is a sense of midline continuing up.

Get a sense of where your focus is along the midline. By this I mean is there any particularly clear part of this central axis that feels more intensely aware than elsewhere. Is it behind your eyes, behind your heart, at the base of your abdomen, or maybe above your head? Notice how this focus is. Does it stay in one place or is it shifting?

When you get a sense of your midline, you can move from here our into the day from a centred and manageable place, and feel this centre interacting with people and experiences around you. Its like you respond to things from the whole of you, rather than from just your thinking self, or a part of your body.

So we have come to the end of our journey. I hope that I have inspired you to start taking a look inside yourself and find out how you really feel inside. My advice is always please seek the support of a therapeutic relationship. There is nothing that helps more than being supported by someone else. Just like a little baby needs a loving mother to grow and develop into a happy and balanced person, as adults we still have needs for support and care that only come from being in relationship with another person.

Stick the matrix somewhere where you can see it and get to know it, eg on the fridge or a cupboard. This will help you recognise how you are making progress, and can help motivate you to keep on going. Use the techniques regularly and find out what most helps you.

All your patterns are sitting in your body right now. Get in touch with how you feel just as you are right now and they will probably start changing right before your eyes. I still find this extraordinary.

My advice to you is to get in touch with your body as often as you can. Explore these techniques. Discover your inner felt-sense and learn to work with it. This will bring you closer to your normal state of maximum health.

As you let go more and more into the realm of no resistance, tinnitus ceases to be possible and vanishes! I wish you the best of health and, above all, peace.