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Level 6: Empowered

Level 6:    Empowered

Well tinnitus has moved out now and lives in the neighbourhood. But you’ve become friends, and you know that if you get out of kilter with your body it will be there to help you find your centre again and re-establish a good sense of health. Most of the time you are not aware of tinnitus, but if you sit in silence you could probably find it again. Equally, you might just notice silence.

The crucial point here is that you have practically no interest in checking up on tinnitus anymore. Why should you bother? There’s no problem. You know that if you look for it, you might find it there just sounding in the far distance sometimes, but there is no need to check this out. Your tinnitus is no longer important, so you don’t check up on it.

If you are operating at this level, you have probably already established an excellent support network, have plenty of downtime and really know how to look after yourself. Your lifestyle is balanced, in as far as you match the amount of energy you give out through work with plenty of nourishing time for yourself to relax and appreciate all the good things in life. There is an equal amount of give and take. Your central nervous system can rest in a state of neutral so that it can either burn off energy in activity, or switch off and recharge again when resting.

Having given yourself plenty of time to let go, process and relax, your system is able to function “normally” again. Just like a battery, our nervous systems do need to recharge for us to feel well.

The well-being you have at this level is there because you have learnt to let help in, and get support when you need it. You have got into the habit of taking any difficulty or discomfort to a body worker or therapist whenever you feel overwhelmed, and probably air your issues regularly with good friends. Nothing builds up too much for you to handle. When big challenges come along you have some sense of how best to cope with them and know where to go for help. This in itself is deeply comforting and reassuring. In short, you can relax in a position of strength and are ready for action if need be.

Tinnitus has turned into an incredibly useful guide leading you to a much greater sense of health and well-being. Helping you get in touch with yourself at a much deeper level opens up a whole new way of being and a new approach to your sense of self.

All the body work helps you get in touch with your body’s felt sense at a deep level, and you start to become aware of energetic reactions. You can focus on internal feelings in a much more detailed way and feel changes in temperature, tingling, floatiness, a sense of expansion, and an opening up into a more sensitive connection to the space around you.

I have found Craniosacral therapy and Core Process Psychotherapy to be particularly good for developing a greater sensitivity of internal awareness. The gentle hand contacts of cranial work often remain still in the same place for long periods of time. This means you are not distracted by lots of external stimulation and your focus naturally goes inside and you become aware of internal changes as you lie there. Equally a Core Process Psychotherapist can help guide you into bodily experience so that as you are working through each issue, he or she can help you get in touch with how it is affecting the body and how you feel inside. There is always a certain part of our body that is reacting to each situation. Getting in touch with this can really help transform how we hold on to things.

At first it seems like magic, but then you slowly start to realise that the body knows what it needs to do. All you do is just get out of the way and let go into the support. It is like an inbuilt intelligence and organising force gathers momentum, and starts helping things realign effortlessly. It can be deeply inspiring to feel something naturally sorting itself out inside you, without any apparent effort. There is most definitely a force that knows what it wants inside. Learning how to let go deeply allows this life force or dynamic organising system to come more and more into affect. The more I have learnt to let go into this centering and organising force, the more I have been able to release aches and pains in my body and become less dependent on medicines and manipulations to sort myself out. This arising energy or life force is available to all of us all the time. We just need to unblock our connection to it arising at every instant in our core.

These days, when I have a pain in my body, I lie down and settle into a deep state of calm. This involves getting in touch with all the things that feel fine, calm and comfortable in your body. Once I have a strong sense of this, I then go into the pain and really get a sense of how it feels inside. If it is bad pain I will only take my focus to the edge of it, without dropping right into it, to keep things manageable.

Approaching the pain, sometimes you feel like something wants to move inside it, or like a pressure wants to release. I spend time getting in touch with the buzzing, throbbing or tightness that is there. After about ten minutes or so just focussing really carefully on it and connecting with it, I start to link the area of pain up to the rest of the body. So if my heart is hurting and feeling tight, I notice how it connects to each shoulder, how my breathing affects it, whether it feels tight towards the front or the back of my body. I literally feel all around it and explore this felt-sense. Sometimes I can feel something changing. When you widen your field of awareness out to include the whole body, the pain can actually start freeing up before your eyes. It is extraordinary what we can do just by focussing. This is well known amongst people who meditate a lot, and is an ability that develops with practice.

We are lucky having so much available to help our health with all the technical advances in health and medicine. However body-awareness is a huge underrated resource that we can tap into, transforming how we feel. To be really healthy we need to combine external scientific approaches with internal process and awareness. Both are good, and having both working together is best.

I believe we need an integrated approach to health where both an internal awareness is combined with external science and expertise. Ken Wilber’s approach to an integral way of life explains this clearly and simply in his book, “A Theory of Everything.” It makes sense.

Wisdom relating to health has been around for thousands of years and has always worked for those who bother to enquire into it. The problem is that it needs you to start the enquiry. I am not against drugs or surgery, but tinnitus is a symptom that responds directly to our internal process and how we treat ourselves. Rather than resort to drugs or surgery which can be extremely helpful in certain situations, I personally to try and sort things out inside first, and enter a very real possibility of getting better, before resorting to more invasive treatment.

Bodywork and therapy opens up this inner world and is of immense value. Stay with it long enough and you will develop an insight into the energetic realm, if you don’t have it already. This can completely change the way you approach yourself and the world around you. It quite literally opens up a completely different way of being.

The first session of craniosacral therapy was a direct experience of my body not as just flesh and bones, but a container of different kinds of energy resonating in a fascinating and powerful way. Like many people I am sensitive enough to feel this energetic perspective loud and clear and therapy has increased my awareness of the body as a container of moving fluids and energies. This has a big impact on your health, mind and your body.

Understanding how we develop psychologically is of immense help as well. When we start to become aware of our patterns of behaviour and where they come from, this too can really help us develop strength which helps us slowly, slowly, over a period of time, start to let go of our normal way of acting in the world.

Taking a deeper look at the typical tinnitus person for example. As a child he/she was not given enough love early on. As a result he/she grows into a highly driven and competitive person trying to prove to themselves and the remote parent that they are worthy enough of receiving love and attention. They spend their whole lives trying to fill this sense of emptiness inside and create the ideal conditions for symptoms like tinnitus to appear. Every day of their life is filled with a prevailing sense of never having enough, never being satisfied or at peace. In this book I have mentioned many surface causes for tinnitus such as: getting divorced, working too hard, exhaustion.

However if we look into the deeper causes, what really matters underneath is that there is very often a lack of loving continuity, guaranteed on-going protection and safety provided by our parents. Our earliest experience sets up the strongest reactions that form the central structure of our personalities. A less than ideal beginning can set up patterns of neediness and frustration that in later life lead to tinnitus. This is where psychotherapy can be immensely beneficial.

Slowly we can uncover the deep cause for our inner struggle that lies at the core of our being. When we can come to terms with our deepest struggles then something literally comes to terms, that is, something stops, and settles. As tinnitus is something that thrives on internal resistance, if we are able to accept and find peace with our innermost experience, then tinnitus doesn’t stand a chance!

At level 6, the challenge is to work through your innermost issues and find acceptance and resolution so that you can let go of this need to explain and understand your tinnitus. I admit this sounds like a tall order, but if you are at this level your goals in life are much more likely to be about finding peace and satisfaction.

At lower levels it helps to know how tinnitus works and what we do to perpetuate it. It can be really comforting to understand what is happening to you and how to let go of tinnitus. Here, however, in order to move into a deeper sense of peace, it helps to let go of the need to check up on tinnitus. I feel it is much more useful to work with the felt sense of the body. Once we learn to focus on responses that are real and alive inside us, we can work with something that is 100 per cent authentic and a part of us and get direct responses inside. If you stay with how you feel, and work through your internal responses, you will be working as closely to maximum health as possible. Your body is the best doctor you have. Give it the right attention and it will show you what needs to happen.

It’s simple, your body is constantly showing you how it is reacting, providing you with one of the clearest and reliably honest streams of information you’ve got. Use this information to guide you.

Developing your energetic awareness with meditation and having deep body-work therapies like craniosacral therapy or core process work will help you get in touch with this inner intelligence. It is amazing and humbling. I really hope you get a chance to connect with it.

Level 7: Liberation

Level 7:    Liberation

When I think back over the journey I have been on with tinnitus I am amazed how much my life has changed for the better. For me this condition has behaved like a spiritual guide because it is directly responsible for helping me find a genuine sense of health, well-being, and strength. I can honestly say I am happier now than I have ever been, and if you had told me this would happen when I was down at level one, I would have laughed at you incredulously and growled, “No way!”

As the resting daily focus has moved down from the head into my body, I have started feeling things that I would never have dreamt possible just a few years ago. Before I used to spend the whole time in my thoughts and with all my attention in and around my head. These days I feel centred around my heart a lot of the time and when I walk down the street, or sit with people nearby, I can feel a strong interaction happening between us, often with a focus in my heart area. It feels like a magnetic connection or a gentle push pull. It seems independent from my thought process and gives me valuable information that can be very different to what I think. In fact I rely on my felt sense much more than my thoughts these days if I need to make a decision. The felt sense is much more reliable than my neurotic mind!

All this work has opened up an awareness of the space beyond my physical body – the transpersonal space. Sitting with people I can feel resonance in the space between us, and that is inspiring. Tinnitus has led me into a way of being that is very different to living in a tight, thought-packed head. It is very comforting to get a sense of what the larger picture is like and the connectedness of everything. It fills you with awe and gratitude and lets you experience a deep sense that everything is alright.

I wish I could show you what this is like. Well, as a therapist I guess I can start to. In the meantime I encourage you to continue on your journey of finding peace inside your body. Tinnitus is such an obvious guide to help you along the way towards this goal. As soon as you listen to it in a positive way, you can move towards what is right for you. With support and encouragement the relationship with tinnitus will change from a horrible tyrant that seems to be in control, to a useful guide that is leading you into better health and awareness.

If you let tinnitus help you, slowly you will feel clearer and more aware inside. Deep, careful work like Core Process Psychotherapy or Craniosacral Therapy, or learning how to meditate and focus inside allows you to open up to a larger experience of an interconnected sense of self. Please know that with therapeutic support it is possible to drop into very deep states of calm. As you get in touch with what is going on behind the scenes you can really start to know stillness.

You can become aware of a vibrant state of peace and calm where you feel your centre really clearly, your mind is calm and focussed and you feel very connected to things around you. It is deeply inspiring to touch into these states of being because it can help us shift into a new level of awareness.

Ken Wilber’s books: “A Theory of Everything,” “No boundary,” and “One Taste” provide a very clear understanding of how our level of awareness can change dramatically as we progress through our lives. It is amazing what happens to our sense of self when we really do settle into a deeper stillness. “The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching,” by Thich Nhat Hanh, gives us a clear insight into the notion of self and how Buddhism provides a path out of suffering back to well-being. Indeed any spiritual foundation provides invaluable support that helps us let go on a deep level. I personally would encourage anyone to find this kind of support.

I often think of tinnitus as a symptom which, if it could talk, it would say, “Listen to your body, listen to yourself, listen to what is going on inside. Pay attention to this.” That is what tinnitus is trying to do, isn’t it? It gets people listening to themselves like nothing else does. It gets you to focus inside. Once you do this properly, tinnitus changes.

Personally I don’t think this is any coincidence. As a craniosacral therapist myself, I have learnt to have a deep respect for symptoms. They are often a direct link back to health, because they are showing where the problem is. All we need to do is really pay attention to them and notice what they are trying to communicate to us. This is not such a far-fetched idea, if you think about it. If there is pain, then there’s something wrong. Owch! Not good. We need to focus on it. That is what the body is trying to achieve – get our attention in that one place. It does this effortlessly. Unfortunately we often do the opposite and try and blank out the pain with painkillers. Managing pain is one thing, but turning a blind eye to it and pretending that everything is OK is not healthy and is asking for more complicated trouble at a later stage.

The more we focus on how our body feels, the more we understand how well we are or what needs seeing to. Read Eugene Gendlin’s book “Focusing,” for a very readable and approachable way into this territory.  I am grateful to my own tinnitus for showing me this challenging but rewarding path back to health. It really has made me change my diet, exercise, sleeping, social, and resting patterns enormously. It has been an incredibly accurate guide showing exactly what is right for me.

It is no exaggeration to say that tinnitus has been the best doctor, teacher, therapist, friend and guide that I have ever had. What makes it so good is that it is spot on for me, tailor-made for my own needs and nobody else’s.

Because tinnitus arises in your body, and is really just an auditory feed-back connecting you directly with the state of your nervous system, you are learning to work directly with what is best for your body. What could be better than that?

So while we are waiting for the magic pill to intervene and switch off this highly intelligent and useful mechanism, leaving us in silence (great), but also in the dark about what causes it in the first place (not so great), in the meantime I encourage you to start working on how you feel inside, and feel better! Its all here, right now inside your body.

My aim in writing this book is to show you a way which works. It makes sense. Many people go through this process of getting better all the time. The only thing that stops you going in the same direction is you! Keep an eye on the saboteur here. Become very suspicious of your own behaviour when you start thinking, “oh this worked for him, but it won’t for me, I can’t be bothered, I’m too tired, oh its too expensive, I’m waiting for the tinnitus pill to be invented, my doctor said nothing helps, maybe next week.” Look through these thoughts and ask yourself what you really want underneath. Maybe you have more choice than you think.

I sincerely wish researchers well. It will be very useful to know exactly which parts of the brain are involved. The work being done on the limbic system is very exciting. The more we know about the engine that we are all driving – ie our bodies, the better. Tinnitus usually arises because of the way the driver is driving the engine, rather than a problem with the engine itself. Drive too fast or put too much strain on it and the engine will flounder and make unhealthy noises. It is not sensible to put more sound-proofing over the engine to smother these noises out. This is not dealing with the problem. Surely it’s better to help the driver slow down and drive in a way that keeps the engine functional for the longest time with as few problems as possible. The good news is that there is one important difference between a car engine and a body: if we give our bodies space and our full attention, they repair themselves. Bodies are designed to work as well as possible and to do the best they can to function at maximum health. Healing happens when we rest, eat well, feel happy and well in ourselves and when we switch off and let go. Cars need mechanics.

At this level, you know yourself and your body well and you are aware how you drive it. The challenge here is to open to the larger picture and help others overcome their own suffering. As your tinnitus gets better and better you can share this approach with others. We need to be strong in the face of all the negativity, and lack of understanding surrounding tinnitus. When we hear people say, “There is nothing you can do about it,” we need to reply from our own experience, “Well actually there is masses you can do about tinnitus. I have got better and I know how this happened.”

I can only hope that health practitioners stop saying tinnitus cannot be cured. This is very harmful and does not help anyone. Please learn how to help tinnitus first before delivering devastating messages to disempowered people who cannot cope with them. This increases suffering. Send people with tinnitus to practitioners who can provide them with proper care and support, and who can bring their nervous system out of overwhelm and back towards ideal resting states. Keep it simple. Send people with tinnitus to practitioners who will help them discover well-being. This is already a huge step in the right direction.

The magic miracle cure for tinnitus is to help bring people out of red-alert mode back towards a neutral resting place. This involves bringing the parasympathetic nervous system back into balance with the sympathetic nervous symptom. This is simple physiology, and is something that alternative practitioners and body-based psychotherapists do everyday.

Technique 1: Crisis calmer

Technique 1:    Crisis calmer:

When you get into a state, try immersing your feet into a bowl of comfortably hot water for fifteen seconds, and then plunge them into a bowl of cold water. Move them backwards and forwards from hot to cold, back and forth for a good ten minutes. Notice how your focus settles more into your body. This simple technique is great for calming you down, getting you out of your head and slowing down any panicking thoughts. In more distraught moments, this will help take the pressure off, and will help divert your attention away from your head. Try it and feel for yourself.

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 6: Running commentary

Technique 6:    Running commentary

This is the technique that I use most often, probably three times a week for at least half and hour at a time. It is excellent for slowing down a busy head and for developing the ability to witness what is going on in your body at any one time. I am not joking or exaggerating when I say this has changed my life.

Create some time and space where you will not be disturbed for twenty minutes or so. Get yourself into a comfortable position and settle yourself into body awareness mode. By this level you should be quite good at doing this. If you are still struggling try some of the other techniques mentioned in the lower levels to settle your awareness into your body. If you mind is really racing, then have a shower or a bath first. Massage your feet and take some deep slow breaths.

I prefer doing this lying down on the floor with a big cushion supporting my knees and just the right number of pillows to take the pressure off my neck. It always feels comforting for me to lie under a blanket. Get into a comfortable position for you.

When you are ready, start giving a running commentary out loud of what is going on in your body, describing what you can feel. It may seem ridiculous at first to talk out loud by yourself, but speaking is in itself very focussing. Anything that helps you focus will help you settle.

So it might sound like this. “I’m lying here and feeling a bit hunched up around my upper back, and I don’t feel evenly placed on the floor. In fact my hips feel tilted to the right and my chest seems to be pointing to the left, and my head is tight.” You suddenly sigh deeply. “I’ve just taken a deep breath and I feel a bit more relaxed.”

As you lie there just describe any sensations that come up into your awareness. One moment it might be an itch here and then a twitch there. Suddenly you might become aware of a pain in your jaw or a tightness at the base of your back. Just notice all the physical sensations of how hot or cold you are, what feels light or heavy, free or tight, tingly, jangly or smooth.

The secret here is not to go looking for stuff. Much more interesting is to let the information come to you. You’re lying back and at any moment some sensation may come into your awareness. You have no idea what the next thing will be or where it will come from. It’s a bit like going to the cinema, you relax and let the information come. When it appears just describe it and then wait for the next thing to arise.

From time to time you may start thinking about something. This is quite normal. Don’t worry about it. When this happens its really useful to say, “I’m thinking again,” and just wait for the next felt sense to appear. If you find yourself thinking about something a lot, maybe take a deep breath and just settle your awareness back into the world of hot/cold, long/short, big/small, agitated/calm, floaty/solid.

I particularly like feeling how far my head is from my feet. Sometimes this feels a long way away, other times it feels short. Comparing the length of your legs is often an easy way to get back in touch with the body. Even though they are the same length, they may feel very different in length, height off the ground, size, weight etc. It can be surprising how things feel.

When pain comes up just notice what it is like. Is there a sense of pressure or does it feel like something wants to move? Is there numbness around the area or is it tingly? See if you can feel exactly where the pain is located, or notice if it is out of focus and slightly dispersed. Describe it out aloud. If tinnitus comes up, just say, “I’m focusing on my tinnitus,” and wait for the next felt thing to appear.

The mind gets bored quite easily and will not stay with the tinnitus before long, as it will be distracted by something else. This can be quite revealing. If you try and focus on the tinnitus, after a few seconds you will find you are thinking about something else. If you don’t believe me, try timing yourself! I bet you cannot focus on your tinnitus for more than one minute without your mind wandering onto something else. We all think we spend the whole time thinking about it, but the reality is very different. This might be quite surprising. It was for me, and actually very liberating. Anyway, where was I? If your mind starts wandering just go back to the body and wait for the next sensation to appear.

When you dry up and feel like you have run out of things to describe, this is really interesting. Just wait. Soon something else will pop up.

Learning to live in this state of body awareness is incredibly helpful. It’s like discovering an alternative to the normal thinking process. It takes you beneath all the mental chatter and puts you in touch with how you feel. You actually develop a much more accurate sense of how you are. We all know how our minds can run away with themselves and lead us into worry, exaggeration, fear and irrational thoughts.

When you get proficient at this, you can chose to focus inside in the middle of an argument or when you are fearful. This changes the dynamic totally and gives you a lot more options. Watch and enjoy how your mind really slows down!

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.