Dr. Larry Berkelhammer

Dr. Larry Berkelhammer

The purpose of this website, my book, and the Community Education course I teach at the College of Marin, is to teach people how to live a vibrant, meaningful life through the cultivation of self-empowerment and self-efficacy. In this monthly Q&A column, I post questions from students and from people who attend my presentations along with my answers.

Here is this month’s question:

QUESTION: Would you be able to give us more detailed MBEP instructions?

ANSWER:  Explication Of Each Of The MBEP Instructions Listed on the Last Post:

  • Put your mind in your center of gravity—just below the naval and deep to it. If you prefer, you could substitute attention for mind. This area is known as hara in Japanese, tan tien in Chinese, or any number of other terms and alternate English spellings. Regardless of the term you use, what matters is that you develop an awareness of and ability to center yourself in this area.
  • Breathe diaphragmatically with exhalations roughly twice as long as inhalations. Most people living in modern, highly developed nations breathe too shallowly. We are healthiest when we breathe diaphragmatically. There are many forms of yogic breathing. The recommendation to make exhalations twice as long as inhalations is based on all the research from the field of psychophysiological self-regulation. Study Appendix B of my book for an in-depth understanding of breathing.
  • Move from your center in all physical activities from walking to cooking. Body mechanics are optimized when you walk, stand, or perform almost any physical activity from your center. In addition, putting your mind (attention) in your center is very psychologically and emotionally grounding. Diaphragmatic breathing helps facilitate moving from your center.
  • Use conscious intention to relax the entire body. The body automatically tenses up when we get upset or stressed. This can be changed, but it requires conscious, intentional practice. Every stressful situation will be managed more effectively when you are relaxed.
  • Always stand in good posture—this means proper structural alignment and in an anatomically natural stance. Your posture should be easy and natural to maintain. At first, a healthy posture will seem unnatural if you are in the habit of either slouching or standing in a military posture. Not only is good posture healthier for your body, it improves state of mind as well.
  • Maintain awareness of the space around you. Technically, our boundaries end with our skin. However, our awareness, aliveness, and full participation in life is much greater when we include the space around us as part of our boundaries.
  • Maintain a soft gaze. Relaxing the muscles around your eyes actually improves your peripheral vision and allows you to take in more of your surroundings. The opposite would be tunnel vision, where your eyes are tense and focused on one thing.
  • Own the space around you, especially the path immediately in front of you. This is a path to self-empowerment. Let’s say someone gets in your face, confronting and challenging you on something you said or did. If you lose your center, you are more likely to get defensive. If you adopt the attitude that you own your space, including the room in which the person is confronting you, then in your mind, you are in a strong position. From that position, you are more likely to respond from a place of strength rather than weakness. What I have done in that situation is to energetically welcome the aggressor into my space. This is calming to the aggressor and usually defuses the attack. What helps me to do that is the realization and appreciation that, like all challenging situations, it is an opportunity for my personal growth. The greater the challenge, the greater the opportunity for personal growth.
  • Maintain awareness of your internal environment—all sensory input from within and without as well as thoughts and feelings. Learn how to hone your awareness of your thoughts and feelings. The most challenging part is to learn how to objectively observe thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them. As for thoughts and beliefs, it is important to learn how to recognize them for what they really are, nothing but insubstantial mental constructs. If everyone had that skill, there would be very little violence in the world. Leaning how to become sensitive to internal stimuli will allow you to master diet, exercise, sleep, relationships, and all other health behaviors. When we deny or resist any form of mental, emotional, or physical challenge, we end up dealing with the challenge from a place of weakness. If we recognize the challenge, relax and accept it, then we are better equipped to deal with it from a place of strength and self-empowerment. Also, denial and resistance serve to increase anxiety, while suppression contributes to depression. Accepting and blending with a life challenge catalyzes self-empowerment and self-efficacy, which then lead to feeling greater aliveness.
  • Each time you notice your mind has wandered to ruminative thoughts of the past or future-centered planning, gently and lovingly return your attention to practicing the components of MBEP. Because we are human, our attention will always wander, thereby negatively impacting our performance in every activity. What is even worse is that every time our attention wanders, we are less fully alive and engaged in life. The solution is simply to adopt the practice of lovingly returning our attention to MBEP as soon as we become aware of the loss of attention.
  • Practice MBEP during most of your waking hours. MBEP will allow you to live with a high degree of aliveness and presence. It can be practiced while you are engaged in most activities. Conversations and relationships will be more stimulating during the moments when you are practicing. Because MBEP is energizing and demands your attention and energy, it obviously would not be conducive to periods of sleep. Also, there are times, if we are lucky, when we enter a state of flow, otherwise known as being in the zone; in those situations, practicing MBEP would ruin the experience. However, most waking moments are improved with MBEP.