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 explain more about Mindfulness-Based Empowerment Practices?

ANSWER:  The beauty of Mindfulness-Based Empowerment Practice (MBEP) is that, unlike sitting mindfulness practices like vipassana, or dynamic concentration practices like tai chi or yoga, MBEP does not necessitate setting aside a special time and place to practice; this is because MBEP can so easily be incorporated into almost every activity throughout the day.

Traditional martial arts as well as many types of yoga have emphasized concentration practices. Those physically active practices catalyze mind-body integration more effectively than does sitting meditation. However, just as physical dynamic forms of mindfulness have advantages over sitting practices, vipassana and other sitting practices have some advantages over dynamic mindfulness practices. One is not better than the other; they simply build different skills. Any type of committed daily practice, regardless of whether it involves mindfulness practice (which includes concentration practice) or concentration practice alone (could be dynamic or sitting) will dramatically improve wellbeing.

MBEP Expanded Practice Instructions

  • Put your mind in your center of gravity—just below and deep to your naval. Some of the names for this point are tan tien, hara, and single point.
  • Continually practice moving from this center in all physical activities from walking to cooking.
  • Relax your abdomen in order to facilitate diaphragmatic breathing and moving from your center.
  • Spend at least some time each day making exhalations roughly twice as long as inhalations.
  • Use conscious intention to relax the entire body (scalp, face, neck, chest, back, abdomen, pelvis).
  • Always stand in good posture—this means proper alignment and in an anatomically natural stance.
  • Maintain awareness of the space around you.
  • Maintain a soft, relaxed gaze, taking in all your surroundings with a relaxed alertness.
  • Own the space around you, especially the path immediately in front of you.
  • Cultivate awareness of and curiosity about your internal environment—sensory input from your internal organ systems.
  • Objectively observe your thoughts and feelings. It is not important to analyze them, but it is important to recognize and experience them.
  • Whenever you find yourself using have tolanguage, adopt the attitude that you are taking care of yourself, such as in taking myself for a walk. In other words, never do anything because of the belief that you have to. Whenever you find yourself engaging in have to language, identify what action you want to take to meet whatever personal value is most alive in you in that moment. Actions based on choice are self-empowering, whereas actions based on the belief that you have to or should are disempowering.
  • 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 just described.
  • Practice MBEP during all your waking hours. I recommend engaging in this practice whenever walking or even just standing. Every aspect of this practice is just as applicable to standing as it is to walking. Just getting up from a chair is an opportunity to increase awareness, aliveness, and resilience by practicing MBEP.