How To Use Anchoring To Help With Your Meditation
- Would you like to be able to reach that ‘relaxed and alert’ state, quickly, easily and reliably, at the start of each meditation?
- Would you like to be able to move from the stresses and busy-ness of daily life, to be able to quieten your mind, in just moments?
- Would you like to be able to take your meditation calm with you, out into the noise of the ‘real world’?
All this – and more – is possible with a simple technique called ‘anchoring’.
What comes to mind when you think of the smell of freshly baked bread? Or when you hear the sound of the sea? Or when you feel the sun on your skin? Or when you taste a fresh strawberry? Or when you see a sunset?
Chances are that these triggers take you back to memories or change your emotional and psychological state.
We store our memories in all 5 senses. Accessing a memory in one sense brings back the other sensory components of that memory. For a strong memory, it triggers the same chemical reactions in the body as in the original event, taking us back to the emotional, mental and physical feelings of that memory.
How does that work?
Ever heard of “Pavlov’s Dogs”?
Pavlov was a scientist who proved that we can “associate an external trigger with an internal response”. In other words, we can train ourselves to automatically respond in a particular way, when we experience an external stimulus or reminder.
It goes on all around us. Advertising is a strong form of anchoring – adverts provide stimuli (images and sounds) in order to evoke a particular state (emotional response and desire to buy).
Sometimes anchors take us back to unhelpful emotional and mental states: for example, the feeling of “not again!” as your least favourite person approaches you in the office; or seeing an email from the MD…
It is possible to anchor a resourceful emotional or mental state, so you can use it whenever you want to.
That means you can anchor your meditating state – that sense of feeling at peace and relaxed – so that you can take it with you during the day and also return to it, quickly, whenever you next meditate.
Want to know how?
You deliberately create a neurological connection between the state you want to go back to and a stimulus or trigger (usually physical).
Here are 5 steps to anchoring your meditation calm:
- Are you really there?
To anchor a state, you need to be ‘in the experience’: seeing it through your own eyes, hearing what you would hear and feeling what you would feel. The experience needs to be intense.
The opposite of this is dissociated – watching yourself as though it’s a movie; not feeling the experience; completely detached from it. You have feelings about the experience, but you do not have the emotions of the experience.
- Decide which state to anchor.
Think back to your favourite part of your meditation experience. What, precisely, do you want to capture? Once you know this, you can choose a memory that will take you back to that experience.
- Choose your anchor stimulus.
- Unique – something you can control. For example, you wouldn’t anchor the palm of your hand – or it would trigger accidentally every time you shake someone’s hand! Disappearing back to a zen-like, blessed-out calm might not work when you’re at your next meeting with the bank manager…
- Repeatable – you must be able to control it and access it when you want to, so the bottom of your little toe perhaps isn’t the best spot.
- Memorable – make it something you wouldn’t normally do, which you will easily remember.
- People typically choose something like pressing a particular knuckle – or the act of sitting down in your usual meditation place.
- ‘Set’ your anchor.
- Remember a time when you felt that state strongly.
- Allow the experience to intensify. You need to be associated in the experience – really be there, seeing it through your own eyes and feeling it in your body and mind. There’s no point in anchoring something that’s “wishy washy”.
- Pay attention to how the state grows. You’ll notice it increasing if you turn up the intensity of the memory.
- As it grows, apply your anchor – whatever the physical trigger is that you have chosen. Keep applying it, until just the point when the state starts to drop off. Then let go.
- Test your anchor.
- Stand up and shake yourself a bit, to make sure you’re back to your ‘normal’ state.
- Now test your anchor. Use your physical cue. Notice how it shifts your state.
- Want to make it even stronger? Repeat step 4, with a more vivid memory.
You can even set your anchor during your meditation practice. If you notice that you’re feeling particularly relaxed and alert, do step 4 and create your physical anchor. Hold the point for 10-20 seconds, before releasing. Then, when you’ve finished your meditation, do step 5.
Note: your anchor doesn’t have to be a physical trigger. You could use a particular picture, a sound (like a Tibetan singing bowl) or even a smell, like incense or a particular aromatherapy blend. There’s more on this in Day 28 of the 28 Day Meditation Challenge.