Deep Mindfulness-Diving Beneath the Waves:
A Conversation with Mindfulness Coach
Stephen Walker, LMFT
As an accomplished meditator and experienced psychotherapist with nearly 50 years of experience, Stephen Walker LMFT has spent a lifetime reflecting on what human beings need to heal. People arrive at his psychotherapy office traumatized, with substance abuse problems, depression and anxiety. These challenges take a great toll not only on the individual but on whole family systems. Over the years, the clients Stephen serve have become his greatest inspiration. Because of their courage and his commitment to them, he has spent the last two years putting together and fine tuning Middle Way Health’s new Coaching program, “Deep Mindfulness- Diving beneath the Waves.”
On a recent evening, I was invited to join Stephen for a walk around our local park. The purpose of our meeting was to describe the new program, “Deep Mindfulness- Diving Beneath the Waves” and articulate the benefits of Mindfulness Coaching. I saw the enthusiasm and joy in Stephen’s eyes, when I arrived and he immediately expressed, “I have so much to tell you.” His optimism was contagious and I found myself wanting to know more not only for this article but for myself. As we slowly walked out the front door, across the street and into the neighborhood park, I asked him to help me understand the benefits of Individualized Mindfulness coaching.
He paused for a few moments before responding with, “People are complicated with complex needs. Online offerings and Mindfulness Apps don’t have the capacity to address this diversity. They can be helpful but it is a surface kind of help. They offer a generic, cookie cutter approach but people have different needs and different obstacles. Mindfulness Coaching recognizes this and takes a personalized approach. It is tailor made for the individual. This is far more effective, especially for deeply entrenched trauma.
What about people who have tried traditional psychotherapy but still find themselves suffering? He responded, “Mindfulness Coaching can help anyone who is willing to make a commitment. All human beings, without exception, have the innate capacity to heal. Many existing secular programs call themselves Mindfulness Meditation but what they really offer is improvement in one’s relaxation response and techniques for stress reduction. Both of these are worthy goals, but to heal deep unconscious wounds and trauma requires something more substantial. If it is to be a long lasting, stable change, a professional who can give feedback, guidance and support is essential.
“Diving beneath the Waves” is a metaphor for Deep Mindfulness. It goes further than surface Mindfulness. Most western Mindfulness programs are too internally focused. Closing the eyes is sometimes encouraged. With shamatha, we keep our eyes open. We might use our breath as an anchor or we might use a visual support and gaze at a beautiful flower, a statue or if outdoors, the wide open sky. We are not ambitious or pushy in our approach. We sit for increments of 6,12,18 and so on. No matter how long we sit, it is just right. It’s the commitment that counts. We begin with a bell and end with a bell.
In Western Psychology, surface mindfulness is about strengthening the boat or building a better boat to weather the waves as we sail upon the ocean of life, but sometimes there are tsunamis and boats get tossed around no matter how well built. Other religious traditions talk about calming the waves by calming the wind but when hurricanes or tornadoes arise, this approach is not strong enough either.
With Deep Mindfulness coaching, people are given the tools to develop and access their innate strength and resilience. We learn how to dive beneath the waves and wind, so that no matter what is going on, no matter how stormy, we are able to connect with an inherent state peace that has been there all along.
Deep Mindfulness is about slowing down, stopping, becoming still /silent, experiencing serenity and peace. We begin by reflecting on the first few moments of our day. Before even getting out of bed, we rest in the dreamy wakeful state known as reverie. We follow this time with self therapy, relaxation, stress reduction and sensory awareness. Then fully embodied, we have set the ground for practicing Deep Mindfulness.