Clearing a Space – “Discover Your Inner Sanctuary in the Midst of Life’s Stressors”

August 30, 2012 at 2:20 am | Posted in Insomnia, Mind Body Medicine, Pain Management, Pain Relief, Sleep Health, Stress Management | Leave a comment
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Joan Klagsbrun, Ph.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Stress is a significant contributing factor in 80% of visits to Primary Care Physicians and accounts for an inordinate amount of suffering, illness, chronic pain, fatigue, and personal and professional setbacks. Joan Klagsbrun, Ph.D., a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in private practice in the Boston area will be sharing a 90-minute webinar through the Mind Body Medicine Network, LLC on Sunday, September 9th at 7:00 p.m.  EST on “Clearing a Space – A Brief Focusing Practice for Cultivating Resilience in Your Clients (with particular attention to patients in crisis or coping with illness).”  Through this effective and evidence-based modality that can be used by clinicians or by the lay public, one can metaphorically find and place aside each stress-producing concern, and put it outside the body –bringing relief to body, mind and spirit.


The practice of ‘Clearing A Space’ is a method of finding and placing aside each stress-producing concern that is currently being carried by the body. it can be utilized by therapists as way to center and connect with oneself before seeing clients and it can be used with clients as way to begin a session of therapy.

One by one, each stressor is acknowledged, named, and visualized as being placed aside. This practice then invites you to imagine how your body would feel if you could truly be released from all these problems and concerns. For a few moments you get to experience who you would be—and how your life would want to go–without the weight of your issues.

We often feel stress as an undifferentiated, overwhelming burden. By identifying each stressful situation that we are carrying in the present moment, at first experienced as an indistinct murky sense in the body, we can discover the particular strands that make up our stress “knot.” The whole mass seems to weigh more when it is tangled together. Simply naming and untangling the elements allows us to get a little distance from the issues, and to find a sense of aliveness and well-being that lie beneath our current problems.


Focusing, a mind body practice from which Clearing A Space evolved, came out of research done by Carl Rogers and Eugene Gendlin at the University of Chicago.  The object of their research was to ask the question, “When is psychotherapy effective, and when is it not?”  They found, that the effectiveness of therapy was not directly related not to the therapeutic method, nor to the skill of the therapist, but to the client’s ability to discover answers within himself. Successful clients, it was found, waited until they got an internal, body sense of a problem or issue, and then “listened” to the answer that unfolded from this body sensation. Those clients who accessed their implicit bodily experience– their’ felt sense’– were more likely to benefit from psychotherapy than those who did not.

Gendlin, intrigued by this result, developed a systematic way to teach individuals how to get a body sense of a problem. Focusing is basically a formalization of the process that “successful” clients naturally use in psychotherapy.

Although Focusing was originally developed to help in the resolution of problems, Gendlin found that for Focusing to be most successful, it was initially helpful just to identify each concern and not try to solve the problem it posed. (Gendlin, 1979) Each concern is labeled and then “placed outside the body.”The individual imagines taking that issue and placing it at the right distance away from her body. Each succeeding issue is treated in the same way, until there are no more issues left. The end result is that the Focuser achieves a “clear space” inside the body. This technique of “Clearing a Space” became formalized as the first step in the Focusing method.

Over time, it became apparent that Clearing A Space had value in its own right. The “clear space” a person created by naming and letting go of each issue or problem is an active, fully conscious state. It differs from other meditation or relaxation states in that the individual  does not have a narrow field of attention. It is an active rather than a passive state, developed not by diverting one’s attention, but by at first paying full attention to what is in the way of feeling all clear inside.


Remembering and visualizing a time and place where you felt relaxedat peace or had a deep sense of well being.  I have found it helps to begin by remembering positive memories and experiences as resources for reducing stress.

Naming the Stressors We often feel stress as an undifferentiated burden. By entering the present moment, and identifying each stressful situation that we are carrying, that is contributing to this indistinct, unpleasant, and murky sense in the body, we can learn to perceive the particular strands that comprise this stress “knot.”

Separating the Stressors The whole mass of our troubles seems to “weigh” more, and be less manageable, when they are tangled together. Simply naming and “untangling” the elements that make it up,  allows us to get a little distance from our mind-body burdens.

Putting The Stressors “Aside” The client finds and places aside each stress-producing concern that is currently being carried by the body.  One by one, each stressor is acknowledged, named, and visualized as being placed aside or released from the body. After letting the stressor go, the focuser is then asked to notice any change in her body. Typically, a sense of lightness, diminishment of tension, and overall relief is the result. One sets down each of these issues, until there are no more issues left.

Noticing the Background Sense and placing it aside The background sense is like the wallpaper in our minds… that flavor or mood we carry right beneath our thoughts and feelings. It often brings great relief to bring attention to the background sense, name it, and  imagine placing that aside as well.

Dwelling in the “Cleared Space” Once the present-time stressors have been “cleared,” the individual is asked to spend 30 seconds or a minute in her “cleared space.” This step of the practice often results in a state of wellbeing, spaciousness, and sometimes a change in perspective or awareness.

Finding the symbol (a word, phrase of image) that captures the experience of the cleared space By finding a handle for the experience, there is often a sense of being connected to one’s whole self—body, mind and spirit. This often gives rise to an experience of balance, centeredness, clarity and unity. An explanation for this experience is that it enables the left and right brain to become integrated—linking the right brain’s’ felt sense ‘ and the left brain’s verbal account, thus allowing the maximum information to flow freely between the hemispheres.

Clearing a Space is a wonderful brief and yet powerful tool to have in your tool kit, both for your own self-care, and to share with clients. It gives you an active way to achieve a sense of well being, spaciousness and peace; it integrates body mind and spirit; it teaches us to have a compassionate relationship to our issues, and it helps us to take a few minutes to dwell in a larger space where we are not constrained by our problems and limitations.  What a good use of 10 minutes!

Enjoy learning, applying and mastering this brief focusing technique with Dr. Klagsbrun during our interactive 90-minute webinar on Sunday, September 9, 2012 at 7:00 p.m. EST. For details, please register at  Even if you can not make the webinar, you are welcome to register anyway, and be sent a video recording of Dr. Klagsbrun’s presentation.

(Written by Joan Klagsbrun, Ph.D. and Ed Glauser, LPC)

Ten Steps to Self-Mastery through Daily Mindfulness Practice: A Mindful Way to Stress Reduction

August 9, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Posted in Mind Body Medicine, Stress Management | 12 Comments
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(Written by Ed Glauser, M.Ed., N.C.C., LPC, Owner and Clinician, Mind Body Medicine Network, LLC)

I am writing this blog in the context of Larry Cammarata, Ph.D.’s clinical webinar entitled Stress Management for Body, Mind and Relationships,” that will be featured on the Mind Body Medicine Network, LLC on Sunday, August 19, 2012 starting at 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. EST.  MBMN offers highly interactive and participatory clinical webinars in mind-body medicine in the areas of stress and pain management and sleep health. Click HERE for the link to all of the clinical webinars that will be featured during 2012-2013.

One of the many things I enjoy most about Dr. Cammarata’s work is his emphasis on self-mastery as opposed to primarily focusing on stress management techniques.  The term “self-mastery” is more empowering and refers to a deeply rooted, integrated way of being; the effectiveness of “stress management” techniques is enhanced by the person who practices the techniques with the committed intention to develop self-mastery.  I wholeheartedly recommend a book that Dr. Cammarata recently co-authored entitled, A Year of Living Mindfully: 52 Quotes & Weekly Mindfulness Practices.” 

For me, the key to self-mastery lies in practicing mindfulness on a daily basis.

Daily mindfulness practice reorients body and mind to anchor deeply to the present moment. Here are my suggestions for enjoying a daily mindfulness practice that will help move you in ten mindful steps to a place of self-mastery, and reduce your stress significantly:

Step 1: Realize that life is only found in the present moment, so when you find yourself stressing about the past or future, or something is distressing to you in your current life, allow yourself to say “STOP” to activities of the mind and body, and  “return to the present moment, the only moment where life is found.”

Step 2: Observe the breath going in and out of your body, noticing other thoughts, feelings, sensations, distractions as just temporary mental formations, and return again to the breath.

Step 3: Observe the body and allow the breath to go to any tight or tense places to nurture and partner with that part of the body that may be in distress.

Step 4: Practice non-judgment and gentle compassion to yourself and the temporary images, feelings, thoughts, and sensations of mind and body.  When you do this, you are de-centering, which means you are seeing yourself as bigger than temporary present moment difficulties or worries about the past, present, or future.

Step 5: Allow for both healing and distress to be together peacefully, just toggling back and forth and seeing that both can co-exist at the same time.  Healing begins to take care of the distress in no time!

Step 6: Bring metaphor to your present moment experience.  For example, you can imagine yourself as a loving parent or friend bringing kindness, love, and patience to what is a fragile and distressing part of your present moment experience.

Step 7: Observe, notice, observe, notice.  When you practice observation or noticing instead of judgment, you can just watch, notice, and witness, and not become overwhelmed and victimized by any distress.

Step 8: Allow yourself to notice the healing aspects of your present moment experience little by little, as you gently allow yourself to notice what is pleasant in the here and now.  Examples can include thinking about a loved one, enjoying aspects of nature, reciting a prayer or meditation, enjoying your breath, the gift of life, and creation.

Step 9: Move closer to self-mastery by going towards, and not away from what is distressing so you are noticing how you are able to better self-regulate and withstand distress; notice that you are more empowered than you think and can handle anything, just allowing distress to dissipate gradually over time.

Step 10:  Notice the neutral things in your present moment experience and transform what is neutral or distressing into something very nurturing.  Examples include experiencing gratitude as you are taking a shower, brushing your teeth, taking out the trash, sweeping the floor, eating a meal, or the non-toothache.  Thich Nhat Hanh, a famous Buddhist monk who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in the 1960’s by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., shares that an awareness of what is not hurting you or causing you irritation in the present moment, can deepen your enjoyment of the present moment, and allow you to live life more fully and deeply in the present moment.

As you practice the ten mindful steps to self-mastery and lessen all forms of distress in your life with daily practice, you will begin to enjoy life at a deeper level, have more fulfilling relationships, develop better boundaries around what is distressing and feel empowered in your life.

Larry Cammarata, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist

For an even more in-depth understanding of the keys to self-mastery for Stress Management in Mind. Body, and Relationships,” please join us for our next clinical webinar with Larry Cammarata, Ph.D. on Sunday, August 19, 2012 at 7:00 p.m. EST.  This 90-minute interactive and engaging webinar will be recorded so if you miss the live broadcast and interaction with Dr. Cammarata, your registration will ensure that you receive a recording of the webinar.  For more information and to register for the webinar, please register HERE.

Ed Glauser, M.Ed., N.C.C., LPC

Owner and Principal Clinician

Mind Body Medicine Network, LLC

Stress Management to Self Mastery: From Doing to Being

August 2, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Posted in Mind Body Medicine, Pain Relief, Sleep Health, Stress Management | 8 Comments
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by Larry Cammarata, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist,

 There is an ancient story from the Zen tradition about a young monk who was committed to seeking enlightenment. His master guided him to the edge of a meadow and said to him, “Walk deeper into the meadow and align your senses fully with your experience. What you first fully experience will be your door to enlightenment.”  The young monk strode deeper into the meadow and came upon the sound of a gently flowing brook. He immediately experienced a sense of profound peace and unity; there was nothing to do, as he was enraptured by a state of pure Being.  The monk ran back to his master, who was meditating at the edge of the meadow. Upon hearing the young disciple approach him, the master asked, “what did you experience?” The monk replied, “Just as you said…my deep experience of the sound of water from a flowing brook became the door to enlightenment.” The master responded, “and?” The young monk was pensive, and then asked his master, “What if I did not hear the sound of the flowing brook…what if I heard or saw nothing at all…what then would be the door to enlightenment?” The master simply replied, “That would be your doorway.”

There are many “doorways” to managing stress.  “Stress management” has become a pop phrase that sometimes equates into applying a mechanical technique to something that is distressing to an individual. Without a doubt, there are many useful stress management methods, skills, and practices, including mindfulness meditation, cognitive restructuring, biofeedback, self-hypnosis, autogenic training, progressive muscular relaxation, cognitive defusion, assertive communication, yoga, tai chi, and qigong.  While these can be extremely helpful to individuals in distress, I prefer to reframe the idea of stress management as a deeper reflection of what can be called “self-management”. Stress management is often about “doing”; self-management is more about “being”. Preoccupation with “managing”, “conquering”, or “transforming” something called “stress” can paradoxically create more stress! In that dynamic, stress becomes an enemy to be vanquished, rather than a reflection of self to be appreciated and integrated.

Where then shall we begin in our journey of stress management, if not with a powerful technique to apply to our discomfort? I recommend beginning with intention, self-awareness, and attitude.

Questions such as “What am I seeking or expecting?” and “What skills am I willing to learn and practice?” can help to clarify one’s intention. Without a focused intention that is supported by self-awareness and an uplifted attitude, the best stress management methods are less likely to succeed.

Self-awareness can begin with a mindful connection to body, mind, and breath. Self-awareness allows us to notice physical tension, mental activity, and the quality of our breath (e.g., shallow, deep, constricted, or calm), which can be viewed as a bridge between the mind and body.

A non-judgmental, accepting attitude can combine with intention and self-awareness to neutralize the emotional impact of self-defeating thoughts and stories that interfere with our ability to manage stress.

Above, I made mention of the term “self-management” as a reframing of the term “stress management”. Self-management is an empowering term that is not just about what we “do” when we are coping with distress. Self-management also involves who we are “being” in our world, whether we are experiencing joy, anxiety, or boredom. For example, are we being open, accepting, and receptive to the challenging people and situations in our lives or are we being avoidant, judgmental, and oppositional? Our state of being can contribute more stress to inherently stressful situations or can conversely add more stability to our encounters with the stressors that we face.

With a clear intention and keen self-awareness, proficiency with stress management skills and practices can lead to consistent self-management that is supportive of physical health, emotional wellbeing, and relationship satisfaction.

Certainly, what we do to manage stress can significantly influence the quality of our lives. Over time, self-management can evolve into “self-mastery”, where skills become integrated into the body-mind to such a degree that we can rely upon a natural way of being to harmonize with our inner and outer challenges.

As you walk deeper into the meadow of your life, what you do matters. Who you are being is yet another matter. Doing is a precondition for taking the first steps towards managing stress. Consistent practicing of stress management skills is a precondition for self-management. An integrated state of being is a precondition for self-mastery. The door is open. Enjoy the journey!

Larry Cammarata, Ph.D. will be our featured clinical webinar presenter on Sunday, August 19, 2012 as part of our Mind Body Medicine Network’s schedule of 2012 – 2013 offerings in the areas of stress, pain, and sleep management. The 90-minute interactive webinar entitled “Stress Management for Body, Mind and Relationships” will begin at 7:00 p.m. EST and will also be available as a video recording.   Larry Cammarata, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist practicing in Asheville, North Carolina, and is a member of the faculty of University of Phoenix Online. He is passionately involved in the emerging field of mindfulness-oriented therapy and is a regular speaker for FACES Conferences, an organization that brings together leaders and experts in mindfulness and psychology. He will be leading a FACES educational retreat in Bali during July 2013. Larry is a published author who was designated as an “Author-Expert” by IDEA for his writing, teaching, and service in the field of mind-body health, fitness, and wellness. Along with Jack Kornfield, Dan Siegel, and other leaders in the mindfulness field, Larry recently co-authored a book entitled, “A Year of Living Mindfully: 52 Quotes & Weekly Mindfulness Practices”. In addition to his involvement in the profession of psychology, Larry is an instructor of the Chinese martial and healing arts of Tai Chi Chuan and Qigong. In his spare time, he is a professional musician and performance artist who has performed locally, nationally, and internationally. He can be contacted via his website at Please join us for Dr. Cammarata’s webinar by going to the following link to get more information and for registration:

Larry Cammarata, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist

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