IFS Self-Leadership Meditations - Welcome to Your Internal Family System - Aion Farvahar

IFS Self-Leadership Meditations – Finding Your Parts

Internal Family Systems (IFS) model is an evidence-based, psychospiritual practice developed by Dr. Richard C. Schwartz with application in Psychology and Coaching. IFS Model is also a unique paradigm for describing how our mind works. An introduction to IFS model based on author’s personal experience is provided in blog IFS Self-Leadership – A Primer of Basic Concepts. The official background of the model and its applications are available in IFS Institute website.

The IFS meditations in this post are useful in experiencing what IFS refers to as personality parts within your mind, i.e., your Internal Family System. These meditations are more effective, if you already have a basic understanding of the IFS Model. So, reviewing the above primer blog post on IFS model can be helpful, if you are new to it. Two references listed in the bottom of this page have in parts inspired this blog and are useful additional resources.

IFS Self-Leadership meditations are unlike other meditation practices that are designed for calmness or mindfulness. IFS meditations presented here are closer to an Active Imagination, a process developed by Swiss psychiatrist, C.G. Jung. You can also consider these meditations as an inner inquiry to find and connect to your core Self and IFS parts within your personality system.

Through these meditations, you begin to notice your IFS parts as important aspects of your personality. You also notice that these parts do not represent who you “really” are. As you deepen your relationship with these parts as an observer, you will soon realize a distinct source of energy inside you that feels closest to you, but not like your personality parts, and rather as a limitless source of clarity, courage, and compassion within you.

This energy inside you is noticeable by its unique characteristics, specially toward other parts of your personality, who are hurt or emotionally burdened. This energy comes from your true “Self’ and emanates clarity, compassion, creativity, calmness, confidence, courage, connectedness, and curiosity toward yourself and all IFS parts, which collectively shape your personality. Noticing the clear distinction between Self and personality parts within you is most important during meditation.    

Once you discover and experience Self and its life-promoting energy inside you, you are empowered to heal your past emotional burdens and remove any mental blocks on your path to actualize your ideal life. You will also experience a positive change in your perspectives toward yourself, others close to you, and the future as a whole.

Your feelings, thoughts, and perspectives are unique expressions of various personality parts within you. Through these expressions, your parts want you to notice them and realize what they do for you. Because, you are the only one, who can understand them and listen to their story of how they came about. But you first need to notice them and become curious about them. IFS Meditations are effective in helping you do that.

Tree of Our Inner World – Noticing Self and Your Parts

– Find some alone and quite time during your day. Sit or lay down somewhere you feel most comfortable and cozy. Take a few deep breaths to feel the air entering your lungs, filling your body with nourishing oxygen. If it helps, try to close your eyes or soften your gaze to further descend to a state of calmness inside you and away from the world outside.

– Now turn your imagination and focus on the middle part of your body from top to bottom. As you are focusing inside, imagine the middle axis of your body as the center of the world around you, and notice that everything in the external world happens outside of you, in a far distance. See or feel the core of your body as an axis that is untouchable and in a safe distance from everything else that happens in the world.

– Now, let your imagination take you one step further. Imagine yourself as a beautiful tree. The axis of your body that you imagined yourself to be is now the trunk of the tree you have imagined to be. Take a moment to become “one” with the tree, so you can become the tree. Feeling your body as a tree, focus on your roots, check to feel them deep in the warm and moist nourishing soil of the earth beneath you, helping you being safe and grounded. Let the energy of the mother earth to flow through you, like a warm and calming light, filling your core.

– Now as you have fully embodies the trunk of the tree and connected to its root, turn your attention to your many branches extended outward from you, to give you access to air and the Sun. See them as your children, and parts of your beings, each having their own unique shape and depth of reach into the air. Notice how your branches have grown toward the outside world, as if they are parts of you that interact more with the external world happening around you in distance. Also, notice that some of your branches maybe pointing down toward the ground, and some have risen up to reach higher levels. Maybe there was a reason they happened to grow as they did.

– As you view or feel yourself as this beautiful tree, open your mind to any thoughts or feelings that you have left behind in the beginning of this meditation. Allow them to come and see you as a tree and invite them to become one of your branches, so you can see and feel them closer, stay connected to, and get to know them better.

– After allowing your feelings and thoughts to merge with your branches, take a moment to feel or visualize the fact that you are the trunk and all your thoughts and feelings are now separate branches around you. They are all a part of you and connected to you, as unique branches with own shape and history, extending outward from you. You are different from them, because you are the trunk of the tree, well-grounded through your roots and deeply connected to the energy of the earth. Take a mental image of this view or feeling, as you being the core center of your being and all of your thoughts, feelings, and everything else that represents your life, being your branches and connected to you.

– Pick one of these thoughts and feelings most important to you, and feel or visualize its branch. What do you notice about it? Does the branch feel or seem healthy, or rather weak and burdened under load? Extend your care and curiosity toward the branch, as if you are redirecting the nourishing energy of the earth from your trunk to this branch. Let the branch with the feeling it represents know that you see it as a part of you and you are interested to know more about its story, specially if you see the branch burdened or bent. Also extend the same care, curiosity and pledge to all other branches around you. They are all a part of you and have stories to tell you about the time they came about and how they got to this point.

– As you extend your curiosity to all your branches that now collectively represent all your feelings and thoughts. Let them know you are here and see them as a part of you, and that you are interested to know more about them and what they do for you. Let them know they are a valuable part of you. And you want to work with them to help them heal any broken branches for a better future together.

– Take a deep breath and save a somatic or mental image of your point of view as a trunk, looking toward your branches and feeling connected to them. It is useful to remember this relationship and connectedness.

– Say goodbye to all and when comfortable open your eyes or break your gaze, to come back to the outside world. Make a journal of the experience, specially what thoughts or feelings showed up. And, if applicable, what you noticed about their branches (lower or higher, bent or straight, or broken, etc.). This is useful when you are ready to deepen your connection with them using IFS. And get to know and help them better in the future.

Meeting the Protectors – Noticing Your Parts

– Find some alone and quite time during your day. Sit or lay down somewhere you feel most comfortable and cozy. Take a few deep breaths to feel the air entering your lungs, filling your body with nourishing oxygen. If it helps, try to close your eyes or soften your gaze to further descend to a state of calmness inside you and away from the world outside.

– Now turn your attention and imagination inside. Think about a person or a character in your life, whom you would rather not deal with. This could be also a co-worker, a known public figure, a movie character, or someone you know, but not like because of the way they behave or treat you.
Now, notice what behavior or quality in this person triggers an extreme emotion within you. This could be a feeling of resentment, fear, anger, hate, etc.

– In your imagination, put this person into a closed room with a glass window. Come outside of this room and go to the window to observe the person inside.

– Now, let the person behave the way that usually triggers you, while you being in safe distance outside the room. Look for any negative emotion, thought or body sensation while you are focusing on this person doing the things you don’t appreciate nor like. This usually comes from a part of your personality that have had bad experience in the past with the behaviors similar to what the person in the room is showing now.

– As you notice the reactive part of you, try to focus on it. Just to see if you can feel or find it in or around your body. As you are looking for it, this part may choose to present itself as an image, a memory, or even pressure or load in or around your body, etc.

– Ask this reactive part of you to temporarily separate from you and give more room to focus. If the part separates, thank it for giving you this space. If not, remind the part that you are outside the room and safe, so there is no reason to react as it normally does when seeing this person. See if this makes the part more open to separate, or at least less reactive.

– Now, take a second look inside the room to watch the person. How do you feel toward it now? If you still notice other reactive parts of you, ask them kindly to also separate from you, to give you space. Now look inside the room for the last time. And notice if your feelings toward the person in the room is less intense, or at least a bit less bias and more objective. If so, make a note of that shift in perspective.

– Thank all your parts with extreme emotion for giving you that space and let them know you want to know more about them. And why they hold resentment, anger, or fear, or any other extreme emotions, when dealing with this person. Also, let them know you are here and see them as an important part of you, and you want to work with them to grow and create a better life together.

– Say goodbye and when comfortable come back to outside world. Make a journal of the experience, specially thoughts or feelings that showed up and, if applicable, what you noticed about them for example as a sensation in your body or an image in your mind.

Meeting the Critics- Noticing Your Parts

– Find some alone and quite time during your day. Sit or lay down somewhere you feel most comfortable and cozy. Take a few deep breaths to feel the air entering your lungs, filling your body with nourishing oxygen. If it helps, try to close your eyes or soften your gaze to further descend to a state of calmness inside you and away from the world outside.

– Now turn your attention inside. Think about a part of you that is critical of you and comes online in your mind from time to time to give you a sense of guilt, blame you, or compare you with others to put you down. The critic inside you can present itself as a sense of guilt for what you have done, or a voice blaming you for what happened, or shame you for things you do.

– The critic inside you may not have a high opinion of you, or even call you lazy, not good enough, not smart enough, not lovable, not appreciated, or even dismissal of good things you have accomplished in life.

– Make a mental note of any critical feelings or thoughts you experienced. When looking for the critics inside you, also note whether they seem general or are related to a specific time of your life.

– Now, turn your focus inside and look for any other critical part of you that may not necessarily be as shaming or blaming. This critical part may present itself as a part of you that tends to compare you with others, either people you know personally, or an ideal image of how other people are, what they have, or how they live. This critic may point you to things that are missing in you but not in others.

– If you notice this critic within you, make a note of it. Also, make a note of the context the critic cares most about, for example, wealth, happiness, emotional support, etc.

– Lastly, look for a time when you noticed a critical part in others close to you that you felt uncomfortable with. For example, this could be a part you notice in your life partner, your parents, or friends that seems critical of how you behave or do things. If you noticed this external critic, make a note of the criticism itself and also the context it relates to. Also, notice what feelings or thoughts you experience, when receiving them.

– Take a moment to review what you have experienced in this contemplative meditation. Also thank all parts of you, specially the self-critics within you, who made themselves known to you. Extend your curiosity to them and let them know you are here with them and are interested to know more about. There must be a reason behind their opinions you may not fully aware of. Let them know they are a valuable part of you and you want to listen to them and do whatever you can, so they won’t need to be as critical.

– Make a mental note of any critical feelings or thoughts that you experienced when looking for the critics inside and outside of you. Also notice what parts of you they were most critical of. Say goodbye and when comfortable come back to outside world. Make a journal of the experience, specially what thoughts or feelings showed up and, if applicable, what you noticed about them such as a sensation in your body or an image in your mind.

References

[1] Schwartz, R.C., Meditations for Self (Audio 2020)
[2] Glass, Michelle, Daily Parts Meditation Practice, Michelle Glass (Book 2016)

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