EMDR and Mindfulness/Meditation (Part I)

EMDR & Meditaiton


I started my EMDR training in September 2015 hoping that this treatment method will be another important tool in my toolbox to work with people with trauma history and PTSD. Eight months later, I am finally done with the training and happily to report that I can officially be certified.

In the last 8 months, I have seen so many magical moments with my clients who were willing to try EMDR. It was really magical to me to see how they use their own brain’s healing power to heal their trauma as well as seeing their growth post-trauma.

At the same time, I also went through my own transformation through EMDR as a person.

What I loved about my EMDR training was the requirement for all the therapist-in-training to experience EMDR as the client as part of our training. In the 2nd training in Feb, the first thing was to connect my the psychological resources by using Bilateral Stimulation as part of “resourcing” before jumping into working on my issues. The resource I chose was to pick up my meditation habit as it was once helped me to feel grounded. During that time, I have not meditated consistently for about 6 months due to my chaotic life. I know that I need to get back to meditate regularly because my life had been chaotic. Because my life was chaotic, I fell out of meditation but it was the main reason I needed to get back to meditation to find some grounding. 

I know, it is paradoxical but that is the dilemma I was in at the time.

I am happy to report that I am actually back to practice meditation regularly two months after I set this goal during my EMDR training. More importantly, during the process to enhance this resource (meditation) while going through EMDR training, I realized how similar EMDR and meditation to each other.


EMDR is an evidence-based treatment that has been found helpful to the clients with PTSD, anxiety, and phobia symptoms. When I explained to my clients about EMDR, I warned them that “it might be funny to think that the therapist waving fingers in front of your eyes and you just follow my fingers can really help.” However, it really goes beyond just following the therapist’s fingers.
The more I know about Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) and the brain function, the more impressed I am with EMDR. Essentially, through the bilateral stimulation (waving fingers in front of the client’s eyes and the clients follow it), the therapist stimulated the clients’ memory systems that stored the physical sensation, the images, the negative thoughts, and the emotions that tied to the memories. It is not the memory that makes us jumpy, anxious, fearful, etc. It was the physical sensation, the images, the negative thoughts, and the emotions that tied to the memory that triggers the reaction. Essentially, bilateral stimulation triggers that process to start “clean out” the physical sensation, the images, the negative thoughts, and the emotions that are no longer needed in the current life but only the useful information that are still needed. 

How and why this work, apparently, no one knows but it works. In the last 8 months, I have seen a lot of “magic” happened with my clients.
The standard EMDR protocol asked the therapist not to talk to the clients too much between the processing. We are told that too much talk will disrupt the processing. We ask the clients to trust their brain has the power to heal and will take them to the place where they needed to be in order to heal. The client is asked to just observe what’s coming up and let the brain take him/he to where he/she needs to be. The standard script between the sets is “take a deep breath, what did you notice.”


Meditation, or the more accepting term, mindfulness, is not a strange concept or activity for me. My dad taught me how to meditate when I was five. However, it is hard to meditate because it is easy to be pulled into the day-to-day work. When I started to practice meditation seriously in 2013, I can’t sit for 5 minutes without looking at the clock at least 3 times in those 5 minutes.

I was advised to practice meditation many years by many different people before my serious attempts in 2013. I can’t do it because I never was able to “get to that place,” meaning being able to quiet my “monkey brain.” It was until I met someone who has practiced meditation seriously on the day-to-day basis for over 30 years who told me this: “The practice of meditation is not having the ability to get to that quiet place in your mind, that is the end goal. The practice of meditation is to practice to stop your thoughts when you realize you are going off to travel around the world in your thoughts. The ability to be aware of your thoughts go off and to bring it back to your breathing is the essence of practice. 

The “quiet mind” is the end goal. You do not need to be at the end goal (quiet mind) to practice meditation.”

So, then, I start to meditation. The essence of the meditation or practice meditation or mindfulness is to be mindful about where the images, your thoughts, emotions, or physical reactions while you sit quietly. Essentially, you observe it, not react to it, and bring your concentration back to your breathing.

(To Be Continued)

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