Mindful Mondays: Ball of Light Meditation


F! Feeling Bad, let’s practice Ball of Light Meditation!

Agency over Anxiety! Practicing meditative light experiences increases your ability to focus, helps you regulate your emotions, reduces physical and emotional stress, and increases neuroplasticity, which is your brain’s structural ability to adapt and adjust.


How

Remember to gently bring your focus back to the ball of light if your mind starts to wander. Practice becoming an observer of your experience.

  1. Find a relaxed posture, sitting, standing, or lying down.
  2. Take some cleansing breaths, melt into your posture, and shake out any stiff areas.
  3. Close your eyes. I typically suggest you focus on a spot across the room if you are not comfortable closing your eyes, but visualization is difficult if your eyes are open.
  4. Start Listening to the guided meditation. In this video I borrowed an online script from My So-Called Yoga Life Blog.

Why

While delving into my graduate studies in human behavior, I also explored the basis of spiritual traditions taught and lived by the celebrated spiritual leaders at the core of our modern religions. I was amazed to find strong parallels between what is taught as spiritually advantageous and what scientific research has been found to be emotionally and psychologically healthy. The attention given to boundaries, mindfulness, self-talk, compassion, and community across disciplines and beliefs is uncanny. It seems to demonstrate that we naturally develop behaviors and beliefs conducive to healthy living. It may even suggest that research on human behavior is supporting established beliefs about what is best for us, rather than discovering them.

That is a discussion for another day in a different forum with different goals, though. For this Mindful Monday’s practice, I simply offer consideration of the spiritual and scientific for you to consider.

Spiritual

There are many cultural, religious, and spiritual references to balls or spheres of light as a divine presence and connection. Deeper meanings behind imagining the presence of a ball of light, or the spontaneous presence of the ball of light during mindfulness or meditation have been described as the essence of all living beings, divine knowledge, healing manifestations, and intense joy. Throughout your life, references to light are associated with finding solutions, having great ideas, finding the “right” path, being seen, and receiving nurturance. Your brain’s tendency to associate the ball of light with experiences of love, warmth, healing, and acceptance may be enough to create the positive experience of light visualization in meditation mindfulness. However, spirituality believes that the ball of light indicates you are tapping into something divine that is a connection to all living things encompassing complete intelligence, compassion, and joy…and there is magic in that.

Scientific

Practicing mindfulness techniques has been shown to promote structural changes in the brain by strengthening neural pathways to enhance attentional focus, self-awareness, and self-regulation. It provides practice for managing thoughts, reserving judgment, and building confidence in personal observations that carries over into your daily life. The collateral benefits include improved physical functioning of the body, including heart rate, breathing, and metabolism. Because of the overall benefits from regularly practicing mindfulness over time are so remarkable, mindfulness is considered a disease-preventing practice. For those already experiencing the discomfort of disease, mindfulness may provide some relief from symptoms.

The Ball of Light Guided Meditation combines two experiences of mindfulness—guided imagery and body scan.

Guided Imagery

In this ball of light meditation, guided imagery is used to focus your attention on scanning your body. Guided imagery is associated with the calming of the sympathetic nervous system, which is associated with anxiety. By measuring brain waves, researchers were able to demonstrate an increase in attentional control by those engaging in guided imagery. What is most fascinating about the rewards of guided imagery, is that you can improve sleep, reduce stress, decrease pain, lower blood pressure, reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, increase agency, and increase emotional regulation, depending on what imagery type of imagery is presented.

When you watch another person engage in an activity, your brain activates in areas associated with you engaging in that activity. This exciting functional trick not only increases empathy and helps us learn by observation, but research has also demonstrated that we acquire and enhance skills that way—which is why sports teams watch videos of plays and the military is responsible for the development of games like Call of Duty. Similarly, when you imagine yourself in a situation, parts of your brain activate as if you are in that situation. The areas of the brain associated with the activity or situation include sensations related to the experience. By visualizing the ball of light that is associated with feeling warm and safe, you are eliciting the experience of actually feeling warm and safe. Further, using the warmth and safety as cues for relaxation, imagining areas of tension or pain releasing is likely to reduce discomfort. As with all skills, you are creating new neural pathways that are strengthened each time you repeat this practice. If you do not experience the sensations at first, keep practicing.

Body Scan

Using the ball of light to engage in a casual body scan in this technique enhances two areas of mindfulness at the same time: interoception and attentional focus. Interoception is increased awareness of internal body sensations, such as your heart rate, breathing, hunger, satiation, temperature, pain, and emotions. Mindfulness is most often used by mental health professionals to enhance interoception; however, there are cautions for doing so. Studies have shown that some people don’t benefit from increased awareness of their internal experience, which is most likely a result of what they think the sensations mean. For example, one might interpret their increased heartrate as excitement, while another person labels it anxiety. If you find that focused attention on your internal experience increases symptoms of mental discomfort or illness, stop the practice and contact your mental health professional for support.

Interoception is the primary benefit for which I use mindfulness. Increasing awareness of what is happening in the present both inside and outside your body is crucial to moving through the world more purposely with intent. It is through self-awareness that we build agency to combat anxiety that leads to indecision and lack of confidence. Self-awareness does not always mean you have a handle on the details of a situation and how you can be effective in it. Mindfulness allows your brain to collect information and develop schema. Schema are identified patterns for different situations you experience in life with knowledge of how to respond in them. Your brain creates scenarios for acting effectively in a variety of situations—it is literally its job (well, one of the important ones, anyway). When you feel an urge to act or have a strong feeling and cannot explain why, it is your brain activating the schema related to the situation you are in—it is your intuition. By taking time for your brain to observe the information provided by your internal experience in different situations, you are better equipped with more confidence in your intuition. More simply put, practicing mindfulness provides your brain with information necessary for guiding your behavior more effectively. Even more simply put, mindfulness builds agency.


Other Options for Ball of Light Meditation

10 Minute Golden Light Guided Meditation

Ball of Light Meditation by Bob Mangroo (5 minutes)

Ball of Light Meditation | Guided Meditation for Healing and Relaxation (16 minutes)

Ball of Light Meditation – Quick and Easy (5 minutes)


References and Further Reading

The Effects of Body Scan Mediation: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

How Does Mindfulness Change the Brain? A neurobiologist’s perspective on mindfulness meditation

How the Body Scan Meditation Practice Reduces Biological Stress

Investigating the Impact of Guided Imagery on Stress, Brain Functions, and Attention: A Randomized Trial

The Meditative Mind: A Comprehensive Meta-Analysis of MRI Studies

Mindfulness, Interoception, and the Body: A Contemporary Perspective

A Phenomenology of Meditation-Induced Light Experiences: Traditional Buddhist and Neurobiological Perspectives

Revealing the Secrets of Tibetan Inner Fire Meditation

What is Interoception, and How Does it Affect Mental Health?

What to Know About Guided Imagery


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Disclaimer: This content is intended for educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for mental health treatment. It is important for survivors of abuse to find mental health professionals who understand trauma and abusive relationships. Please seek support from trusted and trained practitioners. This content is not meant to be used by anyone as diagnostic criteria. Permissions have not been granted for anyone to utilize this material as a source to make allegations about specific individuals. Any online content produced by Michelle Minette and F! All That Wellness Coaching is an educational discussion about narcissism which is a descriptive term for tendencies and behavioral patterns. Individuals with narcissistic features or tendencies do not necessarily meet DSM-5 diagnostic criteria. The terms narcissistic and narcissism are used as descriptions of tendencies and behaviors and are not meant as clinical terms.