It would be difficult to establish how many thousands of books have been written about meditation.  So it is a bit ironic that one which provides some real value for the meditator has nothing to do with meditation!

When “Do-It-Yourself Eye Movement Technique for Emotional Healing“, by Dr. Fred Friedberg, Ph.D., first came out, it created quite a stir.  The underlying technique (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing or EMDR) had been kept in strict secrecy since its creation in 1989.  The rationale behind this confidentiality was that, being aimed at treating PTSD and other trauma based afflictions, EMDR could possibly elicit very negative reactions in the subject, making it imperative that a licensed professional be present to manage such an event. 

Having spent many years as such a licensed practitioner, and witnessing no such extraordinary abreaction, Dr. Friedberg published his book so that any one of us would have access to this useful technology.  He did note (pg. 6) that severe issues with post traumatic stress disorder or other critical problems still need the intervention of a capable psychiatric professional; but for the bulk of us, EMT provides a simple way of dealing with stress, tension and even some phobias in a simple, elegant way. 

The meat of the book provides a framework with which to eliminate worry, guilt or feelings of anger; manage difficult family relationships; and even reduce the stress present when suffering from chronic pain.  The technique is about as simple as can be imagined:

  1. sit comfortably, with your right hand on your right thigh and left hand on your left thigh
  2. close your eyes and bring to mind an image or memory which causes stress, worry, etc.  Rate the degree of emotional discomfort this stressor causes on a scale of 1 – 10
  3. keeping this stressor image in mind, alternately tap your legs with your index fingers: right – left – right – left – etc.  Each leg is tapped about one time per second
  4. continue tapping while keeping stressor image in mind for a few minutes
  5. stop tapping and re-evaluate the emotional discomfort caused by the stressor.

Dr. Friedberg provides a lot of direction around a number of corollary issues: what to do if a reduction in discomfort is not experienced and how to achieve this effect with another person are just two.  If you are interested in using EMT specifically for this kind of intervention, I would recommend that you refer to the book in order to get his complete directions. 

The astute reader will probably have a couple of questions.  First – “where is the eye movement?”  Since its inception more than twenty years ago, practitioners have found multiple ways to alternatively stimulate each side of the brain.  Originally, moving the eyes from side to side was thought to be necessary, but now use taps on the legs, the hands, the shoulders, and even alternating tones in each ear are also used.  The important thing appears to be this back and forth stimulation of the brain’s hemispheres. 

The next important question is likely to be: “what does this have to do with meditation?”  In chapter 12, Dr. Friedberg develops the notion of using EMT as a simple, yet effective, aid to rapid relaxation.  Instead of focusing upon the relief of a specific memory or phobia, in this chapter he proposes using EMT to simple let go of general stress – and as any new meditator can attest, releasing stress and tension prior to a meditation session can be a real challenge.

There are different ways each meditator gets past this first hurdle; some listen to soothing music first, some stretch a bit before beginning a session, others will begin with a short prayer.  All of these are good, and I recommend trying each of them.  The Eye Movement Technique offers another approach, one that is simple and can be done anywhere, anytime.  Incorporating the technique into your meditation pattern by simply tapping your legs for a few minutes prior to meditating in earnest – if this strategy is effective for you, any mental turmoil will be soothed and you can move into the rest of your normal contemplative pattern.  

Whether you incorporate this into your meditation regime, or not, it never hurts to have another took in your chest.  “Do-It-Yourself Eye Movement Technique for Emotional Healing” can provide such a tool. 


Christopher Boozell