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Thomas Goforth, Tools of Transformation

Tools of Transformation: The Inner Source of Healing

This article builds on last month’s blog about the process of experiential self-acceptance. Here I will show how allowing ourselves to experience whatever we are experiencing becomes a potent way of connecting to an aspect of the self that has the ability to facilitate healing of our bodies, minds, and spirits. This aspect of the self is known to some practitioners as the Inner Source.

As I began my research for this piece, I was struck by the sense that what I was about to write was out of synch with the times. What seems most important in our society and culture right now is the emergence of the Occupy Movement and of all the creative, relevant ideas and policies that are spiraling off of the movement. That notion was underscored as I began my day by reading Dylan Rattigan’s column in the Reader Supported News, “Bought Justice and the Supreme Court,”which focuses on Rattigan’s understanding of the recent history of the corruption of the Supreme Court, which he identifies as yet another weapon in the arsenal of Corporate America’s seizure of power,  control, and wealth. As winter approaches, it seems more and more clear that the time is right for continuing to demonstrate against the takeover of our country by the 1%. Government of, by, and for the wealthy and the corporations must not stand.

So the relevant sense I can make of what I am writing about here is that we must not abandon self-care as we involve ourselves in working for social and political change. The human organism thrives on the balance of body, mind, and spirit, and if we are able to keep this balance, we will be strengthened in our non-violent activism. What I have to offer here is a powerful resource for personal healing and transformation, which will help to provide centering,

balance and creativity as we continue our work of making this the People’s Republic once more. So a possible motto for today might be “keep occupying, keep demonstrating, and keep meditating.”


As I write this, I am becoming increasingly aware that I am using a particular methodology that I would like to make transparent. I am advocating against terms like “cutting edge” or “the very latest developments in” the field of psychotherapy. Instead I am attempting to take a historical and holographic approach that will show how the great ideas that have emerged from the seminal thinkers and schools of thought in the field of psychology can be connected to one another in a meaningful way. In doing so, I hope to show that these ideas and methods are an evolving lineage that can be made explicit and accessible to people everywhere. I also hope to demonstrate that we can have a direct experience of an inner source of healing, directly, through a mindfulness meditative approach that anyone can master. As those of you who meditate know, mindfulness meditation has been taught for thousands of years in Asia, and much more recently in the West. One of its greatest contemporary proponents, Thich Nhat Hanh, whose photograph is featured above, has written innumerable books and articles which beautifully illustrate the many gifts and blessings that accompany bringing mindfulness and meditation into one’s life. What distinguishes the Inner Source practice from traditional mindfulness meditation is the addition of certain features that are designed to increase its effectiveness as a therapeutic method fostering both healing and creativity in the people who utilize it.

(That’s a lettuce cigarette that Dr. Perls is smoking!)

Frederick “Fritz” Perls, one of the founders of the Gestalt psychology school, is famous for  admonishing his students and clients to “lose your mind and come to your senses.” His instruction is synchronous with Milton Erickson’s suggestion, mentioned in my last article, that we tend to follow our maps of the world rather than our sensory experience. For this reason, focusing on one’s body sensations opens a gateway to the altered state experience of meditative trance, simply because we are shifting away from our normal conscious waking state and opening our awareness to another realm of experience. When we utilize the self-acceptance approach of allowing ourselves to experience whatever we are experiencing without judgment, criticism, evaluation, or comparison we can move easily into the flow of communication that comes from the mind-body-spirit continuum. I believe that this meditative process is holographic in the sense that our receptivity to this flow of imagery, felt sensation, audition, spontaneous ideas, and spontaneous impulses shines the laser like light of our awareness on the explicit experiences we are having meditatively. This “enlightenment” allows us to become aware of our wholeness, our uniqueness, and our connectedness to ourselves and one another.

The Lineage of the Inner Source

Credit for bringing the Inner Source to the United States belongs to Michael L. Emmons, Ph.D. who published “The Inner Source: A Guide to Meditative Therapy” in 1978. Dr. Emmons was influenced by several emerging meditative approaches to healing, including his experience of Autogenic Training as taught by the German psychologist Wolfgang Luthe. Dr. Luthe and his colleagues developed  Autogenic Training as a result of their experimentation with making direct suggestions to the body, e.g. “my arms and legs are getting warm and heavy.” In their research, they discovered that the deeply relaxed states induced by their sequencing of suggestions had surprising results. They found that as their subjects became more relaxed, they would sometimes have powerful altered state experiences such as visions, memory recall, emotional abreaction, and feelings of bliss and euphoria. Over time they concluded that these experiences had both physical and emotional healing potential. This development was part of a continuum of evolving therapeutic practices that began with Sigmund Freud’s use of hypnosis and free association and Carl Jung’s practice of active imagination and visionary meditation. Dr. Emmons, in reviewing the various practices that emerged over the course of the twentieth century, was able to create a meditative therapy approach that included elements of all of them, the Inner Source. It is this practice that I propose to teach you in the following sections of this article.

(For an elegant and informative guide to a step by step approach to deep relaxation using Autogenic Training, click here. 

(For a You Tube guided relaxation video, using Autogenic Training, click here.

Teaching and Practice

In his formulation of the Inner Source, Dr. Emmons enumerated some of the important characteristics of the experience. The first characteristic is that the Inner Source is always present and constantly displaying itself. In other words, it is always available to those who seek it, just below the surface of consciousness. He believes it is an innate aspect of the Self that is both self- healing and self-unifying. Dr. Emmons suggests that the Inner Source works holistically through our individual consciousness with our bodies, minds, and spirits. It is timeless in that it can guide us to the past, the present, or the future and it can distort time by compressing it or expanding it. The Inner Source is capable of providing rapid healing and rapid learning, while providing a full range of methods and experiences to help us reach our therapeutic goals and positive intentions. It may evoke unusual experiences like precognition and out of body experience. Finally, it can enhance one’s sense of oneness with the universe, and can stimulate creativity and a stronger sense of self. (liberally excerpted from” Meditative Therapy” by Emmons and Emmons, 2000, pg. 27.)

In a recent conversation I had with with one of my clients, she described some of the things she has experienced in her Inner Source work with me, and gave me her permission to include them in my article. My client describes herself as someone who has trouble staying connected to herself and to what she wants and feels. She is also aware of being easily influenced by the judgments, opinions, and suggestions of others. She says that her Inner Source experiences make her feel more connected to her true self in a reassuring and heartening way. In her words, “In my Inner Source work, it becomes very clear that what I am experiencing is “me,” not something that someone else is suggesting. This allows me to feel calm and quiet inside. What I am experiencing lifts my spirits and allows me to connect to my true feelings, needs, and desires.”

As you can see from the exciting lists of possibilities above, there are strong incentives for our learning to use this healing practice. What follows are my suggestions for how to begin.

The Direct Experience of the Inner Source

To summarize what I have written above, the Inner Source is an aspect of our consciousness that we can learn to experience directly. Meditators and therapeutic practitioners that use hypnosis, Autogenic Training, and the Inner Source method in their healing work believe that this highly intelligent aspect of our consciousness is always available to us beneath the level of our ordinary consciousness. Many of this group, me included, teach that this part of us wants to be of service to us, that it is always ready and available to come to our aid. Because of its availability and desire to be of help, the Inner Source is easier to gain access too than you might think.

The first step is to find a comfortable relaxing body position. Lying down with your head slightly raised, or sitting in a chair that supports your head and neck is advisable. The next step is to enhance your state of relaxation. This can be done by using your favorite method of mindfulness meditation or by using the methods of autogenic relaxation described in the link above. You can also use the Betty Erickson method of self- hypnosis that I described in last month’s article. Another simple method for developing deeper relaxation is to close your eyes and focus on your breath. Breathing only slightly more deeply than usual, emphasize your exhalation so that you almost empty your lungs. After doing that for a few breaths, on your next inhalation, and with your eyes closed, roll your eyes up as you inhale, as if you could look out through the top of your head. Hold your eyes gently in the rolled up position for a few seconds, and then relax your eyes, allowing them to return to normal. Repeat the eye rolling technique for three more breaths, and then feel the relaxation that you are experiencing after the last exhalation. You should feel sensations of floating, drifting, or sinking down. If you find that you are not yet relaxed repeat whatever technique you are using until relaxation deepens.

The state of relaxation you are now in is open and receptive. Now bring your attention to whatever you are experiencing. Remember to focus first on your body sensations, visual, auditory, and feeling. Then employ experiential self-acceptance to simply allow yourself to experience whatever is happening. As in mindfulness meditation, do not try to hold onto the experience. Do not try to push any experience away. Instead, remain attentive and receptive to your experience, and describe out loud whatever you become aware of. My experience is that Inner Source work is best done with someone present, who will listen closely to what you are expressing, sometimes reflecting what you are saying back to you, and perhaps even making a transcript of what you actually say. The next best thing, if you are by yourself, is to turn on a tape recorder. What either a witness or a tape recorder can create is the sense of a reciprocal experiential loop. This “loop” has the benefit of enhancing the depth of the meditative- trance state, and of giving you the experience of validation.

So what can you expect to experience when you are successful in creating this relaxed state? The overarching experience is that of feeling guided or directed through a journey into the self. It is as if you have travelled to an unknown place and hired a guide to show you the countryside. Because you have never been to this place before there is a sense of not knowing what to expect. The Inner Source can be full of surprises. It can take you back into your past, it can keep you in the eternal present, and it can also orient you to the unknown future. It may guide you to the expression of emotions that you have suppressed or repressed. It may remind you of experiences that you have forgotten or rejected. It may offer you experiences of intense pleasure, creative imagery, even bliss. What is consistent is that these experiences take place in the context of healing and personal transformation. One of the mantras that I learned from Dick Olney, when I was first introduced to this type of experience is, “take me where I need to go, and show me what I need to know.” I learned that we can count on the Inner Source to do what is truly in our best interest, to work in synchrony with our greatest good and highest purposes. (Dick Olney’s work can be found here.

The only caveat for those considering experimenting with the Inner Source is that it is not meant for the faint of heart. If you are afraid of your emotions or are unwilling to look closely at the experiences in your personal history, the Inner Source method is definitely not for you. If you are uncertain about free floating experiences in an altered state, seek the guidance of a therapist who uses mindfulness practices in her work. If, however, you are an experienced meditator, are familiar with using self-hypnosis or hetero-hypnosis, or if you are an accomplished practitioner of yoga or tai chi, I think you will find that the Inner Source will be a wonderful addition to your personal growth, healing, and transformation. If the spirit moves you, let me know what you experience as you grow more familiar with this practice, by leaving your comments on the page below. I firmly believe that with personal practices like this to heal and strengthen us, together we will create Peace, Love, and Understanding.


Newtopia staff writer THOMAS GOFORTH is a psychotherapist and pastoral counselor working in Chicago, IL. He was ordained to the Episcopal priesthood in 1967 and served as Chaplain to the Cook County Jail and the Chicago House of Correction while working for St. Leonard’s House, one of the first halfway houses in the country.. He did draft counseling and community organizing during the Viet Nam War, and was one of the founding members of the Lincoln Park Therapy Collective, an all volunteer organization which provided free group therapy for people living on the North Side of Chicago from 1968 until the mid 80′s.He helped organize the first crisis phone line in Chicago, and later helped train the staff counselors for Kool Aide Youth Emergency Services and Metro Help. He was an actor in the Free Theater Company and Rapid Transit Guerrilla Communications, two groundbreaking political theater companies performing in Chicago during the late 60′s and early 70′s. In the 80′s he helped found the Milton H. Erickson Institute of Chicago and became its third president and a member of its teaching faculty. At the invitation of Charles Shaw, he became the acting “Pit Boss” of the New Poetry Collective, the poetry arm of Newtopia Magazine in its first incarnation. Follow him at Twitter @thomas_goforth.



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