John: Today we’re having something very cool: a dialogue with Profound Meditation practitioner Alexander Leuthold, who is calling from Germany. Alexander, would you like to tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, how you use the Profound Meditation Program, and how that experience has been?
Alexander: John, I remember we met in Bremen, in Germany. You gave a little seminar and asked if anybody had ever tried to teach drug addicts how to meditate. I think I was the only one who raised his hand. Then you asked me about my experience with that, and I said it’s simply not possible. You then said that in your program they meditate an hour in the morning and again in the evening. That got my full attention. So, as a psychologist and psychotherapist, that’s how I became interested in brainwave entrainment programs and finally started to use them myself. That was the start.
“All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter.
Try again. Fail again. Fail better”
— Samuel Beckett
John: What does your personal practice look like, Alexander?
Alexander: I can say that as a Zen practitioner and as a PMP practitioner, I wouldn’t consider myself an expert, in the same way that I’m not a Zen monk but a lay practitioner, with between one and four weeks a year in a monastic schedule. The rest of the time I’m just living my life as a father, psychotherapist, coach, and so on. I have been practicing Zen for 20 years now. I started using brainwave entrainment programs maybe four years ago, and I’m not so much a regular practitioner on an everyday basis; I live in two places, and in one place I meditate every day, and when I’m in the other place, it’s more or less when I feel like it.
I travel a lot and I love to use PMP in trains, planes, and airports, and on Sunday mornings, because it shuts off the outside noises very easily. I can still hear people—if there’s a child sitting next to me, for instance—but it’s easy to get into a meditative mode, and I love that.
My favorite is Neurohacks (formerly Digital Pills); I use them nearly every day. I have very long working days, quite frequently up to 8, sometimes even 9, sessions a day, and when my energy is draining or when my concentration is fading, and I have the chance to take a break, I use Neurohacks. My favorite routine is starting out with Dreamtime and then doing AM Wakeup. Usually after the first 10 minutes of AM Wakeup, I’m back in business. After I turn it off, I’ve got energy for quite a while. It gets me restarted somehow.
John: So, Alexander, are you using the Profound Meditation Program with your clients?
Alexander: Yes, with a few. If people are heavily traumatized, for instance, or are struggling with the basics of life, I’m hesitant to recommend it. You have to be at least, let’s say, a normal neurotic like myself. (Both chuckle). I have noticed that then the percentage of people who stick with it is higher. I even have two people who have become regular meditators and do PMP plus a traditional meditative practice.
John, can I ask you something about the posture that you recommend to your clients? Usually, it is recommended to use it while sitting upright, right?
Alexander: Well, I have found that two positions work fine for me. One of them is lying down. I have never talked about that with anybody, but that’s how I often do it. For instance, when I’m in a hotel room and want to reenergize, especially when I use the Neurohacks, it works best for me when my legs are stretched out and crossed, so that my ankles cross and my hands are behind my neck. I always make sure that my hands behind my neck are in the same position as my feet—like if my right foot is on top, then I try to have my right hand on top as well.
John: Interestingly enough, Alexander, we just did a CD that’s going to be released sometime this year, and there are three 20-minute brain entrainment tracks with audio visualizations, and two of the tracks are made to be used while you’re lying down. All of us who are beginning to use this technology, with ourselves or professionally with our clients, are pioneers. We have thousands of years of knowledge from the great traditions, from Zen and the different wisdom traditions, but we’re also learning how to do it in the 21st century—incorporating the wisdom of the past, but evolving it. Basically, if it works, I think that’s really good.
Alexander: Yes, that’s what I think, too.
John: You said you have been doing a Zen practice for about 20 years. How did you get going? Have you been working with the same sangha or the same teacher for 20 years? We would like to hear just a little bit of background about your meditative experience.
Alexander: Well, it all started when I was still a student and wrote my thesis on freedom. I tried to conceptualize the term by doing grounded theory work, which is a special method of qualitative research. In doing this, I came across the Zen perspective on freedom. I also read the early books of Ken Wilber that were published in German at that point, which were not as elaborate as they are now; there was no AQAL, for example, but still, he was very much in favor of Zen as a good kind of meditative practice, so I read more books on Zen. At one point, I stopped reading the books, because I thought it wasn’t helping me all that much.
Then a friend gave me Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. I said, “No, I don’t want to read any more books.” He flipped the book over, and I saw the picture of Suzuki Roshi on the back cover. That sort of moved me, so I said, “Okay, this is the last book on Zen I’m ever going to read.” After a few pages, I knew that this was the sort of book that I would never understand without practicing. I joined a sangha in Munster where I lived at that time. Later, I found out that the dharma heir of Suzuki Roshi, Baker Roshi, practices in Germany, and he became my teacher. Since then, I have practiced with him. He has two practice places: one is the Crestone Mountain Zen Center in Colorado, and the other one is in the German Black Forest. At that location, I am in a program of adept practitioners, which is called the Winter Branches. That was my starting point, and that has got me to where I am today, in this respect.
One point is how you came to do a meditative practice, but the other point, which has become more interesting to me in recent years, is the question, why do you stay with the practice?
Adapted from iAwake Technologies’ free, weekly teleconference call on January 23, 2013.
Alexander Leuthold has many years of experience both as a psychotherapist and with Zen practice. In Germany, he teaches about mindfulness and Integral Life Practice, and he is currently iAwake’s own German-language Profound Meditation Program coach. Leuthold is also one of the few authorized to work with MAP (the Maturity Assessment Profile) developed by Susanne Cook-Greuter. Leuthold guides and inspires people from all walks of life, to manifest their highest potentials in both their professional and personal lives.