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Daniel P Brown´s teaching approach: integrating Buddhism, Therapy, Performance Coaching

This article illustrates Daniel P Brown´s multi-faceted, integrative approach to the teaching of meditation called "Pointing Out the Great Way" (POGW). Daniel P Brown integrated Buddhism, in particular the Bon tradition and the A Khrid system, therapy (in particular attachment healing) and performance coaching.

A picture of Daniel P Brown

Meeting Neurolinguistic Programming in a Mahamudra Meditation Retreat

In a meditation called "Pointing out the Great Way," I found myself smiling. I recognized a concept I had learned in my Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) training in 1995: one of the so-called "14 presuppositions". NLP is a personal development system that is around since the 1970s. A part of it are the so-called presuppositions, which are all positive statements about the client, aiming at their agency.

NLP Presupposition #5: You already have all the resources you need

Who would have thought to meet NLP in a Mahamudra/Dzogchen retreat? This gave me the first idea that there was much more to this retreat than what I had heard before.

A snippet of a typical Daniel P Brown meditation: Buddhism, therapy, performance coaching in a few sentences

The following short extract of a typical POGW meditation, illustrating various influences.

And now imagine that you have a group of helpers and supporters for this meditation.

These can be traditional masters of any meditation or spiritual tradition, or people that you trust to be beneficial for you.

You may put particular people or teachers to who you feel affinity, in the center of that group.

Visualise all these people smiling and encouraging you.

They all want your best.

No one will ever judge you or your meditation.

Now do what the old Tibetans called “making a request for the give waves of influence”, and receiving it.

Ask that these beings remove all obscurations and limiting beliefs that may get in your way.

And ask that they activate all the positive characteristics that potentiate awakening.

And thus, as the coaches for Neurolinguistic Programming would say, you already have all the resources you need.

Now all of these views are already in your heart.

(Note that the NLP reference was not spoken by Dan Brown but by one of his co-teachers).

This passage combines at least three aspects of Dan Brown´s work

  • The A Khrid system

  • The therapeutical background

  • The performance coaching background.

The A Khrid system: early visualisation

The A Khrid system is a classical Tibetan 15-lesson abbreviated approach to "full awakening". If had a big influence on Daniel P Brown´s method. It includes a wonderful example of elaborate visualizations of a circle of helpers and supporters (called "retinue" in the POWG retreats). The visualisation is a part of the mental preparation for the actual meditation. Dan Brown had condensed this preparation into a "pre-meditation routine" consisting of physical posture taking, intention-setting and resourcing one's mental state. It implements "cue-based learning".

This is an AI-generated representation of the visualisation of the A Khrid text:

Meditation, therapy, attachment theory

Dan Brown´s background as a therapist is visible in formulations such as

  • "They all want your best", which refers to the imagined group of supporters, the "retinue"

  • "No one will ever judge you", representing a non-judgemental approach

Guided visualisations

These formulations come, for example, from his method of Attachment Healing, namely the Ideal Parents Protocol. This guided visualisation method is a method for "re-imprinting" completely positive parent experiences in a client´s mind. It is delivered in a quasi-hypnotic style.

Visualization practices involving archetypal figures are employed to create a profound sense of safety and attunement. This forms a strong psychological foundation for meditation practice. The overarching goal is to address underlying psychological issues, thereby making meditation practice more accessible and effective for students.

Meditation and attachment theory

In the POGW meditation teaching, psychological insights played a crucial role, though they were often applied subtly without explicit discussion. The teachers with a background in attachment theory might recognize underlying issues like insecurity or doubt in their students, tracing these to early attachment experiences. To address these, they might incorporate visualization exercises or deity practices, which mirror techniques used in psychotherapy.

These practices, akin to the Tibetan concept of "guru yoga" or mental bonding, involve visualizing ideal parental or bonding figures. This approach aims to activate and strengthen the attachment system, fostering a more robust sense of self. Interestingly, attachment is viewed as vital both in early self-development and in the advanced stages of meditation where one seeks to release the self.

Mindfulness meditation itself is understood to activate attachment circuitry, essentially allowing practitioners to nurture themselves in ways they may not have experienced in childhood. In this sense, it might even be seen as "inner child work".

Teachers might adapt traditional practices to address specific psychological needs they observe in students, often without explaining the psychological reasoning behind these adaptations.

Non-judgemental framework

Here are some quotes illustrating the "no-judgment framework" a nd the positive parents ideal used by the Dan Brown in the scripts of the Ideal Parents Protocol :

  • "Imagine growing up in a family different from your family of origin, with a set of parents ideally suited to you and your nature." This sets up an assumption that the ideal parents are perfectly matched to the client, rather than any deficiency in their actual upbringing.

  • "Imagine parents who are deeply attuned to you. Everything that you do." The ideal parents are described as deeply accepting and attuned to the client unconditionally.

  • "These parents are really very comfortable and deeply accepting of your attachment needs." Again this reinforces the complete comfort and acceptance of the client's needs, without judgment.

  • "They would never make you feel ashamed for wanting and for longing for closeness." This directly calls out that shame or negative self-judgment is not part of the interaction with these ideal parents.

  • "They see that as the most normal thing in the world. They want you to be close to them and they want to be close to you." Framing the needs for closeness as absolutely normal and natural. The blameless assumption is explicit.

Performance excellence: visualisation and cue-induced learning

In his "Performance Excellence" course for executives, Dan Brown utilised various visualisations which are useful to enhance performance.

He also introduces "cue-based learning", which is an integral part of the POWG retreat methodology.

These techniques were based on research showing that engaging in vivid mental imagery of ideal performance can measurably enhance actual performance, especially for elite athletes. This approach has been applied in various fields, including sports, music, and potentially other professional areas like medicine. In fact, during my professional career I once met such training.

Visualisation and cues

  • Imagining ideal performance: Athletes and performers visualize perfect execution of their skills, either in slow motion or real-time.

  • Using cues: Practitioners incorporate specific cues into their mental imagery to enhance the vividness and effectiveness of the visualization (see here for this aspect in particular)

  • Activating motor pathways: The visualization process aims to activate the relevant motor pathways in the brain, even without physical movement.

  • Backward visualization: Some practitioners, like golfer Jack Nicklaus, use a backward visualization technique, starting with the desired outcome and working backwards to the initial action.

  • Contextual visualization: Performers are encouraged to visualize not just the action, but also the surrounding context and potential distractions to better prepare for real-world conditions.

The pre-meditation routine as a tool for cue-induced learning

A specific aspect of high performance coaching is cue-induced learning. It is a state shifting technique. Without a long transition, you go from a normal, distracted state of mind to a peak performance state when you encounter a specific cue. Dan Brown gave examples of this in his Performance Excellence course:

  • Judges shifting their state when they walk into the courtroom and sit on the bench

  •  Surgeons shifting their state when they enter the operating room or emergency room

  • Executives shifting their state when leading a board meeting

In the POWG meditation retreats, the corresponding cue was the pre-meditation routine (position, resourcing, intention-setting).

So the beauty of the premeditation routine is that it's based on cue induced learning. So you'll be able to pick up the practice where we left off. And very easily enter right back into the practice. So when you set the practice up each time, you don't lose all the progress in the practice.


Brown, D. P. (2018d). Performance Excellence [Online Course]. Mind Only. Not available for purchase.A set of videos and audios from the 1990s, with lectures on performance excellence, produced during the collaboration with Jock Gordon and "Mind Only".

Brown, D. P. (2018a). Attachment disturbances in adults. Clinical Training. N/A.

An audio and video series on healing attachment disturbances for clinicians, defining and using the Three Pillars Approach and the Ideal Parent Protocol method produced during the collaboration with Jock Gordon and "Mind Only". Not available for purchase.

Brown, D. P., & Elliiot, D. S. (2018). Attachment Disturbances in Adults: Treatment for Comprehensive Repair: 9780393711523: Brown PhD, Daniel P., Elliott PhD, David S.: Books. .Winner of the 2018 International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD) Pierre Janet Writing Award.

Brown, D. P. [Boston Center for Contemplative Practice]. (2019, April 17). Imagine Ideal Parents (Powerful Exercise) | Dr. Daniel P Brown | TheBCCP [Video]. YouTube.

Churchill, J. (n.d.). John Churchill on Meditation and Attachment [Audio].

The audio snippet could not be attributed to a public source

Gebel, T. (2024f, May 31). Daniel P Brown: the A Khrid system. A short overview. Self-Arising Threefold Embodiment of Enlightenment. And. Till Gebel.


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