Reflections on a two year post-qualification course offered by AABCAP (http://www.buddhismandpsychotherapy.org/)
I am grateful for having been asked to provide the group reflections at the end of module one on the first weekend of the course as it has provided me with a more clear memory of how I felt that weekend. I came to the course full of fear. At the surface was fear about ‘not belonging’ and being ‘not good enough’, underlying these was all sorts of fear and apprehension around praise versus punishment, blame and shame. I also began the course with a great deal of confusion about my career path, what ‘hat’ to wear, and a big bag full of ‘shoulds’ around identity and roles.
This course has provided for me a safe space to meet as a group to discuss therapy, but more importantly, it has served as a safe group therapy space. I have worked through the fears I came with, learned more about myself than I ever had in individual therapy sessions and have come to arrive at the beginning of a career with a hat that not only fits my head, but more appropriately, fits my heart. Through the wisdom imparted by the teachers and trainers and the deep sense of love and openness shared within the group, my fears and confusion have been transformed into acceptance and freedom.
At the beginning of the course, I perceived a challenge, to become a bridge between theory and healing and from healing to happiness, for both ourselves and our clients. I felt a strong sense of privilege to be a part of a group that possessed the qualities that could take on such a challenge. That sense of privilege, which carries with it connotations of being bestowed an honor beyond your own merits, has also been transformed, into a sense of intention built on metta, mudhita, karuna and uppekha. The many beings are numberless, I vow to save them.
The beauty of being in this world of both Buddhism and Psychotherapy is within the opportunity to flow effortlessly between the contemplative and social contexts. We give privilege to neither intrapersonal nor interpersonal processes, neither to the rational nor intuitive mind, to the neither the Self nor the no-self. As Buddhist psychotherapists we are able to explore and understand these concepts and processes through the heart, as everything, and through wise discernment, as nothing and therefore bring balance back to the disturbances created by modern western life. Greed, hatred and ignorance rise endlessly, I vow to abandon them.
As a Buddhist Psychotherapist I appreciate the impact of conditioning, karmic and relative, on the individual and their relationship to the world around them. But I also appreciate that within that individual is a pure, true, essential nature that is waiting to be realised. I am able to reflect on the effects of the cognitive mind, the physical body and the wounded heart and understand that these effects arise simply because, “the body feels the world feeling itself”.
Clients of a Buddhist Psychotherapist walk into a room that they are already sitting in and the Buddhist Psychotherapist, themselves, move through many hours of therapy each working day. If you are not there, I am not here; that is certain. We remember wise discernment as we make contact, deepen, recognise, follow and hold our clients gently, honouring them, providing a safe container for their suffering. We watch, like a mother watches over her child, her only child, as our clients become aware, with gradual awakening, and resolution naturally unfolds. And then we are there to meet awareness with an offering of hope, the possibility of ending all suffering and a way to realise that possibility. We hold signposts, guidebooks and sometimes even maps, and then we smile and open the door. Dharma gates are countless, I vow to wake to them.
As a Buddhist Psychotherapist we offer a way of fearlessness, not reckless or heroic, but kind and openhearted, empty and free. A form of self-defense that both protects and grows the Self and defends the client against over-Selfing. We offer refuge. The Buddha’s Way is unsurpassed, I vow to embody it fully.
Nobody can tell you how you are to live your life or what you are to think, or what language you are to speak. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that the individual therapist should forge for himself the language which he knows, which he knows how to use, and the value of which he knows (Bion).
On reflection, it seems that I came to this course seeking permission to be the therapist that was within me, rather than the one falsely constructed by clinical training. Rather than permission, I found acceptance which in turn opened my eyes to the many ways of being an effective therapist and counselor. The experiential nature of the course provided me with the chance to try on various approaches and techniques and make peace with a profession that I had been struggling to connect with. And from within this peace has come a sense of freedom, to speak my ‘own language’, the one that I know, that I now know how to use and which I have come to embody through the transformations that have taken place within me.
I can’t possibly thank you all enough for providing me with the opportunity to realise this strong, happy contentment that now pervades my life, in both the personal and professional realms. The door to true freedom has been unlocked.