It is when we try to grapple with another man’s intimate need that we perceive how incomprehensible, wavering, and misty are the beings that share with us the light of the stars and the warmth of the sun.
From Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim
This site explores the complementary nature of Buddhist meditation and psychotherapy, and places a particular focus on the unique unconscious dynamics that can arise in the midst of Zen training in the West. It’s about that place where distinctions between psychotherapy and Buddhist practice fall away. It explores an integrated approach to more fully understanding deep levels of change; and offers some initial thoughts related to practical ways of working with a range of psychodynamic forces that can benefit practice while facilitating access to the unconscious. As much as possible this work has been based on what people I’ve worked with have actually experienced, not on ideas about what Buddhist practice or psychotherapy should be.
Dharma practitioners may find this site gives them a way of understanding certain difficulties that arise for Westerners in following forms of meditation that have grown out of an Asian monastic culture. Cultural and intrapsychic differences can lead to difficulties left unaddressed by “traditional” practices, and the roots of these difficulties may lie outside of our awareness. My experience is that certain kinds of obstructive states are rooted in repressive mechanisms that can become activated as practice deepens. If they are not addressed adequately they inevitably repeat themselves over and over again.
Psychotherapists may find value in further understanding ways the unconscious becomes mobilized through meditation, and especially the potential this offers for accessing deep characterological structures. Buddhist teachings also deal with the fundamental question of “who we are,” as well as the foundations of compassion, in ways that may enrich our understanding of the whole psychotherapy process, and expand our understanding of what it means to live in freedom.
There is no single way through these writings. We’re offering some possible pathways, but we’ve also tried to create a flexible site where viewers can be guided by their interests and backgrounds, (and hence you may find some unavoidable repetitions). In the future we’ll be including a number of more in-depth articles, podcasts, and other resources; and in time hope to be offering workshops and extended trainings that will include both didactic and hands-on experience. For now, in this age of overload, the intent is simply to present the essential material in a condensed form that can be read through in a couple of hours.
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