The term PsychoDynamic Zen refers to a kind of understanding, and a style of Dharma practice, that recognizes, and works with the unique conscious and unconscious psychological features that arise out of Dharma practice in the West. It offers an understanding of these dynamics based on Dr. Habib Davanloo’s metapsychology of the unconscious, and in particular, it focuses on how the Western unconscious is mobilized in the course of intensive Zen practice. Psychodynamic refers to the interplay between conscious and unconscious forces, and so PsychoDynamic Zen refers to this dynamic as it unfolds in the course of deepening training.
As the more superficial layers of the mind become quieter through meditation, the layers beneath become activated – the more intense the practice, the more intense the mobilization. This co-mergence of what might loosely be called ‘spiritual’ and ‘psychological’ forces inevitably stirs up all kinds of things, including painful and obstructive states. Exactly because Dharma practices often bring unresolved forces to the surface, they offer a great opportunity – both in terms of Dharma practice and psychotherapy – for the deepest kind of insight and transformation.
PsychoDynamic Zen also focuses on the implicit layers of ‘self’ that are embedded in the unconscious. These less visible ‘self-structures’ can play a central role in obstructing our lives and practice, and when left unaddressed they can reinforce patterns used to disconnect from others, or cause them pain; and undermine our own efforts.
Buddhist practices have evolved out of the incredibly diverse cultural and psychic dynamics of Asia, some of which are profoundly different from those found in the West. Because of these differences, Westerners often come up against practice-based difficulties left unaddressed by traditional forms of practice. Zen PsychoDynamic Inquiry offers an emerging way of working directly with these issues as vital aspects of our lives, and as practice itself.