Fall 2023 Zentensive Workshop and Retreat
Now Re-accredited for 30 CEs, 2 for ethics
“Our lives are faint tracings on the surface of mystery.”
As many of you know, for the past eight years our Zentensive Workshops have been accredited by the Washington School of Psychiatry, but when we found out they were closing their doors, we had to start all over. This time through, the process was different; it was way more detailed, and required much more documentation. It felt a bit like what I imagine running barefoot over hot coals can feel like (not much fun), but as of today we’re pleased to announce that our Zentensives have again been re-certified.
On the more positive side, filling out the application made me look back on what these retreats are really about. As a central part of my own process I re-read many of the reflections therapists have shared over the years, and it was certainly a moving experience. People often wrote about their renewed appreciation for the therapeutic depths that are actually possible, and about why this work is so important to them. They also wrote quite a bit about the personal insights, understandings, and even unlockings they experienced. But at least for me, often the most powerful sections had to do with the ways people felt a stronger connection with what might be called the non-dual, or spiritual dimensions of their lives – with these more mysterious realms Annie Dillard refers to. A core element of this mystery had to do with the bond they felt with others, and of course, with those they work with, and it’s no secret that the strength of that alliance is often reflected in the “success” of the therapy.
Really it’s all of one piece, and all this makes sense. As Carl Jung has written, “The unconscious is the only available source of religious experience. This is certainly not to say that what we call the unconscious is identical with God, or is set up in his place. It is simply the medium from which religious experience seems to flow.” Often, the more skills, understanding, and flexibility a person has within these unconscious realms, the richer and smoother their retreat experience may be – and this is something that works in both directions.
When we touch deeply enough into the intrapsychic depths, our lives, and our work all come together, and we come to more fully experience ourselves as a part of the process as a whole. At least for some, intensive forms of Zen practice offer a powerful way of tapping into the healing and compassionate forces that reside within us; and for some, ISTDP, and the other experiential therapies, can be the path that offers the most direct way of addressing and transforming the obstructive and destructive forces that may emerge out of the meditative silence. In the midst of a retreat, these two approaches can feel more the same than different – and there’s a unifying flow that joins things together. These samadhi-like flow-states have a healing power all their own.
“The mysterious lies at the heart of our lives, not at the periphery. And its presence is only felt to the extent that a meditative attitude still lives within us.”
Zentensives weave together formal talks, didactic and interactive group sessions, slide presentations, confidential one-on-one meetings, and extended blocks of guided and unguided meditation. What’s clear is that the things that lead to deeper meditative states are the same things that mobilize repressed feelings. The deeper the practice, the greater the mobilization. Mobilized feelings mobilize the defensive structures linked with those feelings – in effect they arise together. Once the meditative practice crosses a certain threshold the resistances that arise against feelings often have the same flavor and structure as those that obscure the meditative practice.
These structures have a depth to them, and are often characterological in nature. As they give way, so does the sense of a separate self. Working in this way resistances become opportunities, and obstructions become doorways. The more fully the bonds of selfhood weaken, the more profoundly we come to experience the wholeness of existence – and as this unfolds we inevitably discover a greater sense of wonder and gratitude in our lives.
As Andrew Harvey has written, “The alchemists knew this great secret – that if you did not bless and accept fully everything that was most painful and dark in you, you could never attain the conjunction of opposites, the sacred marriage, the philosopher’s stone, because final wisdom can only flower from transformation of everything in the psyche, the bringing up into the light of spiritual consciousness and the releasing there of everything hidden in the dark depths of the unconscious. As Jung said; ‘One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but my making the darkness conscious.’”
Zen Practice, Psychotherapy, and the Spiritual Unconscious
“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light,
but by making the darkness conscious.”
– C.G. Jung
Section I: Introduction
Intensive forms of dharma practice stir up the whole of the psyche – and as this unfolding continues, increasing depths of the unconscious become mobilized. It’s a complicated, paradoxical, and mysterious process. Most practitioners are aware that dharma practice can arouse innate healing and compassionate energies. What is generally less clear is that meditation can also mobilize difficult and destructive forces that may have been buried away since the earliest years of one’s life. As these repressed feelings and impulses become activated, so do the defensive systems that encase them. Taken together, repressed feelings and defenses form complex emotional systems that bind energy, and inevitably exert a powerful influence over us.
What has become clear is that many of these unconscious mechanisms that hold back feelings also function in ways that obstruct deepening dharma practice. Since the dynamics that lead to deeper meditative states are exactly the same ones that mobilize the unconscious, it can be helpful, if not essential, to cultivate a greater understanding of these subterranean realms. What’s more, there are uniquely Western aspects to this process, and this is exactly why Dr. Habib Davanloo’s work is so relevant.
Individual Zentensive Consultation Sessions:
In addition to the longer, individual consultations that are already available, I’m going to start offering shorter sessions on meditation practice itself. These would be brief, 10 or 15 minute sessions, primarily for therapists interested in starting up, or maintaining a meditation practice of their own. These sessions would focus on questions relating directly to the sitting practice itself.
Longer consultations, ones that might include personal, meditation-based, or supervisory issues, are also available. These sessions are professional, Zentensive-based explorations designed to complement other forms of training, and may be helpful in addressing various psychospiritual issues arising in a person’s personal and professional life. If you’re interested in exploring this further, feel free to get in touch with me at LawsonSachter@gmail.com.
As with our Zentensive Workshop and Retreats, these longer consultations could be considered professional trainings, and as such, deductible business expenses. Please note, only your accountant can advise you as to whether such deductions would actually apply to your specific work situation.