- Student 1 shared that she had less self-consciousness about being singled out to speak first than she would have had in the past. -> discussion about the importance of deep change and the attainment of degrees of inner peace. Such development has a major impact upon relationships, including the therapy relationship, but it is not something one can learn in the classroom. One's own therapy may help or life experience may bring about deep changes.

- Student 2  was chosen by student 2 because "she looked brave". This led student 2 to reflect on how she does not see herself as a brave person. She then introduced herself as new to the course group and went on to share about her home life. Her family consists of herself, husband and teenage son. She and husband have very different styles of relating to the son and it is difficult for the parents to tolerate each other's styles. -> discussion of how one relationship affects others so that although in therapy one is working with one client, one is also affecting a whole social system. What appears as resistance in a client may, in fact, be the resistance of the social system of which the client is a member - the system resists change but it also requires differentiation of roles. We also talked about the importance of recognising positive qualities, such as seeing the courage of the person even when they do not feel it themselves.

- Student 3 talked about nervousness and how she had made a big effort to organise things so that she could come on the course, but now, when asked to talk, she felt anxious. This anxiety manifested in spasm in her facial muscles. -> discussion of value of monitoring involuntary reactions. The spontaneous processes of the organism give important information. We are constantly responding to ambient conditions. In therapy many of these conditions may be invisible, but our organism still responds and these responses themselves give us important information about the hidden conditions. Learning to observe such spontaneous processes is an important aid in learning to do effective therapy and is a source of insight for the therapist.

- Student 4 said hat he had recently started a meditation practice and that this had led him to realise that he could observe his own process more carefully and dispassionately, that previously he had analysed without really observing closely. This advance had had beneficial consequence in that his anger in marital disputes now subsides much more quickly. -> discussion of relationship between observation and control. Going too quickly to the attempt to control may blind us to important information originating in our bodily organism.


The breath can be controlled voluntarily, but mostly functions automatically. Conscious awareness of the breath can rarely be sustained for long without attention drifting. Thus consciousness is discontinuous. The same is true with the body. One can control action consciously, but actions also occur without conscious intention. Consciousness is discontinuous. The same is also true of the mind. One can direct the mind to think or read, or imagine, but much also goes on without conscious direction.

In many spiritual disciplines there is an effort to extend the amount of conscious control of breath, body and mind. When attention wanders, one brings it back to the chosen object. However, in therapy, we can also profit from monitoring what happened during the lapses of consciousness. The spontaneous processes of breath, body and mind give us information about the hidden conditions that are affecting us. In therapy this means that by monitoring her own involuntary responses of breath, body and mind the therapist can glean important information about the client and about the interpersonal process.

This also works the other way. The client picks up information about the genuine state of the therapist and this can have a marked effect upon the relationship. It is as though there were secret communication going on between therapist and client during the gaps in consciousness. These communications may not be known to the participants but may still profoundly affect such things as levels of trust and sense of the other person's motivation. Much of what happens in therapy passes secretly in this way. Nonetheless, the effects become apparent in the breath, body and mind without there necessarily being any rational analysis taking place.


1. Shamatha meditation with periodic bells to alert participants to check breath, body and mind

2. Conversation in pairs with periodic bells to alert participants to check breath, body and mind

3. Processing and feedback in fours.




Mostly we discussed the unconscious process that goes on in the client, in the therapist and between the two. The therapist tries to create a safe space where the hidden process in the client can proceed with less obstacle. This may mean making the dialogue less earnest, most free expression.

A student raised the question of the meaning of the two Zen sayings "Only don't know" and "Just do it". The matter of not knowing is very important in therapy. The therapist has to tolerate not knowing the meaning of many of the things that emerge in therapy, holding them in suspense, patiently waiting to see if more clarity emerges. This means holding many loose ends - question marks - in one's mind.

Nothing is known for certain and everything that the client says is doubtable. The fact that the person has brought something into the therapy dialogue suggests that it is relevant to the central issue in some way but also means that it may not mean exactly what at first seemed. The inexperienced therapist thinks that she must come up with an answer but the most experienced therapist keeps the unanswered questions floating and observes the process of the client.


- Counselling practice in group of three - client, counsellor and observer

- Demonstration counselling session - strong feeling of connection between counsellor and client led to sharing about death of parents and fear of growing old alone.

- Points arising from demonstration

1. Feelings can lead to action and rationalisation may come later. Thus, in therapy, the therapist picks up on an intuitive feeling and makes some gesture toward the client. The client responds. Then the client makes connections and talks about important issues.

2. When the client has a feeling, even if painful, the therapist endeavours to keep that feeling alive while the client works with it. It is not good therapy to reassure or try to sooth the pain away.

3. The minimum effective intervention is the best one.

4. The adult and child dimensions of the client operate in parallel. In order to be able to respond to and facilitate the child aspects the therapist needs to have overcome shyness and embarassment in relation to her own inner child.

- Counselling practice in groups of three.

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Replies to This Discussion

Hi Dharmavidya,

Can you say more about "It is not good therapy to reassure or try to sooth the pain away". It seems like some of that happens naturally on the part of the therapist, whether they are consciously trying to or not ?

Thank you.

Yes, my original statement is too absolute - there are times and places for everything - but, as a general rule, it is the pain that is the place where something important is to be found and if one smooths it away one loses the opportunity to find out what it is all about. In terms of the theory of Four Truths, dukkha is the gateway to the path.


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