18 people in the group, 6 of them new.
- Can we develop a Buddhist theory of the unconscious?
- Buddhism is substantially about how to free ourselves from compulsive habits that we do not understand
- Although the concept of the unconscious does not figure in Buddhist theory exactly as in Western psychology, many Buddhist teachings are best understood as being about the power of the unconscious
- If we could become liberated and enlightened simply by getting the right idea, we would all be enlightened by reading a few books and if it were simply a matter of doing the right thing and this were under our control it could be done easily, but in practice there are many obstacles that we do not understand.
- There is a simple sense in which we cannot be totally conscious, which is that attention to one thing excludes other things. Liberation of mind, therefore, does not mean being conscious of everything all of the time.
Discussion in threes: introductions and sharing of interest in this course
- how to square Buddhist idea of ego with Western ideas of ego
- Western psychology is increasingly presented in structured formats; can Buddhist psychology be presented in this way?
- my life has become more dynamic - my stone has started rolling - but I am perhaps blind to everything that is not on my path.
- I would like to be able to present Buddhist psychology is very simple terms
- I have no expectation, but I have great expectations
- I want to know more about the unconscious and about the Buddhist idea of avidya
- I am interested in the phenomenon of the client wanting to be able to change but being unable to do so, or unable to do so as quickly as desired
- are the high ideals of Buddhism actually achievable?
FOUR SMALL GROUPS
Take it in turns to share a story from your life.
WORK IN PAIRS
- Blocking: when do we intend to say something but then find that the words don't come or one's mind has gone blank?
- One goes to do something and when one arrives one cannot think what it is one has come to do
- Losing things, eg car keys. How does it happen? How do we find them again?
- Going to get something and finding that it is missing from its usual place. Searching high and low and not finding it. Going back to the place it should be and finding that it had been there all along and on our first visit we had somehow been unable to see it.
WORK IN FOURS
- How and why do these things happen?
- Prioritising of attention. If something of higher priority grabs our attention, the original matter falls out of view. The new focus may be higher priority because it is more attractive or it may be so because it represents a threat.
- The unconscious is constantly scanning our environment to keep us safe.
- Seeing the mechanism may help us to form hypotheses about what the deeper mechanism may be.
- In the nature of unconscious material, our hypotheses can never be certain, but developing an ability to see possibilities can be useful.
WORK IN FOURS
Digesting and discussing these ideas.
- Does the unconscious function differently as we get older? Interesting question - the young person may be more dominated by the unconscious and less aware of it whereas the older person may rely more upon intuition. On the other hand, the older person may be more set in their ways, the unconscious structure of their life having become more rigid.
- A student shared that she found some of the ideas we had looked at irritating and when she looked into this irritation she discovered its roots in her own life patterns. I also shared how an example I had given earlier could be traced to my early history. In this way we can see that even trivial seeming details of daily life may well have roots is our whole character structure which itself can be traced back to formative experiences earlier in our life.
- Does Buddhist practice make one more conscious or even eliminate the unconscious? No, Buddhist practice feeds the unconscious in positive ways. Modern people tend to be overly rational, distrustful of intuition, in their head rather than in their heart.
- How do you feed the unconscious in positive ways? In a word, experience. In two words, on the one hand, inspiration and on the other hand seeing the disadvantage. When we have experience that inspires us, this feeds the unconscious in a positive way directly. When something happens that brings strongly home to us the disadvantage of a certain behaviour or attitude this feeds the unconscious too. After such experience the unconscious seeks to protect us from falling into such disadvantage.
- The question therefore arises, how do we make therapy into an experience rather than just a discussion?
Consider the scene at the end of the Buddha's life when he is dying and the disciples are gathered. He asks if anybody has any further question, but nobody speaks. We can see that the preoccupation of the Buddha and that of the disciples is different. They cannot think of any question because they are overwhelmed by the fact that he is dying. This circumstance paralyses their thinking capacity.
In threes, counselling practice. Two sessions. Observing instances of unconscious mechanisms in play.
Noticing the spectrum
Discussion ................................ Experience
Talking about .............................."Working"
By the end of the day, 22 students