* THE TIGER & THE OX

A BUDDHIST PSYCHOTHERAPY: The Tiger and the Ox

~ David Brazier 2015

Buddhism as a Basis
In this paper I would like to describe one way of doing and conceptualising psychotherapy. I do not claim that this is the only or best way, necessarily, though I believe it has some particular merits. All forms of psychotherapy practice offer methods, theory that supports and makes sense of those methods and a basic grounding that indicates where the method sits in the wider scheme of values, society, and the spirit of the age. In this instance, this basic grounding is provided by Buddhism and much of the theory, correspondingly, is simply the Buddhist teachings themselves. Here, however, I shall not be giving an extensive covering of all the Buddhist principles that are here relied upon. One has to set some limits and it would take too long to expound here the Three Signs of Being, the Four Truths for Nobel Ones, the Five Skandhas, the Six Paramitas, the Seven Factors of Illumination, the eight steps of the Eightfold Path, the nine grades of Entry into the Pure Land, the Ten Precepts and so on. Yet each of these doctrinal formulas and many more ould, in other circumstances, be taken as a basis for expounding another and another aspect of the psychotherapy that will here be described.

It is a well established result of social research demonstrated by a large number of studies that people who have a religious life or serious spiritual outlook have, on the whole, healthier and happier lives. They, on average, live longer, cope with pain better, meet setbacks with more fortitude, and do not succomb so readily to disease as members of the same society who lack such a spiritual grounding. This is not a trivial finding. Those who are concerned with health and well-being should certainly take it a important and relevant. However, the spirit of our times is such that health care and the professions ancilliary to it have become more and more detached from any serious consideration of religious or spiritual wisdom. In one study it was found that even so much as having the doctor ask a few serious questions about the patient's spiritual life in the course of a diagnosit interview was sufficient to bring about shorter recovery times and better healing, presumably because it gave evidence to the patient that the doctor took the patient's spiritual ife seriously.

The idea of using a spiritual system itself as the theory basis for psychological healing should, therefore, not seem unduly odd. Although our culture has become secularised and has given high status to reductionist materialism, this has not been the case in the vast majority of other cultures that have existed and do exist on this planet. The more normal situation is that people see a very close association between spirituality and healing, as well as between religion and healthy living. In fact, it is widely thought that the spiritual path and the path of true sanity are one and the same. Although in our society a rupture has occurred between these two, here this more traditional perspective will be maintained. Here, we see an equivalence between the spiritual and the therapeutic. Psychotherapy is a form of accompaniment and aid that helps people in their passage along their spiritual path.

Here, therefore, it is assumed that, whether they realise it or not, whether they themselves think in these terms or not, everybody is, in fact, on some kind of spiritual path. They are progressing oward a greater wholesomeness of spirit which is the same thing as an enhanced sanity. The method here described is concerned with helping people to liberate themselves from the internalised obstacles that they carry with them that impede them on this journey.

This, of course, is a model. Models are not to be judged as true or false, but rather as having a better or worse fit to reality. No model is perfect. It must, of necessity, involve generalisations that do not fit every case, and simplifications that do not do justice to every unique complexity. This is both the strength and the weakness of any model. It is a weakness in that it can never explain everything. It is a strength because such an abstraction provides conceptual simplicity and thus furnishes us with simple principles that throw light upon a wide range of particular cases. This is of great value to the practising clinician.

So, we are going to look at a way of doing psychotherapy that sees therapy itself as a form of spiritual practice, that draws it principles primarily from Buddhism, that takes the spiritual or religious life seriously, but which yet is a method that makes a claim to universality so that one does not have to be Buddhist or even to have any particular spiritual or religious affiliation in order to use or benefit from it. We might, slightly paradoxically, say that you don't have to be Buddhist to be buddhist. Nonetheless, we do here claim that the principles that Buddhism offers do constitute a fine therapeutic system when viewed and used appropriately.

Various Interpretations
Throughout history Buddhism has been susceptible to a diversity of interpretations. Some of these differences have to do with the understanding of the meaning of what Buddha taught. Some have to do with differences in methods of practice. Most Buddhist countries have several schools of Buddhism, each offering a distinctive tradition of principle and practice. Some may emphasis learning, others contemplation, others meritorious action and others, again, discipline of behaviour. Each will have its favoured Buddhist rexts drawn from the huge corpus of Buddhist writings. Since different schools do different practices within different traditions based on different texts, one might wonder how it is that they are all the same religion. However, at the core of all Buddhist schools is a principle of what is called taking refuge in the Buddha and his Dharma and Sangha. This centrality of refuge is the common factor and reflects the fact that all this diversity springs from a common root.

Now, as yet, there is not a Buddhist school that has the practice of therapy as its hallmark, unless, perhaps, the ancient therapeutae of the Egyptian desert two thousand years ago could be cited. In principle, one could imagine such a development and perhaps sometimes in the future it may come about. Without here wishing to advance such a cause particularly, we shall be taking it that the practice of therapy is, at least potentially, capable of being a complete spiritual path, a complete and adequate way of implementing the Buddhadharma.

In any case, it is no doubt the reality that many people who do turn to Buddhist practices do so because of a desire to find a solution to personal suffering. Unfortunately, too often, what they are looking for is symptom suppression rather than real cure, but it is a start. Buddhism begins with a real acknowledgement of dukkha. The approach adopted in this paper is not that buddhism offers an escape from dukkha, a kind of immunity, but rather that it offers a path to understanding and wisdom through a more honest and complete encounter with dukkha. Such wisdom emanates as genuine compassion. Some affliction is inevitable in this world. The spiritual path may involve encounter with some intense suffering and anguish at times. However, it may also result in a global diminution of suffering because it eliminates the tendency to adopt the kinds of responses to dukkha that themselves generate more of the same.

The main hallmark of therapy is that it is a form of co-working. A therapist helps a client. The client benefits. Generally the therapist also benefits. Helping another enables one to vicariously experience difficult areas of life and this obviates the need for one to pass through those defiles oneself.

Chinul & Neuroscience
Here we are going to take as a motif a famous saying of a thirteenth century Korean Buddhist master. Master Chinul (1158-1210), who is also known by his postumous title of Pojo Kuksa, is one of the greatest Korean Buddhist masters. His approach unified teaching and practice at a time when they had seemed irremediably separated. His work has left an indelible mark in Korea and beyond and his writings are still a great resource for the study and understanding of the Dharma. He famously said that in practising Buddhism one should proceed with the eyes of a tiger, but at the pace of an ox.

In this essay, I will use this phrase in a way that goes beyond what Chinul intended, but which, I hope, sheds some modern light on why it is such good advice. Here I want to use ideas from science that were not available in the thirteeth century. I shall map Chinul's idea onto some of this contemporary thinking. Of course, this is a somewhat hazardous thing to do for several reasons. Firstly, Chinul is not here to tell us what he thinks of what I have done with his idea. Secondly, neuroscience is still in its infancy and we are far from being able to draw definitive conclusions. In the workings of the brain, things appear to be a certain way, but this depends upon a variety of sources of information which are indicative, but none of which constitute proof. Thirdly, I am not a neuroscientist nor a fully enlightened Buddha, so my offerings are simply the best I can do at my present stage of understanding.

This essay can also be seen in the perspective of bringing together science and religion, especially mind science and Buddhism. This is a dialogue that is currently generating a lot of interest and there are nowadays several series of international conferences that focus on it. It is a dialogue that both spiritual practitioners and scholars on the one hand and on the other hand scientists and those who apply that science find stimulating and constructive. Psychotherapists are one of the groups who apply such knowledge, doing so in their attempt to help people with mental or spiritual problems.

Chinul revitalised Buddhism in Korea without ever leaving the country. He was not one of those who went to China and brought back a tradition. Rather, he resolved to practise as deeply as possible and to study all the texts available and arrive at conclusions by the insight that this process brought. He made compacts with others to practice together. This is a wonderful example of how to develop wisdom and compassion and establish a pathway that others can then follow. Interestingly, Chinul's life is contemporary with that of another great master, Honen Shonin (1133-1212) in Japan about whom we could say exactly the same thing. Honen was 25 when Chinul was born and Chinul died two years before Honen. Although their formulations of Buddhism are different, both were enlightened by reading key Buddhist texts after practising assiduously in an attempt to resolve important contradictions. Each ultimately revolutionised the presentation of Buddhism in his own country.

Human knowledge is bound to be fragmentary and is always framed from a particular perspective. Arriving at the truth is not a matter of finding the right fragment or getting the right perspective. Many perspectives may serve equally well. The truth can be seen from many angles and through many examples because it is available everywhere. We can learn from such great masters as Chinul and Honen, just as they learnt from the writings of those before them, but each had to make his own leap and we too have to find the truth in our own time and world, each in our own way. They are a springboard, but we have to jump. Nowadays this is a world in which science is important. Bringing together modern science and ancient wisdom is proving productive and is a good way for the psychotherapist to advance understanding. Each of us must arrive at her/his own integration.

Buddhism Begins with Dukkha
Buddhism begins with an examination of dukkha. Dukkha means affliction. Loosely, nowadays, we call it stress. We tend to think that stress is a modern phenomenon, but the Buddha was talking about dukkha twenty five centuries ago. What is, perhaps, modern is the increased complexity of society and the pressure this puts on people. This pressure is rather different from the dukkha that people faced in earlier times and still face in economically undeveloped countries. In such countries one has to struggle to maintain life. There is a serious danger of starvation, children die, medical services are poor or ineffective and, to put it simply, life is continually being threatened. People in modern societies do not face the same life threatening circumstances so often, but because of the complexity of the society they do find themselves being treated as cogs in a big machine, impersonally. They also find themselves subject to social pressure to conform to a much narrower range of norms. This means that although the modern person is relatively free from exposure to sheer terror or massive tragedy, he or she is daily exposed to a huge range of minor insults, minor cruelties, disappointments and humiliations and has relatively less means to hand for discharging the resulting build up of inner tension.

In his first major teaching, the Buddha taught “Four Truths for Noble Ones”. I will here rely upon the interpretation of this teaching given in my book The Feeling Buddha. The first truth is that dukkha happens and that it is a reality for noble ones. What does this mean? One way of understanding it is to see that affliction is an existential reality for everybody, but one needs to be a “noble one”, that is, somebody with some degree of spiritual awakening, to really face it, to take is as a full reality. Ordinary people live very substantially in denial. A close examination of daily life, however, reveals that we suffer a hundred cuts a day. These small psychological wounds, if not attended to, fester.

The second truth for noble ones is the observation that dukkha raised energy. This energy is emotional. Too many people understand Buddhism as a means by which to supress or avoid their feelings. This is surely a misinterpretation. Modern life involves a great deal of such avoidance. Children are brought up to avoid the natural discharge of their feelings. By the time they are adult they may sometimes have partially or completely forgotten how to cry or to laugh. Nonetheless, daily dukkha, and even more so the larger scale afflictions that impose themselves on life occasionally, brings up emotional energy. This is called samudaya which literally means that which comes up with, so dukkhasamudaya means that which comes up in association with dukkha. This aspect of the term samudaya is ignored in many interpretations of the Buddhist teaching. What tends to be stressed is the fact that under the sway of such feelings, people do things that in due course lead to more dukkha. In particular they attach themselves to whatever they think will rescue them from the immediate feelings. This could be a person, an addictive substance, a distracting activity, a scheme of revenge, or many other things, but in all cases it involves becoming attached to something and then clinging on, counting on this new attachment to solve the supposed problem. This, in the ordinary case, samudaya leads to craving, clinging, and thus further dukkha.

However, the Buddha labels samudaya also as a truth for noble ones. So samudaya does not necessarily have to lead to more trouble. It all depends how it is handled and that is a function of the mentality of the person. The “noble one”, or illumined person, also has samudaya but they deal with this energy in a different way. In fact, it is exactly this energy that is the fuel or driving power of the spiritual life. Thus, the third step for a spiritually awake person is nirodha, which implies a containment and redirection of the energy. Our task here is to examine how this happens.

Therapy can be seen as an interpersonal process that enables one or both parties to respond to the uprising energy triggered by affliction in a way that generates the spiritual path rather than generating more dukkha. We therefore need to look at the natural life of the emotional energy raised by dukkha.

In this respect, the dukkha may be current or it may be from the past. Humans have a well developed capacity to set immediate dukkha aside to be dealt with later. This capacity can be life saving. It is of enormous value. However, everything has pros and cons. In a social context, except within the frame of certain socially approved rituals, a person is generally required to keep their emotional energy under restraint while they are in public view. Not to do so is to lose face and risk embarassment or labelling as devient. There are many ways in which we put pressure on one another not to break down in public and, in many situations, not even to show the slightest sign of what one is really feeling. A person can do this and it is not unhealthy so long as they do have some other time and place in which to abreact their true feelings. However, in modern society such places are under pressure. We live lives that are more and more public and intimate space is progressively shrinking.

Even within the privacy of a person's home, it may nowadays be the case that many of the values that people try to live are ones that properly belong to the public sphere. Ideas like equality and rights, which are immensely valuable as guidelines for creating a civilised civic society, may not be the best principles upon which to create a truly intimate family life where people need space in which to sometimes feel dependent, be irrational, vent pent up feelings and say things that discharge immediate emotion but are not matters that they want to be held to in the long run or in public. Humans need to be two-faced in this respect. Unless they can discharge their true feelings somewhere it becomes increasingly difficult to go on playing the social game.

Although most modern societies have become more open in their willingness to discuss sex, death, and other subjects that our ancestors might have regarded as improper to address in public, in private we have, in many respects, arguably, become less skilled. The distinction between private and public has lessened to a remarkable degree. We will now talk in public about issues that would once only have been considered allowable in private, yet our privcy is not as private as it once was, if it exists at all.

Four Immeasurables & Three Intelligences
Life is a spiritual affair taking place in a material world. At its most basic level this is the working out of desire (trishna). The ordinary person clutches at some aspects of experience and prefers them and suffers when they are lost. Things in the mind and things in the world depend upon conditions and conditions are impermanent. This makes one's spiritual state vulnerable to upset if one has no reliable refuge. We are, therefore, like little boats on a big sea, vulnerable to big waves and prone to meet disaster when a typhoon occurs. We try to make our life as invulnerable to these tragedies as possible, but this often means never venturing out of harbour. If we have once suffered shipwreck we may become doubly cautious and fearful of taking similar risks again. How are we to regain our courage, to find the marvellous possibilities of life and to discover a different kind of invulnerability, one that is spiritual rather than worldly, one that will keep us in good spirits come what may?

One reason that the answer can be complicated is that millions of years of evolution have equipped us with various kinds of intelligence. We have different kinds of intelligence in order to deal with different aspects of life, but we also have them so that they can co-operate or impose limits upon one another. Intelligences that were developed to deal with aspects of our primitive, evolutionary situation, also have the potential to take us beyond it. Working together, they give us the possibility of rising above the life of grasping. Ordinary greed, hate and delusion can transform into love, compassion, joy and a stability of spirit that cannot be capsized by things that happen in the practical world. This transformation depends not upon ordinary conditions, but upon a spiritual light that transcends the ordinary and is always available to us because it alone is not impermanent. This is what, in Buddhism, is called a true refuge. A person who has a true refuge can be at ease participating in the world because of feeling a confidence that transcends ordinary circumstance. Thus such a person is free to work for the benefit of self and others, for the good of all sentient beings. Such a person is a psychotherapist in the original Greek meaning of the words psyche and therap. The therap is one who accompanies and serves, and the psyche is the deepest part of the person.

We can say, therefore, that a psychotherapist, in the widest and deepest sense, is a spiritual friend (kalyana mitra) who is able to befriend even those whom others have rejected. This ability depends upon the therapist having a faith or confidence that goes beyond the presenting situation. This inner resource enables the therapist to transform ordinary situations into gateways to illumination. Sometimes the illumination is small and sometimes big, but in any case, it is a gift.

Buddhist Psychotherapy is, thus, the working out of the four immeasurable qualities of love, compassion, joy and equanimity. Here, by love (maitri), we mean a commitment to do what we can to enhance the wellbeing of the client. By compassion (karuna) we mean a concern to liberate the client from conditions that are limiting to his wellbeing. By joy (mudita), we mean that we rejoice in the client’s successes. By equanimity (upeksha), we mean that we are not defeated by the client’s difficulties and set-backs. By wellbeing we mean the spiritual as well as the practical prosperity of the client. Often the therapist is not in a position to effect a change in the client’s material circumstances. The therapist’s primary concern is with the client's spiritual wellbeing. Spiritual wellbeing refers to maturity, nobility, faith and generosity of spirit. When therapy goes well, the client emerges more spiritually mature. He may or may not have solved, resolved or avoided a practical or social problem in his life, but he will have arrived, through his experience, at a condition of greater stability, courage, wisdom and/or compassion.

These sublime qualities require a particular use of intelligence. Intelligence is our ability to negotiate a passage through life and arrive at good or bad outcomes. We know about IQ and, more recently, there has been much written about “emotional intelligence”. I am not going to talk about these two here directly. Rather, I am going to look at some of what we now think is the case based on findings in neuroscience.

It seems that in order to perform any act with precision, the method of doing so generally involves the manipulation of two opposing or contrasting forces. Thus, to pick up a small object one must employ a finger and the thumb pressing in opposite directions. The same is true with the mind. This is probably the reason that the brains of vertebrates are mostly divided into two hemispheres. The left hemisphere deals with some aspects of life, such as language, fine detail, and linear thinking, while the right hemisphere deals with imagery, music, plans and global conception. The left is concerned with fact, the right is impressionistic. To live in an effective way, the two must both be able to act separately without too much interference of one upon the other – hence the divided brain – but also they need to co-operate, like the finger and thumb, when some fine adjustment or some new circumstance comes into play.

Master Chinul said that one should proceed with the eyes of a tiger at the pace of an ox. We can see some correspondence here between the ox and the right brain and between the tiger and the left brain. Both for our own spiritual practice and our work of assisting one another, we need to cultivate both aspects, each separately and also the two together in their ability to co-operate one with another. The right brain is rather dreamy and these dreams inspire us, yet it needs to left brain to keep it practical. The left brain gets things done, but it needs to right brain to stop it just becoming ruthless.

In the uncultivated mind, both the tiger and the ox are under the sway of the old brain, the reptile who only knows simple desire. The first flash response, even in the most cultivated person, is often the rousing of the reptilian brain to lust, desire or hatred. This reptilian brain is the limbic syatem, the part that is not divided. However, in the mind of the cultivated person, immediately following the limbic response, there comes, straight away, a restraint that enables the higher faculties time and scope to make something more constructive of the situation, to turn the passions into bodhi.

We can thus conceive of the person as controlled by three intelligences which correspond to the anatomy of the brain. At the head of the spinal column is the old brain, which is the source of vitality, but is only interested in plundering life in a selfish manner. This serpent mind is kept in check by the two hemispheres of the higher brain, the tiger mind and the ox mind, which both calculate advantages and disadvantages, try to keep us safe, and also are each capable of creativity and initiative, but each does each of these things in a very different way.

Tiger Brain and Ox Brain
The tiger brain (left) is more go-getting. It generally knows what it wants and is on the look out for exactly that. The left brain of a bird is looking for seeds or insects to eat. It focusses on these small items and recognises them immediately. It picks one and then another, more or less blind to everything else. The tiger is the aggressive part. Anger resides in the left brain. The left brain is also much more concerned with language than the right, especially with all the words for specific things, and most especially with the words for things it might want or that can be used in an argument or for rational thought. Being concerned with detail in this way, the left brain makes sense of things by building up a picture from parts. It looks for familiar signs and fits them into a picture. The left brain knows what it wants. Once we know something clearly we establish that routine in the left brain.

The ox brain (right) is slower and looks around. It is alert to the general scene and anything that is out of place. It draws on peripheral vision and background noises. It is closer to the unconscious. In a bird, while the left brain is intent of spotting seeds, the right brain is watching out for the cat that might be moving in the bushes. The right brain does not know exactly what it is looking for, but it will respond to the slightest impression. The instinct of the left brain is to move: if it sees a tasty seed it grabs it immediately. That of the right brain is to stop: if it senses a movement in the bushes it freezes , carefully making sure, before it acts. The ox brain is generally more emotipnal and sadder than the left brain. It is more aware of what can go wrong. Melancholy resides in the right brain. Although language is largely a matter for the left brain, the ox mind has a special interest in emotional, sentimental and metaphoric phrases. Life is an altogether heavier matter for the ox than for the tiger. The right brain makes sense of things by seeing the whole gestalt. Details are always seen in relation to other things, if they are noticed at all.

In the fully functioning person the tiger mind and the ox mind work together. They check one another. When the tiger is all set to pounce on something, the ox may hold it back a minute to make sure that what it is about to pounce upon is not part of the hunter's trap. When the ox is becoming dreamy and reminiscing, the tiger may snarl that there is a job to be done.

In spiritual practice, the eyes of the tiger bring the mind to one-pointedness while the placidity of the ox gives time to appreciate the universal ocean of nirvana. In therapy, every detail that comes forth from the client is noted by the tiger who is looking for the exact pieces of information that will be of most crucial importance. Meanwhile, the ox is intuitively sensing the bigger trajectory of the client's life and the broad dimensions of his situation without which none of these details have any meaning.

The Balanced State of Samadhi
Samadhi is generally presented as an advanced state of meditation. There are many descriptions of it differing from tradition to tradition. Here I am going to use it as a way of looking at the state of intense concentration needed by a psychotherapist and also as the end product of the best process of dealing with samudaya energy for the client.

Chinul talks of samadhi as going hand in hand with prajna. Together, we can take these as meaning to look and see deeply. This is what is needed to help sentient beings. What is on the surface is not the whole picture.

At the simplest level, the word samadhi means concentration. It is a basic instinctive capacity. Everybody concentrates some of the time. An animal hunting is concentrating. An animal watching out so as not to get caught by the hunter is also concentrating, but in a different way. In fact, the former is probably mostly using the left brain and the latter the right.

Here I wish to propose that samadhi is a state of balance in which all three major aspects of intelligence are awake and in balance, each functioning independently, yet co-operating and much of the time in a state of poise. This means that the therapist sees the immediate symptom and the bigger picture concurrently and also feels the instinctive desire energy that is fueling the situation. This balance implies intensity and inner stillness on the part of the therapist, yet this stillness is not just passive, but is, rather, the basis of fine discernment. To deeply understand the client all three dimensions must be in play and the therapist must maintain an inner stillness that allows the slightest movement in the presentation of the client to become apparent. Inner stillness is not arrived at by the mind going to sleep, but by its components being in dynamic balance and gentle tension.

In fact, the inexperienced therapist tends to pay attention with the left brain. Such a therapist thinks that she knows what she is looking for. She has learnt various theories of how the mind works, how people are and how they should be, and she is looking for the signs that fit her theory that will enable her to slot the client into it. This can then trigger her into a well-known routine. This means, however, that the therapist is acting like a kind of machine. The left brain has a mechanical model of the world and of people. In this machine approach there are syndromes and for each syndrome there is a remedy, so the task of therapy is to identify the syndrome by spotting known signs.

The experienced therapist does not operate in this manner. The experienced therapist makes more use of the right brain. She tunes in to the general situation of the client forming an impression of it that progressively refines as she hears more. She does not know exactly what she is looking for, but is open to all possibilities. By getting the feel of the client's world, she creates conditions in which new ideas and images may form spontaneously. Metaphors for the client's situation may suddenly crystalise. She hears, sees, gets the feel of and then spontaneously responds. Often the therapist does not fully know what she is dealing with. She is not applying a remedy from a list, but co-creating new ways of seeing and feeling as she and the client together penetrate into the mystery of the situation. In the experienced therapist the left brain is not idle: it is picking up detail and looking for concrete instances of what the client is saying, in order that the whole matter not remain vague and totally impressionistic, but this activity is balanced by and largely secondary to the intuitive investigation being made by the right brain.

Dhyanas

However, it is not just the therapist who is entering into a samadhi. The client too is concentrating in an effort to go beyond his presenting difficulty, but generally does not know how to do so. So here we can examine this process.

|When Buddha talked about entry into samadhi he spoke in terms of a series of stages called dhyanas. Different texts list different numbers of dhyanas, but the general direction of development is always the same. The first dhyana is called “applied and sustained thought”. This is interesting because nowadays very few schools of meditation teach this stage. People who go to learn meditation tend to be taught a method in which they are to watch their thoughts without exercising any control and are told to let each thought go, or they may be taught a method in which they are to watch some physiological process such as the breath. Neither of these common methods incorporate applied and sustained thought. This is different from how Buddha taught. In his approach you begin with deliberate thought.

It is difficult to be sure how or why this change has come about. In practice, when people are taught to start with deliberate and sustained thought they find it easier. The mind, especially, perhaps, of the modern lay person living a busy life, is already full of thought. It makes sense to them that concentration starts with focusing thought on one topic, whereas if they are taught to simply let thoughts go, as soon as they begin to tire their mind wanders off into all kinds of day dreams.

The second dhyana is what happens when thought gives way to feeling. If we think deeply about something, feelings arise. They may be happy or otherwise. If we are thinking about something uplifting then the feeling is likely to be joyful. The further dhyanas then concern the passage beyond these feelings into a state of tranquility or equanimity. Again, we can note that most modern schools of meditation seem intent on getting to this last stage without going through the two necessary previous steps. They want to arrive at equanimity without going through either thought or feeling. I want to suggest that this is a mistake. It might work for a religious genius who plunges directly into deep wisdom on the slightest provocation, but it is not so apt for the ordinary person with an ordinary mind full of all the accumulated debris of everyday life.

There are exceptions to this criticism. In some of the Zen schools, meditation will begin with koan study. This is certainly applied and sustained thought, but it is not generally conceptualised as leading into an emotional state. In some of the Tibetan Buddhist sadhanas, the meditation begins with visualisation that may include thinking about the yidam figure. Again, however, commonly, the emotional stage is neglected.

How is this relevant to therapy? In religious contemplation, the object of applied and sustained thought is likely to be some wholesome or improving subject. In therapy, however, it is likely to be a relationship with a significant other. Actually these two are not so far apart as might at first appear because for the religious adept the most important wholesome subject is a significant other, namely the Buddha or some other exemplar of the tradition.

What I want to assert here is that the process of religious contemplation needs the emotional stage as an essential component. It is no use contemplating the Buddha if one has not feeling for the Buddha. It is no use contemplating a koan unless one has some feeling around the spiritual dilemma, and perhaps around the person whose dilemma this originally was. Religion without emotion is sterile.

The same is true of therapy. The client who recounts their difficulties in a completely level emotionless manner is not progressing. Nonthing is happening. They could go on conveyinf information forever and not heal in any way. If the therapist remains in a left brain mode this can happen all too easily.

What is being suggested here, therefore, is that the therapy process follows and is in fact an instance of the dhyana process, leading through thought to emotion to peace. We need to understand why this is and how it works.

The Mala Exercise

To operationalise this understanding of therapy we have sometimes used a method employing a mala or rosary. The traditional Buddhist rosary has 108 beads. It is used for repetetive prayer, such as calling the name of one of the Buddhas. Thus the mala beads, one after another, call one back to the central topic. Commonly a person might simply recite the name over and over. “Namo Amida Bu... Namo Amida Bu... Namo Amida Bu... “ and so on. However, in the spirit of applied and sustained thought one could have a new thought for each bead around the same focus. “Amida Buddha is... , Amida Buddha also is... , Another thing that Amida Buddha is is... “ and so on. There are innumerable variations. In therapy, therefore, the mala can also be used to keep the person on track during applied and sustained thought about an issue or relationship: “My mother... , my mother... , my mother... ,” moving a bead each time mother is mentioned. This practice alone can be a therapy. One may start with quite impersonal seeming data and in due course move on to more personal matters: “My father was born in 1922, my father was the second son in a family of two sons and a daughter, my father was not happy at home, my father quarrelled with his brother...” Simply mustering facts can bring insight. It also brings feelings. This much one can do alone. however it can also be valuable to have a facilitative listener.

Now in doing an exercise of this kind there is a natural sequence that follows the dhyana pattern. Thought gives rise to imagery. Entering into the imagery brings up feelings (samudaya). Imagery with feeling we can call re-living. When one re-lives something one has new insights about it. The new insight moves the next bead on he mala. The facilitator can prompt this process...

Client: My father was born in 1922
Facilitator: Do you have an image?
Client: I imagine it as a rather hard time, not too long after the First World War. [moves bead] My father was the second son, so his parents must have started their family when my grandfather got back from the war.
Facilitator: It looks as though something has occurred to you.
Client [moves bead]: My father started his own family – me – when he got back from the Second world War. [moves bead] My father was the second son but the first son was the family favourite. [moves bead] My father hated his brother.
Facilitator: Do ou have an image of that?
Client: No, but I suddenly realise that that could be why I do not have a brother. It could also be why [moves bead] my father had many quarrels with me. I was the eldest (and only) son.

We can see from this fragment that even what seems like a neutral piece of information can trigger reflections that bring added meaning to the client about his life.

Client: [moves bead] My father married my mother just after the war.
Facilitator: Do you have an image?
Client: It was definitely a time of hardship. There was rationing. [moves bead] My father loved my mother at that time. They struggled together. I imagine them holding me as a baby all wrapped up as it was a cold winter in 1947.
Facilitator: Do you have a feeling?
Client: Yes, I feel very tender thinking of my parents looking after me and being pleased that I had been born.
Facilitator: And what is the next bead?
Client: My father... decided to take us to Cyprus where he had a possibility of a work contract. I was three years old.

In this fragment we see the sequence of thought to image to feeling. The feeling gives a measure of abreaction and allows the client to move on.

Perhaps the best English term for samadhi is rapture. This is a state in which awareness of the passage of time disappears. It can be associated with paying attention to something beautiful or something awful. A person who has experienced this state might say that “I was taken out of myself.” This accords well with the Buddhist idea of non-self. It also corresponds with the fact that, in the mind of the therapist, there is both reception of the terrible things that have happened in the life of the client and also an appreciation of the client's spiritual beauty,

The therapist is in the presence of the client and has an intense interest in the life and experience of the client. This is a form of rapture. It requires humility. The therapist lets her own concerns go and gives full attention to the other. At the same time, rapture is not generally something that a person can enter directly at will. It requires some entry procedure. Thus, in Buddhism, we read of a series of dhyanas, each leading to the next as some element in the former naturally drops away. At each stage the person gets closer to samadhi. In therapy, the therapist warms to the client in a series of steps as the client reveals his story.

Here, also, we need to understand that rapture satisfies all three dimensions of intelligence at the same time. There is sufficient to arouse the basal consciousness, which alone would manifest as desire or fear or aggressiveness, but this manifestation is checked by the presence of the other two consciousnesses. There is also sufficient to occupy the left brain's concern for detail, signs and symptoms, and a plot to follow, which if aroused alone would lead to intellectual busy-ness, but this is checked by the presence of the other two intelligences. Then there is sufficient to stimulate the right brain's need for a bigger picture that may be inspiring or dreadful, and which, if present alone, would lead to dreams that might become grandiose or alarming, but this inflationary tendency is also kept in balance by the presence of the other two intelligences. Thus is generated a state of maximal satisfaction for the mind. When this state is generated in a therapist who is in empathic connection with the client, the resonance between them can be releasing for the client, carrying him beyond old blockages into new clarity and confidence.

In samadhi, understood in this way, the mind has not ceased to function nor become blank. All three intelligences are flowing and are more vibrant than normal. It is the energy balance between them that creates the samadhi. In this state ideas and images appear. Where the samadhi is occurring in therapy, which is to say, when the object of the therapist's attention is the client in his world, then the things that spontaneously appear in the therapist's mind contribute constructively to the therapeutic process even though it may sometimes not be at all clear to the therapist where the image or idea has come from. It is as though client and therapist are both plugged in to a process that transcends their separate concerns and habitual thoughts. This higher process is related to the direction and meaning of the client's spiritual path.

In order to enter such a deep empathy the therapist has to have an equally deep acceptance of the client and his world, to cherish it and value it highly no matter what troubles or difficulties it may contain. This is an act of faith on the part of the therapist, but this faith is grounded in past experience, both of her work with other clients and of transformations that have occurred in her own life. Thus, therapy is a form of unconditional love. The Buddhist therapist is able to offer this love even to a new and unknown client because she has faith that the Buddhas themselves are able to offer such acceptance and cherishing. She knows that even when she fails in her part, the power of the Buddhas still under-pins the process and placing her faith in this she cannot help but be an instrument of liberation, even in ways that she does not become consciously aware of.

Alone, together, on a Journey
One way of seeing Buddhism – and also therapy - is to say that everybody is on a spiritual journey. This is true whether they know it or not. Ideally the journey leads from ignorance (avidya) toward liberation by illumination (bodhi). Along the way, however, it is possible to get lost and we can say that everybody is lost to some degree. Some can see the goal, some can see light emanating from the goal but not see the goal itself, others have lost sight almost completely.

Furthermore, the human being is not a totally unified entity. It is not so much that one is on a journey as hat one is on several journeys that are all going on concurrently. The brain and heart are not always in accord with one another. The parts of the brain carry out their separate functions in substantial independence of one another. Different strands of memory tell different stories about who we are and what our priorities should be. Different parts of the personality mature at different rates. The fact that a person is skilled in one respect implies nothing about their ability in other areas of life. The great athlete may not be able to cook. Though he can win a race, he cannot feed himself. The cook may not know how to write, and so on. Similarly with aspects of personality. The person who is shy of crowds, may be courageous in other situations. The extrovert may still not be confident in intimate situations. It is thus possible for one part of a person to be much further advanced along the spiritual path than other parts. A person may have difficulties and obstacles in one area of life, yet not in another. We can thus say that everybody has strengths and weaknesses. Indeed, once a person has developed some strengths, there may be less incentive to develop others since with a few strengths the person can get by. The athlete can probably get somebody else to cook for him and the cook can find somebody else to write down his recipes. Most people have thus become specialists to some degree, with parts of themselves undeveloped. Sometimes, therefore, the person who needs help in one area is the person who can provide help in another area.

Similar things can be said about the development of the brain. It has been found that in London tazi drivers the part of the brain that deals with maps is larger than it is for other people. The brain is not a static structure. Parts grow and expand as we use them. Once we know how to get by using some parts of our brain we may become lazy about other parts. Thus, along our spiritual journey we acquire skills and we use one another's skills. The therapist needs an all-round mentality or she can only help a very limited range of people and may be blind to dimensions of life with which they need help. Also, even more importantly, because the most refined judgements and actions require an oposing tension, like finger and thumb, unless one has an all-round development, many fine points of understanding will escape one.

Along the path, therefore, one meets companions and some of these are helpful and others not. The Khaggavisana Sutta says

If you gain a mature companion,
a fellow traveler, right-living and wise,
overcoming all dangers, go with him, gratified, mindful.

If you don't gain a mature companion,
a fellow traveler, right-living and wise,
wander alone
like a king renouncing his kingdom,
like the elephant in the Matanga wilds, his herd.

Thus, Buddhism, too, tells us that, on the one hand, each must walk the path alone, yet, on the other hand, we can help one another. Thus, there are Buddhas and bodhisattvas who are dedicated to helping others. A Buddhist psychotherapist is someone who has made it his or her practice to assist the Buddhas and bodhisattvas in this helping work by accompanying those who realise that, in some aspect of their life, they are lost.

Of course, to accompany somebody means to go where they are and go with them where they go. This means that sometimes the therapist is also lost. However, the therapist has a saving grace which is faith in the guiding power of the Buddhas which is all pervading and penetrates all obstacles, turning them into useful signposts. This faith acts like a kind of magnetism to gradually draw the wanderers back onto the right path.

The therapist is not, therefore, somebody who is always and in all respects necessarily wiser or more mature than the client, but the therapist does need to have made sufficient progress to have confidence in the path. When one has passed through a number of difficulties in life and emerged stronger and wiser, one has a natural confidence that a similarly benign outcome is possible from all manner of difficult conditions. If the therapist embodies such a confidence, it will infect the client. Thus, what a client gains from therapy might or might not include the solution of a practical problem, but it should always include some gain in faith or confidence in the meaningfulness of life and the possibility of becoming more mature spiritually.

Although the path is a spiritual matter, it is in the world of material things and social forces that it must be pursued. In numerous texts, Buddhism points out the spiritual dangers of the social world. The Buddha says that it is as if the whole world is on fire with the flames of greed, hate and delusion and so there is a continual danger of getting burned. There are thus two aspects, or levels, to Buddhist practice. These correspond roughly with the two hemispheres of the brain. Practice can be a matter of learning skills with which to handle the detail of how not to get burnt, which is the enlightenment of the left hemisphere of the brain. Thus, we say that practice is a matter of “watering the good seeds.”

The second aspect of practice, however, is concerned with seeing that the flames are illusory and so grasping the bigger picture of the glory of this wonderful world. This is the enlightenment of the right hemisphere. The left hemisphere is concerned with language and with detail. The right hemisphere is concerned with the big picture and overall plan. Therapy can be concerned with either or both, but generally with both together and bringing them into co-operation. In more specifically Buddhist terms, the right brain is the seat of sudden illumination and the left brain is that of gradual cultivation, but what is needed is the integration of these two so that they flow together as one seamless process.

So we live in a world full of dangers and also possibilities. Although the client does not fully see the dangers in his situation, he probably does not see all the possibilities either. Mostly, people create a niche for themselves where the dangers are reduced and, by doing so, they limit their possibilities at the same time. Buddhism, in many stories, likens this to being in a castle. The castle that we build in order to protect ourselves also becomes our prison. It prevents us going out into the world and it inhibits others from getting to us. The bodhisattva is often depicted as a prince who gives up his inheritance, leaves his castle, and goes out more or less naked into the world in order to seek wisdom and, in due course, to dispense compassion. Western fairy stories often employ the complementary image of the knight who must go through many trials and difficulties in order to get to the princess who is locked up in a tower in the castle in order to rescue her. Both these sets of imagery tell us how the defensive castle around us is also our prison and how going out of it we will at first encounter new difficulties, as will also be encountered by anyone who tries to get in in order to rescue us. The therapist may encounter such difficulties trying to reach the inner hidden part of the client and the client may be reluctant to leave their self-made prison for similar reasons.

Let us go back to the question of aloneness for a minute. The sutra said that if you cannot find a good companion it is better to be alone. In therapy, a client meets the kind of good companion who enables them to be alone in a certain way: separated from their usual social pressures so that they can find out the real truth about themselves.

The great genius Leonardo da Vinci wrote that one is only oneself when completely alone, that when with even one other person one is only half of oneself. This is an interesting and provocative assertion. It was written in his private notebook as a reminder to himself. Leonardo liked to go out into nature and study the forms of natural life and landscape. He liked to think about them in an independent way, not too much influenced by the received knowledge given to him by his culture. This made him an original thinker. Many of his great inventions were based upon imitating these forms and understanding their inner logic. Thus he was able to design the first submarine and also design (and perhaps fly – the evidence on this point is uncertain) the world's first flying machine. He also became an exquisite painter of natural form.

The therapist is also an inventor and an artist, though of a different kind. Intelligence requires one to be closely in contact in order to study the form of what appears before one. It also requires that one be sufficiently detached to make an independent judgement. A therapist should not, therefore, be responding to the client with common social prescriptions. We can assume that the client already well knows what society at large says about his condition and his ideas. He has come to see a therapist in order to get something different. This means that the therapist needs to be somewhat separated from common views and from fixed ideas. The therapist is not trying to recruit the client to a particular view except in the most general sense in which good actions generally bring good outcomes and bad actions generally lead to trouble sooner or later. The therapist trusts that whatever is happening with the client, there is some hidden meaning therein. This secret meaning may not become apparent, or only become apparent later. In order to study the natural form of what is happening in the life of the client, the therapist needs some degree of independence, needs to be willing to think in new ways and try out unusual possibilities. Although very much “with” the client, he also has to be, in an important sense, also “alone”.

The client too will, as part of his spiritual progress, discover his aloneness. He will investigate his own unique natural form. In the presence of the therapist he will feel himself accepted as he is and so experience a special kind of aloneness. Being alone in the presence of an all-accepting other is a hallmark of psychotherapy. It is both a means and an end in itself. It is a means in that the client can then explore the reality of his own life without hiding the parts that would normally be socially unacceptable. It is an end in that learning to be alone in this way gives the client access to his own inherent wisdom which is otherwise inhibited by the need to conform to social pressures. Like Leonardo, he learns to be his whole self, not just half of himself. Having learnt, he does not have to go on being literally alone, but he learns how to access his own intelligences in a more direct way whatever situation he finds himself in.

Thus, the therapist psychologically walks with the client, goes where the client goes, but remains also independent. In this way therapist and client can share their view and perspective and together arrive at a greater wisdom than either could do alone. The therapist regards it as a privilege to be able to accompany the client and thus explore aspects of life that would otherwise remain unknown.

Developing Flexible Skills
The basic task of therapy, therefore, is to accompany a person upon their spiritual journey and to do so in faith in the meaningfulness of that journey and of everything that is encountered along the way. This is not necessarily the way the client sees the task. The client probably comes facing some particular difficulty and wants it resolved. From his perspective, things have got worse and he wants them to get better again. In particular, he wants to feel better. There is thus an almost inevitable mismatch between what the client wants initially and what the therapist can offer. There is, therefore, a need for the therapist to have a range of skills to facilitate engagement with the client so that a therapeutic alliance may form that can be the basis for them to work together.

The client may well want “things to go back to normal” while the therapist may suspect that the past is gone forever and cannot be brought back. The client wants other people in his life to change, but the therapist suspects that is the client himself who is going to change. The client may be angry and resentful, but the therapist is open to the possibility that under the anger there is sadness, grief or disappointment. The client may have evolved ways of being tightly in control of himself and the therapist, while, on the one hand, appreciating that such control is a skill that is to be appreciated, may also suspect that behind it is the client's terror of being overwhelmed by his own more personal feelings. These, and many similar, incongruities are likely to exist between client and therapist at the beginning. Nonetheless, if the therapist is going to do any useful work with the client she has to get close enough to win the client's trust and this is rarely achieved by directly challenging the client's initially presented view.

Furthermore, even though the therapist has her suspicions, coming from her long experience of working with other clients, she cannot be certain. Each client is different. There are no formulas in psychology that always work, merely probabilities. If the client tells one that his mother and his dog died on the same day, it is probable that the death of the mother is the more significant loss, but one cannot be totally sure immediately; the other option is also possible. Perhaps the client and his mother were separated at birth and he was brought up by foster parents and the dog has been the one companion in life he has always been able to trust. The therapist thus forms hypotheses, but holds them lightly. More evidence will become apparent. It is important to keep the situation open in such a way that such evidence can come forward.

This is one of the reasons why a therapist avoids asking many questions. Questions are directions to the client to address a particular topic or to address a theme in a certain way. However, the skilled therapist realises that there is more information to be had from following the client's spontaneous chain of associations. When posing questions, the therapist is following his own chain of association, but what he needs to find out is the unique pattern of association in the mind of the client. She helps the client to proceed more slowly and notice more. Thus the client achieves most who moves with the pace of the ox, yet keeps awake with the eyes of the tiger, noticing the slightest inner movement.

Example 1:

Client: My dog, Betsy, died the same day that my mother passed away.
Therapist A: Were you very close to your mother?
Client: Well, that's a long story.
A: Were you present when she died?

We can see in this example that therapist A has decided in her own mind that the death of the mother is the important matter, that the mention of the dog was simply the client's oblique way of introducing the important subject. Therapist A also has various ideas about the best and worse ways of managing a death and wants to assess how much unfinished business the client may still have in relation to his mother and to the death itself. Did he say goodbye to his mother? Did he feel at ease with letting her go? and so on. Now these hypotheses held by therapist A might be correct, in which case all will go well with the therapy. However, there are real possibilities that A has got the wrong idea and is simply now channelling the client into a line of discourse that is only distantly related to the client's real needs.

Consider an alternative sequence...

Client: My dog Betsy died the same day that my mother passed away.
Therapist B: Sounds as though that was a terrible day.
Client: Yes, a lot changed that day. I don't think I've got my bearings even now five years later.
Therapist B: You still feel lost.
Client: Somedays I wake up in the morning and I realise I have put out my arm to reach for Betsy at the side of the bed, and she's not there (clients eyes moisten).
Therapist B: Tell me about Betsy. How did it all start?

Therapist B is more experienced. She expects that in response to her first comment that the client will talk about his grief for his mother, but she frames her comment in such a way that it does not close down other possibilities. In this instance, the client's second comment could still accord with the therapist's initial hypothesis, but again, her intervention - “You still feel lost” - does not go beyond what the client has said and so leaves it to him to set the direction. The client's third comment then destroys the therapist's hypothesis and she has to make a swift change of tack. Here the initial central issue is going to be the relationship with the dog. This is where the first level of important meaning is going to appear.

If this client were with therapist A, he might well be too embarrassed to tell her that the dog meant more to him than his mother did. He knows that the socially assumed position is that parents are more important than pets and the therapist has demonstrated that she accords with this social assumption. To maintain his connection with the therapist, he is now going to hide his feelings about Betsy. His relationship with his dog will remain something not to be talked about even though it is a crucially important element in this client's unique life. He will answer the therapist's questions in a dutiful way and the therapist will probably conclude that he is resistant and construct a diagnosis about him being unwilling to look at his feelings and this being a case of a repressed grief reaction, but this will be wide of the mark and the therapy will not prosper.

Nonetheless, if he were with therapist B and if B is experienced and skilled, then B will create the conditions in which the client can explore his relationship with the dog, but not forget that the client did mention mother's death. It is noticeable that when a client tells his stories, each story has a certain quantum of energy. Therapist B's comment, |”Tell me about Betsy. How did it all start?” probably comes as a surprise to the client. It is permission-giving and tells him that his relationship to the dog is going to be taken seriously. He is now likely to talk with some energy and emotion about this matter and the therapist may only need to intervene with occasional shows of interest to elicit a lot of information about the client's story. However, sooner or later this story about the dog will come to an end, hopefully with some sense of mutual understanding between client and therapist such that the client's confidence in the therapist and in the therapeutic process is enhanced. Therapist B might now continue...

Therapist B: And I remember that you said that your mother died the same day as Betsy did.
Client: Yes, that's right. It was, kind of, the end of an era. She was ninety-two and had been in declining health for years. It all seemed natural. I grieved, of course, but that's how life is.
Therapist B: The “end of an era”.
Client: Yes, (client starts to look and sound nostalgic)
Therapist B: I sense that your mind has gone back to something...
Client: Yes, I don't know why, but I'm remembering that day when...

In this extract, again the experienced therapist does not go for the stereotypical aspect. The interview might well have gone...

Therapist: And I remember that you said that your mother died the same day as Betsy did.
Client: Yes, that's right. It was, kind of, the end of an era. She was ninety-two and had been in declining health for years. It all seemed natural. I grieved, of course, but that's how life is.
Therapist: So you were at peace with her passing.

This would not be a bad response and it accords well with what the client has said. However, at this point the client could simply say “Yes” and the interview might seem to lose energy and direction. The therapist would be aware that she has missed something, but be unsure what. The experienced therapist is mindful of the fact that the first thing that pops out of the client's mouth is often significant and especially so if it is distinctive in some way.

We can also understand this is terms of the two aspects of detail and plan. The therapist must follow the detail (with tiger's eyes) but also appreciate the general plan (like the ox). In stepwise fashion the client has most recently indicated that the death of mother was natural and so it is not wrong for the therapist to reflect this and thereby give evidence that she is being fully attentive. However, the client is also hinting at a broad schema in which his life falls into “eras”, the time of the passing of Mother and of Betsy being a watershed.

The process of therapy may often be understood as a dialectical movement back and forth between the detail and the plan, the tiger and the ox. The therapist, by showing appreciation of both, stimulates the creative, dialectical process that is also going on inside the client. Thus, in...

Therapist B: The “end of an era”

the therapist is acknowledging the client's hint about the general schema of his life, the plan. However, in the next moment, she has to have the eyes of the tiger to notice the slight moistening of the client's eye that tells her that something new is happening and a new pulse of energy, a new story, is emerging. When the plan is acknowledged, the client is likely to descend into it, into the detail of a specific memory. Thus, the therapist has to have dexterity in shifting between plan and detail, detail and plan, in order that the whole process remain alive and creative and the spontaneous energies in the client become unblocked.

The fruit of such a process is thus not simply that the client is able to share and release the energy of his various stories. It is also that he is learning to follow and employ his own dialectical process. His own tiger and ox are both waking up and learning to co-operate.

Of course, nothing is certain or wholly predictable. The therapist, while having some natural expectations, needs to be open to all possibilities. It is unlikely, but conceivable, that the original dialogue could have gone like this...

Client: My dog Betsy died the same day that my mother passed away.
Therapist: Sounds as though that was a terrible day.
Client: Not at all. I was so glad to be rid of the both of them. My mother had kept me under her thumb all my life and I always knew I took second place to that wretched dog. It was such a liberation the day they both left my life. It seemed somehow really fitting that they went together.

In this instance, the therapist's comment “Sounds as though that was a terrible day,” despite the high probability of it being accurate, is shown to be wide of the mark. Now the therapist is going to have to change gear immediately and pick up the thread in the new direction that is becoming apparent.

Client: My dog Betsy died the same day that my mother passed away.
Therapist: Sounds as though that was a terrible day.
Client: Not at all. I was so glad to be rid of the both of them. My mother had kept me under her thumb all my life and I always knew I took second place to that wretched dog. It was such a liberation the day they both left my life. It seemed somehow really fitting that they went together.
Therapist: A liberation, in fact.
Client: It certainly was. I don't want to sound disrespectful. She was my mother, after all, but yes, the truth is that I felt like a man released from gaol.
Therapist: And now...

Here, the therapist's final comment aims to take the temperature, as it were, to see how the client views this sequence of events now. She cannot make assumptions, but she does want to know.

Slower is Faster
We can see from the above examples that the therapist accompanies the client, but also stimulates exploration and finds ways to do so that do not prejudice the outcome of that exploration more than is unavoidable. This is not just a matter of reflection, nor of staying in the here and now of the client. The here and now of the client is substantially a left brain matter, but the sense of a plan, a sequence, a bigger picture, is very important to sanity. On the other hand, if the dialogue remains at the global level, lacking specificity, it will not grasp the reality of the client's existence.

This reality becomes apparent both in the detail of the client's story, conveyed in language, and also in the involuntary signs in the body language and demeanour of the client. The fact that the client suddenly seems close to tears, or to anger, or has slumped down in the chair, or become animated all convey important information. It may well be that at that point some watershed was crossed in the plan of the client's life, but the sign of it being so resides in the detail. At this point tiger and ox converge and must work together.

At a very wide level of generality we can say that in therapy “slower is faster”. The inexperienced therapist tends to be impatient and wants to get to the point. However, this pressure to move the client along tends to lead to an accumulation of superficial information with an accompanying tendency for responsibility for the resolution of its contradictions passing from the client to the therapist. This passing of responsibility is appropriate when the professional is the technical expert, as when one takes one's car in for a repair, but human beings are different from mechanisms and the therapist is not that kind of technician. The therapist has faith in a process that goes on in and around the client himself and does not presume to have a ready-made solution. The “solution” will emerge from the process and, in detail at least, will be unique to the particular client in his life-world. In this way, the therapist is also going to learn from the process. The therapist, therefore, tends to make responses that slow down the client's examination of his own material rather than speed him along. A slower examination generally means that the client goes deeper. It also means that both client and therapist deploy their ox and tiger qualities more effectively.

Thus, in the sequence

Therapist B: And I remember that you said that your mother died the same day as Betsy did.
Client: Yes, that's right. It was, kind of, the end of an era. She was ninety-two and had been in declining health for years. It all seemed natural. I grieved, of course, but that's how life is.
Therapist B: The “end of an era”.

the therapist's first remark takes the client back to what he had said earlier, something that might still have unexpended energy and the second response also picks up the first, rather than later, thing that he says in response. This matter of taking the client back, or helping the client to linger over a point rather than dashing on to the next is a common strategy in therapy. Whenever there seems to be unexpended energy in something the client has said, the therapist will be inclined to take the client back to it when opportunity presents.

This strategy also requires co-operation between the tiger and the ox. It is the ox's way to move slowly and not go forward until the time is right, but it is the tiger that spots the fact that there was a detail that still has some life in it to be caught.

Proceeding in this way, the client is being helped to get the most out of what they know and everything that the client knows is treated with respectful openness.

Final Words

To summarise some of the important points, therefore:
1. The therapist is accompanying the client. The skill is in enabling the client to “walk alone” while still being in free flowing communication.
2. The client's being in the world is made up of many threads, including different strands of feeling and different kinds of intelligence. This is true also for the therapist.
3. The brain is divided into a basal, “reptilian” brain, and two hemispheres. the left deals with detail, obtaining things, language and logic. The right brain deals with global gestalts, emotion, recognition and the bigger picture. These different part of the brain not only do different things, they also act in tension with one another to produce fine judgement, subtlety of emotion, and nuance.
4. Samadhi is concentration. A therapist needs the kind of poised state in which the three parts of the brain are in dynamic balance with one another.
5. While all humans have a basic set of reptilian instincts, their “ox” and “tiger” intelligences may be asleep to various degrees and so may co-operate more or less well. Each can be woken up.
6. With all aspects of consciousness awake the therapist can be flexible, responding to the smallest signals given by the client, changing direction appropriately as the reality of the client's life becomes apparent.

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