I have recently returned from a visit to S Korea where I led a teaching programme in Buddhist psychology and its therapeutic application. This was my first major trip since my illness and I was somewhat apprehensive how it might go. Had I lost my knack? Would the students still remember what had been taught two years before? Would they even show up? I need not have worried. The programme went off rather well and got even better as it went on. I always get a good deal out of these expeditions myself as well as imparting things to the students. In particular, I generally give demonstration sessions. I am told that most other teachers are reluctant to do this, it being too risky. It is true that one has no idea what the client is going to present and this means that great flexibility is required in one's approach, but, then, that is surely what therapy has to be about. It is not a matter of trying to squeeze clients into a protocol, but of responding to each in a unique manner suited to the case. A person comes in front of me and I listen to their story, observe their manner, take on the nature of their dilemma, allow it to touch my heart, let them see how I am affected, establish a connection and facilitate their exploration of the matter in hand. Every session goes differently. In the great majority, some therapeutic shift occurs; one sees a change of attitude or understanding or new resolution. These shifts are like little seeds that will go on having an influence long after the session. These demonstrations are witnessed by the other students and afterwards they discuss the work and then come back with comments and questions so they learn and I get a lot of feedback. Although this is an educational proceedure, it is also a therapeutic one and it is my impression that the presence of the audience actually enhances the therapeutic effect. We might think that people will open their hearts more in privacy and this is sometimes true, but there is an intensifying effect in being watched and something special happens. I am aware that the records that we have of the Buddha's encounters with enquirers are almost all of this kind. There is an interview between the Buddha and the seeker that is witnessed by Ananda and often by others present. So although these are billed as demonstrations, they are the real thing. Nothing false happens and both the client and myself are affected. Doing this kind of work is immensely satisfying because it brings degrees of real liberation to people. The concentration required is great. This is samadhi with a purpose. More than being simply a therapy and an education, I consider this a genuine spiritual practice that liberates everybody into some greater degree of wisdom and compassion.

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I am not surprised that it went very well, despite your nervousness after a hiatus from this sort of activity. And I am pleased to read about your reflection about the therapeutic shifts that are possible in this type of settings. If only we could adopt this method as a form of therapy...because as you pointed out, part of the magic and mystery for the whole group is revealed in the dissection of a piece of work. At least that is my experience of that kind setting. So thank you for that reminder. Namo Amida Bu.

Thank you, Susthama. Yes, I am developing some thoughts about that kind of thing.


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