ice, held fast between rocks.
water is feeling out a channel.
Liberation evolving out of karma
You are always alone / You are never alone.
The past is gone forever / The past is always with us
In threes, recall of yesterday and evolving understanding.
Discussion revolved mostly around the demonstration session of yesterday.
Student 1: "When I saw the client of yesterday this morning, it was as if I had known him all my life" - when somebody shares deeply there is a revealing of their unique life, and there is also something that touches each of us. The process of the human heart is recognisably the same in every case, even though the circumstances and conditions are different each time.
Student 2: "I would like to have the courage to open my heart in that way". - It is certainly a matter that requires courage. At the same time, it is perhaps even more important to ask ourselves "If somebody opened their heart to me in such a way, would their heart be safe with me? Can I be the kind of person who can provde such safety" This is the task of the therapist. Student 2 remarked that she had noticed that the therapist does not adopt a position of authority, but meets the client as one human being to another. The therapist needs humility, which is really just honesty because the therapist does not have answers, but rather has faith, faith in the emerging evolution of the client.
We discussed the poem:
ice, held fast between rocks.
water is seeking out a channel.
as providing an image of what happens in therapy. What initially may seem hard and frozen slowly melts and finds its own way. The therapist does not know what is the right channel for the client, but trusts that such a channel will be found. The client naturally responds to the warmth of such faith. What a client gains from therapy may be simply an increased faith in such natural process.
Student 3 introduced the question of cases of extreme trauma where the therapist's approach may not work, where nothing avails. Certainly there are times when one needs patience. Everything has its season. The ice melts in spring, but if it is still winter one may have to wait. However, commonly, even in what seem like extreme cases, there is some dynamic at work. Something is moving. It may be anger and rage. It may be something that initially seems bad, but the therapist's job is not that of correction but of understanding.
Student 4 shared that being a teacher it is hard for her to just trust the process in this way because she always wants to instruct. Nonetheless she felt that she was learning important things and struggling to find the right therapeutic attitude.
I explained the theory of the "Four Truths for Noble Ones" as set out in The Feeling Buddha book.
Dukkha (affiliction) can be seen not as that which is to be eliminated but rather as the first step in a process that yields enlightenment. From this perspective Magra (the eightfold path) is the outcome rather than the means. When we see it as a means, we tend to adopt a rather moralistic approach to practice, whereas when we see it as the result we can have a more naturalistic approach, we can relax at a deep level and trust that the path is simply what comes naturally to one who is liberated.
Samudaya (craving) is both a cause of affliction and a result of it. The ordinary person thus goes round in circles: fleeing suffering he clings to distractions, self-assertion and even self-oblivion but this only leads to more dukkha. Nirodha is the transformation of dangerous energy into useful energy, as by putting a bank of earth around a fire.
Understanding the truths in this way as all four being "truths for noble ones" enables us to respect the condition of the client including his dukkha because we see the dukkha itself as having the potential to be a doorway to liberation. Therefore the therapist does not try to take the dukkha away, but rather provides the kind of steady presence that enables it to be faced and understood.
Working in threes: counsellor, client and observer: counselling sessions with session interrupted for review of work mid-way, and final group review.
- How do we achieve depth and not just talk around the subject? We are all socialised into ways of communicating that are designed to prevent too much depth and to be a therapist one has to unlearn and inhibit these learnt social strategies. We have to overcome our embarrassment in talking about emotional matters and let go of our self-consciousness. The client will sense how far he can go with the therapist and if she shows embarassment when talking about some things or responds in ways that lighten the dialogue rather than taking seriously what is said, the client cannot go into the matter. It is not so much that there is a method for getting deeper as that we have to eliminate the barriers in ourselves to it happening naturally. When we trust the process the client will come to do so too.
- How do we give feedback without hurting people's feelings? This is a difficult matter, it requires a lot of sensitivity. First ensure that your motive really is positive, that you are not just asserting a self-centred opinion or trying to destroy a position that you dislike. -> Self-consciousness is the source of much suffering and we have to somehow relax our concern with it. The Buddha teaches sarva dharma anatma - all that is true is not-self - as soon as we become self-presoccuptied we fall into unreality.
- How do we learn beyond the workshop? Experiment. Try things out. Don't be afraid of making mistakes, we learn from our mistakes - "Every learning costs you a client" - W Reich. Search for what is sincere and genuine. Use your imagination to enter into the conditions of others. See that every situation has more than one side. Therapy is a self-reinforcing learning process: the more you go deeply into the lives of others the more you believe in doing so because you have had the experience. As therapists we learn vicariously about all the situations of life, including ones we have not lived ourselves and this enables us to deeply appreciate the pathos of the human existential situation as well as the nobility and potential of the human spirit.
Working in threes: counsellor, client and observer: counselling sessions with session interrupted for counsellor to be interviewed about the work before resuming, and final group review.
Three groups - one group of counsellor, one of clients, one of observers to look back on the experience of the the practice session.
Ice wedged fast
In the crevice of the rock
This morning begins to melt
Under the moss, the water
Feeling out a channel