With Eyes of the Tiger at the Pace of an Ox
We are here to become better therapists. Learning to be a better therapist is lifelong training. It is the same as following spiritual path. Therapy is a spiritual practice. This is basic Mahayana principle. Spiritual advance is to become more of a bodhisattva.
Therapy is learnt as practice, theory, spirit
Practice = method, repertoire, skill
Theory = 3 signs of being, 4 truths for noble ones, 5 shandhas, 6 paramitas, 7 Factors of Illumination, 8 fold path etc
Spirit = heart-mind
Practice is outer action, skilful means. Spirit is inner truth. Theory links the two together. Our theory is the word of Buddha. 3 Signs of Being, 4 Truth for Noble Ones, 5 Skandhas, 6 Paramitas, 7 Factors of Illumination, 8-fold Path, 9 Grades of Entering the Pure Land, 10 Precepts etc.
Heart-mind is most important. therefore it is important to work on oneself. Buddha says that a day without striving is a wasted day. What does this mean? It means work on self. To study Buddhism is to study the self and, thereby, to forget the self. Work on self means to see the dukkha clinging to self. Self is made up of clinging dukkha.
We all encounter dukkha but we do not always handle it well. Each dukkha brings up a painful feeling and this feeling requires an abreaction which is also a form of healing pain or distress. Thus the duke of loss requires the distress of grief. If we do not distress in a healthy way, we stress. Modern society is pervaded by the idea that one should not have to distress and so there is much stress. Many people do not abreact the dukkha they encounter. They do not feel the feelings nor allow the natural process to unfold as it should. Some hurts occur at times when it is inconvenient, embarrassing or socially unacceptable to abreact and the more complex society becomes the more such restraints there are. Children sustain many hurts, small and large, in circumstances in which it is not possible to release the feelings.
Thus, dukkha happens, feelings come up (samudaya) but they are not fully dealt with and the repression or avoidance constitutes a form of inadvertent clinging. The wound does not go away, it goes underground. Someday then results in more dukkha. The dukkha is not lived through, it clings to the person. When the process is lived through the residue is wisdom. When it is not lived through the residue is just clinging dukkha which is a burden and generates symptoms later. These symptoms may bring the person into therapy. The client wants to be free from the symptom but does not know about the clinging dukkha behind the symptom.
Three ideas about how religion makes people healthy and sane:
- 1 Technical Idea: That there are specific consequences of specific procedures such as mindfulness or certain meditations such that the use of the technique ensures a positive outcome.
- 2 Modelling Idea: That what makes the difference is people’s healthy behaviour and having a spiritual model promotes such behaviour. The model has two primary dimensions: models of reality and models in the form of spiritually advanced persons to emulate. Copying a spiritual model one consumes less alcohol, lives a simpler life, learns to be calm and so acts in many ways that promote good health.
- 3 Refuge Idea: That religious faith opens a person to spiritual grace which is the creation of a safe space in their heart, an inner place of refuge wherein healing naturally takes place. The sense of being inwardly blessed directly releases deeply held tensions in the person, with direct and indirect effect. Indirect effects refer to the fact that such inner change also promotes methods 1 and 2 because the person who feels safe inside does not need unhealthy habits and naturally practices wholesome meditations and prayers.
Therapy makes refuge more tangible and believable. Even a non-spiritual person can experience some sense of refuge when in the presence of the therapist. The first task of therapy, therefore, is to create safe space. the safer the space the more serious the clinging dukkha that can be confronted and abreacted. The more work that the therapist has done to go beyond their own clinging dukkha, the safer the space they create and the more confidence they have in the process for self and for client. In the safe space of refuge the person can relive and abreact past hurts and thus clear some clinging dukkha.
Two levels of abreaction:
1. Each hurt (negative karma item) is individually abreacted
2. A "turning round in the seat of consciousness" or "change of heart" may sweep away a whole category of hurts at one go, as when a client suddenly finds great compassion for the person who oppressed them or when the client newly realises that they love somebody or were loved by somebody.
In reality, in therapy, there is much work around particular hurts and some emergence also of greater compassion so that some relative progress is made toward liberation.
Question: Does dukkha cling to us or do we cling to dukkha
Answer: These are just two ways of saying the same thing. Sometimes it works better to say it one way, sometimes the other. If we think we cling to dukkha we still do not know how we are doing it and we may become too rational and cognitive in trying to solve the problem.