The journey of Contemplative Psychotherapy is the process of uncovering who we really are, and discovering our basic nature. The wisdom of eastern traditions teaches that our true nature is characterized by openness, clarity, and compassion. When we are in touch with our hearts--the essence of our being--we are naturally accommodating and tenderhearted. From this point of view, we have everything we need to overcome or withstand life's difficulties. The constant struggle to become " better" and the labeling of ourselves as "dysfunctional" is unnecessary. Instead, we can relax into our essence, examine our behaviors to see what works and what doesn't, and befriend ourselves and our journey.
Then, why do I hurt?
In the speed of our daily life, through the vicissitudes of growing up, in the challenges of living in a tumultuous and sometimes dangerous world, we lose touch with our basic nature. Like the brilliant sun covered by clouds, our sanity and wakefulness are obscured. We become trapped in habitual behaviors, fixated on thoughts, and lost in the speed and discursiveness of our minds. Our thinking mind becomes like a wild horse, out of control, taking us where ever it may, often to painful, destructive places. We become self-critical, judgemental, impatient, closed down.
How does Contemplative Psychotherapy help?
Contemplative Psychotherapy begins with mindfulness. We become aware of mind: our thought patterns, our assumptions, and beliefs. We become aware of our body, of the "felt sense," the subtle nuances and messages of body sensation. And we become aware of our emotions, especially those lost to knee-jerk reactions of anger, passion, and pride. Curiosity replaces judgment as we learn to look deeper into the experience of ourselves and our world. The role of the therapist is not to advise or label, but to guide the process of self-exploration and discovery through observation of the present moment, reflection and feedback. Because both client and therapist possess innate wisdom, the journey is one of collaboration and cooperation.
How Are Contemplative Psychotherapists trained?
The root of Contemplative Psychotherapy is meditation. The number of colleges and universities that incorporate practices of meditation and mindfulness in the therapist's training is growing. Naropa University in Boulder Colorado, where I serve as Adjunct Faculty, offers a Master's Degree in Contemplative Psychotherapy. Extensive training and experience in meditation form the backbone of the curriculum. When seeking a Contemplative Psychotherapist, look for a licensed clinician who is trained at an accredited university.