With psychotherapy, therapist and patient form a trusting alliance in which they can collaborate to work through problems and determine healthier directions. In therapy, we deal with thoughts, attitudes, dreams, relationships, and feelings. After having worked within a strictly psychotherapeutic model for over 25 years, I began to find ways of using my growing interest and skills as a meditation teacher to provide my patients with another dimension of change. It has resulted in a deeper, more comprehensive process that increases awareness and opens the heart. The result is a richer life with less anxiety, stress, insecurity, and depression.
I utilize two main forms of meditation. The first, Mindfulness, is about developing the awareness of the present moment without judgment. When we are truly here and now, we are no longer living in the guilt and regret of the past, nor are we fearfully anticipating difficulties that lie in the future. Patients discover a peaceful, relaxing way of staying present. They learn to bring themselves into presence when something from the past or future is causing stress, as well as developing the habit of bringing mindfulness to various moments in their day. In the words of Piero Falci, my first meditation teacher, “It is easy to be mindful, but it’s difficult to remember to be mindful!” His advice turned out to be quite true. Furthermore, the more one arrives in the present moment, the more one’s experience is literally about the here and now, rather than the problems and fears that occupy one’s mind much of the time. Part of that awareness is about our looking at ourselves with understanding, but no judgment.
Through mindfulness practice, patients begin to understand how attachment leads to disappointment and suffering. By attachment, I’m not just referring to our becoming and remaining attached to things and people, but also to our being invested in outcome. We spend money on Mr. X’s product because he promises us future happiness and success. We believe that with the right car, outfit, house, or look, we will rid ourselves of that feeling of emptiness in our lives. But there is no connection between accumulation of stuff and creation and maintenance of happiness. In the words of Star Trek’s Mr. Spock, “After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true.” It also gradually becomes clearer how much we handicap ourselves through our constant judgment and self- criticism. Ultimately we learn to catch ourselves in those moments and let the judging and criticizing go. Through breathwork, relaxation becomes even more easily accomplished.
The second form of meditation I teach is called Lovingkindness Meditation. While the word “lovingkindness” often evokes irrelevant images of romance and softness, this practice is actually concerned with two things: discovering the sweetness of our open heart and internalizing and appreciating the reality of “interbeing,” a term used by Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh to express the interconnectedness of everything. The practice involves our sending wishes for peace, happiness, wellness, and an easy life to ourselves, those we love, those we don’t even know, and ultimately all beings everywhere. It has been my experience that the practice of Lovingkindness Meditation consistently leads to more inner peace and happiness.
Finally, I have concluded that not meditating is the only reason why these practices will not produce the results described above. If you are at all curious, please get in touch!