Saturday, July 14, 2012

Sometimes helpful but not guaranteed

An energetic and daring man in his 50's seeks a deep career change involving teaching instead of manufacturing and finance.

An intellectually-hungry retired professional  seeks satisfaction of drives to contribute to lives and to solve social and political problems.  

Several widows and widowers seek satisfying relationships with the opposite sex.

As I hear about problems and hopes, I think being as honest and clear with oneself about feelings and goals as possible is an important foundation.  Being so is not always easy since what we are most afraid of, or most ashamed of, may be hidden from ourselves by basic, primitive and subconscious self-protection mechanisms.  Until recently, I thought that good meditation practice for 10 or so minutes each day virtually guaranteed a good connection between between one's conscious thinking and one's deeper hopes, fears and perceptions.  

Then reading Jack Kornfield's "Bringing Home the Dharma", I learned of his experience with some Buddhist teachers who were deep masters of meditative practices but at the same time, Kornfield states:

But then I noticed two surprising omissions. First, there were major areas of difficulty in my life, such as loneliness, intimate relationships, work, childhood wounds, and patterns of fear that even very deep meditation didn't touch. Second, among the several dozen Western monks and other Asian meditators I met during my time in Asia, with a few notable exceptions, most were not helped by meditation in a variety of important areas of their lives. Some were traumatized, neurotic, frightened, grieving, and had used spiritual practice to hide and avoid problematic parts of themselves. When I returned to the West to study clinical psychology and began to teach meditation, I observed a similar phenomenon. Many of the dedicated students who came to our annual three-month retreats couldn't do the simple concentration and "bare attention" practices because they were holding a great deal of unresolved grief, fear, woundedness, and unfinished business from the past. I also had the opportunity to observe the most successful group of meditators—including experienced students of Zen and Tibetan Buddhism—who had developed strong samadhi and deep insight into impermanence and selflessness. But even after many intensive retreats, many of these meditators continued to experience great difficulties and significant areas of attachment and unconsciousness in their lives, including fear, difficulty with work, relationships wounds, and closed hearts. Students kept asking how to live the dharma, and kept returning to meditation retreats looking for help and healing. But sitting practice itself, with its common emphasis on concentration and detachment, often provided a spiritual bypass, a way to hide, a way to actually separate the mind from difficult areas of heart and body. These problems exist for most meditation teachers as well. Many of us have led very unintegrated lives, and even after deep practice and initial "enlightenment experiences," our sitting practice has left major areas of our beings unconscious, fearful, or disconnected. Many American meditation teachers are now, or have recently been, in psychotherapy in order to deal with these issues.

Kornfield, Jack; Siegel, Dr. Daniel (2011-12-21). Bringing Home the Dharma: Awakening Right Where You Are (p. 246). Shambhala Publications. Kindle Edition.

Reading his book, I am struck by the similarity between pictures he paints of Buddhists and what I have read about Christian practice or doctrinal circles around Freud and his work.  Buddhists, Christians, psychologists --  I guess any of us can be confused, mesmerized by only part of the picture or insufficiently aware of some parts of life.
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