Thursday, March 21, 2013

Seated standing up

I am really enjoying Yapko's "Mindfulness and Hynpnosis: The Power of Suggestion to Transform Experience".  I won't say that it is a technical book but it is definitely written from a specific angle, that of a therapist, a clinical hypnotist, comparing and contrasting meditation and hypnosis.  I am not such a therapist and besides, the book focuses on guided mindful meditation, not solitary attending to a single target for a few minutes. Still, the man is an excellent thinker and writer.  Beyond that, he is honest, open and straightforward.

I am in the chapter on paradoxes in therapy.  Paradoxes are quite a modern thing to face up to.  I mentioned in another post how the ancient Chinese sage, Lao Tzu, urged people to relax and not to try too hard, to learn to "roll up one's sleeves without baring one's arms".  Depak Chopra sometimes writes about accomplishing more and more by doing less and less until one is doing everything by doing nothing.

Yapko focuses on things therapists do and say that may be helpful but are contradictory, either implicitly or explicitly.  The first of his examples is "Don't change.  Accept so that things can change."  The quote is not a bad idea and has helped many people relax into seeing more clearly and facing their past, their ideas, and their hopes more directly.  Still, if you are all hepped up and ready to criticize, you can easily see the quote as a contradiction.  (You may remember what Whitman said," I contradict myself?  Very well. I contradict myself.")

One of the difficulties in grasping and using practices of meditation is expressed in the saying that in meditation, the "goal" is to have no goal".  Yapko rightly asks why would a person, maybe scared or angry, take up a practice unless he thought it would help or improve him in some way.  But if he is interested in being helped, he must have the goal of getting help.  Reminds me of the opening of Lao Tzu's "The Way": The way that can be told is not the way.  Well, geez, if it can't be told, why write about it?

We actually have many paradoxes in our lives.  We hear that it is difficult to define pornography but that we'll know it when we see it.  (How?)  That chocolate is good for us but that we shouldn't eat sweets or take in calories.  That we should do what Mommy says but learn to think for ourselves.  It may be possible that adult living consists in knowing or feeling out how to use paradoxical statements to our benefit.

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