“Between right-doing and wrong-doing,
there is a field. I will meet you there.” Rumi
The Rumi quote above is particularly meaningful for me. I have been practicing meditation for most of my life now. Meditation plays a central role in my life and influences my work with others. It is the center from which I approach most things and from where I primarily live my life. The experience of meditation and what I have learned through it, and have now come to know about our well-being through it, is key to how I work with clients. It is what has given me the experience of that field between all we think and do, between the urge and the action, between all that we are told is right and wrong, that Rumi speaks of.
I should also add that my perspective on helping others and how I understand my work is greatly informed by the teachings of my spiritual teacher, Kirpal Singh. I came to his teachings early in my life and they have guided my work and being in the world ever since then.
“The greatest thing before us is to know oneself; who is the Self and what is the Self. We have seen that the fate of the physical body is death. At the time of this final change, the in-dweller leaves the house of the body. We are not the body, the dwelling house. We are the in-dweller of the house that we are enlivening by our presence.” Kirpal Singh
I have learned a great deal from various teachers, from various perspectives, throughout the years. One thing I learned from one is to ask myself, and to help others ask of themselves and to stay in touch on: “Is your heart open?” This, to me, is a crucial piece of working with others and ourselves. Coming to one’s heart, to being open to the heart and to listen to the heart is an important part of coming to know and trust ourselves. The heart for me is the expression of the soul in many ways. So, the heart, the soul, is a major contributor to the work of self-realization.
I also want to say something here about the other two contributors in the work: the mind and the body. First of all, the mind is a major contributor as well. The mind is what holds our memories, and out of that forms our habitual patterns, and is concerned with gathering information and, as I said, in the form of memory storing that information for future use. It is a learning tool for us.
The body is what keeps us grounded in this world. It gives us the form we need in order to live and survive in this world. It is where the instincts reside. And the instincts, are what keeps us safe in this world, alert and alive. They are our senses, our ability to be in this world and to listen, to be alert, to the surroundings.
The three elements, or contributors, I want to point out here are the heart, the mind, and the soul. They are contributors to the work of self-realization, and can be the antagonists of it as well. They make up different levels and aspects of the individual that come into my work with clients.
Soul – Attention – Mindfulness
The first significant skill that I have learned from meditation is to take a pause before I speak or act, and to bring my attention back to the center, or self, inside of me. These are the skills, as I understand them, that are referred to as mindfulness and presence. This allows me to be with whatever is going on inside of me or outside of me before I speak or act. It is in these pauses, these moments, that I feel I am most awake, alive, or present in my life. The second significant skill I learned is to proceed from this pause, this mindfulness, this being present, with loving kindness and compassion. To meet others from that place of compassion.
In my meditation practice, I have been taught that the attention is the outward expression of the soul. Being mindful and present, for me, has come to be about working with the soul. Where your attention is, there is your soul, being directed toward whatever it is you are focused on. Working with your attention is one way of working with your soul. It is this skill, this ability and capacity, that I want to help you learn and develop for yourself. As I have come to see it, it is from there that the work begins.
Mind – Intellect – Psyche
My perspective on life is also greatly informed by psychology. The discipline and science of psychology has come to help me understand myself in various ways. Those include psychological development, from childhood to adulthood, into becoming an elder; family of origin influences and the system I emerged out of; cultural and social conditionings; intrapsychic workings; interpersonal dynamics; and more. Given certain early experiences, psychology has helped me to better understand who I am and how to make changes in my life. It became the focus of my education and trainings relatively early on and is all about the work I do with others.
Psychology, through various models, and particularly through Psychosynthesis, initially, the Internal Family Systems model, and the Enneagram, has helped me resolve any internal conflicts and contradictions that emerge in my life, and to come to a better place within myself. Learning to have loving kindness and compassion for others, I came to learn, begins with myself. These approaches taught me to have these qualities toward the various and contradicting parts that have come to make up who I am, who I have become at this point in my life.
Another aspect of psychology, and the studies on the mind, that is also related to meditation, and mindfulness in general, is that which is now referred to as cognition control. This comes out of the research and studies in neuroscience on focus. This has become a central interest of mine in working with people. It became a central interest of mine when I came to learn the importance of being able to focus my attention in meditation. The findings of neuroscience is central to my understanding of psychology and helping others.
“The skill of mindfulness creates a bare attention in which the meditator observes things as they are in order to notice what is just there, without grasping or aversion.” Joseph Goldstein
Body – Movement – Breath
Another very important area for me in my own personal growth and development is that of the body, the more somatic aspects of being human. When I was a young boy my cousin taught me to dance. This was a significant turning point in my life. I experienced and developed my own physical intelligence from that point on. I studied dance, became a dancer, and even choreographed some shows.
I also became greatly involved in theater and studied theater at the Chicago Art Institute, Goodman School of Drama. For me theater is a particularly body-focused art form, just as is dance. I then went on to learn yoga, and have continued to practice yoga to the present. This has now included Qi Gong. Movement and exercise is an important part of my sense of well-being, and who I am. I continue to study various aspects of the body, whether it is movement, medical, or neuroscience, all of these have significance for me.
The body holds and is governed by what in Asia is referred to as the Hara, or the Solar Plexus, the center of the mind in the body. It is the seat of our instinctual sense, our gut feeling. This is central for me in my work with people: To get people in their bodies, to develop the capacity to be in touch with their instincts, their gut feeling, gut reaction to situations, thoughts, beliefs, etc. This is what grounds us in the present, to what we need here and now.
“The person who can articulate the movements of his inner life need no longer be a victim of himself, but is able slowly and consistently to remove the obstacles that prevent the spirit from entering.” Henri Nouwen
Integrating body, mind, & soul
In this way, throughout my personal and professional life, these three factors, or areas of being human, the body, the mind, and the soul, have been of keen interest to me. I see them as the broader arenas through which we experience and express our being human. Bringing them into harmony with each other is an essential part of how I understand being well.
At the core of all these, is the soul, the center of our being. This is a focus I bring into my sessions with my clients. Another central focus is getting us to develop our attunement with our heart and our gut in order to make decisions and choices in our life. Being compassionately mindful and present with my attention; being integrated mentally and emotionally, and in having these in harmony with each other; and being physically grounded in my life, are what I know to be healthy.
And coming to know the innate power of Love in its capacity to bring all things together. This is what healing is ultimately all about. Love is a living and real force, a presence, not an emotion, in our life. It is about loving ourselves and loving others. And then living from that place of Love.
A sailor should cross the ocean if he has a boat; a general should defeat the enemy if he has an army; a poor man should milk the ‟cow of plenty” if it is within his reach; a traveler who wants to go to distant lands should pursue his journey if he has an excellent horse. As for you, who have a precious human life for the moment and have received instructions from a spiritual master, the embodiment of all the buddhas of the three times, think with joy and enthusiasm of traveling the great path of the supreme Dharma and getting ever closer to the ultimate goal: enlightenment and liberation. Shabkar Tsogdruk Rangdrol (1781-1851)
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