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    Therapy and meditation
     
    [ 作者: Mark Epstein   来自:期刊原文   已阅:2440   时间:2007-1-14   录入:douyuebo


    ·期刊原文
    Therapy and meditation

    by Mark Epstein
    Psychology Today

    Vol. 31 No. 3 May/Jun.1998

    Pp.46-53

    Copyright by Psychology Today

     

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


      A Path To Wholeness A Buddhist psychiatrist who has been meditating for
      decades elegantly describes how psychotherapy and meditation can help us
    manage our most powerful emotions--and make us feel more alive and whole in
                                    the process.

    "Stop trying to understand what you are feeling and just feel," my first
    meditation instructor told me. This instruction seemed insanely simple: the
    ability to just feel should come as naturally as the ability to breathe.
    Yet, in twenty-five years as a psychotherapist and practicing Buddhist, I
    have found that most of us have not learned how to be with our feelings
    without rushing to analyze them, change them, or escape them.

    If we really want to live a full life, both the ancient tradition of
    Buddhism and the modern one of psychotherapy tell us that we must recover
    the capacity to feel. Avoiding emotions will only wall us off from our true
    selves--in fact, there can be no wholeness without an integration of
    feelings. Both traditions have discovered that the way to plumb the full
    depths of our emotional being is by letting ourselves go, by surrendering
    to who we really are. And both traditions understand that we need a state
    of reverie in order to know our emotions. Whether that reverie comes
    through meditation or the quiet holding space of therapy, it is always
    necessary.

    Buddhism has always made the self's ability to relax its boundaries the
    centerpiece of its teachings. It recognizes that the central issues of our
    lives, from falling in love to facing death, require an ability to
    surrender that often eludes us. Psychotherapy, through its analysis of
    childhood, has tended to turn us in a reflective direction' searching for
    the causes of unhappiness in an attempt to break free from the traumas of
    the past. Too often, though, it degenerates into finding someone to blame
    for our suffering. But within psychotherapy lies the potential for an
    approach that is compatible with Buddhist understanding, one in which the
    therapist, like the Zen master, can aid in making space in the mind.

    Many of us come to therapy feeling that we are having trouble I letting
    ourselves go: we are blocked creatively or emotionally, we have trouble
    falling asleep or enjoying sex, or we suffer from feelings 5 of isolation
    or alienation. Often, we are afraid of falling apart, but the problem is
    actually that we have not learned how to give up control of ourselves.
    People come to me most often because they are unhappy with how they feel,
    not because they are not separate or individuated enough. The traditional
    view of therapy as building up the ego simply does not do justice to what
    people's needs actually are.

    In my work as a therapist, I have adapted Buddhist teachings to meet the
    needs of my patients, many of whom have neither the time nor the
    inclination to pursue formal meditation practice. I have found that
    therapy, through a reciprocal exchange of feelings, can also enable us to
    let go of the defenses that block us. While the method may differ from
    formal meditation, the intent is the same: to recover a capacity for
    feelings that we are all afraid of.

    Cross-Legged on a Cushion

    Meditation seeks to create an inner holding environment for the raw
    material of emotional experience through non-judgmental awareness. In this
    way, meditation acts like a stealth bomber, sneaking through all the
    defenses and illuminating the central fortress of the heart. When I was
    first instructed in what is known as "mindfulness meditation," I was taught
    to simply note whatever I was feeling, pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. My
    observing mind functioned almost as another person, watching the flow of
    sensation with relative ease. This created a very different relationship
    with my internal world from the one I was used to. My chronic tendency was
    to shrink from the unpleasant and reach for the pleasant. Mindfulness
    meditation encouraged a dispassionate acceptance of both.

    Since feeling states are experienced primarily in the body, the ability to
    maintain a continuous state of physical awareness gives an enormous boost
    to the capacity to bear feelings. This is fortunate, because one of the
    most common occurrences in beginning meditation involves the
    re-experiencing of terrifying feelings. Even in meditation, these feelings
    can still seem intolerable, but the entire thrust of meditation practice is
    designed to increase their tolerability.

    Because mindfulness of feelings involves the careful attention to the flow
    of pleasant and unpleasant sensations in the body, there is none of the
    usual picking and choosing that otherwise colors our experience.

    Cross-Legged on the Couch

    Opening your attention to your body, feelings, and mind does not have to be
    restricted to the meditation cushion. It's a process you can attempt with
    all aspects of your life, and certainly one you can pursue with a
    therapist. One teacher of mine told me that to achieve a dispassionate
    state, he would pretend he was dying and that I there was nothing to be
    done. "Rather than judging something," he told me, "take no position. Stop
    leaning into circumstances I and rest in your own awareness." Buddhism
    teaches us again and again that uncovering and experiencing difficult
    feelings does not make them go away, but does enable us to practice
    tolerance and understanding with the entirety of our being.

    The same tolerance can be practiced in therapy. I remember being asked in
    my first session with a therapist if I was aware that I was sitting on the
    edge of my seat. I was not aware of it. I was sitting the way I always sat
    when talking with someone. "What's wrong with the way I'm sitting?" I
    wanted to ask. My therapist waited, as if to give me time to get over my
    sudden self-consciousness and notice how I was sitting. He was right. I was
    perched like a bird on the edge of my chair and was very uncomfortable
    there. "You give yourself no support," he said softly.

    I spent the rest of the session feeling what it was like to sit back in my
    chair, making use of my whole body. Already, I was forging a connection
     with the physical environment that I had been denying myself. My body was
    the unconscious I was so interested in plumbing. For all my meditation
    training, I still needed the help of a therapist to show me where I was
    holding back.

    My therapist, just like the Buddha, began with mindfulness of the body. My
    therapist could just as easily have been a Zen master in the manner in
    which he related to me. His teaching drove home the lesson of my years of
    practicing meditation in a particularly vivid and helpful way.

    This therapist did not present himself as an authority figure who analyzed
    my psychic configurations. He did not interpret my Oedipal dilemma. He was
    not remote and silent. He was very available, quite humorous and playful,
    and paid particular attention to what prevented me from being part of the
    relationship with him. My therapist was asking something of me that was an
    improvisation. He was asking for meditation in action, not for a mere
    witnessing of psychic debris.

    Tolerating our Tempests

    If we stop backing away from our unpleasant feelings, we are able to see
    how they color our experience and how scared we I are by them. And we can
    learn to sit with these difficult feelings, I no matter how terrifying they
    are.

    When Betsy, a patient of mine, was learning meditation, she discovered an
    anxiety in her chest that seemed to run through her like a hollow core. At
    first, she was deeply afraid of that place. But with some attention, she
    learned to rest her attention in the hollow core, and saw that it was a
    rich source of mysterious feeling, sometimes sad and lonely, but at other
    times filled with the energy and inquisitiveness of a child. The hollow
    space became an enriching space as well as a scary one, filled with
    unanticipated qualities that expanded her sense of her own reality.

    It is my experience that emotions, no matter how powerful, are not
    overwhelming if given room to breathe. Western therapy can learn to make
    use of the Buddhist emphasis on acceptance of feelings rather than talking
    and analyzing. The therapist and patient can create a situation in which
    these unacknowledged emotions are finally given breathing space.

    Love and Death and Zen

    The major obstacle to love, I have found, is a premature walling off of the
    personality that results in a falseness or inauthenticity. When someone is
    so uncomfortable with his own sense of emptiness that he struggles to keep
    it at bay, he won't be able to be open with another person. He will simply
    be too ashamed to reveal himself in any real manner. In this case, therapy
    is effective when it allows a person to discover their own capacity for
    connection.

    All of our intimate relationships have intense emotional exchanges that
    test our ability to know and bear feelings. When I first fell in love, in
    my adult years, I traveled with my future wife to a rocky point on the
    coast of Maine that had always been special to me. Embracing her with the
    surf pounding, we were both filled with a sense not just of love, but of
    death, as if we were holding on tightly to each other while our lives
    passed before us. These feelings seemed linked with an implicit sense of
    the preciousness of our love. In our hug on the beach, we were breathing
    each other's emotions, making them make sense in a way we could only do
    with each other's help. Lovers often inject breath into each other's
    emotions, as parents do in a different way with their children, making
    those very feelings more tolerable by virtue of their being held and known.

    During orgasm, at the moment of death, while one is falling asleep or
    ending a dream, the underlying luminosity of the mind shines through. In
    Buddhism, this luminous mind is compared to a clear blue sky. But we have a
    powerful resistance to experiencing the mind in all of its brilliance. We
    are afraid to truly surrender to it.

    THE FRUITS OF SURRENDER

    Like meditation, psychotherapy can seem like a long walk that suddenly
    opens up into an extraordinary vision of something that has always been
    available but has been unrecognized. A long-time patient of mine, Greta,
    came to see me every week as she navigated work and family, successfully
    raising three children alone while working at a full-name job. She wanted
    therapy because she felt lonely and was vaguely aware of how judgmental she
    was toward most people. When disappointed or hurt by someone, Greta's
    tendency was to write them off forever.

    Over the years, we developed a very strong connection. My work with Greta
    felt like untangling my daughter's knotted hair or like untying a fine gold
    chain. 1 would get one little strand free, open up a little space, and then
    start working on the next piece. One evening, after having been at my
    office that afternoon, she was struck by a huge wave of love for me that
    made her feel very peaceful. That evening she dreamed of herself with her
    father when she was three or four years old and felt with great conviction
    the unconflicted love she had for him at that time. In a second dream, she
    heard herself yelling at him, "Can't you shut up? You're talking at me all
    the time."

    She remembered how relentlessly he had pursued her as she grew up, how
    needy he was. He would become irate whenever she disappointed him and she
    finally had to close herself off from him in order to find some peace. "The
    defense is what hurt," she told me.

    Greta's breakthrough reminds me of an old Zen story about an aged Chinese
    monk who asks permission to seek enlightenment in an isolated cave. Taking
    his robes, his begging bowl, and a few possessions, he heads out on foot
    into the mountains. On his way he sees an old man carrying a huge bundle.
    This man is actually the bodhisattva Manjushri, who appears to people at
    the moment they are ready for enlightenment.

    "I am going to the furthest mountains," the monk tells Manjushri, "to find
    a cave. I will stay there and meditate until I die or realize awakening."

    Manjushri then drops his bundle onto the ground, and instantly the monk is
    enlightened. He, too, has put down his whole defensive self, the entire
    burden.

    But he's still a bit confused."Now what?" he asks Manjushri. And the
    bodhisattva, smiling, silently reaches down, picks up his bundle and
    continues down the path.

    Putting down our burdens does not mean forsaking the conventional world. It
    means being in that world with the consciousness of one who is not deceived
    by appearances. Once Greta, for instance, had recovered her love for her
    father, she could continue to fend him off with forgiveness instead of
    rancor. She still needed her defenses, but she was not imprisoned by them.
    And as the newly enlightened monk realized when he saw Manjushri pick up
    his bundle and head back to town, everything had changed but nothing was
    altered.

    From the book Going to Pieces without Falling Apart by Mark Epstein, M.D.
    Copyright [C] 1998 by Mark Epstein. Published by arrangement with Broadway
    Books, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc., New
    York, New York. All rights reserved.

    PHOTOS (COLOR): A Buddhist psychiatrist who has been meditating for decades

    ~~~~~~~~

    By Mark Epstein, M.D.
                                -------------------

     

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