A premise of contemplative psychotherapy is that we are all intrinsically awake and that we, as humans, are good and that we naturally possess qualities of compassion, intelligence and courage. This differs from the view of original sin that sees humans as fundamentally flawed.
We hold a view that our negative qualities, behavior and action are based on confusion and misunderstanding- a temporary state, if you will. This is likened to the clouds covering the sun and sky. Our clarity, spaciousness and warmth is revealed as the clouds part ways. Our sanity can then shine through.
So it is of utmost importance that we, as contemplative psychotherapists hold a space for the wisdom and goodness of the client and reflect that back to them. Their intelligence can be accessed and revealed if we trust that it is always there. We go beyond the limited lens of pathologizing. The client knows all too well how to do that! This encouragement, that we all have what it takes to open to our most painful predicaments, is the working relationship between the contemplative psychotherapist and the client. This view is the good news that is the foundation for the way that we work!
The credentials for a traditional mainstream counseling psychology degree and that of a degree for the contemplative psychotherapist are one in the same. This rigorous standard is required by the State Board of Registered Psychotherapists. However, the approach of these two kinds of therapies differs.
The traditional and more mainstream counselor applies the theories and knowledge learned in their university training to the issues of the client. The system of ideas, maps, conceptual framework and overall knowledge are the resources for working with the problems and predicaments clients bring. This is one way that knowledge brings change.
But there is another way of “knowing”. A contemplative way- one that is open and intuitive, an intelligence that gets to the heart of the matter in the most simple way. This knowing goes beyond theorizing and psychologizing. It comes from the natural insight that reveals itself through personal inquiry- one that requires a grounded stillness and warmth. This awareness is what provides a path toward movement in the relationship with the client and for the client and their issues.
As a “contemplative”, beyond my university training, I have been trained in the art of stillness through meditation. For the past 45 years, I have practiced “letting go”, in “being with” and trusting in my capacity to know what needs to happen through meditation. This allows me to be with others in the same way, helping others to “be with” the suffering, the confusion, pain and fear that we all face. It is my calling and my life’s work. This is the only genuine and long-term way that I have found that actually brings joy, confidence and purpose.