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Lions Roar : May 2016
you aren’t going to reach in your psycho- therapy. And there are things that aren’t going to be helped no matter how much you meditate, because things that happen to us in relationship generally need to be healed in relationship. It doesn’t just have to be in relationship to a psycho- therapist; it can happen in a close friend- ship, or with a mentor or teacher, or in a loving, intimate relationship. Jack Kornfield: As I got training in Western psychology, it was clear from early on how complementary and helpful psychotherapy was, not just for Buddhist practitioners but for teachers too. I began to see among the swamis and lamas and mamas and Zen masters in our industry that you could have a deep understand- ing of the dharma and still have areas that were completely undeveloped. The tools of Western psychotherapy allow you to become mindful and conscious in those areas that otherwise can hold a lot of suffering and mistakes. People used to say, “If you do your meditation, it will take care of everything.” Those of us trying to integrate Buddhism and psychotherapy were put down—“Oh, this is low-class dharma.” Now I could tell you the names of the therapists of many of the abbots and Zen masters in America, because they’ve realized that it’s some- thing that they need too. Trudy Goodman: While it was natural for us Western students to combine therapy and dharma practice, at first it was baffling for our teachers, who came from differ- ent cultures in the East. After all, they were teaching Buddhist wisdom of the selfless! In the 1980s, I was participating in a conference on Buddhism and psychother- apy that was held at a Tibetan monastery. The Rinpoche who was our host stepped up to the podium to welcome us, and you could see him searching for something to say. What he came up with was, “I suppose there are some few unfortunate individuals who would need to be in psychotherapy before they could practice the dharma.” But by the end of the conference, the Rinpoche saw the important role that psy- chotherapy can play in human well-being. He had more openness and appreciation for the knowledge and wisdom we shared. Witnessing that transformation planted a seed for creating the Institute for Medita- tion and Psychotherapy years later. Sandra Oh: How do Buddhist meditation and therapy work together? Jack Kornfield: They are really a fine complement—if you have a good psy- chotherapist, and if you have a good meditation teacher. In my monastic training, I learned many amazing tools of compassion and loving-kindness and mindfulness, but they were not so developed in terms of relationship. When I came back from Asia, I found, to my surprise, that my old habits—the fears, the neediness, the clinginess I had in my intimate relation- ships—all came back again. I knew how to sit with my emotions and be mindful of them, but I didn’t know how to express them, which is another step in being free with them. It’s not enough just to be able to wit- ness emotions. My therapists at the time called that the “monk’s defense”—you know how to feel your emotions, but you still don’t know how to express them and see that they’re just energies. I didn’t know how to do that. Trudy Goodman: For me, it was exactly the other way around. Therapy came first. I felt too wild and unworthy, and while I longed to meditate, I was scared. Therapy taught me how to be aware of my feelings and learn from them. It took a couple years of before I trusted my inner life enough to try sitting. I needed that bridge to actually get to meditation. And then it takes a lot of meditation to stay aware! After only a few years of dharma prac- tice, I gave a talk at the Cambridge Zen Center on Zen and psychoanalysis, about how each practice brings insight and a kind of quiet trust. It was 1976. Although I didn’t know it then, that was the begin- ning of my whole life’s work. Walking the Talk continued from page 43 LION’S ROAR | MAY 2016 74