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Lions Roar : July 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2011 79 new approach to psychotherapy. ACT teaches clients how to ac- cept inner experiences—including anxiety and loneliness—with- out necessarily buying into them or acting on them. Through mindfulness practices and self-compassion, clients learn to open to their experiences instead of trying to get rid of every upsetting thought or feeling. Clients also identify important values and commit to actions that are in line with those values. For example, the woman who is terrified of parties commits to attending her brother’s wedding because she values family—even though she knows anxiety will be part of the experience. The man who is afraid of talking in meetings makes a plan to speak up at least once in each weekly team review. He values making a contribu- tion through his work, and accepts that discomfort in meetings is part of that process. In ACT, this is referred to as “willingness.” As Orsillo and Roemer put it, “You do not need to be fearless to live; you need only be courageous.” There are numerous studies showing that participating in ACT—as well as Mindfulness-Based Therapy, or Mindfulness- Based Stress Reduction groups—can assist in the recovery from anxiety, depression, addiction, and chronic pain. But in both one- on-one psychotherapy and group programs, there is ample room for asking questions, sharing observations, and experiencing hu- man connection. What happens when these ideas and practices are delivered through words on the page? When readers are asked to greet their own suffering under the guidance of—well, mostly themselves, and the very same mind they are investigating? In most Buddhist traditions, sangha, or supportive communi- ty, is considered necessary for practice; in psychology, the thera- peutic relationship between psychologist and client is considered a key element in any positive outcome. And there is no compa- rable scientific evidence for the power of self-help and practicing alone. However, this lack of evidence does not demand cynicism or skepticism toward the self-help approach. In fact, self-help may be particularly well suited for anxiety and loneliness. As anyone knows who has ever suffered from either of them, the bar to picking up a book can be far lower than the self-imposed barriers to joining a group or seeking therapy. As the authors of these books point out again and again, it is self-compassion that gives us the strength to face the most dif- ficult thoughts and emotions. It is not a coincidence that both books use the language “befriending” to describe the process of mindfully meeting anxiety and loneliness. To reconnect to com- mon humanity and re-engage with life, we may not need any- thing more than wise instruction on how to be good friends to ourselves. And through the ideas and practices these books pro- vide, there is hope that we might realize: when we sit with our own suffering, we are never sitting alone. ♦ supports, educates, and empowers more than 700 Tibet an nuns living in northern India, representing all Tibet an Buddhist lineages. For a dollar a day, you can help a nun freely practice her religion and become a self-reliant member of the community— and the modern world. To sponsor a nun, to donate or to learn more, contact The Tibetan Nuns Project “ If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” His Holiness the Dalai lama Tibetan Nuns Project 619 Western Avenue, #22 Seattle, Washington 98104 www.tnp.org 206-652-8901 TNP is a 501 (c) 3 organization ©www.robholmesphoto.com