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Extract: Mindfulness, Psyche and Soma.

An extract from Body Psychotherapy Ed. Tree Staunton

In this chapter I would like to introduce how the principles and method of mindfulness meditation may be usefully wedded to the practice of psycho/physical therapy, particularly through the perspectives of Hakomi therapy, Transpersonal Psychology and the work of Bob Moore, as I have understood it, through his principle exponant in England, Hilmar Schonauer.

Hakomi therapy was developed by Ron Kurtz in America during the nineteen seventies and eighties drawing on the neoFreudian work of Reich and Alexander Lowen and the humanistic movement. As such it values being in our bodies, in the present moment with awareness of our experience as it is. Kurtz himself said he simply looked around and took the best. Transpersonal Psychology also grew from Humanistic Psychology, formally arriving in America as The Journal Of Transpersonal Psychology in 1969. Its central belief is that healing at its most profound includes a depth relationship to that within us that is beyond the usual frame of our individual personalities. As a perspective it can be grafted onto various root stock and presently there are psychotherapists who combine psychoanalytic, existential, humanistic and also Jungian basic positions with a transpersonal perspective. In England, at the Centre for Transpersonal Psychology, C.G. Jung has been foremost and this is perhaps no surprise since Ken Wilber has named Jung’s analytical psychology as the most viable transpersonal psychology of the twentieth century. Transpersonal Psychology, particularly in America, has also been influenced by Buddhist psychology and this is mainly represented by the emphasis placed upon the practice of mindfulness, which, as with Hakomi, involves being consciously present with our experience in each successive moment. Bob Moore’s work, taught by Hilmar Schonauer in London, remains, for me, difficult to define, even after over fourteen years of study. Bob Moore from his intuitive and visionary abilities developed a system of energy transforming exercises or meditations that heal the person by opening blockages and making energetic connections. This work incorporates very specific descriptions of the psychophysical energetic structures of the person, sometimes collectively called the “subtle body”, that are easily misunderstood since many terms are shared with other systems. Quite simply, I have found what is conceptually opaque becomes transparent experientially with practice. Unfortunately for me this has left a knowing with few words.

Psychotherapy, healing the soul.

I start from the belief that psychotherapy, literally, the healing of soul, arises from self acceptance. This is not something passive. It is not about giving up and saying, “Well that’s who I am and I can do nothing about it.” To the contrary it has a dynamic open quality to it. This is an acceptance of self as we find ourselves right now in this present moment. Whether we are happy or sad, calm or confused, mad or sane, it leaves this experience as it is with out any desire to change it in any way. What is distinctive is that this self acceptance is self aware. In both Hakomi and Transpersonal Psychology this ability to remain present with our sensations and feelings as they are, consciously, is linked to the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness, the ability to be consciously present in each successive moment with whatever is happening within us and outside of us, is found in a number of spiritual practices from different traditions but it is most explicit in the teachings of Buddhism, the teaching on “being awake”. Transpersonally orientated psychotherapists have called this by various names; John Welwood speaks of it as “unconditional presence” (Welwood, 2000), Mark Epstein as “bare attention” (Epstein, 1995), Wilber as “the transpersonal witness” (Wilber, 1975) while Kurtz, honouring it as one of the five principles of Hakomi therapy stays with the term “mindfulness” (Kurtz, 1970). In all cases what is being encouraged is the development of a state of choiceless awareness that is not driven by fears arising out of unconscious traumatic experiences. It is called unconditional presence because we try to be present with our experience: body, feelings and mind, unconditioned by the emotions that surround them. It is called bare attention because our attention is bare of the secondary reactions that cloak the vivid immediacy of experience. It is called the transpersonal witness because it avoids the usual personal and defensive reactions of repression or identifying and acting out. It does this by assuming a transpersonal position of being fully in touch with experience while not identified with it; thus we have our experience but it does not have us. Larry Rosenberg, a mindfulness teacher, describes this as the ability to be intimate. (Rosenberg, 1998). He observes that most of us are unable to perceive and be with either ourselves nor the external world without clothing ourselves or it with emotionally laden value judgments. Thus attraction leads to the need to possess, so to continue the pleasure, while aversion leads to finding a way to remove that which offends. Either way the internal emotionally reactive “noise” is so loud that the simple act of communion, of being nakedly present, cannot happen.

Continuous mindfulness of course is an ideal. In reality any genuine experience of this is initially fleeting and will almost always be the fruit of some form of formal mindfulness meditation practice or, even more transitory, perhaps a moments “unintentioned being” within a therapy session. However the modest act of remaining present or “staying with” our experience without being driven to change it can start small and simple with a moment to pause and breathe. This takes us to a knowing of ourselves that is not only beyond the needs and wishes of others but also of ourselves as we have come to imagine ourselves to be. In that moment it heals the splits between the body, feelings and mind so that our separation from our self is progressively closed. This is important. If we understand the basic dis-ease as being divided persons who spend our lives suffering from being separated from life by our own fears, then healing, at its most profound, will be found in the state of non dual consciousness that is no longer divided. Psychoanalysis has frequently mistakenly depicted this as a regressive desire to return to the symbiotic union with mother, thereby confusing the prepersonal mind of the infant with the transpersonal mind of the fully awakened state. A mistake Wilber calls the “pre/trans fallacy”. (Wilber, 1998). However those who have actually experienced it, tell us that to the contrary, this state, while empty of self, is full of clarity, wisdom and compassion. This is not transcendence as much as intimate engagement.