Transformation in Therapy & The Path of Mindfulness

July 2, 2011

These days I have been thinking a lot on my own mindfulness practice and how it relates to the kind of therapy I do in my counselling.  As I try to deepen my own mindfulness, I continue to experience numerous challenges, and I continue to try to apply mindfulness in meeting my own personal challenges in efforts to bring about deeper and deeper transformations in my life.  Not easy!

I have to remember that transformation is the result of applying the discipline of mindfulness, which includes avoiding the temptation to avoid, deny, repress, blame, resent, judge…

The basic practice of mindfulness means that we look at our own pain, “own it,” accept it, and paradoxically begin to understand that our own pain does not define us–we can let it go.  I may feel anger, pain, abandonment and loneliness, but that does not mean I am those emotions.

As Thich Nhat Hanh explains in Peace Is Every Step, “After recognizing the feeling, becoming one with it, calming it down, and releasing it, we can look deeply into its causes, which are often based on inaccurate perceptions.  As soon as we understand the causes and nature of our feelings, they begin to transform themselves” (56).

I know this paradoxical process comes from great wisdom and carries with it great power–but, like all inner journeys of spiritual growth, it is difficult and requires discipline and practice.  And in my efforts to try to bring this wisdom and power to others, I can only think of my own path and how it has benefited me personally.

When I work with new clients, I will try to explain the benefits of mindfulness as they relate to therapy.  The inner journey takes time, but the result is a new path of self-acceptance, compassion, balance, strength and freedom.

For me, mindfulness and therapy do go hand-in-hand, especially in that I view therapy as a balance between the development of disciplined, inner strength and compassionate self-healing.  I view my role as a psychotherapist as one who is able of holding such a balance for the client as he/she embarks on a powerful inner journey.

I offer Thich Nhat Hanh’s explanation of the role of the therapist in the journey of mindfulness:

“Together with patient, a therapist looks at the nature of the pain.  Often, the therapist can uncover causes of suffering that stem from the way the patient looks at things, the beliefs he/she holds about him/herself, his culture, and the world.  The therapist examines these viewpoints and beliefs with the patient, and together they help free him/her from the kind of prison he/she has been in.  But the patient’s efforts are crucial.  A teacher has to give birth to the teacher within his student, and a psychotherapist has to give birth to the psychotherapist within his patient.  The patient’s internal psychotherapist can then work full-time in a very effective way” (Peace Is Every Step, 55-56).

The freedom this process offers is available to us all.  We are all born with the inner power to engage in this process.  Even though on certain days in certain moments the path appears too long and too steep, transformation toward balance and harmony is a built-in reality of this path.

Thank you for reading this…

For more information on Thich Nhat Hanh, I highly recommend the book and documentary, Peace Is Every Step: