I received my Master’s Degree in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology from Naropa University — a Buddhist Contemplative University in Boulder, Colorado. This is a traditional counseling education that integrates the spiritual practice of meditation. While Western Psychology is focused on psychological adjustment in order to reduce pain and mental illness, Eastern Buddhist Philosophy is concerned with awakening fully into our true nature. Think of it like a cloudy day — one way is to change our attitude about the clouds, and think positive thoughts. Another way is to learn to see through the cloudy layer of our ego, and see that the sun is always shining. Awakening to our true self is not something we need to grow or cultivate, it’s already within us. It’s been there all along.
I am a certified Mindfulness Meditation Instructor through Naropa University, and continue my practice as a Dharma Teacher at the Mt. Adams Zen Buddhist Temple in Trout Lake.
In addition to telling the story of our lives and cultivating a cognitive understanding of our old patterns, we must also learn to reconnect and integrate the lived experience of our story, as it’s happening, in our body. An emotion is a mind-body experience — the physiological sensations in our body, and the thoughts, memories, and beliefs in our mind. One of the great coping strategies for dealing with overwhelming events in life is to abandon and reject our bodily experience, and then try and re-write the story in our head. While this can be effective in certain ways, in the end it becomes the origin of suffering — a sense that things aren’t what they are supposed to be. That something is missing.
This is often one of the reasons we take on a spiritual path — to find what it is that’s missing from our lives. While it is important to learn to be mindful of our bodies when we are relaxed, part of the process must include becoming aware of all the discomfort and unpleasant sensations that arise in our bodily experience, and practice acceptance and kindness towards these experiences. It’s a bit counter-intuitive, but as the great mystic Rumi said, “the cure for the pain is in the pain.”
First, I want to say, it’s a noble act to learn to stay with your emotions and experiences in a different way. It’s noble, because through it, we connect with all other beings. I know this only because I know it in myself. People often view self-observation as a selfish act, but the truth is is that through looking deeply within ourselves, we cultivate empathy for all other beings. This is incredibly important as a psychotherapist — to be in your world, but not of it.
As a Buddhist practitioner, one of the ways in which the contemplative practice of meditation lends itself to therapy is Radical Acceptance. Radical Acceptance is a way of showing up for our experiences in two very important ways — with compassion and clear-seeing. We learn to see our experience with precision, in the present moment, which includes intense and strong emotions. Then we practice acceptance and kindness towards whatever arises. This goes beyond the cognitive understanding of our emotions, and cultivates an embodied experience.
Lastly, therapy is all about relationship. Every moment of life is relationship. And when it comes to psychotherapy, it’s not just about your relationship to yourself. It turns out that the therapeutic relationship is the most important factor in helping others alleviate suffering. A relationship based on empathy, positive regard, and loving-kindness is more important that any technique or style of treatment.
life is hard. We are born, we get old, we get sick, we die. Unfortunately, there is a common misunderstanding among all humans that have ever been born, that the best way to live is to avoid pain. But part of the contract of living is that a certain amount of pain is inevitable. However, suffering is optional. In other words, our resistance to experiencing difficulty creates suffering. In counseling, I can help ease your level of suffering, and build tools to help with difficulties when they arise.