Friday, November 21, 2008

Richard Munn - Grief, Meditation and Therapy

A great article by Richard Munn over at Integral Life. The post is based on a therapy session with Robert Masters. To truly engage in therapy requires a warrior's heart, as Trungpa Rinpoche used to call it, and here Richard demonstrates that courage and strength.

Grief, Meditation and Therapy

By the time of arriving here, at the well-tended front garden of Robert’s home near Vancouver, I have been intensely experiencing grief, arisen through the heat of intimate relationship, for the past ten months. I have been working with this grief in the context of contemplative practice, paying attention to what Trungpa Rinpoche called the ‘soft spot,’ the innately open, connected and empty reality of the heart. Trungpa characterized the soft-spot as being “sad-joy;” the joy of energetic, tender responsiveness to the world and the sadness of things always fading, changing and dying. It has been incredibly useful for me to be aware of this articulation and to be instructed that this experience doesn’t need altering but rather can become part of the display of what is during meditation, with no additional fabrication.

Through holding the dark, hot, glowing ember of tender-sad-joy in my heart with as much precision and care as I can, I have been noticing the ways in which I habitually contract. With either tightness in my body, energetic shutting down, familiar emotions such as anger or, more subtly, through placing a layer of thinking in between myself and the direct experience of my wounded-open being, I veil myself from the vividness of my heart. It’s been a rocky, unpredictable and wild journey characterized by the blossoming of an underlying sapling trust that I can return to and directly face my experience, however joyful, devastating or insulting that experience may be to my self-image or my ideas of how things should be.

A short while after ringing the doorbell I am greeted by Robert’s wife, Diane. Her grounded, glowingly centered warmth brings me further into the simplicity of the present as we say a brief hello, before I am shown where the room Robert works with clients is. I walk through the dimly lit corridor and feel like I am entering an underground treasure cave as I move through the doorway into a well contained space of simple richness and aesthetic resonance.

Noticing two meditation cushions on the floor, near the wall on my right, I choose one and sit down. I intend to use the time before the session to create supportive conditions so that I am more receptive to and engaged in the work I am about to do. Taking my posture and beginning to breathe, I notice I am excited and slightly rigid, I’m not breathing as deeply as I could and am holding tension in my face, especially around the eyes. Through the meeting of an-Other, a thou that can help me brokenly dance in whatever direction needed, if only for a short time, I believe gates will be unlocked that I have found almost impossible to unlock in isolation. While I literally ache for deeper work I am also aware of a slight habitual guardedness to it, revealed to me by my tightness; the embodiment of somatically “holding myself together.”

After settling into this awareness for a few minutes I hear the door open inwards. Standing and turning around I see Robert for the first time in the flesh and feel him as strong, stable, present and energetically big, with attentive sky blue eyes and a smile; we are both happy to see each other. We sit down, I on a tan brown leather couch and he on a matching chair opposite me, and I start to talk about how things have been going with the intimate relationship, which ended seven months ago.

I interact with Robert and various aspects of myself, guided by Robert’s intuitive direction, which I trust to usefully raft on the streams and eddies of emotion and meaning-making I am journeying with. Spontaneously arising ways of working, such as empathic, full person attention and awareness flavoured with dream analysis and sentence completion, act as a vanguard on the overgrown path to revealing what is already the case. The path reveals itself on a moment-by-moment basis in congruence with where my foot lands on the ground, which is shown not a moment sooner. As we organically and responsively attune to each new step, the structure of the session emerges in an organic flow, alive with freshness and discovery.

After what feels like one third of the ninety minute session, Robert shifts gears towards working with my body, my embodied reality of experience, with the words: “It’s really important to directly include the body with the emotional work we are doing. The way I work with the body is both physically and energetically done in a way that resonates intuitively and organically with the person I am working with. If things become too intense for you, you can say stop at any time.”

I feel so happy to hear that we are taking this direction and notice that part of me literally aches for a fuller, more deeply embodied resolution of the grief I’ve been attending to, quite mindfully, for nearly the last year. I need to feel the resolution not only in my mind but also right in the middle of my heart, so this inner ice-cube of sorrow can begin its thawing.

Read the rest of this moving article.

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