Last Tuesday, I went on a one hour walk along the waterfront with Bev. It was cold, but not freezing, and bright and invigorating!
Later on Tuesday evening, Rick and I went to our first session of a class we are taking together called Buddhism and Psychoanalysis. We will meet every other Tuesday until April 17th from 7:30 to 9 pm. Already, I love the class! I am taking the class with dynamic, insightful, and deep thinking people (including our friends Kay and Butch!!). Rick, Butch, and I are the only ones in the class who are not psychotherapists. It doesn’t really matter because all of us, therapists and non therapists alike, are exploring and learning “how to see more deeply”. We are led by our teacher, Dr. Mel Knight. He is a warm, wise, heartfelt, soulful, and lovely human being and I know I am going to learn so much from this class! I am very excited about it.
Following is our class description:
“The wounds in our heart become the object of our meditation.”—Thich Nhat Hanh
You are invited to join a new group forming to explore basic Buddhist concepts and their application in daily life. Because we are therapists, these beliefs will be discussed within the context of our clinical work. This is not a study group, rather a beginner’s inquiry into how as therapists we may benefit from “seeing more deeply.”
The text for the class is “No Death, No Fear,” by Thich Nhat Hanh. All members of the group will read the book in its entirety before we begin. Then we will explore it more fully chapter by chapter. Each time we meet, the following basic precepts will have our attention:
· Self Deception
Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, “No Death, No Fear” is a book about the Buddhist approach to understanding death and loss and LIFE. Through Hanh’s book, we see death and loss as a part of a bigger process. Mel asked us what we hope to get out of this class. When I read the book, I kept thinking about how I think along the lines of a Buddhist, though I do not call myself a Buddhist. Hanh is able to put into words the concepts I have no words for and the ideas I feel so strongly in my bones. Intangibly tangible ideas! So I told Mel that my goal is to find language to express “Life and Death” wisdom and philosophy. He seemed to know exactly what I was talking about.
Here are some ideas that were discussed and that were swirling in my head as I left class:
I thought about the Buddhist idea of being able to absorb the pain and the idea of being able to sit with myself and with others, and to be fully present.
There is only NOW.
This class is about what it is to be fully HUMAN. And in order to be fully human, we have to understand what it is to love. Mel reminded us, there are 3 types of LOVE: Philos (brotherly love as in “Philadelphia”, city of Brotherly Love, a love based on a friendship between two people), Eros (“erotic love” based on strong feelings toward another) Eros usually occurs in the first stages of a “romantic” relationship. Lastly there is Agape, which is above Philos and Eros. It is a kind of unconditional love, like the love a mother has for her child. Or it is the love we show our parents, taking care of them and helping them in their old age. The highest type of agape love is not human at all, but divine, as described by God’s unconditional love for us in the Christian teachings. These concepts are cultural, because, apparently, there are over 30 words for love in the Indian culture!
To be a great therapist, doctor, or teacher (these vocations represent those present in the class)- or for that matter, a great mother or father or spiritual leader- you have to be fully human. I think this is what the class is going to be all about. We will be exploring pathways to becoming fully human. We will explore how to be fully present with oneself and with another, how to feel and absorb your own pain or another person’s pain and continue to be the “glass part of the lit lantern that fully absorbs the heat of the flame, but does not combust or melt.” In life, if we can be the “glass part of the lit lantern”, then we can survive and emerge a more solid person. We emerge stronger and more full of life and love from one intense experience.
I just read the above to Rick and he has a lot to say about the class, too! 🙂 He says it all starts with not having fear about death because we are never born and we never die. Only when we have no fear can we be fully present. According to Rick, the class was about us taking turns to express where we are coming from professionally and spiritually, and an opportunity to express what we hope to get our of the class.
Ahhhh, finally some photos from last Tuesday’s crisp vibrant walk along the waterfront in downtown Seattle, taken before class: