A few months back, I mentioned that Rick and I were taking a class on Buddhism and Psychoanalysis. It was a meaninful class and we used the book No Death, No Fear, by Thich Nhat Hanh as our text. At our last session of the course, I was asked by Dr. Mel Knight to write a review of the course. My review will be published in the COR Northwest Family Development Center Newsletter (Rick is the editor of this quarterly newsletter!) . Here is what I wrote:
Buddhism and Psychoanalysis
“The wounds in our heart become the object of our meditation.”—Thich Nhat Hanh
Mel Knight’s course on Buddhism and Psychoanalysis proved to be an insightful course of exploration of basic Buddhist concepts and their application in daily life. From January through April, a group of 10 (which included non therapists) met bimonthly at the COR building to discuss ideas from the text, “No Death, No Fear” by Thich Nhat Hanh. A central theme running through the book and the course was how to “see more deeply”.
Mel promoted being personal, so class members were invited to share their stories, dreams, fears, experiences of living through a loved one’s death, and their religious, non religious, and spiritual beliefs. Week after week, we shared our stories and listened to and learned from each other.
The room at COR seemed to grow larger with each session as our minds expanded and as we continued to share. There was room for analysts, therapists, teachers, doctors, nurses, and yoga teachers to draw connections between Buddhism, therapy, relationships, the Self, and the various ideas discussed in No Death, No Fear. In the room at COR, a sacred space was created in which we all learned to hold one another’s thoughts.
How often do we have permission to explore our ideas about death within a group setting in such a detailed manner? Mel prompted such discussions with questions like, “Your young daughter is terminal. What do you tell her when she says she’s afraid to die?”
How rigid our minds can be! We seem to become prisoners of our own minds, captive of our own beliefs. “No Death, No Fear”, blended with discussions facilitated by Mel, gave us the means to open our minds, to free ourselves from the old ways of thinking. Mel invited us to jump into this vast area that encouraged real heartfelt conversations, talks that were about the large matters of existence and death. We so rarely get the opportunity to do this.
On the last session, Mel asked us what we felt was most valuable about the class. I said the class reaffirmed my belief that my fear is not necessarily in dying, but, rather, in not living fully. The course, the text, and Mel advocated letting go of old precepts about death and dying. The text promotes a new way of looking at life as a force that has a continuum that re-manifests as trees, flowers, rain, rivers, and all that nature has to offer.
Thank you Mel and fellow participants for a profound, moving, and enlightening experience.