Spirituality and Counseling
Disclaimer: I will never impose any personal beliefs or values onto my clients. Your personal religious and/or spiritual beliefs are welcome and will be respected. The text below is an attempt to communicate some of my thoughts about the spiritual journey, with a big nod to the contemplative traditions that were part of my path. It is also an invitation for you to begin self-inquiry as part of the counseling process, if you are so inclined.
"Greater than the greatest good in life is to know who we are."
-- Nisargadatta Maharaj
"Investigate what you think of as your'self.' This is the purpose, the meaning of all spirituality, of all seeking, of your very being; to understand this amazing intricate play of Consciousness by seeing what is this illusion, this mistaken perception, and what is its source which makes it possible."
-- David Carse, from his book Perfect Brilliant Stillness
The Search for Happiness
In my work with others I often talk about hamster wheels, and that whack-a-mole game you find at arcades. These are metaphors for how we live our lives, searching for happiness outside of ourselves or trying to get rid of what we believe is making us unhappy. This may stem from the belief that we are a separate individual trying to make our way in a big, scary world. As long as we believe and feel that we are separate from life, much of our activity will be driven by fear and insecurity.
Somebody said that spirituality is the last house on the block in the search for happiness. For me, the spiritual search was the beginning of the end of Joe Gilbert as a separate, solid, special somebody on the path to somewhere.
"The separate self is like space caught in a net, apparently limited but not really so."
-- Rupert Spira
I was asking existential questions at an early age, and the response I most often received was "just don't think about that stuff." If only it were that easy for some of us.
From The Matrix:
Neo: I don't like the idea that I'm not in control of my life.
Morpheus: I know exactly what you mean! Let me tell you why you are here. You're here because you know something. What you know, you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life. That there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is. But it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad.
Our Ideas Cloud Our Vision
"When you realize that none of your ideas about truth are real, it is quite a shock to your system. It is an unexpected blow to the seeker and the seeking."
Spirituality is often wrapped up and sold just like the new, best-selling beauty product. For the sincere seeker, it rarely looks like the cover of a yoga or meditation magazine: A young, beautiful woman on a mountaintop, wearing linen clothing, beads, and smiling toward the sun with eyes closed. There's nothing wrong with this, of course. I just think it's not the whole picture.
For me, this packaging inspired more seeking behavior and what is known as spiritual bypassing. There may be mountaintop, mind-blowing experiences along the way, but reaching the mountaintop is only the first half of the path. Eventually, you have to come back down and put your insights to the test in everyday life. As Jack Kornfield said, "After the ecstasy, the laundry."
"One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. The latter procedure is disagreeable and therefore not popular."
-- Carl Jung
Letting Go Of The Known
"To attain knowledge, add something every day. To attain wisdom, remove things every day. "
-- Lao Tzu
From the Gospel of Thomas (non-dual teachings of Jesus):
Jesus said: I stood in the midst of the world and revealed myself to them in the flesh. I found them all intoxicated. Not one of them was thirsty and my soul grieved for the children of humanity, for they are blind in their hearts. They do not see. They came naked into the world, and naked they will leave it. At this time, they are intoxicated. When they have vomited their wine, they will return to themselves.
"Enlightenment is not what you think."
-- Wayne Liquorman
Counseling and Self-Inquiry
When I talk with people about spirituality during counseling sessions, I continually invite them to ask what is true here. Your own existential questions are worthy of deep introspection. Finding a quick answer that temporarily makes you feel better is not what self-inquiry is about. If you are looking for a counselor who will walk with you on your spiritual journey, I'm happy to meet with you for a consultation in my Hillsborough location.
Traveling With Ease
Counseling with self-inquiry assumes a certain degree of sincerity, insight and courage. Paradoxically, you need to have a strong and secure ego before you can start to dismantle it! You know, at a certain point, that peace and happiness cannot be dependent on any object, person, or experience that is impermanent. This does not mean we need to live solemn lives of silence and renunciation. Rather, we gradually start to wear life like a loose garment, with less reactivity, grasping and aversion. Our inner peace begins to express itself as happiness in our daily lives.
"Enlightenment is the end of one process - thinking and feeling oneself to be a separate, limited self - but the beginning of another - the realignment of the body, mind and world with this new, experiential understanding."
-- Rupert Spira