Types of Therapy
Psychoanalysis is the method of choice for someone who is stuck in their ego, persona or mask and who denies identity to all other parts of him/herself. And it is also useful for someone who has reason to believe they have suffered trauma in childhood that is repressed and doing damage. Most psychiatrist practice some form of psychoanalysis, but there are other therapists who have trained solely in this method.
Bioenergetics is useful for people who need to get in touch with their feelings. This method also helps us locate trauma that is stored in the body. Rogerian or client-centered therapy and Gestalt therapy are useful for most of us as they focus on helping us solve our own problems and work toward wholeness. Existential Analysis and Logotherapy aim to help establish meaningfulness in life and may be particularly useful for people who are suffering from mid-life crisis. Jungian Analytical Psychotherapy, Psychosynthesis and Progoff's journaling methods are the therapies most often identified as transpersonal. The eastern disciplines, Yoga and Buddhism, and the mystic traditions of all religions are appropriate for those who are working toward unity consciousness and who have resolved their psychological issues.
Transpersonal Psychotherapy. This type of therapy focuses on the interaction between psychology and spirituality with special emphasis on consciousness. This would be the form you want if you are well-adjusted psychologically for the most part but feel the issues you need to work on are largely spiritual. Or, if you are actively on the path but need help in clearing some problems in your life, this might be the best context for your work on yourself. You might also consider a transpersonal psychotherapist if you need help on your spiritual journey, but there is no spiritual teacher available where you live nor can you leave home to seek one.
Contemplative Psychotherapy. This is a relatively new field. It was pioneered by the Maharishi University in Iowa and by The Naropa Institute in Boulder. Both of these schools are now accredited which means that their graduates may qualify for licenses to practice therapy. The Maharishi University is Yogic in orientation and Naropa is Buddhist. Naropa turns out exceptionally good therapists in the transpersonal domain. Some of these schools may have home pages on the Web.
Selecting a therapist is very important since different therapists have different training and one may or may not be sympathetic to your journey. Nor may the person know how to offer support for spiritual development. However, in spite of intensive training there is no guarantee that therapists know or even care about spirituality though some undoubtedly do. You just have to check it out.
Unfortunately, therapy is much like medicine in that you almost have to diagnose yourself in order to know what kind of specialist to go to. You should interview several people before making a choice. And no one should object to your asking questions about how they were trained and what is their area of expertise. Modern healing techniques are so complex and the fields of both medicine and psychotherapy are so convoluted that you may feel very confused at first. But, in the course of interviewing, you will learn a great deal so it is worth doing. Incidently, many therapists will not charge you for an entrance interview.
Another thing to take into consideration is that most therapists will tell you they are eclectic in terms of their orientation. And, while they may like to think so, the real test is to find out what training they have had. For instance, a licensed clinical psychotherapist must have a doctoral degree and all of those degrees require extensive research. That, in itself, is not bad. On the contrary, these people will be familiar with all the latest research. However, that does not qualify them to establish rapport with you, nor does it guarantee that they know anything about transpersonal development. Furthermore, their orientation may be toward behavioral psychology which is extremely limited in terms of interpersonal factors because its theory is based on conditioning. We have seen that the conditioned mind is the lower mind, so such an orientation without any further training, is highly unlikely to be transpersonal and may even be somewhat manipulative or controlling.
There is a growing number of graduate schools that are training transpersonal psychotherapists, and there is a manual available, I think from the Association of Transpersonal Psychology, that lists them all with descriptions of their programs. This would give you some background of training information from which to design your questions. You might write several of the schools and ask them for a list of their graduates in your area. Or, alternatively, armed with a list of schools or training programs that the therapist has attended, go to your library and look them up to see what their orientation is. The schools I know best that are training transpersonal psychotherapists are: The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto, CA, the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco, The Naropa Institute in Boulder, CO, and the John F. Kennedy University in San Francisco. There are a great many more, of course.
You will find that many therapists have conventional training but have branched out and studied the transpersonal domain because of their own personal interests. Such a therapist may be excellent. You may just have to jump in and test the waters. When you do so, give it a lot of time before you say it is not working. A good criteria is that, if your ego is pained, it is probably working. Ego resistance is a common response to both therapy and spiritual discipline. It means you are making progress.
Some of the openings that are included in the definition of spiritual emergency are: opening to life myth, shamanic journey, kundalini awakening, emergence of a karmic pattern, psychic opening, and possession. Some people would add UFO abductions. Emma Bragdon (1988, 1990) has written two excellent books on the subject which I recommend as references. Bonnie Greenwell (1990) has focused on kundalini awakening and the Grofs (1989, 1990) have dealt with spiritual emergency as crisis and as opportunity for personal transformation. All of these are excellent resources. Transpersonal Psychotherapy by Seymour Boorstein is a good general reference. It is a book of readings some of which describe different types of therapy.
We all need a teacher for several reasons. The first one that comes to mind is guidance. In many areas of life we can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. In fact, doing it myself is the "American way" is it not? In psychological circles this is known as trial and error learning. Although learning by experience is solid learning, it is by no means always efficient. And who among us would be willing, as the Buddha did, to sit down under a tree and stay there until enlightened? Learning by observation is far faster and often less painful. So a teacher who has already achieved what we want is in a good position to guide us to the same state of being. The problems come when the authority of that position is abused as we shall see later.
A good teacher has information about the path and knows how to apply it. That can provide a context for the experiences we want to develop. I have found that, if I understand a process with my mind, my ego is much more likely to cooperate with an exploration of it. So we can think of information as setting up a context and a background against which the play will emerge.
The teacher, or guru, sets an example of the behaviors that are consonant with spiritual growth and development. S/he should never communicate a "Do what I say, not what I do" message. And this is one caution that will help discriminate a legitimate teacher. They will not ask you to do something that they, themselves, have not already done or are doing. This is especially true in the sexual arena.
Gurus in the Yogic tradition who have been initiated into a lineage must take a vow of celibacy, so any sexual activity on their part at all is immediately suspect regardless of their reasons. Those who have not been initiated may not have to be held to this restriction, but the point is honoring one's vows. And, in any case, no legitimate teacher, or therapist, should approach a student, client or advisee sexually. That is unethical in any context in which one person is learning from another because it violates the follower's sanctity and trust in the leadership of the one doing the leading. A student must agree to obey the teacher in order to be teachable, so trust is of the essence. When such trust is violated, it gives the whole tradition a bad name. If the tradition requires a vow of renunciation, the guru should model that as well.
And, while the student must obey the teacher, the teacher should model that obedience by deferring to his/her own guru. Deference is perhaps a more comfortable word. What is meant is that the student agrees to follow directions and try what the guru suggests. This does not mean that s/he should do something that is considered wrong. Nor does it mean that a direction should not be questioned. Any guru worth his/her salt will explain things.
Now, and this is a point of confusion for many in our culture who have not been raised in the eastern traditions, the teacher may test your commitment. And that could include some seemingly pointless chores. Milarepa, for example, was required to build and tear down several houses before his guru would teach him. And, at another point, he was walled up in isolation for a long period of time. Modern gurus will not go to those extremes, but it may seem like it sometimes. And the reasons for it may not become clear for some time afterwards. So this is another reason why you must make sure your teacher is trustworthy before you give yourself into his/her hands. I might add that I think the testing is defensible in light of the American tendency toward instant gratification and instant results. When a teacher makes a commitment to guide a student, they take it very seriously and expect to spend inordinate amounts of time, energy and faith to bring that person to enlightenment. So it seems reasonable to demand a comparable commitment from the disciple. On the spiritual path, the most fruitful kind of instruction is one to one. So it is not like lecturing to a large class and then going home for dinner. Typically, disciples go to live with the guru in an ashram where the exposure is continual.
This brings up another function of the guru-disciple relationship. The guru gives feedback on every phase of the disciple's life. It is an immersion situation. The most attention is given to disciplining the student's ego. And this is best accomplished by the use of a "flooding" technique. Being subjected to this kind of treatment, one eventually gives up being defensive, and it is then that the heart begins to open and progress begins.
The teacher provides an environment in which the student feels safe to experiment and explore his/her way of being in the world. So there is an important element of security. This is one thing that is so attractive to people who are seeking community. In addition to security, there is some relief from responsibility for the administration and decision-making with respect to ordinary chores although this does not mean giving up responsibility for one's life. Quite the contrary, that type of responsibility increases. An example may suffice. At the ashram where I lived, a work coordinator who was a resident of long standing set up the work schedule for everyone for the week, so I did not have to make decisions about what I would be doing every day. Nor was it my place to see that all the work got done or that everyone did their part. Having kept house for some thirty years, this came as a huge relief, and it allowed me to focus my attention on my own development for a change.
As the relationship between guru and disciple deepens, communication between them rises to higher levels. It may take the form of mind to mind directly, or of from heart to heart. Some teachers teach by silence. They never speak which means communication has to take these other forms. Or they may say such strange or foolish things that the student is forced to consider other channels. Yet another method is to talk in generalities and let each student select what is meant for her/him. Still another method is telling stories. Jesus is famous for that. Transmissions are perhaps the most important form of teaching. These are given formally during initiations and often at higher levels after that.
Initiation, if I understand it correctly, is an outward ceremony that celebrates an inner rebirth. In Yoga, it typically does not occur until after considerable teaching and learning has taken place. It marks a transition into a higher level of knowing. Because it marks a rebirth, there is usually some form of ritual death followed by a resurrection and the person may receive a new name that is symbolic of the new identity. The accompanying ego death means surrender to the Higher Self or to the Divine One. It may be symbolized by surrender to the guru prior to initiation and perhaps also afterwards. I think Americans have real trouble with this kind of surrender because of our encultration in self-sufficiency. And it takes real humility to give up our own personal agendas which include getting enlightened. But it is considered part of the process of subduing the ego. Remember that the ego needs discipline because it is the agent that stands between us and unity consciousness.
Cults. I think this point is probably the most controversial with respect to cults. Cult leaders tend to be authoritarian, dictatorial and controlling. And there might be an either. . . or choice to make: obey or get out. This, I think, would be questionable. One follows a guru because of a love and trust bond. Abuse of that bond would be cause for deep suspicion. So how does one know whether the directions given are abusive or in the disciple's best interests? It seems to me that we must trust our own instincts. And the caution about neurotic needs must be underlined. If you are very needy, you are vulnerable to exploitation, and an ashram or community living situation might not be what you need right now. Better to stabilize yourself before undertaking such a venture. Of course, being able to say "No" is an important requisite for self-protection. And the usual interpersonal etiquette pertains. You give and expect to receive in return: respect, consideration, kindness, safety, honesty, loyalty, honor, cooperation, caring, open and honest communication, and willingness to exchange information. If any of these are missing, get out! Abuse of any kind should not be tolerated.
Note: I feel it necessary to comment on the so-called spiritual groups that induce their members to commit suicide. Suicide in any form is a violation of the basic tenet of spirituality: non-violence. It can also be seen as a cop-out, giving up. Furthermore, the eastern disciplines teach the importance of dying properly to avoid setting up more karma or continuing what you already have. Suicide is a violation or rape of life which is a very precious gift. Even though life may be difficult, we cannot escape our soul's purpose though it may take a great deal of courage to actualize it. Whatever we may seek in the after life is achievable in this one. So strive for samadhi - not escape.
Do some serious thinking about what you need in a teacher. Make a list of the characteristics you would look for. You might want to then examine your list to identify projections. We tend to project our favorable but unacknowledged qualities onto authority figures. Positive projections are all right, but you should be aware of them. See the teacher as a model of what you want to actualize in yourself, just as you would an image of the Divine One. It is good to be highly conscious of these characteristics, so you can work toward them.
Write a paper about what you want in a teacher and also what you expect or need to receive. As you organize this, check to see if your requirements can be met by the characteristics you have outlined. If not, reflect upon it some more. Then, after a few days, come back to your paper and reread it as if it had been written by someone else. Look for ego distortions. What is realistic in your goals and what is oriented toward ego gratification? You may want to revise the paper after this.
Somewhere in this process, if you are truly in need of a teacher, you might want to lay out a plan for finding your teacher. What was said about interviewing psychotherapists also goes for getting to know a teacher before making a serious commitment to him/her. A legitimate ashram or other spiritual community would, I believe, have a probationary program for seekers to go through before being accepted for residency. This is another way to test commitment. And it will probably involve hard work of a physical nature.
Alice Bailey, one of the early theosophists, thought that this era is one in which the journey is meant to be shared rather than be individualized. So, in that case, a focus would be on the group effort. I do not know whether this is true, but we are certainly seeing an eruption of grassroots community-building. Many of these communities are spiritually oriented. Perhaps the phenomena is related to the population explosion. There are so many people in the world now that everyone interested in spiritual advancement simply cannot find a private teacher.
The personal need for a group goes deeply into our need to belong and our need for support and encouragement. Beyond that, it is extremely difficult to travel the spiritual path alone largely because of the strength of ego-oriented temptations. It is often difficult to distinguish whether an impulse comes from the ego or from the Higher Self, so more or less objective feedback from others is essential at times. Often a good friend of the usual ilk cannot rise to this occasion from lack of training and/or experience.
This reminds me of a knotty problem I encountered at the ashram. I found it impossible to establish a close relationship of the kind I had been used to with any of the residents. No one wanted to sit down and talk about things in the usual manner. Nor did anyone pat me on the back and tell me I was progressing well. Everyone would give me time and a truly open ear and heart if I was having difficulties with my path, but for nothing else. Idle chatter was discouraged and even, at times, actively put down. A quiet mind and tongue were valued. Silence was truly golden. I just could not understand this. Wasn't love of the essence? Of course it was, just not as I had become used to defining it. Their love was expressed by giving undivided attention to all things relevant to the journey and rejecting everything else. Thus I learned to discriminate ego pursuits from mindful action. There is nothing like silence to put one in touch with ego's agendas.
Before joining a group, you need to check it out for cultishness. Cults are characterized by power trips. Usually one person is the leader and everyone defers to that person. But coercion rather than cooperation is the dominant modus operandi. If a leader gets angry when his/her authority is questioned, get out. If others in the group are disempowered in any significant ways, get out. If morals or ethics are compromised, get out. Power, sex and money are all suspect if they receive any emphasis. When in doubt, research the topic further.
Ashrams, Abbeys and Monasteries
Spiritual communities exist for several reasons. One is to provide shelter while a novice is learning. Another is to give selfless service. Still another is to provide guidance to spiritual aspirants. The group is usually headed by a person who is either a teacher surrounded by disciples or who is elected by the group to govern them. Some communities may be under the auspices of a religious tradition and receive much of their support from that larger group. Others may be self-sufficient in that members work at trades or agriculture to support the community. And there may be other combinations of these possibilities.
A typical day is usually very structured and will include both work and worship in varying proportions. Members tend to stay in cloister and venture only occasionally into the surrounding community unless it is for purposes of service. Worldliness is renounced. Initiated members have usually taken vows of obedience, chastity and renunciation, so their possessions are sparse and all activities are oriented toward spiritual development. There may be little or no spare time for personal pursuits. All members, including the leader, are observing renunciation and celibacy, another important difference from cults.
There often seems to be a certain amount of exclusivity in spiritual groups. This may be to protect the members from worldly temptations as well as from intrusions upon their privacy by curiosity seekers. The atmosphere of serenity and devotion is also protected thereby. These groups are usually secluded in forests, deserts or mountains though some exist in cities. My limited experience with spiritual communities is that the vibrations of Light are usually palpable, and continued residency in one leads to increased perceptual sensitivity. I do not know of any sociological studies of such communities, but I suspect there are concentric rings of depth of membership and commitment tied to the amount of time one has spent in the group.
There are other forms of spiritual groups that are not as tightly organized as monasteries, ashrams and abbeys. Such groups may or may not have a designated leader. Some govern themselves by consensus. There may or may not be a conscious spiritual focus. If you are interested in joining one of these groups, there is a very useful Communities Directory put out by The Fellowship for Intentional Community. Copies may be obtained from Communities, 138-D6 Twin Oaks Rd., Louisa, VA 23093, 540-894-5126 They cost $20.00.
Another option is to create your own community. There are some online communities already in existence or you could gather a few friends who are also on the path and work together to support each other's journeys. Should you wish to use this guidebook as a basis for your work, there is a set of Guidelines for Group Process available online.
Exercise: Spiritual Community
1. Give some serious thought to whether you need a spiritual community, and if you decide you do, go for it! Find one that suits you or, if you cannot move, create your own nearer to home or on the Internet. Journey to Awakening by Ram Dass, although dated, is a good place to start searching for spiritual communities. He lists groups that teach meditation as well as retreat facilities. Another source is Marcia and Jack Kelly's (1991, 1993) books on sanctuaries. I believe these have been updated now.
2. Universal Dances of Peace
One thing you may want to do is to check out the Universal Dances of Peace as a possible support group. These dances, offered locally in many places, originated with a Sufi who has encouraged them to spring up all over the world, and now they are eclectic in orientation. Basically, they are circle dances that are based on songs and mantras from all of the world's religious traditions including Native American. A leader provides music and instruction at each meeting, so anyone can easily join in. The dances are done prayerfully, but joyfully and are great fun! You will meet others on the spiritual path and may be able to find like-minded souls with which to form your own group if that is what you want to do.
In the end, the entire world is a spiritual community, and we are seeing more and more evidence of this as the Internet expands and spiritual groups begin to come online. There are those who say the earth is a living organism and that human beings represent her consciousness. If so, that is a powerful responsibility. We need to make ourselves worthy of it.
You do not need to do all of them at once. Instead, the usual approach in the beginning is to select one at a time and practice it for a period of at least three months on a daily basis in order to discover what is compatible and what works for you. Do not despair if you hit a plateau of boredom. Just keep going until you transcend it. Such plateaus, or times when it seems nothing is happening, are normal. Think of these as tests of your commitment, and just push through them.
The point is to discover a ritual that will progressively deepen your spiritual life and lead you to the Source. A reliable spiritual practice that fits your needs will also gradually free you from outside guidance and bring you to the inner guide who will then always be available to you.
We have examined self-study as a spiritual practice, and that is a basic beginning which continues throughout your life. In Yoga, there is a progression of practices that are tied to the Eight Rungs of Yoga (see Book I, Unit 2 for more information). The Yamas and Niyamas are part of the self-study and offer a focus for our daily work on ourselves. Hatha Yoga (asana) is a body discipline. It differs from the usual kinds of exercise in that it balances all the muscles and tendons in the body, brings mind and body together and teaches us how to use the breath properly. It prepares the body for more stringent disciplines that may follow. Pranayama teaches control over the breath and etheric energies. Control of the senses (pratyahara) continues the body disciplines, and we learn how to withdraw attention from the outside world in order to go within.
From there we work on our concentration (dharana). At this point we engage mind training in addition to body and breath work. Concentration helps us learn how to focus attention and is the basis for meditation. Meditation proper (dhyana) can take many forms as we have already seen. And it has as many definitions. Its purpose is to quiet the mind and turn off the discursive chatter, so we can tune in to other levels of consciousness. Contemplation (samadhi) is the experience of awareness or superconsciousness or unity consciousness. The small, false self disappears and we can experience our unity with all there is.
All of the various spiritual practices are aimed at one or the other of the above steps or are connected to one of the spiritual paths such as Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga or Raja Yoga. Journalling and dream analysis are related to self-study and Jnana Yoga as are classes and workshops. Mind-watching and mindfulness help concentration and refinement of the senses and they teach you how to control the mind and ego. Prayer, worship, chanting, and prayer dance are forms of Bhakti Yoga. Meditation and contemplation are parts of Raja Yoga as are all of the eight rungs. Selfless service is Karma Yoga.
All spiritual practices produce increased discrimination, compassion, knowledge, awareness, and refinement of the senses leading to higher level powers such as the development of intuition and insight. The aim of all religions as well as that of spiritual disciplines is development of the ability to give unconditional love to each other and to the Divine One.
Exercise: Spiritual Practice
Choose one of the spiritual practices with which you have been experimenting and make a commitment to follow it for three months. Keep a daily journal recording what happens and what you experience each time you practice. At the end of three months, reread your journal and write a paper on what you have learned.
Bragdon, Emma. The call of spiritual emergency: From personal crisis to personal transformation. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1990.
Bragdon, Emma. A sourcebook for helping people in spiritual emergency. Los Altos, CA: Lightening Up Press, 1988.
Dass, Ram. Journey to awakening: A meditator's guidebook. New York: Bantam, 1978.
Fellowship for Intentional Community. Communities directory: A guide to cooperative living. Ann Arbor, MI: Cushing-Malloy, 1996.
Greenwell, Bonnie. Energies of transformation: A guide to the kundalini process. Cupertino, CA: Shakti River Press, 1990.
Grof, Christina & S. Grof. The stormy search for the self: A guide to personal growth through transformational crisis. Los Angeles, Tarcher, 1990.
Grof, Stanislav & C. Grof (Eds.) Spiritual emergency: When personal transformation becomes a crisis. Los Angeles: Tarcher, 1989.
Kelly, Marcia & Jack. Sanctuaries - The west coast and southwest: A guide to lodging is monasteries, abbeys, and retreats of the United States. New York: Bell Tower, 1993.
Kelly, Jack & Marcia. Sanctuaries - The northeast: A guide to lodgings in monasteries, abbeys, and retreats of the United States. 0-517-57727-5 (probably the same publisher), 1991.
A complete set of References follows:
For your own sake of organization and closure, write a thoughtful, reflective paper on what you have found most valuable in this guidebook and how it has impacted your life and spiritual journey. If you would like to share it with me, I would be honored to see it. You may email it to me or email me for my address.
Appendix A. Twilight Imaging and General References follow this unit.
Book III. Broken Will and Empowerment will take up third chakra issues such as ego and emotionality, male sexuality, aggression, authority issues, abuses of power, conflict, the shadow and the critic, and personal development during the elementary school years. If all goes according to schedule, it should be online in the spring of 1998. I wish all of you who are working with these materials peace and joy!
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