connecting psychotherapy and spiritual growth for human awakeningx
The Way of Sacred Attention is a comprehensive means for human and spiritual development. The common seeker seeks a method, embarks on a journey, and seeks to attain levels of knowledge or wisdom. This is entirely incorrect. This way of thinking and approaching the psycho-spiritual development of your human state does not work. It is simply a flawed way of thinking. No method will grant you spiritual attainment, no journey will bring you closer to the truth, and no attainment will bring you closer to realization.
Faced with this presumption of method, journey, and attainment the seeker looks to the spiritual supermarket. There he finds a vast array of means. These means have been multiplying spectacularly over the last 50 years. So much so that it is impossible to keep track of them. Many of these means are recycled, disappearing and reappearing in new guises, repackaged and reconditioned, relabeled and adapted to the market that is meant to meet the seeker’s needs. But nothing in the supermarket will ever meet the seeker’s needs. The method is not important, the journey nonexistent, and the attainment merely a misdirection.
Vastly more important than any of these three is the intention of the seeker himself. His means of surrender, his capacity for sincerity and courage, his purity of motivation—these are things that truly count.
I have said before that the way out of the spiritual supermarket is twofold. First, find a teacher. Second, be prepared to do what you don’t want to do. Those who cleave to a method and by implication a journey and an attainment are deluded. All methods must be ultimately discarded, all journeys seen through, and all attainment renounced. So what is the way for the earnest seeker, that one who seeks the light and purity of the Divine condition?
First, commitment: she must seek with her whole heart, she must be immersed in faith, the faith that there must be more than his present state permits, and trust, trust that she will prevail and that her very attitude will blossom and bear fruit in her true heart. Second, application: she must be serious in her work on enlightenment, sincere in her intention to realize her true Self, and serious about Reality and the present source of all arising forms as she experiences them in the worlds of illusion. Third, she must be consistent, prepared to endure, to run the gauntlet of human failings, attachments, and distractedness, to raise herself up to the state of true awareness and indifference to the changing conditions of life. Her practice in this way requires courage and true heart-devotion.
The true seeker then starts by bringing a radical approach to method, practice, and spiritual means, recognizing that what passes for the spiritual and truly evolutionary and transformational in the world today is nothing but deception—elaborate and fascinating—but nonetheless deception.
The Way of Sacred Attention addresses the questions of practice in stages. Each stage demonstrates a different relationship and orientation to practice, method, and approach. The first stage is for those seekers who are inspired by dissatisfaction or crisis to take up personal inner work in their lives. They have begun to question or to be curious or consciously unhappy. This is the gateway to their deepening.
The practices are intended to remove physical and emotional blocks, tensions, and contraction through ultimately shedding the limitations and automaticity engendered by early life conditioning. Through therapy, counseling, and self-motivated inner work the seeker begins to remove the barriers to freedom and love by confronting and healing her addiction to character and personality.
She does this by acknowledging, experiencing, and expressing emotions in her own company, with others, and most critically in relationship with her therapist. The healing catharsis and release that is inherent in this approach usually has to be repeated. It constitutes a re-visiting and, vitally, re-experiencing of the edge of tolerance that the seeker has been previously unable to go past. In the final stages of healing the seeker enters into a period of integration and stabilization. Integration is necessary to assimilate the psycho-physical changes in the bodymind and stabilization is needed to consolidate the alignment of the organism in a new structural, usually expanded state.
The aim and purpose of first stage practice is to radically heal the vestiges of the past. In this way the whole work is remedial and curative. All this work is about the past, concerned with the past, and intended to release the past. In fact no real authentic work on yourself can really take place until you are present in your life.
For this reason meditation, awareness exercises, breath work, and contemplative time should all be employed in order to begin to reinforce and stimulate a sense of inner stillness. Indeed the movements of radical inner work can sometimes be so transporting, so intolerable and aversive, that only through some inner sense of stillness may we prevail in time over the patterns and strategies of survival we have become adhered to.
Some form of emotionally tuned bodywork exercise—one of the array of psycho-physical approaches, dance or movement therapy—should also be practiced in order for the body to keep pace with the emotional and energetic breakthroughs that inevitably take place as inner work continues.
Although the progressive model of accruing and attaining is not ultimately offered in The Way of Sacred Attention, because it is not real or not the way things are, the first stage in its remedial aspect is the exception. Since we are catching up with ourselves so to speak, the fact is that first stage work is finite—as long as a piece of string you might say. You simply have to see it through to the end and the end is the atrophying and final surrender of the defensive ego-processes as they were created in early childhood. The Way of Sacred Attentions deals with illusion piecemeal. It is impractical to attack or oppose the ego or try to pick it apart or disempower it in its totality. First, it is an illusion; second, it is a developmental necessity, and third it is how the mind behaves in order to create the appearance of self-identity, separateness, and division.
To see through this painted veil is to prepare yourself for the second stage in which the “I”-sense is radically challenged again, though not in the remedial sense it was in the first stage. Specific first-stage practices are given in my books; see particularly the exercises in The Flight of Consciousness, 159-175, the practice section in Tao’s Gift, 66-72, the ongoing exercises of the In Summary sections of Your Essential Self, Your Sacred Calling, and Your Divine Opportunity (soon to be published), as well as The Sacred Attention Therapy Group Work Manual.
As important to first-stage practice as exercises are, even the most diligent student of inner work will get only a little way on the path without a genuine therapist-teacher to guide him.
(“Practice in The Way of Sacred Attention” is a four-part article. Part 3 discusses practice in the second stage of awakening. Part 4 discusses practice in the third stage of awakening.)