Continuing with the twists and turns of attachment…
It was an interesting week, last week. I received the journal and reprints of an article I had submitted to Counselling and Spirituality which outlines the basis of the treatment program Frank and I developed 7 years ago. Drawing from my spiritual practice, I had been using meditative techniques as part of the treatment of various psychological difficulties for a number of years and when the Mindfulness-Based-(fill-in-the-blank) began to take hold in conventional Western psychology, I decided to get some paper cred for what I was already doing. That involved training over a couple of years with people I came to respect highly. But the early days of trying to work with a Westernized model of an Eastern concept were really tough and I will admit to feeling like I had sold out to a commercialization or corporatization of the Dharma. Adding to these feelings of discomfort was the aversion Western psychology has to a discussion or integration of a practice of ethics in its treatment models. And since we saw this as a crucial part of mindfulness-based interventions, it (and using the Dharma to earn money) really put us out on the fringes of our communities.
There was also a lot of censure for my Evil Ways from factions of sanghas where I was practicing who saw the fee-for-service aspect of our work as taking advantage of the Dharma. Apparently I will burn in some realm of Buddhist Hell for this. There was also a lot of nay-saying from my professional colleagues who saw this as a poisonous cocktail of religion (read: values) and treatment. Worse, this was treatment that had yet to build an evidence-base of research outcomes. No one was on side but the poop really got churned in the small bowl when I decided that Thich Nhat Hanh’s Five Mindfulness Trainings and the Four Foundations of Mindfulness made a great 5 x 4 practice grid to drive home the fact that mindfulness is about practice and practice – especially a mindfulness-based-(fill-in-the-blank) practice – is meaningless without an ethical framework.
Mark end of this part of career here. Western psychology has no truck with ethical frameworks!
Mark end of sangha life here. Eastern spiritual communities have no truck with an apparent watering down of the dharma and yoking it to behavioural psychology.
Regardless, the program evolved over the years and many people kindly listened to me ramble on about our model. But it stalled more than it sputtered onward. At my most optimistic, I wrote the chapters of the clinic Guidebook; at my lowest, I threw away a few of my vows and wandered aimlessly in the bad neighbourhoods of my mind. Then one of those random events happened that lead to a presentation, which lead to a submission for a proceedings for the conference, which (and I don’t know what sequence of dominoes had to fall for this) lead to a publication in Counselling and Spirituality.
When I opened the package last Tuesday and saw the reprints, I sat down hard. In my hands was the path laid by seven years of just putting one foot in front of the other. I know, I know… non-attachment… But,ya know, looking back, it was non-attachment that made it all happen. Non-attachment to the criticisms, the rejection letters, the silence of no replies to emails, the turning away at conversations, and so on. It was also non-attachment to the encouragement in the sense of wanting the supporter to do it for us (I’m fundamentally lazy). It was non-attachment to praise so that it didn’t become resentment when rejection followed from a different source.
And, it was unswerving attachment to really, really needing to foster this: practice is naught outside the precepts.
In my crazy joy, I sent out the article to the professional listserves and one sangha listserve. The feedback has been deeply positive from the professional side of the fence. Apparently, the time has come for an ethical framework in the practice of Western Buddhist Psychology and some of us are deeply attached to making this happen. Whoddathunk?
OK, seriously… I’m overwhelmed by the generosity of everyone who contributed to getting us to this point. The over-400 participants in the 7 years of programs we ran actually get all the credit. What is wisdom except courage to transform suffering?
Thank you for practicing,