Mindfulness is an ancient Buddhist practice of paying attention to moment to moment experience in a nonjudgmental way. Contemporarily, it has been highly regarded and recognized by western psychology, psychiatry, and cognitive neuroscience as having a deeply therapeutic value and literally transformative impact on the mind/brain. Mindfulness is about developing self-awareness and is the cornerstone of all psychological and spiritual work.
Before starting a session, I always begin with mindfulness meditation to help gather and center my client. This is because mindfulness allows one to get in touch with oneself as an observer behind the whirlpool of distracted thought, emotion, and sensation. It deeply anchors one in the present moment and allows us to really experience and study our selves.
Research states that mindfulness or rather the capacity of the mind to direct the brain, through trained attention and focus, can shift our neural architecture. Through mindfulness we can dis-identify with negative thoughts and behavior patterns and allow us to replace them with positive ways of being-in-the-world. It gives us choice and frees us from our habitual modes of reacting and judging. Today mindfulness has been used to treat many disorders from depression, anger management, addictions, anxiety and panic disorders, chronic pain and stress reduction to name a few areas.
Most of us are pegged on the pleasure-pain continuum bobbing up and down the scale between hedonism and agony. We do not want to feel sadness, loneliness, and alienation; instead we want to feel happy, peaceful and content. Our instinct is to resist, get rid of, repress, dissociate or defensively do away with difficult emotions as they hurt. Yet these efforts to dispense with emotional distress are often clumsy and psychologically ineffective. As the pain we feel will return and and we can feel it deep in out bodyminds’ if we pay attention.
Another way, to deal with emotions, even disturbing ones might be to practice what the Sufi mystic Jalaluddin Rumi says to “welcome them all!” By allowing difficult emotions to arise and by simultaneously training our capacity to tolerate distress, we can become equanimous in the face of any mental storm.
I am often asked why do I call my practice “Psyche-Therapy” as opposed to “Psychotherapy?” Psyche-Therapy is a particular orientation some practitioners of mental health have when they work with their clients, where attention is given to the whole person instead of being isolated or reduced to a DSM-V diagnosis.
The word Psyche-Therapy comes from two ancient Greek terms “Psyche” and “Therapeia”
Psyche: is an ancient Greek term which can be appreciated as soul, spirit, life force . . . or more expansively the animating principle of the kosmos. Psyche in modern psychology encompasses both the mind and the brain and the conscious and unconscious aspects of the Self.
The term Psyche has specific meaning in the Greek mythological and symbolic context where it is often synonym for the human soul. In the myth (see links below) Psyche is a human princess who falls in love with a divine God, Eros. The legend is about love, enchantment, betrayal, heartbreak, pain, reunion and everlasting happiness, pretty much the existential journey of life. Metaphorical it is about the soul’s love affair with the Divine and the hardship the soul goes through to realize that union.
Therapeia: is another ancient Greek term that connotes healing, treatment, curing . . . Therapy, the modern English term is etymologically derived from Therapeia and encompasses vast fields such as pharmacological therapy to physiotherapy. Therapy then is a generic word that simply underscores a mode or method of working with a field to help catalyze results within the individual that are rejuvenating.
So Psyche + Therapy = Psyche-Therapy= a holistic therapeutic facilitation engaging the myriad conscious and unconscious layers of the Self.