Mindfulness is very much a part of 21st century Depth Psychology and Depth Therapy.
Mindfulness involves cultivating and focusing our attention on what’s going on here and now. We can learn how to be mindful and focus our moment to moment attention on our immediate experience, including what’s going on in our thoughts and feelings.
Mindfulness has its original roots Buddhist psychology, a psychology compatible with depth therapy’s path of personal growth and development.
Depth Psychology and Buddhist Psychology share a vision interface. To become who we truly are we must first free ourselves the pain and limitations caused by our conditioning. Two important things we must free ourselves from are: 1) emotional confusion and 2) mistaken assumptions about the nature of reality.
Western practitioners of mindfulness often use “sitting meditation” to steady, concentrate and open their mind. The aim is for the practitioner to learn how to regulate her attention and focus on what’s going on here and now. But sitting meditation is not the only way to develop and practice mindfulness. The goal is to be mindful in our daily lives so we can avoid being distracted and defined by “Waking Dreams.” The practice I feature in my book Unshakable Certainty, is well suited to westerners who want to develop what I call Mindful Mindfulness.
Unfortunately, westerner’s attempts to become mindful today using Eastern methods developed long ago from vastly different times and places—can be, well, mindless. Without realizing it, many Westerners try to wax a dirty floor with spiritual practices, including sitting meditation.
When we do something unconsciously, we do it mindlessly.
Many western psychologies have adopted mindfulness as a way of alleviating life problems that they too often mistake for illnesses. These include problems such as anxiety, depression and panic “disorders”. Properly trained for and practiced, mindfulness can be a powerful way to become psychologically more open, resilient and flexible.
And, indeed when mindfulness training is combined with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) the result can be much more effective than with CBT alone. Sometimes referred to as MBCT. But at the end of the day using positive thoughts to control negative thoughts and become optimistic, leaves a lot of work undone. Neither positive or negative thoughts should not be followed. They are just thoughts.
There is a more “mindful” way to become mindful. Western psychology is too preoccupied with getting rid of symptoms. Without being mindful of the fact that many so-called symptoms are really symbols of understandings begging to come about.
So, if I am in sitting meditation and a flow of depressed thought comes over me—if I am mindful—I SEE it and I let it go. Instead of becoming identified with and distracted by it. This protects me from getting dragged into and possessed by an “I am depressed” storyline.
But for Depth Psychology and Depth Therapy, that’s only half of the job of becoming mindful. It takes more than attention to the surface of what’s going on here and now to become truly conscious. We have to also move into a deeper view and understanding about what a depressed flow of though represents and corresponds to as a SYMBOL.
My flow of depressed thought may be a symbol I need to decode, not just a symptom I need to get rid of.
Becoming mindfully mindful requires that I attend to BOTH the traffic at the surface of my mind and the meaning that traffic has at the deeper levels of my mind. If I attend to the surface only, then I succeed in not having to face what I don’t want to know about myself. Ego loves mindless mindfulness.
To become mindfully mindful, I need to learn methods and train to decode thoughts, feelings and images as symbols.
Then I can discover that my tendency toward depressed flows of thought is really a call from my deep inner life. A call of urgent longing to be more free and to live more deeply. A call telling me that I am stuck in an identity too small for who I really am.
Unshakable Certainty examines this in depth and it offers a powerful method to become mindfully mindful. I wrote it after years of doing mindfulness meditation. And after years of working with many meditators who realized that mindless mindfulness was a real problem.
As we’ve learned repeatedly, Eastern spirituality does not transplant well in the west. Unless it’s bridged properly. Which is why eastern spiritual scenes in the west often make more sense from Freud’s vantage point than they do from the Buddha’s.
Depth Therapy uses mindful mindfulness. It bridges experiential knowledge from the wisdom traditions. So that we can successfully create the psychological infrastructure needed to break free from conditioned limits. And so be able to live from awareness and presence.