Note: This is part 2 of a multi-part series about the relationship between meditation and psychotherapy adapted from a paper I wrote for my Intro to EWP course at CIIS. For more information see the first post in the series. This brief post gives some background on my meditation practice in order to provide readers with some context.-------- * --------
Personal Background
I started on the Buddhist path after listening to an interview with Jack Kornfield and reading his book The Wise Heart. Practicing meditation felt close to impossible at the beginning but a dharma talk on the topic of patience got me over this initial hurdle. Once I got over that first resistance, maintaining an almost daily practice became much easier and within a few months I started noticing changes in myself, in my perception and in the way I interacted with the world.

Over the next couple of years my practice solidified and I got to know some of the communities born from mindfulness and Buddhist practice. I have found much support in those communities both online and in real life. After getting my first taste of retreat practice in May of 2010 I got hooked and had to get more. Over the next 18 months I attended 9 meditation retreats of various lengths. My practice evolved and changed over time. I was strongly influenced initially by Mahasi Saydaw’s noting practice and later combined it with the practice of anapanasati as taught in Ajahan Buddhadasa’s tradition. The intensity of my practice grew as did the length of each retreat peaking with a 30 day retreat at Spirit Rock Meditation Center where I found myself driven by a deep craving to attain stream entry. This craving suddenly vanished right as I came to a decision that I got what I needed from the retreat and was replaced by intense peace.

I emerged from this period of intense practice vastly transformed and yet at the same time, very much still myself. I have seen the intense suffering that is inherent in clinging to the idea of being a self and tasted some of the liberation that comes with letting go. My faith in the value of the Buddha’s teachings was now completely my own, no longer borrowed from books or teachers. With time, though, I realized that this was not enough. I still found myself tossed into bouts of depression, drifting aimlessly and lacking motivation. This realization drove me to enter psychotherapy.

In the next couple of posts I will describe my personal experience in bringing together meditation and psychotherapy and how each of those supports and, in turn, benefits from the other.

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