Archives for posts with tag: meditation

This is the second post in a multiple part series. For the introduction and table of contents, see part 1.

Working With the Manure of Everyday Life

In the book Meditation in Action, Chögyam Trungpa (1991) offers a possible solution to the question I posed in my previous post. Trungpa begins by recognizing the common split between spiritual and everyday life and the difficulty this split creates for many.

[P]eople tend to make a very sharp distinction between spiritual life and everyday life. they will label a man as “worldly” or “spiritual”, and they generally make a hard and fast distinction between the two. So if one speaks about meditation, awareness, and understanding then the ordinary person, who has never heard of such things, obviously would not have a clue and he probably wouldn’t be even sufficiently interested to listen properly. And because of this division he finds it almost impossible to take the next step. (p. 25)

It is probably true that many find mystical texts unapproachable and even confusing. Others may try some form of meditation and quickly quit because it seems to be hard. Trungpa sees that as a problem to relate to the “man on the street”. He suggests that make an effort and provide, “some way of finding out, some concept that he can understand and which will still be related to his life and will still be part of his life.” The way to create the connection is not by trying to change the person, quite the opposite, “start off by just accepting the character of that person, who may be completely worldly minded, and then choose one particular aspect of his activity or his mentality and use it as a ladder, as an anchor, as a vehicle so that even the man on the street can give birth to bodhi.”

By meeting each person exactly where they are and exactly how they are we can find the seed of awakening that is already gestating within them. In order to help that seed grow, says Trungpa, we must meet that person fully so that he may be able to use the most painful aspect of his character as part of this process. This person may already be struggling, trying to solve a problem he cannot solve because, says Trungpa (in a similar vein to Deikman), “in his search for a solution he merely substitutes other activities for the ones he has renounced.” If we meet the person in this place, where the pain is beginning to be known, we can use just these simple, direct, and ordinary things that are already part of his life and we need not rely on arcane mystical texts or practices.

In this approach we take samsara, the world of confusion, to be the vehicle to nirvana, or liberation. We are like a skilled farmer that collects the rubbish from her farm, composts it and spreads the resulting fertilizer over her lands. Out of this smelly and dirty matter, rise all her crops. Trying to rid ourselves of samsara in order to find nirvana, says Trungpa, is not the skillful way. Start by recognizing, studying and then working with desires, passions and other negative things. Work with the life you have, and let that be the seed of your realization.

According to Trungpa, we need to be specific in this work, generic solutions do not apply here. While there may be general tools that many find useful, we need to connect to each person in this moment of experience and study that. This points at the importance of personal support in the form of a teacher, guide or coach. The external perspective of another person allows them to see the moment we move from being active to passive or in Deikman’s terms, the moment we fall back into the trance. The clear pointing out of this moment shows us exactly where it is that we need to bring our awareness.

In addition to this pointing out, it is helpful to have some theories and frames of practice. In the spirit of Trungpa’s “Manure of everyday experience”, I would like to provide two such frameworks that I believe many today will find relevant. While the two frameworks are specific in their focus, I believe that we can use them as “entry points” into the greater process of de- automatization. These are the places where a modern person may already be collecting some “manure”. By meeting the person at this pain point, we can use them as fuel to engage in practice.

The first framework focuses on our relationship with food. As a basic human need, food has been part of spiritual traditions for millennia. Many ancient practices revolve around limiting food and the enjoyment of it but I do not believe this is necessary. In the next section I’ll present a framework that offers a different way to relate to food; supporting health and well-being while allowing us to enjoy food and eating. The second framework revolves around the use of information technology. Like food, information technology is now an inseparable part of our lives. Many, however, have a dysfunctional relationship with technology. I’ll offer a way to relate to technology consciously, placing the human back in control of the tool.


Buddhist Geeks recently posted a great interview with Buddhist teacher Reggie Ray. In the interview Reggie describes the two veils that separate us from our awakened nature. The first veil is the veil of emotional defilements (negative emotions like anger, desire, jealousy, etc.). The second veil is characterized by ignorance, that is, not recognizing the true nature of reality. Here’s what Reggie had to say concerning the second veil:

But there’s a much deeper level that is really really critical. And this level is generally not addressed in modern Buddhism. And this deeper level is what’s called, it’s the obscuration to being able to see, if we want to put it this way. And what it is is, it’s these patterns that we acquire probably before we learn to speak as babies. They are emotional predispositions. They are emotional assumptions about what reality is that are entirely unconscious. And you know some of us feel that life is basically just a lot of hard work. Some of us feel incredibly lonely.  Some of us feel fundamentally resentful and angry, but these are all unconscious attitudes. And we actually think that’s the way reality is. And that gets between us and actually what we’re looking for.

Reggie goes beyond any description of ignorance I’ve encountered in my studies of Buddhism. It sounds to me like he’s recognizing the psychological element of spiritual practice and the need to work with psychological blocks on the way to awakening. In Hakomi we call those “emotional assumptions” core beliefs. Core beliefs are the way we make meaning of our experience. They are unconscious beliefs or assumptions about the world and about ourselves. Often core beliefs can be limiting (example: I am not good enough, or the world is not a safe place) and Hakomi aims to make those conscious and to help people find new ways of being in the world, to be free from those limiting beliefs.

Reggie describes how he works with this material as a spiritual teacher:

… this is what we need to work on together. We need to take a look at your life. We need to work together. I need to look at you and see where you get stuck. We need to work on this. Simply handing people practices and giving them [inaudible], it’s just not good enough. It’s not going to do it. Trungpa Rinpoche said, and my experience really bears it out, the relationship between the teacher and student, there’s only one other relationship in life that that’s intimate, and that is the one with a beloved partner if you happen to have that kind of relationship. It’s the only other one that even comes close.

This sounds a lot like the relationship and the work one might do with a therapist: take a look at your life, see where you get stuck, etc. This part of the interview really helped cement my belief that spiritual practice and psychotherapy are not separate but, in fact, are intimately intertwined with each other.

Listen to both parts of the interview on Buddhist Geeks.

Reading Murshid Sam‘s Karuna Yoga Gita I was initially struck by the symmetry between this presentation of the Sufi meditation of the heart and the Sufi creation myth. In the Sufi creation myth, the Oneness projected itself outward, creating manifestation so that it might have something to love. This relationship proceeded through several inversions moving from God is lover and manifestation the beloved to manifestation is the lover and God is the beloved. Throughout it all, though, lover and beloved are, in essence, one.

The Karuna Yoga Gita, which is an instruction manual for Sufi heart meditation goes through several stages. Initially the ego seeks the heart, concentrates on the heart, rests in the heart. This is manifestation seeking God. Next, in the stage of contemplation the seeker is intstructed to identify with the heart and seek the ego; this is the inversion of roles, now God is seeking manifestation. This inversion is the path to not-self which begins with the heart’s selflessness. As the heart expands into love, seeker and sought come closer.

In the stage of union the seeker is instructed to rest in the expansion and contraction of the breath, noticing at the same time the flow from not-self to self and back. This is the rythme of nature – divine flows into manifestation and then back into the divine; neither is more true than the other, neither can be whole without the other just like the in-breath cannot be without an out-breath. In the same way the seeker recognizes that self cannot be without not-self, neither not-self without self. In the realization of this natural process “breath joins man to God,” returning to the original state of Oneness.

My own (limited) experience with this practice has been very interesting. Resting the attention on the heart, I allow the feeling of love to flow. Remaining with the feeling of love, sometimes stoking the fire of love with images of the beloved, the attention slowly becomes absorbed in the heart. I notice how with my “normal” attention there is tension, clinging, trying to acheive something yet when the the attention comes from the heart there is only spaciousness infused with love. Allowing the absorption to solidify and expand farther I turn my attention to the pinpoint of longing at the center of the heart. Resting my attention there lightly and willing/allowing that point to expand until it contains all. In this spacious place, I am being and being is loving. Including the flow of the breath I notice the flow from infinite being who is all to nothing. As the breath grows shorter the all and the nothing become closer as the breath lengthens they part. Two sides of one coin but where is the coin?

At the recent Nondual
Wisdom and Psychology conference
, John
briefly introduced a simple, 3-stage model
for awakening. Here’s my understanding of this model:

  1. Waking up – this includes the spectrum of spiritual
    openings that people describe.
  2. Waking down –
    integrating the waking up experience into life. Bringing it down
    into the body.
  3. Waking out – expressing
    awakeness in the world.

The second step is
an interesting one; it is not all that different from the process
of psychological healing that one may undergo in therapy. This is a
time of transformation, healing and moving towards wholeness.
During this part of the process we face difficult emotions and melt
away entrenched habits as we give up anything that is no longer in
accordance with the true self. Everything I have described so far
can happen in therapy as well, so where’s the difference? The
difference lies in what becomes available during the first step.
The first step wakes up the fire of awareness. My experience of
this fire was of a withering internal gaze; withering because it
would cause internal blocks and momentary delusions to melt away.
This fire of awareness makes the transformation that happens in the
second step faster and easier. I could go as far as to say that it
takes over the process of transformation and all one can do is step
out of the way so as to not slow it down. I think that there is
more to the first step. I think it actually makes a deeper
transformation possible. This deeper transformation takes the
ego-transcendence of spiritual practice and brings it right into
the middle of life. It opens us up to a greater intimacy with
everything and everyone around us. It allows us to be flexible
where before we were rigid. From this place we can radiate out our
particular flavor of awakeness everywhere around us – this is the
third stage, waking out. You may have noticed that I described the
first stage as a spectrum. That’s because awakenings come in
different shapes and sizes and it seems to be pretty rare that
someone goes “all the way” in just one hit. This leads me to the
spiral process of awakening wherein we experience a spiritual
opening and once the dust settles begin the process of integrating
that opening into our lives. This transformation period is fueled
and guided by the opening we just experienced; its depth and impact
are likely also related to that experience. Having gone through
this period of waking down and having emerged on the other side
transformed, we now live from this newfound freedom to the best of
our ability until we hit the next insight and begin the process
again. Bringing this into the world of therapy, I believe that this
model shows how helpful spiritual practice is to finding
psychological well-being. It also shows that spiritual practice and
psychotherapy aren’t easy to separate. And, it tells me that any
amount of spiritual insight can be helpful on the road to

Note: This is the last part 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. In this post I describe how undergoing therapy supports my meditation practice and offer a brief summary.-------- * --------
How Therapy Supports Meditation
Just as there were moments in which I’ve gained psychological insight through my meditation practice there were also moments in which I felt that I am denying myself a meditative insight through psychological blocks. The clearest examples of that are related to my fear of letting go that would block me even while in deep meditation. Working with my therapist I’ve learned that this fear is related to fear of death or more deeply a fear that I do not really exist. By slowly coming to terms with that fear and also building up a sense of safety and substantiality that does not depend on external conditions I was able to let go more and more and experience states of greater freedom and openness in meditation and in life.

Through psychotherapy and reflection I’ve come to reframe my view of myself as broken and in need of fixing; instead I recognize my potential for wholeness and am able to participate in an ongoing process of healing. This recognition allows me to find a felt connection to teachings that speak of my Buddha nature or True self. As long as I considered myself broken, it is very difficult to accept that there is some transcendent part of myself that is whole and beyond harm. Once I allowed for the possibility of wholeness, however, it became easier to catch glimpses of this core that is at once me and beyond just me.

As I described before, there were long periods of time when I found myself driven by a craving for awakening. While this particular craving mostly fell apart during a longer meditation retreat, I’ve found that there was an even deeper urge behind it that still exerts some influence; this urge is the need to be saved. Even as I sometimes discover glimpses of my true self, at other times I still feel unworthy of spiritual attainment and instead wish for some external savior to swoop in and fix everything that is wrong with me and with the world. This internal battle between the belief in wholeness and the belief that I’m not good enough is still ongoing. It will take more work, both psychological and spiritual, for this rift to heal but I’ve learned to trust the process enough to let it work through me in its own time and pace.

To summarize, I’d like to mention that although I tried to describe the way each practice affects the other as though these effects are separate and discrete, that is not my experience. The interactions I described above are recursive in nature. As I find more space through my meditation practice, I’m able to heal more through psychotherapy. And as I find healing and integration through therapy, I’m also able to let go deeper into my meditation practice, creating more space and equanimity. It has been my experience that the two practices are deeply intertwined and that it impossible to separate them clearly. As Epstein (1986, 1990) describes, I’ve found that some stages of meditation practice require a certain level of ego maturity and stability as I described in my experience of learning to let go further by resting and trusting in my own stability. And similarly to the model of the relationship between emotional intelligence and spiritual intelligence proposed by Wigglesworth (2006) I’ve found that my spiritual practice both requires and, in turn, supports emotional maturity.

Epstein, M., Leiff, J. (1986). Psychiatric complications of meditation practice. In K. Wilber, J. Engler, & D. Brown (Eds.), Transformations of Consciousness (pp. 53-63). Boston: Shambala.
Epstein, M. (1990). Meditation and the Dilemma of Narcissism. Journal of Contemplative Psychotherapy, 7, 3-19.
Wigglesworth, C. (2006) Why Spiritual Intelligence Is Essential to Mature Leadership. Integral Leadership Review, 6(3), 2006-08.

Note: This is part 3 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 post includes some of my personal experience merging meditation and psychotherapy.-------- * --------
Personal Experience: How Meditation Supports Therapy
One of the earlier insights into this relationship came when I was studying the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths. The first noble truth teaches us that suffering is a natural part of human existence. This simple teaching brought about a sense of relief: “I was not chosen for special punishment, this suffering is not my fault, it’s just the way it is,” I thought. As my practice progressed and deepened I gained further insight into this teaching and my faith in the truth behind this teaching increased. As my faith increased, I found that it was easier to stay present even with difficult experiences and my need to escape lessened. This willingness to remain present was further bolstered by my meditation practice.

Through the practice of meditation I’ve developed a increased level of equanimity. This equanimity manifests as a stability of mind and a willingness to engage my experience more fully. Both aspects of equanimity are supportive of my psychotherapy process. I find that I am more willing to engage with parts of the psyche that I have neglected for most of my adult life; at the same time, I am less likely to be thrown out of balance when I engage even painful truths about myself, my history or my relationship. This willingness and ability to engage with the psyche brings healing to old wounds that I’ve ignored for far too long and even to some that I never quite knew about.

Another benefit of my meditative practice is a ongoing mindful attention to my experience as it arises. This form of attention allows me to work with habits, fears, and various other blocks as they come up. One method that I found to be helpful is engaging these blocks with kindness, compassion and understanding. Instead of ignoring or pushing these impulses away I try to hold them in kindness and to see what it is that they require. This inquiry sometimes involves some internal dialog but other times may just occur at a somatic level. Often I find that the internal entities (Jung’s complexes) behind these blocks need nothing more than acceptance and unconditional love; when I provide this acceptance myself, the need to get it from the outside world often vanishes and relief follows.

Finally, there were a few special moments when I was able to gain insight into deep psychological issues while on meditation retreat. The deep calm and stability of mind that are developed on retreat create a safe space to engage with these deeper issues. Most recently, while on a Zen sesshin, I was exploring resistance to opening the heart and in that exploration made contact with an inner child who was feeling scared and lonely. This experience was the beginning of a developing relationship with this important aspect of myself with which I’ve been out of touch for a long time. It also served as a starting point for exploring trauma from early-childhood and even later in life.

In the next post I’ll describe the other side of this relationship: how therapy supports meditation.

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.

Note: This is part 1 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. It is written from the perspective of a medium-term (around 4 years) meditator undergoing therapy. This first post includes an introduction and a short review of academic literature on the topic. Follow-up posts will include more of my own experience. I hope that this will serve to show why I no longer see spiritual and psychological work as separate but intrinsically connected. Just as importantly I believe that psychological well-being is not separate from spiritual well-being and vice versa.
-------- * --------
Over the last two years my spiritual life has centered around Buddhist meditation practice on the one hand and psychotherapy on the other. Throughout this time I’ve found that the two practices complement and support each in various ways. I’ve found that meditation builds on the foundation created by therapy and vice versa. I’ve seen the two practices intertwine – one practice unfolding inside the other – to the degree that it can be difficult to separate them at times. I’ve read different theories about the relationship between the two practices (see next section) but I’ve yet to reach any conclusions for myself on the nature of this relationship.

In this series of posts I will describe my personal experience of the relationship between meditation and psychotherapy. From that experience, I suggest, arises a complex dialectic between the two practices that is hard to reduce to any simple model. I will divide my experience into two sections: 1) how meditation supports therapy; and 2) how therapy supports meditation but the interdependence between the two practices is so deep that even this simple division will break. I’ll begin, however, with a brief review of relevant literature.

Literature Review
The relationship between psychotherapy and spiritual practice goes back to the very early days of psychology as a science. William James (1902), considered to be the father of American psychology, studied religious and paranormal experience extensively. Carl Jung’s memoir (1963) describes Jung’s relationship with Christianity and its influence on Jung’s life and his work. Jung was also a student of Eastern spirituality and was clearly influenced by such systems of thought when developing his process of individuation (e.g. Jung 1929). More recently, however, and as Eastern spirituality becomes a more familiar part of Western culture, we see an increasing number of studies looking at the direct relationship between psychotherapy and various forms of spiritual practice such as meditation.

One influential researcher in this field is Jack Engler, a psychotherapist and Buddhist meditation teacher. In Therapeutic Aims in Psychotherapy and Meditation, Engler (1986) described a linear model with psychotherapy coming before meditation. He famously wrote “you have to be somebody before you can be nobody” (Engler 1986 p. 24), referring to developing a solid ego before turning to deconstructing the ego through insight meditation.

Epstein and Leiff (1986) describe meditation as a developmental process, the higher stages of which are “only accessible when the practitioner’s ego is sufficiently intact to withstand the regressive upsurge” (p. 57). They go into further detail describing the capacity for regression that is required to respond successfully to the different stages of the meditative path and the various pathological responses that are likely to occur at each stage. According to Epstein & Leiff, at least some of these pathological responses can be handled within the contemplative framework, for example pride and attachment to states of meditation may be made objects of meditation thereby allowing the meditator to pass beyond this hindrance. Epstein (1990) clearly breaks with Engler’s, now famous statement, saying that while it is clear that many with borderline personality structure will not benefit from intensive meditation practice, “this does not necessarily mean the the ego must be fully developed, integrated, cohesive, intact or in any other way ‘normal’ before the meditative experience can unfold” (Epstein 1990, p. 4).

Another model of the relationship between spiritual and emotional maturity comes from Cindy Wigglesworth (2006) who, following in the footsteps of Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence (1995), writes about spiritual intelligence (SQ). Wigglesworth (2006) defines spiritual intelligence as “the ability to behave with compassion and wisdom while maintaining inner and outer peace (equanimity) regardless of the circumstances”. The relationship between emotional intelligence (EQ) and SQ changes through life. Early in life (starting around age 22-25) spiritual intelligence depends on the development of EQ related skills such as empathy and emotional self-awareness. Later in life, however, as we focus on existential questions and following a desire for ego-transcendence the “SQ journey” begins. The development of SQ, at this point, reinforces the growth and development of EQ (and IQ as well). The model that Wigglesworth describes, then, contains a reinforcing feedback loop where emotional and spiritual maturity reinforce each other.

It seems that the linear model proposed by Engler (1986) is slowly abandoned in favor of more complex models describing a richer interaction between the practices of meditation and psychotherapy. In fact, in a more recent interview (Cohen & Engler 2000), Engler himself moves away from the simple linear model towards a less rigid structure. My own experience certainly agrees with the need for a more complex model of interaction. In the next couple of posts in this series I will describe my personal background with meditation and my personal experience in merging meditation and psychotherapy.

Engler, J. (1986). Therapeutic Aims in Psychotherapy and Meditation. In K. Wilber, J. Engler, & D. Brown (Eds.), Transformations of Consciousness (pp. 17-51). Boston: Shambala.
Cohen, A. (interviewer) & Engler, J. (interviewee). (2000). The 1001 Forms of Self Grasping. In What is Enlightenment? Vol. 17, 2000.
Epstein, M., Leiff, J. (1986). Psychiatric complications of meditation practice. In K. Wilber, J. Engler, & D. Brown (Eds.), Transformations of Consciousness (pp. 53-63). Boston: Shambala.
Epstein, M. (1990). Meditation and the Dilemma of Narcissism. Journal of Contemplative Psychotherapy, 7, 3-19.
Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional Intelligence. New York: Bantam Dell.
James, W. (1902). The varieties of religious experience. Cambridge: The Riverside Press.
Jung, C. G. (1929). Commentary on “The secret of the Golden Flower.” In Collected Works, Vol. 13, 1967 (pp. 1-55). Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Jung, C. G. (1961). Memories, dreams, reflections. New York: Vintage.
Wigglesworth, C. (2006) Why Spiritual Intelligence Is Essential to Mature Leadership. Integral Leadership Review, 6(3), 2006-08.

Compass for the Soul
Over the last few months I’ve discovered a growing willingness to be present with more and more of my experience of myself and the world. I like this kind of change for many reasons. For example, not being at odds with my experience means having more peace. Also, being able to face reality as it is rather than hide from it or wish it was different means I can engage with things as they are and I don’t have to waste mental energy on playing mind games with reality. But what struck me as interesting this time was how bringing attention to difficult places facilitates healing. This is what I’d like to focus on here.

The healing I refer to is the kind of healing that occurs during therapy when one is able to bring the light of attention to dark places. I’ve found myself more often during therapy sessions willing to admit to things I’ve never been able to admit to before (not even to myself). I’ve engaged difficult truths and the difficult emotions that accompany them. Not only that but I’ve also found myself willing to accept the times when I cannot engage things as fully as I’d like to. The result of bringing engaged, accepting attention to those difficult places is that healing can occur in those long neglected parts of the psyche. Needless to say, I’ve been finding myself more dedicated to the practice of therapy because I can feel the effect it has on me.

Over the last several of days as my meditation practice is directed toward the practice of Metta (Lovingkindness) I’ve noticed something else. When I have the intention of holding myself and my experience with kindness, I can be present to even more. For example, moments of distraction that I usually notice only briefly and push away were recognized and held in kind attention. The involuntary reaction of repressing that part of my experience was not as prevalent as it often is, leaving more present and able to accept this moment of “failure.” Bringing this kind of attention to a therapy session could be very powerful indeed!

For various reasons I’ve been thinking recently about the combination of meditation practice and therapy. Reflecting back on my experience, in this way, allows me to see the power of combining both practices, how well they support each other and how they help me in opening up to discover a more whole and more wholesome version of myself. The more I see that, the more I’m convinced that for many of us in the modern world, this is what spiritual practice looks like – a combination of East and West, transcending and transforming.