If you’re like most people you’ve been in therapy for 5, 10, maybe even 15 years. And while many make the argument that psychotherapy helps to thin out the clouds of one’s consciousness so that a person can finally have some access to a more authentic self, the question is, why not just get down to business, practice meditation, and learn to let go of the story?
Jonathan Kaplan takes a look at the practices of mindfulness and psychotherapy in this recent Psychology Today post. Basing the article on his own experience with clients, Kaplan explains how practicing mindfulness in relation to one’s issues can help a person to develop the ability to pause, rather than become wrapped up in one’s negative story about oneself, others, and the future. Moreover, according to Kaplan, by bringing mindfulness into one’s life, an individual can go deep within to find the seeds of growth just waiting to be acknowledged.
Yet recently, I was struck by a comment made by a well-respected, ACT-informed colleague about going “beyond mindfulness.” I think that I understood his meaning: that once we have better awareness, then we can act more purposefully in the world. Yet, there was something about his comment that troubled me: the implicit suggestion that we don’t have the seeds for growth already present within us. A notion that we need to go outside of ourselves and select what to plant. If we want to be happy, compassionate, stress-free, and loving, do we need to purposefully cultivate these virtues? This perspective seems too effortful and artificial to me. Instead, I wonder if it is more desirable to “go deeper into mindfulness”. As we continue to hone our ability to see how things truly are from moment to moment, then perhaps these qualities of being naturally arise within us. If we start to see our connections with others, our mutual suffering (at times), and shared joys, then care and kindness emerge almost effortlessly. Sure, we can water them once the seedlings sprout, but perhaps we already have what we’ve been searching for all along. We just need to give them the space to grow.
Read more on practicing mindfulness and meditation in combination with your psychotherapy here.