Friday, January 19, 2018

A full-spectrum approach

Approaches that focus exclusively on working with patterns of thinking are not always able to get at important material which emerged prior to the acquisition of language. In my experience, it is overly reductive to assume that thought-based inquiry is subtle enough to adequately attend to the mystery that is the human person.

In working with practitioners skilled at conceptually-based inquiry, we sometimes discover quite a lot of undigested feeling that remained untouched by thought-based practice. There is something else longing to be attended to, something more nuanced and subtle, that thought-based inquiry was unable to reach.

For material that organized prior to the acquisition of language – encoded implicitly outside conscious awareness – other methods seem to be required. It’s not that one approach is “better” or more “spiritual,” but more a question of what is most skillful for a particular person at a particular time struggling in a particular way.

As the Buddha noted, there are an infinite number of medicines for an infinite number of sentient beings suffering in an infinite number of ways. There is no one-sized-fits-all for the human heart. We are vast. We are mysterious. No one method has a monopoly on approaching the beauty, tenderness, pain, and glory of the human experience.

Often, this unknown material is best accessed via the body, emotion, image, fantasy, dream, and in other nonverbal ways within the relational field, not by way of further inquiry into thinking. What we are not able to access and articulate has a way of being evoked in others, enacted in our relationships, and requires a certain alchemical vessel in order to emerge into awareness so that we may attend to it.

This is not to critique the importance of working at the cognitive level, which is critical to how we’ve come to organize and make sense of our experience. I’m a fan. But there is a lot more going on. It is an act of wise, skillful, compassionate activity to open to the full-spectrum and not get caught in only one way of attending to the depth of the soul, the mystery of the heart, and the magic of what it means to be human.

My new book – The Path Is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – is now available 

My next event is a five-day retreat, The Place the Light Enters, with Jeff Foster, April 4-9 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, CO. Tickets went on sale on January 1st, 2018 and registration will be taken in the order it is received.