A dear friend recently visited us in Baja for a few days. She is a young lady that my wife and I have known for about a year. We did medical volunteer work together in the Peruvian Andes. She is currently healing from a relationship break-up and needed to have time away for some support and some fun. She has been receiving valuable insights from therapy and making a personal study of her “attachment-issues” as she calls it, and how these have impacted her relationships. Of course this is a very fruitful area for personal growth.
During our conversations I was trying to articulate the difference between how therapy differs from the transformative effects of a regular deep meditation practice. By “therapy” I am generally referring to cognitive recognition and re-alignment of one’s operating patterns of thought, feelings and actions in life, as explored with a competent guiding professional.
I too have had the benefit from working with insightful therapists in the past. So I have great appreciation for their work and the value that they give. Primarily, this was in the form of recognitions of my own patterns of relationship to myself and to others. Then developing methods to improve them, to replace less-than-optimal patterns with better life and relationship strategies. This creates more freedom, more capacity and happiness.
One limitation to insight-type therapies, however, is that we operate in therapy as in life, from within those very same limiting thought patterns. We are using the relative mind to try to transform the relative mind. And it is very difficult to “get outside” of our own limiting viewpoints and reactive patterns. So changing them is likewise inherently difficult.
Meditation is fundamentally different in that it is a process of transcending the whole field of thought-forms and reactive patterns. It is a connecting, for a few minutes each day, with the deep non-conceptual source-place of our own highest Consciousness. This place of meditative repose (samavesha or samadhi) is full of the Wholeness and the “soma-value” of life, of Consciousness. This is naturally uplifting and healing. And it is inherently intelligent in its operation for our highest benefit. The “soma-value” is that aspect of Consciousness that is operative in protecting and uplifting life. It is a form of what is called “Grace”, or the “maha-shakti”, among other terms in the tantric traditions.
To make this clear to my friend, who has a beautiful and very refined religious perspective, I offered this metaphor: “That going into deep meditation is like taking a “big drink of pure Grace”, and then bringing it back into our life, into our body, our mind and our relationships. It then acts naturally to untangle any knots of limitation. It permits and causes us to heal and to rise towards our own highest expression in life, automatically, naturally and beautifully. For it only ever acts for our highest possible benefit.
So the transformation from meditation does not require that we “figure out” and find specific solutions to each of our limiting patterns, and the past forms of suffering that give rise to them. Yes, we certainly will have insights and gain the wisdom of our experiences, even as we release them into a greater and happier configuration of our own life. I compared it to “pouring cream-rinse” over the mats and snarls of our own various mental “tangles”. They just start to release. The patterns of limitation, which we all hold, begin to let go. And yes, this can be powerfully supportive for someone who is also working in therapy. The practice of meditation is complete and belongs at the center of our personal mandala of practices.