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Buddhism Is Not Psychotherapy

Buddhism is called many things: religion, philosophy, a way of life. There has been a big move in the western world to link or equate Buddhism with psychotherapy. There are books about Buddhist psychotherapy, trainings and workshops galore. Buddhism is not psychotherapy.

This movement within Buddhism stems from the western over-identification with the mind. This can be traced back a long way in western philosophical thought. Perhaps a key moment was with Rene Descartes and his dualistic philosophy placing the mind and the physical worlds in different universes. Certainly his philosophy has had the greatest influence in the development of western thought over the last couple of hundred years.

Even the method of meditation taught by the Buddha and invented by him has been perverted by its arrival in the west. Vipashna meditation is often taught as a wide and open awareness, no longer focusing on a single object such as the breath but taking in the whole expanse of the meditators immediate experience.

Vipashna is the only truly Buddhist meditation – all other forms taught by the Buddha were pre-existing. It is about awareness of body and re-joining the body and mind in practice. By becoming aware to deeper and deeper levels of the body and it’s habits real physical changes take place in the practitioner. The body can change shape as myofacial tissues dissolve and reform and muscles begin to function fully. Old habits of laziness and fear, held in the body through the tensions of the myofacial tissues begin to dissolve. The meditator wakes up from the sleepiness that such habitual tensions engender and necessitate. Hence the oft quoted saying “with the awareness with which the Buddha lifts his foot”.

The body holds memory with the mind. In fact, the bodymind holds memory. Body and mind are not separate. It is only the egotistical self interest of false selves which think the mind so powerful and apart. As the practitioner re-engages with the body and discovers its reason and logic and methods he can quickly realise the fallacy of his mind and use this in a humorous way to help further weaken the false selves with which he identifies.

Psychotherapy is about creating workable false selves which are comfortable in their limited mental universe. Buddhism is about dissolving the duality between body and mind. It could be called Psychesomatherapy but frankly Buddhism is less of a mouthful.

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