In my last post I mentioned that Zen has been a strong influence on Reverse Therapy and here’s how.
When I first started teaching people Reverse Therapy it wasn’t called that then. Instead it was called ‘Anti-therapy’. The idea was that it would be the complete opposite of traditional therapy. It wouldn’t waste time on analysis or belief-checking, or your ‘relationship’ with the therapist, or working out what happened to you at age four-and-a-half.
The other thing that made it anti-therapy was that we made friends with symptoms (or rather, with the Bodymind that produced them). If we could find out what made symptoms necessary we had a good chance of helping clients find a healthier way to deal with the situations in which symptoms came up.
All this was inspired, in part, by Zen. The Zen attitude to problems is to exercise awareness on them. Becoming fully aware – in the moment – of what is happening, without pre-judging anything enables you to see what is going on. So when you see why symptoms are necessary you are on the symptom path to enlightenment.
There is a story told by the Buddha (Gautama) meant as an analogy for the human condition. It concerns a man who is shot by an arrow who, instead of seeing his pain and doing something about it in the moment, insists on talking about the arrow – where it came from, who shot it, why it had to be him of all people, etc etc. This is what traditional therapy does. Gautama was himself anti-religion, seeing it as another obstacle to enlightenment.
Another thing we learnt from Zen is that Headmind gets in the way of enlightenment. Thinking doesn’t make you aware (in some cases it can just make you stupid – which is what Buddha is partly getting at). Zen exercises are designed to help people bypass Headmind. When you see that there is no answer to the absurd question ‘What is the sound of one hand clapping’ you are enlightened in that moment (although not necessarily in other moments). You have realised that thinking gets in the way of your experience, your awareness and your direct access to the way things are.
It is for that reason that Reverse Therapy teaches people to practice quietly sitting and sensing the way the way things are for them in each and every moment.
I have to admit that what also attracted me to Zen was its irreverence. It believes in no final wisdom, or teachers or even in the Buddha. There’s no better saying for that than the provocative Zen slogan: ‘If you meet the Buddha on the road – kill him’.
One of the daftest things you will ever hear is the statement that someone is looking for ‘peace of mind’. In fact some people spend their lives looking for it – and paying other people to help them find it.
By definition, Headmind cannot be at peace. Its function and purpose is to question everything we do and keep us looking for the answers. It wants us to be ‘right’ when Bodymind just wants us to be ok.
Headmind (what some people call ‘Consciousness’) goes about promoting your survival in the wrong way.
Bodymind keeps you alive by running the different systems – sensory, endocrine, immune, nervous, muscular-skeletal, digestive, excetory – in good repair. It also uses emotions to signal changes of action needed on your part in order to be loved, safe and happy.
Headmind is only concerned with its own survival – by making you into something you are not – your ego. And all the ego is, is the sum total of all the things everybody else ever wanted you to be or thought you should be. Your Head installed all these injunctions and plays the same scripts over and over again.
This keeps us running around like a ghost in a machine, forever trying to catch up with the person we think we ought to be. Yet it is the Body that creates the real self – our passion, our emotional truth, our desire to just be who we are without any conditions. We can see this in young children before the adults get to work on them. A child is blissfully unaware of having to pretend to be someone she is not. A child just is.
In Reverse Therapy we teach that people can reverse out of Headmind and find genuine peace by learning to live in the body, in awareness, in the moment.
One very strong influence on Reverse Therapy was Zen Buddhism. In my next post I will say more about this.
- Autoimmune disease
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Reverse Therapy
- Zen Buddhism