Excerpt From An Essay on Transpersonal Psychology
Perhaps the job of the transpersonal therapists is served by a great deal of transparency. This can go beyond Yalom’s injunction to transparency, because it can include making explicit one’s own theoretical orientation and one’s own spiritual/meditative practices and background, and one’s own experiences, including transpersonal experiences, if the client wants to know and it benefits the therapeutic process. For me to practice transparency in this way is to share that I am an integrally informed Zen and Vajrayana Buddhist practitioner as well as a transpersonal psychologist in training.
Though we could simplify the idea of CHEWW (Compassion, Healing, Empowerment, Wholeness, and Wisdom), I feel that each of these categories is distinct and deserves to be recognized. The first is Healing. This means to heal oneself, and therapy can help us heal, especially emotionally and relationally. Much has been written of the power of the therapeutic relationship. It is an opportunity to see ones patterns and wounds in relationship and, with a skilled therapist, to learn new possible ways of being in relationship which can then translate to other areas of ones life (Yalom 2002). Healing can happen in many ways, in body, in emotions, in one’s mind and spiritually as well.
However, it is possible to be quite healthy and at the same time quite narrow in one’s awareness. For example, one could be in great shape physically, and have a loving family, go to church every week and excel at a well paying job. And yet such an individual could well be disconnected from larger systems, communities and the environment of which one is a participant. And what of their connection to something even beyond all of that? Transpersonal psychology offers paths of deep growth for such conventionally successful individuals. This points us towards the quality of Wholeness. Wholeness implies connection to self, to others and to the greater world. It also includes connecting to one’s own shadow, which are the repressed and rejected aspects of one’s own being. Wholeness/Holistic connection and authentic relationships to all of these are included in the transpersonal approach.
The next of these five qualities is Compassion. While each of these five qualities is related to the others, they are also distinct and unique. Compassion here includes love in all its forms as well as the desire for happiness for oneself and all other beings. Through deep inner work, one can discover the qualities of compassion and love within one’s very being. It is a fundamental part of being human. This love is a kind of energy and power which motivates and moves us. Through practices and transpersonal work and experiences, I believe that we can discover that underlying many of our emotions, reactions and drives is this universal beating heart of pure love consciousness.
Another aspect and goal of a genuinely Transpersonal process is that of Empowerment. Part of any authentic transpersonal experience, in which one goes beyond the narrow bounds of the skin encapsulated ego and connected with something much vaster, is that of empowerment. Empowerment must be founded on the basis of compassion. It comes naturally from transpersonal experiences and practices in part because when one goes beyond the self, one begins to lose some of the hope and fear that is so bound up in our mortal ego. If the body and ego are impermanent and destined to death, the discovery of something beyond our ego is liberating and empowering. Something beyond death can be known. Pure awareness, our essence, is beyond birth and death. A genuine experience of connecting with nature and being part of the larger stream of life is another transpersonal insight that can empower one to live and act from a much larger place of loving concern. Transpersonal psychology in practice empowers individuals to get in touch with their dreams and authentic desire. This naturally emerges from the work to become more Whole. In the process of expanding one’s awareness and touching one’s own shadow one not only becomes more whole and complete, but one begins to reclaim power which has been given to others. This is because the shadow elements have been rejected from the realm of the conscious, relegated to the unconscious, where they appear as ‘other.’ Though it may not feel like it at the time, this process of reclaiming disassociated parts of oneself, contacting the shadow and the dark as well as expanding one’s relationships and connections to others and to the environment are all part of the process of empowerment. Transpersonal practice helps us to realize our deeper and truer desires, to co-create them from a basis of love and acceptance, and to manifest our essence in this world in a fully embodied way. Ironically, in seeing through the small self, we find that our desires are not to be rejected but to be enlightened, and that doing so helps not only ourselves but others as well.
Finally we come to Wisdom. This is the most important and the underlying basis of all the other positive qualities. True love depends on and comes from wisdom. This is the knowing of one’s own inner most being, one’s essence. Wisdom is another word for Self Realization. For awakening. For intuition. For seeing things as they actually are. For being fully present, fully embodied and fully awake. Such wisdom is our birth right. It is the ground from which we come, the paths and journeys of our life and the realization of the hero’s journey. Wisdom is the recognition, the knowing, the seeing of what we actually are. And it can happen at any moment, just as at any moment the sun can shine forth between the clouds. It transcends any notions of progress, developmental schemes and maps. Wisdom is said to be simplicity, beyond all formulations and labels, all concepts and all words. It is awakening from this dream/nightmare of separation. Wisdom is knowing the illusory nature of all phenomena and all appearances. Wisdom is the great perfection within this ceaseless dance of reflections; it is to realize the very nature of this vast expanse of universes of appearances and possibilities; it is the alpha and omega, the end and the beginning; it is this great mystery, beyond the veils of ignorance and the veils of limited knowing, it is unity within multiplicity, beyond the grasp of the dualistic, conceptual mind; beyond beyond beyond, simply beyond.