“The body’s life is the life of sensations and emotions. The body feels real hunger, real thirst, real joy in the sun or snow, real pleasure in the smell of roses or the look of a lilac bush, real anger, real sorrow, real tenderness, real warmth, real passion, real hate, real grief. All the emotions belong to the body and are only recognised by the mind.”
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My first career (I like to refer to it as a ‘past life’) was as an author and freelance journalist based in Asia. Living in China, Nepal, France and Peru has given me an in-depth multicultural perspective that I find invaluable in working with the psyche. My writing career, which has yielded five books to date, continues to generate many insights into the hard work of the creative process.
Buddhism and psychotherapy have been the two long-term mainstays of my personal path, and form the foundation of my work with clients. From 1985 to 1998 I lived in Kathmandu, Nepal, where I was fortunate enough to receive teachings and meditation instruction from many Tibetan masters.
The Dzogchen tradition in which I practice emphasises a fresh and natural view of reality as it is, unclouded by conceptual thought. The term Dzogchen or “Great Perfection” refers to the self-perfected state of our primordial nature, which is always present in the depths of our being. Dzogchen meditation brings us back to this innate state in a way that is both simple and profound, through experiential teachings emphasizing the natural spaciousness and clarity of mind.
Returning to the United States in 1998, I earned a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, and established a private therapy practice in Portland. In my work as a therapist I seek to integrate the psychologically sophisticated insights of Tibetan Buddhism within the framework of Western depth psychology.
I find spiritual practice and therapeutic work to be naturally complementary partners, in my personal life as well as my work. Each takes me to places the other doesn’t necessarily go. Together, they open up new territory. The two traditions share a common bond in their focus on deepening and stabilizing awareness. I’ve also found each to be a profound source of strength in dealing with suffering, an aspect of life that is explicitly acknowledged in both systems – and almost as explicitly avoided by our present society.
By working both sides of the equation – emotional and spiritual, relative and ultimate, psychology and Buddhism – we are able to be grounded and open to larger realities, to “grow down,” in James Hillman’s phrase, as well as to finally grow up; to develop both a workable, comfortable human self and a broadened spiritual awareness.
Presence-centered psychotherapy offers a creative response to the emotional suffering prevalent in the modern world. By tapping into both Eastern and Western wisdom, we can begin to understand ourselves deeply and compassionately enough to create the space for natural healing.