Methods of Contemplative Psychology – Meditation Training, Mindfulness and Compassion
The practice of meditation is a central method in Contemplative Psychology. Through meditation we develop mindfulness and awareness in daily life. Being aware of feelings, emotions, and thoughts enables us to see through habitual patterns and eventually free ourselves from them. This shines through in contacts with others. For instance, recent research shows that therapists who meditate on a regular basis communicate more effectively with their clients, because they are more aware of the emotions and thoughts that present themselves during therapeutic sessions. In Karuna Training we are trained to enhance our awareness of feelings, emotions, and thoughts and to benefit from them during our exchange with others.
During this practice a participant, the presenter, is trained to give a description, as precisely and objectively as possible, of somebody’s body, speech, and mind. It is a group practice in which the other participants observe their experiences of that very moment and describe them to each other. In this way a kind of mirror develops in which the presenter can see the presented person in a wider perspective, and this can shed light on the causes of confusion and obstacles that colour the relationship.
In daily life we usually aren’t inclined to express very precisely in words what we are feeling. Often we feel that the situation is not appropriate to exactly express what is happening with us internally. In a process group we learn to speak the microscopic truth about our feelings, also when this involves another group member. If we are genuine and keep in contact with ourselves, then we will not hurt others so quickly, even when the message is not so easy to hear. This practice trains our capacity for compassionate exchange.
A principle of Contemplative Psychology is that there is no substantial difference between ourselves and others. If we stick to the idea of separateness however, the exchange is impaired. We are trained in mindfulness, kindness, and compassion. Through these our inherent capacity to exchange matures, and our awareness of the signals that arise in ourselves and others grow.
Tibetan Buddhism describes five different basic energies, that express themselves in both sane and confused behaviour. We all have these five energies in us, though the relative proportions might be different. With the practice of Maitri Space Awareness, which is a special form of meditation, we learn to intensify these energies so that we become more sensitive in recognizing them in ourselves and others. This enhances our confidence in the intrinsic sanity of ourselves and others.