Principles of Contemplative Psychology
According to Contemplative Psychology human nature is intrinsically sane. However our awareness of this intrinsic sanity is often obscured. Intrinsic, brilliant sanity is the heart of Contemplative Psychology – from the moment he or she is born, this sanity is inherent in every human being. Even if this sanity is covered by veils of confusion and ignorance, it is still there and can be discovered due to the desire to open ourselves up to the reality of our experience of the very moment of now. The approach of Contemplative Psychology is to allow participants to experience this sanity. Even during to most disturbed and confused states of mind one is able to experience islands of clarity.
The Truth of Suffering is also one of the principles of Contemplative Psychology. The Four Noble Truths and the Three Marks of Existence have been the foundations of the Buddhist view for over 2500 years. Refusing to accept the reality of suffering that accompanies birth, old age, sickness, and death, is considered one of the main causes of neurotic suffering. This reality is inextricably related with our human existence. One is inclined to fight the transitoriness and impermanence of our physical and psychological existence. On top of that we invest a great amount of energy maintaining the idea of a continuous, independent identity of a solid ego or self. This causes even more suffering in our lives and alienates us from intrinsic sanity. Contemplative Psychology introduces methods and techniques that enable us to make direct contact and work with neurotic and existential suffering. Thus we are able to allow space for our human potential and live our lives with tenderness, compassion, and courage.
One of the important differences between classical Western Psychology and Contemplative Psychology is the view on ego. The idea of a strong and stable ego is at the core of the Western therapeutic approach. The view of Contemplative Psychology is that ego-structures are transparent and that it is possible to realize that. The practice of meditation paves the way here, and shows us that the constructs of the conceptual mind imprison us in habitual patterns that constitute a cause of much suffering.
Contemplative Psychology assumes that working with others is only possible if one has a direct and intimate familiarity with one’s own mind. Through the practice of meditation and various other techniques that work with emotions and confusion, it is made possible to familiarize oneself with one’s own mind. One is trained to be present and mindful, open and inviting. In this way genuine and compassionate exchange with the other is possible.