These days if you google contemplative psychotherapists you get over 102,000 results. The words contemplative, therapy and psychology are fairly married in the public’s minds as something useful, but what is it?
The word contemplative comes from the Latin root contemplum which was a word meaning “the careful observation while marking the ground for a temple.” Today the word means, “thoughtful, meditative” and is used as an adjective for those who are dedicated to prayer and all things spiritual. Contemplative Psychology has deep roots in Buddhism, but it means learning the depths and practice of how meditation and spiritual disciplines can affect our relationship with others.
These weekends, on the one hand, premier the experiential approach and view of the Karuna Training Program, a 2-year certificate in Contemplative Psychology. On the other hand, it is a chance to really dive into and experience the depth and work of a living tradition of contemplative practice and study in Buddhist Psychology.
The Karuna approach to contemplative psychology is a tradition born from the minds and hearts of Tibetan Meditation master Chögyam Trungpa and Dr. Edward Podvoll in 1974 at the Naropa Institute (now Naropa University) in Boulder, Colorado. Naropa University is famous for its contemplative arts, poetics, and dance influence with luminaries such as Allen Ginsberg, Anne Waldman, and Barbara Dilley; all core faculty there in the height of their careers. Naropa University is the first accredited Buddhist influenced university in the United States.
The Contemplative psychotherapy degree was specifically designed with a counseling orientation that integrates mindfulness-awareness training, Buddhist psychology (the study of how meditation affects the mind), and client-centered psychotherapy. That program has been developing at Naropa University for more than 40 years.
In the mid-90’s Karuna Training started in Germany to uncouple the academic degree from the training process to offer a deep course of study in meditation, emotional intelligence and working skillfully with others, leading to a 340-hour certificate of training. This Certificate in Contemplative Psychology is now offered in seven Countries as Karuna Training; Germany, Netherlands, France, Spain, Austria, Poland and now the United States.
While other Buddhist-informed psychological approaches exist, this approach to Contemplative Psychology is both a field of study and a way of life. It pursues knowledge about living in a first-person sense of being fully awake and wise, free from confusion and ignorance, and in contact with others in a way that many of us are starving for in our busy everyday lives.
The methods of contemplative psychology are meditation, contemplation, and psychologically focused experiential exercises which bring about an awareness that is beyond self-centered preservation. This is what is called profound selflessness and gives birth to nondual compassion we call ‘compassionate exchange’.
We have the capacity to exchange with others in a nondual compassionate way that is mutually healing and rewarding for all involved. The practices draw on our innate compassion and cultivate an awakened sense of connection with others. Ironically in this day and age of connectivity—we are starving to death for genuine authentic contact with others in the present moment.
This upcoming weekend introduction offered by Karuna Training is a deep dive into Buddhist ideas such as brilliant sanity, the intrinsic health we all possess regardless of our worldly conditions or circumstances. The weekend also plumbs the understanding of ego from a Buddhist perspective and uses our interconnectedness as a mechanism for exploring our capacity to exchange with other human beings. This is entering the world of nondual compassion, which is both a vulnerable experience and at the same time deeply rewarding.
The language of contemplative disciplines traveled to the West utilizing the ever evolving language of psychology. In future blog posts I will explore the definitions of such terms as compassionate exchange, nondual compassion and egolessness in an effort to distinguish Karuna Training’s unique approach to working with others.