Having a Beginners Mind

I am experiencing a flow with my psychotherapy clients. I seem to know what to say and when and which strategy or practice or suggest. This is quite fascinating for me to observe. I feel the confidence of having found my voice, of trusting in the magical attunement of union with another. I am experiencing the client as a sovereign wise being, despite what pain is being experienced and it’s an immense honour to be permitted entry to their inner world.

I keep a ‘beginners mind’ and an openness to being taught by the clients about them. I deeply attune to each person where they are at with ease. It’s a beautiful experience and a profound one.

I don’t always get it right, yesterday after a powerful session with a client who told me he was getting a lot out of our time together. I lost my balance a little. It was unexpected and he isn’t the ‘type’ to give compliments. I said some unnecessary things in response that while weren’t harmful, though were not from my deepest centre. Heady rather than hearty. I noticed the lack of power in those words. I reflect on my reactiveness. The resistance to receiving his positive feedback. I felt self conscious all of a sudden. Out of control. And it doesn’t really feel like it’s ‘me’ doing it. I kind of surrender myself into the moment.

The beginners mind state has always been a place of joy for me ; the curiosity, the disengagement from my ego, the openness to learning. ‘I don’t know’ is such a powerful phrase. There’s a few moments before seeing a client where my mind generates tempting worry thoughts-it suggests I should do something to prepare…what if, and what if…and I relax with that. I know it will be just fine. Or it won’t be, and that will still be fine. I know that my intention is set to be of maximum benefit to the person I’m about to speak to.

So I embarked on this psychotherapy path with some strict ideas in my mind that I didn’t want to work with this or that condition or type of client. Now I’m already seeing that it doesn’t matter at all what the presenting issue is. At the moment what is presenting is a parenting issue, severe OCD and depression. And each of these is the outward manifestation of some level of, broadly speaking, self abandonment.

It is a delicate process of turning the client in the direction of embracing themselves approached with sensitivity and awareness of the strangeness and hence fear of the new unfamiliar territory. Gradually familiarising them with the language of self compassion, giving hope by describing the doors that can open up ahead for them. If I go too fast they will likely leave therapy. So I make sure they feel as safe as possible as they enter onto new ground, and a new way of being with themselves. Being really friendly to themselves.

There’s an ‘overlay’ of self hatred handed down by previous generations, and under that is the delight and the horror of the discovery that we are all great, fabulous, lovable, powerful. It is terrifying initially. So no need to go to great, lovable and powerful right away. Just the idea that we may not be as unworthy as we were led to believe is a good start. That self rejection and self criticism can strangle joy and creativity and lead to depression. It’s not our fault. This is what happened and there are ways to gradually lift the dark curtain.

The world looks a whole lot different when we change the filter through which we see. It’s like waving a magic wand. It is a great honour to be trusted to gently coax people (and myself) into giving up the old rules for living and beliefs, both of which were valiant attempts to protect ourselves with the only tools we had. But they resulted in us having to contort ourselves out of shape, and that hurts like hell.

It has been said that you teach best what you most need to learn and that is what I am experiencing. I’m learning to stop abandoning and rejecting myself every day and to turn towards myself with love and compassion. Rediscovering innocence.

A favourite by John Singer Sargent

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