The Lotus Sutra is one of the most fundamental and influential teachings in Buddhism, dating back to 150 CE. In April 2019, I was fortunate to attend a month-long practice period at Upaya Zen Center themed around this seminal text. We each chose one parable from the text to explore as suggested by teachers Joshin and Genzan. The contemplation of such work was reminiscent of working with koans, which are essentially Zen paradoxes used for the purpose of awakening. After a month, it was surprising to observe how much inspiration came from this type of practice.
My psychotherapist friend Wiola Rebe is going to Rwanda to research consequences of rape. Her studies are cross-cultured and focused on shame as the main inhibiting factor in recovery. I decided to donate something in order she could continue her research. Please, help her too.
The main benefit from observing the mind when sleeping is its isolation from external stimuli. Thus, we can be pretty sure that any mental activity is not in response to an external situation but it is a consequence of internal excitement. Sigmund Freud believed that the role of a dream is to prevent a person from waking up so the body can recover during sleep. Unconscious desires are satisfied in fantasies to lower the excitement which can lead to awakening. A good example are starving sailors trapped by ice on the North Pole. The captain noted in his log that many of them had dreams about feasting.
What is the purpose of this? What should I do? What’s the plan? How advanced am I? Am I doing it right? How close am I? These are questions asked by most psychoanalytical patients and meditation practitioners, especially at the beginning. There is one final answer to all of them and it will be revealed to you here if you dare hear it.
Psychoanalysts are famous for replying with silence to patient’s inquiries. They do not talk much and do not reveal much information about themselves. It’s not because they are shy or modest but they want to protect one of their main tools i.e. projection and projective identification. When the patient does not know facts about his psychoanalyst, his mind makes assumptions based on previous experiences. For example, one patient can view his psychoanalyst as rich whereas another one can see him as somebody who is poor. Giving the patient information about the psychoanalyst’s material status would destroy the possibility of revealing his fantasies i.e. projecting his internal world on the psychoanalyst. Things can be even more subtle with projective identification because even though the patient does not say anything directly, the psychoanalyst strangely feels like somebody rich or poor.
Psychoanalysis is usually criticized for its rigid rules referred to as the setting. A patient meets his psychoanalyst 5 times a week for 50 minutes always at the same time and place. Meetings cannot be canceled, extended or moved. If the patient does not come, his psychoanalyst waits for him and expects the payment anyway. The rationale is that the patient cannot destroy his psychoanalytical space.
Although, psychoanalysis has always had the greatest influence on me, recently, I have had more opportunities to dive into Zen meditation. I was struck by the many similarities between both techniques which motivated me to consolidate my understanding of these two techniques.
I’m going to treat them only as mental techniques and separate them from their religious, spiritual or philosophical aspects.