Setting the intention

chapter oneThe main intention behind writing this blog and committing to that practice weekly was and still is to forge a writing habit as grounding for a book. Hand on heart, the motivation to blog has waned: not because I don’t enjoy it – I very much do; but rather because time and space to write feels squeezed. It’s not just finding the time, making the time but also having the mind space to sit and ponder what feels important to write about each week. Client work on Monday and Tuesday, teaching on Wednesday and Thursdays – those four days take the toll, no matter how much I still enjoy my work. I’m learning to honour the load and try not to squeeze myself so dry. I was talking with colleagues at the Uni this week – this has felt like a long term. We, and the student trainees need a break. That break comes in the shape of a 3 week break from teaching. It is my intention to spend a good chunk of that time away in France on a writing retreat. A chance to really engage with the joy of writing and planning my book. As I write that, I feel excited.

Three years ago, my wife and I spent 2 weeks at this very time of year at this very same spot in Normandy. Back then, I was writing up my Masters research. Three years later, and I want to re-visit my ideas of around the integration of the Buddhist dharma and a relational psychotherapy. Recently, following some wonderful conversations with equally wonderful friends and colleagues, the type of book I want to write is gaining some shape and clarity. I don’t want to write a text book, an academic piece but rather something more autobiographical, more heuristic. The heuristic approach is the method I used in my Masters research; and while it was a painful process (!), it really lends itself to allowing me and the reader to go on a journey: as I communicate my learning, the reader learns too. I think this will be especially true in using the blogging platform to write the book – a chance to interact with the potential readership; to hear their learning and let that also impact on me.

I certainly don’t want this book to set me up as ‘an expert’. I am not. There are many Buddhist / psychologist / psychotherapists who know more than me, are more experienced as me. Rather, I want to present myself as someone who started out on the Buddhist path some 10 years ago and has been a therapist for nearly the same period of time. Someone who has found treading that dual path to be of benefit, and is motivated to share some of that experience to others who would like to or have done something similar. I see this book being of benefit to those who are Buddhists and want to integrate the dharma in to their practice, and also to therapists who are not Buddhists but have become interested in Buddhism following the recent growth in the popularity of meditation and mindfulness practices. Each teaching year, I have a steady stream of 5 or 6 students who become interested in some kind of Buddhist inspired practice or theory that resonates to their learning as therapists. This book will be in their service.

The first task when I settle down to my first planning session in Normandy will be to consider how 10 years on the path have changed me; what aspects of the Buddhist dharma can explain that change; and how the meditation practices have aided. Interviewing 8 other Buddhist therapists for my dissertation have helped shaped some of those ideas, so no doubt I will be revisiting the interviews and discussions I had with them some 4 years ago. I particularly look forward to that.

As well as the practical side of sitting down to write a book, there is something else circling for me around being here, being ready for this project. With my Shambhala path at the very best ‘on pause’, committing to writing a book of my journey at times feels timely. I have very deep aspirations to become a Vajrayana practitioner but no teacher to offer me that path. Pausing to reflect is all I can do right now. And through that writing I hope to help others – my contribution to the world as a Bodhisattva.

Writing this blog is setting my intention for the coming weeks; and by sharing this publicly there is an added dimension of accountability (even if that is all in my head!!). I won’t blog until my return, so I look forward to sharing my progress with you then.

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