[00:00:01] Speaker A: Welcome to Treasure Mountain, the podcast that inspires and guides us to find the treasure within human experience. I'm your host, Saul Hannah. In western culture over the past century, the growth of interest in psychology and Buddhism have occurred together and have often intersected, yet they come from quite different views of the world and the nature of the mind. What is the relationship between Buddhism and psychotherapy in the modern world? Where do these two intersect and where do they diverge? And how can we understand the nature of mind from both points of view?
On this episode of Treasure man podcast, we are privileged to have as our guest Aya Jatindria, who is currently resident at Viveka Hermitage in southern New South Wales. Ayajatindria first trained as a monastic in the Terravada forest tradition vintage of Ajanchar and Ajan Samado for over 16 years, from 1988 to 2004. After leading the monastic order, she gained a master's degree in buddhist psychotherapy practice with the Karuna Institute in the U. K. And continued to teach meditation and retreats on invitation.
Returning to live in Australia in 2008, she practiced as a buddhist psychotherapist and taught meditation, Buddhism and psychotherapy in various capacities. She was the director of training for the Australian association of Buddhists, Counselors and Psychotherapists for several years. In early 2018, Chitindria reentered the monastic life at Santi Forest Monastery in the southern highlands of New South Wales and held the role of guiding teacher and spiritual director there for a time. In 2021, she helped set up Viveka Hermitage in southern New South Wales, where she now resides. I'm so glad that you've joined us on this exploration of Buddhism and psychotherapy as we seek for the treasure within.
Welcome to Trisha Mountain. How are you today, Aya?
[00:02:24] Speaker B: Hi Saul. I'm very good, thank you.
[00:02:26] Speaker A: Well, I'm really appreciative that someone with your experience has come to join us on the podcast to deal with this very interesting, yet somewhat tricky topic to deal with about Buddhism and psychotherapy. And I'd like to start with, I guess, your own personal journey. It seems that most of your adult life you've either been a buddhist nun or a psychotherapist. Could you tell us a little bit about what inspired you to become a buddhist nun, then a psychotherapist and now back again?
[00:02:55] Speaker B: Yes.
Gosh, I think the very short answer of what inspired me to become a nun, although it might not sound inspiring, that it's suffering, the experience of suffering, the experience of dukka and the search, actually, the search for understanding. That's really the inspiration. So, yes, I was quite young when I first ordained in England. I was 25 years old, and I had traveled overseas when I was just before I turned 23, and through Southeast Asia and Europe, went out on a one way ticket with a friend, and worked for a bit in England. And that was where I first encountered the monasteries in England. So I was about just before turning 24, was my first retreat at Amaravati buddhist monastery.
Now, that would have been 1987, in the first part of 1987. So Amaravati was a fairly new and developing monastery with an international community.
So my own search, I think, and recognition of the kind of troublesomeness of the inferior emotional world, as well as, what shall we say, the strangeness of encountering the external world of conflict as a young person, really whipped up in me a kind of inquiry and desire to understand because I was brought up in a very normal kind of working, middle class situation. But our parents worked hard to afford us, our generation, the children, a good education and the opportunity, really, to do anything we want when we finished our studies.
And I found myself upon this question, well, what do I really want? What do I really want to do?
And the thing that truly interested me was really the interior. Well, I could call it the interior life, but really understanding this mind, understanding the world. And that inquiry was quickened through. I trained as an artist. I was naturally proficient in art from a very young age, and it was art and crafts that drew my interest more than academic studies.
And as a youngster leaving school, I wasn't really aware of the art world that I could enter into. But as soon as I did become aware that I could go to art school, that was my direction. And this practice of art really became a vehicle for my inquiry into the interior world. But really, the psychology, our psychology, our psyche, our being, and the inquiry into what motivate, what's motivating me, and where is this experience of suffering coming from, both internally and externally?
So I wasn't aware of Buddhism at that young age. I'd done some reading, and my existential inquiries were becoming more spiritual.
So I'm sure I read some spiritual books, but I felt like I didn't encounter Buddhism in its fullest sense until I went to England and decided that meditation was going to be the vehicle for deeper inquiry. And then, through happenstance, through serendipity, I found a Buddhist, Vihara, near where I was working at the time.
And I practiced there for a couple of months under Revata Dharma, a well known burmese monk. And when I was returning to London. He suggested I go to Amarabati monastery to continue my.
And so the rest is kind of history.
[00:07:16] Speaker A: Yeah, but you've also been a psychotherapist, and in a sense, psychotherapy does try to understand our inner world and our mind.
So you've been on that side of the fence as well.
How do you feel? Like, just on a subjective basis, in terms of your own personal search, how has that helped you, or has it been different?
What are your own impressions in terms of the intersections and contrasts between the buddhist path and psychotherapy or psychology?
[00:08:02] Speaker B: Well, I mean, for me it's been a seamless process, really, because the psychotherapy that I studied after leaving the monastic life over 16 years as a nun based at Amarbati, it was a seamless process because it was a buddhist psychotherapy training. And as monastics in England, we already had a relationship with the founders of this buddhist psychotherapy institute, Maura and Franklin Sills. And they were really supportive. They were Buddhists themselves and had developed a buddhist based psychotherapeutic model. And it was around trying to think. It probably would have been in the early to mid ninety s. And they were supporting our communities, both just as laypeople supporting community, but also as skilled therapists helping us, helping parts of our community with our own ways of communicating within community, because it does require some skills that we need to learn at times to navigate the landscape of community.
So we'd already been doing some work with the grunt institute as a group, so as a group of nuns. So when I did decide to leave, obviously I had to find a means to support myself coming back into lay life.
And the obvious thing for me was to train as buddhist psychotherapist. There were training opportunities with Karuna Institute, and that just felt like a continuation of my learning or the Buddha dharma or the understanding through my own practices. And none was just channeled into the practice of buddhist based psychotherapy. It was so seamless because their model had been built on buddhist principles, really grounded in the buddhist psychology to a large degree. But their model was integrating, really the evolution of western psychotherapeutic understanding with developmental models and ontological, philosophical ways of seeing with a buddhist philosophical and psychological view.
What I encountered in my life as a nun is obviously people may think that life as a buddhist monastic must be so serene and simple. And I know some of you don't think that because you've been on the inside and closed to a sanguine perth, but many people idealize what it's like, but actually living as part of community is an incredibly interesting and powerful process. It's not all easy sailing and with a sangha that was essentially based in a thai tradition and had all the cultural trappings, not only of Thailand, but ancient India. And so you've got all these, a whole range of westerners and Asians, Europeans coming from a very idealistic point of view, but trying to live this life of a buddhist monastic. And so just in the context, there's stuff to navigate, making community work, but also in the interior life. As we develop our practice, we start to see so much about how suffering is generated and hopefully, potentially how suffering is allayed. But what I encountered was full on head collision with the interior world of emotional turbulence in many cases, and grappling with that and trying to understand that through the buddhist perspective is how our practice unfolds.
And there were certainly lots of insights and understandings, but I also felt a lack of really understanding a deeper psychological, the developmental aspect of the person, of the being. How does this particular personality ways of being develop?
Why are there these problems with particular forms, like strong anger or emotional outbursts or grief or.
Or particular obsession over addictions? They all have their particularities, and, in fact, they're kind of based in a developmental history of the personality. And the Buddhism doesn't go into the details of that so much. And that's where the psychotherapeutic side, I'd.
[00:13:15] Speaker A: Like to pick up on that point, because that's an interesting one you spoke about, for instance, any of us who've been in a monastery for any length of time, you know that you're going to come up against anger, greed, all of these things that come up in the mind which are part of the psyche. And it can be incredibly challenging because in a monastic form, there's really nowhere for them to go.
[00:13:42] Speaker B: Yes, you're in quite a boundary, and.
[00:13:45] Speaker A: Then I guess, I don't know. Would you say that perhaps the buddhist approach can perhaps be, I don't know whether the idealistic is the right word or whether perhaps, to a certain extent, you don't necessarily get that detailed advice on what to do in that, with that particular thing that just came up in your mind. Do you think that psychotherapy or psychology helps in that regard, or do they help in different ways? What are your thoughts on that?
[00:14:19] Speaker B: It depends. There are so many different approaches or different models of psychotherapy. And of course, I'm trained in the buddhist one, so it easily works both ways.
But it's not so much that the buddhist teachings or the buddhist model is idealistic. But we, as practitioners, we come with a lot of idealism.
We pick up the theory and we understand the theory and then to a certain degree, and then we've idealized it or raified it to a certain extent. But when things don't go the way we think they should and we come up against obstructions and confusions and difficulties, but we don't really understand what's going on. This is where obviously, mindfulness is the basis both of the buddhist psychotherapeutic practice and buddhist meditation practice, and the development of wisdom through seeing clearly what's going on. So the psychotherapeutic approach, in my understanding, is just works from a bit more of a relational perspective, whereas you can observe what's going on in your body mind experience and to detect, say, the process of trauma or whatever's arising there, which is causing suffering, and you can learn to bring certain skills to that, to allow it to relax. So it's the same in the buddhist approach, but sometimes when we haven't developed those skills yet, those very emotions can be so obscuring that you don't know and you don't know what to do.
And sometimes within a monastic life, even though you live in community, you can feel quite isolated because there is a lot of upholding of a form in monasticism. And even though we develop spiritual friendship, sometimes, it's not the kind of relational field that one always feels completely secure in, if you know what I mean. Whereas the notion in psychotherapy, at least in the buddhist psychotherapy that I did, is that wounding our experience of suffering actually first occurs in the relational field, and therefore it needs to heal within a skillful relational field.
So this is really looking at the territory developmental, the developmental territory of the being prenatal perinatal. And we can also put the buddhist larger overview on it and think of past lives if we want to take it back that way, because some unresolved stuff bleeds through. It's not necessarily just what happens to a being in this life that conditions the body mind system, but stuff can bleed through, although that is a very.
[00:17:31] Speaker A: Buddhist idea rather than a more mainstream psychotherapy idea.
[00:17:37] Speaker B: Exactly. Yeah, really, the mainstream psychotherapy is just looking at this life in terms of development.
[00:17:43] Speaker A: Okay, so that's one point of distinction.
I want to zoom out for a moment and just note that in the modern western world, the growth of psychotherapy has been influenced by the growing interest in Buddhism and vice versa. Could you tell us how you think Buddhism and psychotherapy, and I guess I'm talking a bit more like mainstream psychotherapy. How do you think they've intersected?
[00:18:12] Speaker B: Well, there's been a great deal of intersection, I would say over the last 40 years particularly. It's not that it wasn't there before, but as Buddhism itself has become increasingly absorbed into our culture and the west, let's say the first generation of westerners who went to the east to practice spirituality and to practice Buddhism, that would have been in the but predominantly fifty s and sixty s. And many of those practitioners came back and established places. Arjun Samado and the senior monks that came back with him, Joseph Goldstein, Jack Cornfield, Sharon Salzberg. These pioneers, who did their own practices and development starting in Asia, brought back buddhist teachings. And they've been some of the main influences over the last few decades.
And many others who have done their own journeying into Buddhism and non dual spiritual teachings have come back to the west and become psychotherapists or psychologists or neuropsychologists and bringing their own understanding into that field. And so there's such an easy overlap because buddhist psychology is looking at how the mind works and particularly looking at how suffering is generated. And we can say the same for the attempts of psychology and psychotherapy. It's concerned primarily with the experience of suffering on the personal level and the attempt to engage in a way that we can gain some, enough insight or relief or understanding to allow that suffering to ease out. So both models and paradigms are concerned with personal suffering and finding a way to relieve it.
The difference, I think, in psychology initially in the early stages, was that they saw like a normal level of functioning in society. There would still be some degree of suffering, of course, that we all go through. But coming out of extreme neurotic or psychotic suffering to something, a normal level of perception to be able to navigate the normal vicissitudes of life, whereas a buddhist approach is looking at the same, but going that much further. It's saying, actually you can come to the complete cessation of suffering through deep insight and penetration, to the very nature of reality itself, of consciousness itself.
So this is really profound because it's like, yes, we can go that far, as far as psychology says we can go finding a balanced way of living, coming out of the extremes of mental disease. And then Buddhism says that we can go further, that true health is a state completely free of suffering with freed through wisdom and understanding of the nature of reality, the nature of the mind, and complete understanding of how suffering is generated from within and how it is allayed or no longer generated.
[00:21:52] Speaker A: Thank you for that, because that's a really clear answer to that question as well. That's both what they've got in common, like the concern about the search about overcoming suffering, but also the distinction. And I guess in one sense, you're saying psychology wants to take us to this normal level, whereas Buddhism says, well, you can go a whole lot further. You can go to the cessation of suffering.
[00:22:20] Speaker B: Yeah. AnD BUDHISM says the true normal actually is more that Full UndeRstanDing.
And it's interesting that one translation of the dharma, one old translation, is the norm.
[00:22:31] Speaker A: Yeah. Right.
[00:22:33] Speaker B: To penetrate to the dharma, to understand the dharma. To understand.
[00:22:38] Speaker A: Yeah. Okay. I want to take just another slightly different angle and ask, how does Buddhism influence your understanding of the mind?
Compared to, say, for instance, the view of psychology's view of the mind? How are those things different?
[00:22:55] Speaker B: It.
Well, as I said, there are different, many different models, or psychotherapeutic models. So different models will take as different starting points, different paradigms for how they see the mind, how they see the cause of disease, and how they might go about to relieve it. And since I was trained in a Buddhist model of psychotherapy, we take the very same frameworks of the Buddhist approach, which is seeing that the basis of the expression of disease is the expression of the various kilesa based in greed, hatred, delusion, the cause of which is ignorance, the not understanding the true nature of mind, not understanding these four noble truths, which is very essential. Not understanding suffering as it arises, as it truly is, not understanding its cause as it truly is, not understanding its cessation or how it's allied, as it truly is, and not understanding the way to bring that about to a point where that path is said to be complete and one has full understanding and full freedom from suffering. So the BUddhiSt psychotherapeutic model that I'm engaged in, I was engaged in, I don't do it anymore since reorganing. But it takes that same viewpoint. It is possible to come fully out of suffering, and that's through ReALiZInG the true nature of mind. And so we might call that Buddha nature or true nature, or the deathless, penetrating to the deathless element. But basically, there's this or the ground of being, to use the Mahiana term, and to learn to trust that and rest in that, and developing the power or the qualities of mindfulness, of presence, accessing the inherent qualities of compassion, of wisdom, particularly the four brahmaviharas, which we talk about as inherent qualities of that Buddha nature, although we can cultivate kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity. Ultimately, we recognize that they're expressions of the heart when it's resting in its own nature. Anyway, they're natural expressions. They're inherent qualities of a liberated heart.
[00:25:34] Speaker A: Okay, so let's get a little bit practical now.
Is there any, maybe some examples of BUddhist teachings that you think can be beneficially integrated into psychotherapy?
[00:25:53] Speaker B: It. Well, yeah, as I said, I guess because I did that psychotherapeutic model, so much can be integrated.
Buddhist psychotherapeutic model, they've fully integrated those four Brahma biharas. So I am practicing this, what's called core process psychotherapy or mindfulness based psychotherapy. In the core process style, it rests in the recognition that awareness itself is curative and that healing happens in this, what we call emptiness, or recognizing true nature of emptiness, or the insubstantiality of impermanent phenomena. And that from that place of emptiness or source is another word that they put onto it, that these qualities of kindness, compassion, equanimity, serenity, we can learn how to rest in those, to trust in that as a response, an intuitive response in the world, in our life.
So that's a direct reliance on buddhist just concepts, but models and buddhist view of reality. And coming into that place, really using mindfulness and awareness as your main tool, as your main resource. And this is where Other kinds of psychotherapy in the last few decades have really picked up on what buddhism offers in terms of mindfulness. You've got many different mindfulness based therapies, mindfulness based cognitive therapy, and others that use mindfulness based stuff and body based work.
INcoRpoRATing mindfulness presence, the power of awareness and observation is another thing. Through the power of mindfulness, we can start to observe the mind in terms of these impermanent formations. So in Buddhism, we talk about the aggregates, the personality factors, and our practice is really to see that these are impermanent phenomena, fluctuations within the mindstream.
The main problem is that we habitually identify with them, which gives rise to suffering. We don't see that they're truly impermanent. They're conditioned and being impermanent and conditioned, if we grasp at them, it's inherently dukkha. They're not really who and what we are. They're insubstantial and they're conditioned formations.
So not only the buddhist psychotherapeutic model, but other psychotherapeutic approaches have also picked up on this. We may look to Gestalt or other psychotherapies that have been influenced in this way to really use that quality of mindfulness, awareness and presence, to recognize that these various formations that arise, mental, physical, emotional, we're not denying them, we're not trying to get rid of them, but we want to observe them in awareness and particularly recognize that they are impermanent and they're changing. So it's what they call process. That self is a process. It's not a static thing.
And when a person really sees this for themselves, that their self images and their ideas of who and what they are and how they should be or how they have been are just mental conditioned mental phenomena, and that they don't have to attach to them, that this is really a breakthrough in their practice and similarly in psychotherapeutic ways. So it doesn't mean these self formations don't arise, these aggregates don't arise, but it changes your view. You don't feel so caught by them or caught.
[00:30:14] Speaker A: Yeah, it does make sense. It makes very much sense. I do want to ask kind of a prickly question. I don't know if you want to answer it. I know you can't name names. Well, this morning I was listening to your podcast and there was a man who was talking about, he had a pretty normal life and he got married, he had kids, but throughout his adult life he was experiencing depression and he went to a psychotherapist. This was not a buddhist psychotherapist. I don't think he did any mindfulness and he was taking drugs and he still reached a point where he wanted to commit suicide.
In your experience taking drugs as part of the psychotherapy? Yes. As in prescribed. Prescribed antidepressants? Yeah, medications.
[00:31:00] Speaker B: Medications.
[00:31:03] Speaker A: My question is, in your experience with psychotherapy, do you think that mindfulness is like, this is a thing that can be quite make that much of a difference?
I guess I'm trying to draw a contrast to psychotherapy without mindfulness. To psychotherapy with mindfulness, do you really feel like it can be like that decisive factor that really changes things?
Or is there just some cases where people, maybe they've got things happening coming from previous lives and their mental suffering is so correct and there's not a lot that can turn it around. What's your impression of that based on your experience?
[00:31:52] Speaker B: There's so many variable factors. What's important, I think, for a successful therapy, and they're not all going to be successful anyway, even with a perfect therapist, if there even is such one. But the therapists themselves have to be grounded in an awareness based or mindfulness based capacity.
If they themselves aren't present or don't understand the mind and are working from some just theoretical model. It's not necessarily. It may be of some help to the client, but not necessarily. And that's one of the thing in the buddhist psychotherapy model, in the core process psychotherapy that I did a lot is focused on the therapist. The therapist has to do a lot for him or herself, for themselves. They have to really have an ability to ground themselves in present moment awareness, be fully aware of what's going on in their own mind, as well as be completely available and open to the client, and receive what's happening for the client in a very open, non judgmental, compassionate way, and hold all of that in the space in a way that what we refer to as establishing a holding field, a skillful holding field where the client feels safe, where you're aware of what's going on, but you're allowing those qualities of kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, equanimity to emerge as needed. And also you're directing, subtly, just helping the client to inquire into what's going on for them. So in the model that I was trained in, the gentle question of what's happening now and how is that for you? So it's a real encouragement for them to inquire into what's arising without this idea that we're going to fix it or solve it or get to the bottom of it. It's an inquiry, so it's a mutual inquiry as well. Our kind of process was now, I think a lot of psychological approaches these days. If it's just theoretical, it's about fixing a problem or talking about a problem in more of a counseling way, and try this and do that, and more behavioral techniques that can be helpful for people. Now, the other variable is what is this client looking for and what is their personality type? So some people really respond to, say, cognitive behavioral therapy, which is very much about looking into the conditioned habits of thought and literally changing thoughts, changing your thoughts really deliberately.
For some people that works really well. For some people, they're just not into it. They really want more of an emotional support. They want a support to explore their emotional reactions to the world.
So for the client to find a therapist that works for them is what's important. It's not any client fits every therapist, or every therapist fits all clients. It has to really. It's about that person is needing a particular kind of help. And in a way they're looking for something. They may not be aware of what, until they meet someone, they feel the sense of trust and an ability to open up and that that relationship then can become a safe place for them to explore what's going on. And so you may do a lot of talking about what's going on in the present, but that may also include going back into the past, like what's happened in your early family of origin and how it relates to the present.
Yeah. So when clients are seeking therapy in any models, they're usually encouraged to look around a bit and meet with a therapist here and there and get a sense of, do I feel comfortable with this person, with this approach?
Because that's a big part of opening up and exploring what's going on.
So, yeah, one shoe doesn't fit all, by any means.
Does that answer your question?
[00:36:34] Speaker A: I do think it answered the question. I got a kind of a supplementary question. I'm not sure whether you can answer this from your own experience as a buddhist nun, because it also seems to me that perhaps even though they've both got this concern with alleviating and ending suffering, they've got a slightly different domain. And I know that some. It's not uncommon for people who do have mental health problems to go to a buddhist teacher, not necessarily to go to the senior monk, the senior nun.
What's your feeling about that? Because I know some senior monks that are feeling like, well, we're not really equipped to deal with particularly serious psychological illnesses.
I don't know whether then we could say that's a point of departure, or they've got slightly different or somewhat different concerns. What's your experience in terms of people with mental ill health illnesses coming to monastics for help? And is there perhaps a limitation on what Buddhism, traditional Buddhism, can offer?
What are your thoughts on that matter?
[00:37:57] Speaker B: Well, it depends very much on that particular teacher and their own insights, their own capacity to respond to who's presenting, obviously, someone who has serious, really debilitating mental health issues, then they need much larger field of support. They'll need a psychologist, a psychiatrist, maybe some medication and regular psychotherapeutic support. But they might still gain a lot of insight from what the buddhist teacher, that buddhist teacher might be able to offer, depending on their questions, depending on their inquiry, depending on their level of insight already, but sometimes just feeling the compassion of the other, whether it be a buddhist teacher or a psychotherapist, just feeling the kindness and compassion of someone can, without judgment, can actually bring a sense of feeling a little bit of ease for that person who's in distress, and then an ability to just relax more and then look more clearly into their own mind and heart. So whatever advice they might get from the teacher or support from the psychotherapist can help.
It's a dance. Whether it's from a buddhist teacher or within a psychotherapy, you really don't know which way it's going.
You don't necessarily know what's going to help this client. It's a dance. It's a step by step movement that you take and you don't know what that next step may be, but you have to be fully with what's happening now. And that's exactly how the meditative process happens. If we have ideas about where this should go and what I should be getting, we're just creating a field of dust and Duka. We have to learn how to be fully present and observe what's happening by itself and observe the particular causes and effects and start to develop skill which allows the suffering to open out and wisdom to deepen.
It's the exact same process in a psychotherapeutic relationship if it's grounded in that kind of wisdom, because if you're proceeding just with ideas, reality isn't going to come along and agree with that. Reality is going to show you something different. And if you've got your own ideas, this person feels is not going to be met. If they're not being met, they don't feel like they're being seen or heard or understood. There's no real resolution. So when we learn to meet the other or meet our own, the manifestation of suffering as it arises within us, or not just suffering, any phenomenal experience, we learn to meet that with presence, with compassion, with kindness. It teaches us.
[00:41:06] Speaker A: Yeah, it teaches us.
It sounds also like this is not an either or situation. It could very well be that a person who's suffering from mental illness could benefit from doing both as what you're saying as well.
[00:41:22] Speaker B: Absolutely.
And in some cases, depending on the person and their particular experience, meditation is not necessarily a good thing because people can get caught up in a lot of rumination just remembering or retraumatized through just getting stuck in traumatic memory.
[00:41:45] Speaker A: Can I pick you up on that? Can I pick you up on that? Because that was where I was really heading with my next question, actually, which was, you've explained how the practice of mindfulness has really seeped pretty heavily into the realm of psychotherapy. And there's various forms of mindfulness based therapies that are available now. And you yourself have emphasized this a lot yourself. And of course, it's the 7th factor of the Eightfold path. One of the things that's come up recently in some of the interviews I've done is that, well, and this is, it's great, mindfulness. It's great. But what about all these other factors? So from a buddhist perspective, apart from mindfulness, mindfulness is great. Do mindfulness. But are there other aspects of the path that could really support someone? And particularly, I mean, for some people with mental illness, maybe meditation is not a good starting point. And I think this is not well understood. I think at the moment a lot of people in western society saying, oh, yeah, meditation is going to fix everything. And in some cases, particularly people who have psychotic disorders or maybe just like you say, excessive thinking, just like this, obsessive thinking, maybe meditation isn't the best place to start. What are your thoughts on that? Are there other things apart from mindfulness that could really benefit people who have mental.
[00:43:15] Speaker B: Well, there's a lot of good things in what you question there and just to make a difference between mindfulness and meditation, because I think mindfulness is good always because mindfulness is not just about sitting down and watching your breath. That's what I would class more, a meditation practice. But mindfulness is something we can engage in everyday life. So it's just bringing attention to what you're actually doing, what you're engaged with. And rather than just so we're actually working against the habit of being absorbed in thinking of the future or thinking of the past and just acting automatically to just bringing attention to what we're doing. So anyone can benefit from that? I think if they want to, that's the key. They need to be interested enough to want to pick that up. Which, just a little aside, just bringing mindfulness into all the mental health facilities and trying to teach people is not the answer because many of them aren't interested. They don't want to hear about it because they're not being introduced in the right way. It's not grabbing their interest. They're just seeing it as a psychologist trying to give them some intervention, and it's not really being necessarily taught in an in depth way. But those who are interested.
[00:44:38] Speaker A: Can I interrupt briefly? Because I just want to pick up on that because I work in the field of education and I saw a recent study was released and it said very much what you just said, which is that there's a lot of people in different schools introducing mindfulness into schools or meditation into schools. And finally was that it's not working and it's not working because where there is no buy in, where the student is not interested. Perhaps I've seen these cookie cutter solutions, this kind of template. The teachers don't meditate, and yet they're told to teach meditation teachers, and it doesn't work.
[00:45:16] Speaker B: That's where it won't work. There's no understanding. There's no understanding. Understanding and compassion. Actually, wisdom and compassion. Right. View.
The Buddha taught very intuitively, specifically for who was in front of him. And he had a different way of saying something to each different person or group, because that was what they needed to hear at that time to catch their interest, to break through the obstacle or whatever it was.
So even though we have these paradigms that sound a bit cookie cutter, like the Eightfold path and four foundations of mindfulness, actually to teach them takes real understanding and real skill. And even if you have a little bit of understanding, personal understanding, if you've practiced it yourself, then you'll be able to convey it better. The more wisdom you have, I think, or compassion, the more you'll be able to show someone how to access that. But even the Buddha wasn't able to make people interested, though they weren't interested, he couldn't enlighten the whole world. And even those he couldn't enlighten all of his disciples, they were still obstructed by different levels of ignorance. So he did his best. Even he wasn't 100% successful. But, yeah, that's the problem. When things become, you use term cookie cutters, cookie cutters solution, systematization, it's deadening in a way. It's very deadening.
That's true. So, getting back to what you said, so making that distinction between mindfulness and meditation, I think mindfulness is always good because it's just an encouragement of be here now, wake up. Because our suffering is predominantly coming from our habitual fixation on thinking thoughts of the past, thoughts of future, all about me. Me. But the more we wake up, just be here, be present, breathe, connect with the body you feel. Already a lot of that tension is beginning to ease out, but it takes a while for your whole body mind system to get a hang of it and feel the benefit of it, because our habit patterns are so strong and our delusion is so strong. So, yeah, I think mindfulness is always beneficial, depending how it's taught and picked up. But meditation, for someone who has maybe in a particularly situation where they're obsessively thinking about something really painful to sit down and that's all that assails them, is not going to help them very much. So they may be better off sitting down or lying down and listening to something with some beneficial, relaxing music, because the music bypasses the conceptual mind and goes straight to the sympathetic parasympathetic system. It calms the body if you have calming music, because there's nothing to do with thinking if you just listen. And sometimes some simple guided meditation can help but to sit down with your own obsessive thoughts. For most of us, without an extreme mental health issue, we've all got mental health issues. We all experience Duka, and we will sit down and meditate and be assailed by our thoughts. But we tend to have enough ability to recognize that's what's happening and to see it as conditioned stuff playing out and to make decisions, okay, I'm going to get up and do something else, or I'm going to do something else rather than be stuck in that place. But for people with mental health issues, they don't necessarily have that facility to make those choices and just feel assailed by and get lost in.
Yeah, so no cookie cutter solutions. But back to the earlier part of that question. Yeah, it's not just mindfulness. Mindfulness has been shorn from its other factors of the path. And this is one place where there are big distinctions between a psychotherapeutic intervention and a buddhist practice. The buddhist practice is rooted, founded in the practitioner's willingness to take on a training in Sela that I want to take on, refraining from harmful activity of body, speech and mind. According, let's say, the five precepts is the basic foundation.
And this really supports the path. As we know as buddhist practitioners, the path of sila is really supportive, and we all get it wrong, but we learn from that. That's what we have to do. But at least we're making that choice. Whereas some people, maybe in a psychotherapeutic intervention with mindfulness ethics might not come into the picture at all. And it's not for a therapist to so called teach or advise a client in terms of their ethics. That's not what that particular relationship about, unless the client is really asking and inquiring into it.
So it differs a lot there.
And I would say that would be the main difference. And in Buddhism, certainly, all these eight factors, the Eightfold path, they're all connected, they all work together very clearly and developing right view in terms of starting to understand the mind in relation to the four noble truths, trying to generate wholesome intentions, actions, body, speech and mind, and to develop some kind of meditation practice is the whole of the path, and it develops in its own time, whereas just taking mindfulness, it can have some benefits, but without those other factors, one hopes that, and I've certainly seen cases where clients get more interested in it, and just their increased capacity of mindfulness and awareness brings a natural wisdom which bleeds into all of their life.
[00:51:57] Speaker A: Okay, well, that's a fantastic answer. I've got one more question. I'm GoiNg to put you on the spot here. The hard quEstion, Buddhism or psychotherapy, which one do you think works better?
[00:52:12] Speaker B: Well, I think given everything I've said, gosh, I can't say one works better when I'm talking psychotherapy, I'm talking buddhist psychotherapy. So I can't really make that distinction if it's informed with buddhist models. I think from my perspective, that buddhist psychotherapeutic model is really quite a profound and holistic paradigm to work with. It's still very variable as it is for a monastic, we can say, or a Buddhist practitioner, we can say the Buddhist model, the Buddhist dharma is holistic and complete. But in terms of finding a teacher or finding a sangha to practice with, or finding a source of learning where you can continue to learn about Buddha Dharma, it's similar for the client finding a therapist, that they really resonate with, a skilled therapist and engaging in therapy. And if it's working, then that's great. If it's helping, it's great for us. As you know, the practice of Buddha dharma is not a quick fix either. And much of our learning actually coming into a deeper wisdom is recognizing that we start out enlightenment or bust, we give it everything, and we usually end up smashing against a brick wall, metaphorically and like, all right, so it's not as easy as it sounds.
You have to trust the process, but keep deepening the inquiry.
I've always stayed interested in Buddhism. I'm not sure if there's probably many people who've gotten into buddhist practice but then fallen away altogether and have lost interest. I don't know. But I trust as spiritual beings having a human experience that people will come into their own spiritual journey in different ways. And if it's not Buddhism that works for them, they'll find another way.
[00:54:33] Speaker A: Very well stated.
[00:54:35] Speaker B: So I can't say. Not an easy thing to answer.
[00:54:38] Speaker A: So it's a false dichotomy really, because of course you can do both.
[00:54:43] Speaker B: You can do both.
There's so many variables within both.
[00:54:49] Speaker A: Okay, very well stated. Thank you very much, Aya Jitendria, for coming on Treasure Mountain podcast and sharing your experience and wisdom. Thank you very kindly thank you to our listeners for joining us for this episode of Treasure Mountain about Buddhism and psychotherapy with ayajitindria. If you'd like to find out more about ayajitindria, you can go to vivekahermitage.com and there's a link in the show notes below.
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