Spiritual Psychotherapy

Psychology is the study of the separate self, the personal "I" and how it relates to the external world. Psychotherapy is the practice of healing the various aspects of this self, including the mind and emotions, and their interactions with each other and the body. The goal of therapy is to improve, and even perfect this individual self, and to maximize the quality of relationships with others. The challenge of perfecting this self can be invigorating, but it is an impossible goal to achieve.

Spirituality addresses the dimension beyond the personal self. It is a dimension inaccessible to the physical senses, yet it can be experienced as real as the physical dimension. Its reality is not concrete, and thus less definable than the material world that our bodies inhabit. It is also more difficult to describe, with inadequate words pointing to what the eyes cannot see and the hands cannot touch. Yet, to those who experience it, it is an undeniable reality.

Psychology and spirituality, taken independently, both have their limitations and pitfalls. A purely psychological world-view is flat and pessimistic. All pleasures and satisfactions are temporal, and all material and psychological gains are lost to death. The separate self spends much of its precious energy protecting and prolonging its existence, resulting in considerable anxiety and frustration and far too little peace and joy. If existence has its end-point, what is the point?

Those on a spiritual quest can be aggressive in their attempts to override their earthly existence. Their goal is to transcend their mortal selves, which are judged to be inferior to their immortal ones. The physical world is Maya, an illusion, a lure to trap their energies, which are better spent pursuing their divine nature. Being disdainful of the human components that psychology addresses--mind, body, and emotions--the focus is on the heart and unconditional love. But an ungrounded, disassociated spirituality is missing the very heart it reveres.

Authentic healing begins with a recognition of these two basic components. We have a dual nature--we are both these clumsy animal creatures and also divine, heavenly bodies. Spiritual psychotherapy acknowledges both and appreciates their interconnectedness.


When we have a strong sense that something is missing or something is wrong, we may seek professional assistance. The normal approach in therapy is to work on ourselves-- to correct limiting self-beliefs, to increase self-esteem, to set and accomplish worthy goals, and to establish fulfilling relationships. If we look closely and honestly, we realize that even at the end of this journey, it's not enough, and we're not enough.

Unsatisfied and feeling somewhat guilty, we might then work on our sense of gratitude, assuming our lack of appreciation is minimizing our happiness.

While gratitude is an excellent attitude, this sense of lack, of incompletion, can also be honored, and it can be a guidepost that re-directs our search. Because our physical senses are oriented towards the external world, it is there that we look for our gratification. But pleasures are temporal, frustration is persistent, fears are forever lurking, and even the attainment of goals is immediately supplanted by the formulation of new ones. What can we do?

It has been said that God/Spirit planted the jewel of wisdom, the answers to our questions, and the fulfillment of our dreams in the last place we would ever look...inside ourselves. When we finally tire of seeking gratification in physical adventures, we surrender to the wonder that may be realized when our seeking turns inward. And what do we find?

We come face to face, in an uncomfortably intimate way, with the juxtaposition of our infinite and finite dimensions. From an unenlightened perspective they appear separate and discrete. In truth they are connected, each being a bridge to the other. In an ultimate realization, they are recognized as seamless, without division or boundaries.


Typically, we approach spiritual wisdom through meditation, contemplation, self-inquiry, metaphysical books, and relationships with spiritual adepts. What is infrequently practiced is entering the spiritual domain through the world of the mundane. And yet all of Being is contained in every one of its aspects. God is not separate from its creation, but is at the core of each singular manifestation.

We are afraid to get lost in feelings. Their intensity and mystery provoke great fear. Yet if we bravely wade into them, and are willing to plummet to their depths, we are not engulfed but instead reach the Ground of Being from which all experience emanates. Thus, by knowing the essence of anything we discover the mystery and essence of everything. Experiencing anything totally is the doorway to experiencing totally everything.


In therapy, as we gain insight into ourselves, we find elements that are unpleasant and disturbing. Anger, anxiety, hurt, disappointment, all disrupt our quest for peace and equanimity. The instinctual tendency is to avoid whatever is painful, to view any distressing experience as an obstacle to a more pleasurable, desirable state. So we adopt the strategy of denying, improving, eradicating, or transcending all that is negative.

This strategy is ultimately ineffective. When we judge, reject, and disown undesirable aspects of ourselves, we use up considerable life energy doing so. When we undertake the radical tactic of allowing, acknowledging and accepting these disowned aspects, when we choose to meet our experience head-on instead of avoiding it, we release both the energy contained within those elements and the precious energy we have used to defend against them. In being open and vulnerable to whatever experience arises in any moment, we become unexpectedly fortified and solidified.

In this particular moment, you probably do not experience yourself as an Enlightened One. How to get there? By Being here! By opening yourself to this truth (which may include anxiety, disappointment, boredom, restlessness) you open yourself to The Truth. When you connect with the Truth, it will carry you to all its aspects and manifestations, including the one where You Are the One. 


Just as the body/mind can be a doorway to the spiritual, so can spiritual realization shed its grace and light upon our very human condition. Albert Einstein remarked that a problem cannot be resolved at the level of the problem. We must think outside the box, and view its contents from a more illumined position. From a state of pure consciousness, we witness the drama and trauma of our daily lives from a fresh perspective. Our issues don't change, yet they do, as we see them not as a life or death struggle, but from a place of objectivity and equanimity. We do not add stories and meanings to our experience that are a product of our fears and fantasies. We simply see, and this unadulterated vision is transformative.


Our spiritual malaise is a consequence of being disconnected from ourselves, each other, and the Source which births us all. Yet we are ambivalent about overcoming this disconnection. The separate self longs to unite with the rest of Being, but intuits that in that union lies its own demise. We are in perpetual flux between approaching and avoiding the intimacy we seek. We are tempted to eradicate this tension by choosing between the separate body/mind and our transcendent selves, believing one is more real or more true. In fact, both are true and both are real, and our completion and fulfillment lies in embracing this divine dichotomy.