Emotional Healing through Mindfulness Meditation
Stories and Meditations for Women Seeking Wholeness
From the Introduction
In the beginning there were eight women. They came with secrets, things they had never told anyone. One woman confided that she was in an abusive relationship that led her to try to kill herself. Another, whose lover had died precipitously, spoke of grieving so deeply she felt sure she was going crazy. Still another, married and depressed, disclosed her plan to attend her high school reunion after receiving a letter from an old lover. Then there were eight triumphs, not the happily-ever-after kind, but the experiences of mastery that became turning points in eight lives. It took years for the magic of each story to unfold. And in each case, both of us, therapist and client, devoted the time to meet where it could happen, at the threshold between the external, material world and the intangible world of meaning that lies within.
What makes each woman's story special for me is that it never ended. Long after the telling, bits and pieces of the tales continued to bubble up in my dreams and musings until they developed an existence of their own. Ultimately they became some mixture of the woman's story, our joint effort to expand her freedom within it, and the stories of others caught in the same struggle. So the women you will get to know in this book are both real and imaginary, history and myth.
For years I knew I had to write about the women but didn't, perhaps because I couldn't yet understand why they were so important to me. Finally I decided not to wait any longer, trusting that whatever there was to be known would emerge as I wrote. But how would I write about the women? What form would I choose? I knew that the linear writing of professional papers would miss much of what made these women distinctive, and so I finally immersed myself in the multilayered nuance of story. That's when I learned why these women were important to me: they were all seeking wholeness. Every one of them was searching for meaning beyond ordinary experience. To do so, they challenged social convention, gender roles, and the limited nature of everyday thinking.
The narratives in Emotional Healing through Mindfulness Meditation are teaching or learning stories (I actually prefer to call them healing stories) written in the tradition of Sufi or Zen tales. For this reason, they are punctuated at points when the women had insights that shifted the ground on which they stood, if only a millimeter or two. These insights led them to make choices that freed them from patterned, habitual behavior and moved them forward on their path toward wholeness. However, each story is but one chapter in a woman's life. Will later chapters build on her triumphs? Will the healing ultimately hold? In an important sense, these questions don't matter. What does matter is that at one time in her life, when she needed to, this woman found the courage to directly experience trouble and all the emotions that came with it, and in the process, she was transformed.
Times are good for those who seek wholeness. Teachers are a little more accessible and knowledge from ancient healing traditions is increasingly available. I, for one, have a growing sense of how the awareness I learned to use in psychotherapy can, through the practice of Mindfulness Meditation, emerge as a classical spiritual path. As these two traditions meet, they are transforming each other--and us.
In this sense, Emotional Healing through Mindfulness Meditation is a contribution to the forty- or fifty-year-old conversation in the West about the relationship between Buddhist meditation and psychotherapy. In another sense, this is a book about and for women, the consequence of my longing to offer this half of the human race an affirming mirror to see the beauty and the creativity within. Finally, my deepest hope is that any human being--male or female--who is seeking wholeness will find it useful.
The search for wholeness is essentially an individual effort, something a woman pursues in her dreams and musings and while she's washing the dishes. Following the path takes great courage and considerable curiosity, neither of which comes from psychotherapy or meditation; these traditions are simply the context within which the effort takes place. As it turns out, courage and curiosity are qualities of the seeker herself. The woman brings them to the effort. And because she's at her growing edge, life is out of the ordinary, creative, and once in a while, quite miraculous.
I was intrigued to realize that all eight women shared certain experiences in their search for wholeness. For instance, every one of them began her life as an outsider; whether because of race, class, or a quirk of mind, she didn't belong. It was an isolating experience that, from time to time, caused most of them to scream for relief. But this alone wasn't enough to put them on the path toward wholeness.
All eight women were also in serious trouble when I met them; one woman felt the alienation that comes with being labeled crazy, another the despair that can accompany metastatic cancer. They came very close to death's door or, symbolically, to the end of a phase of their lives. This, too, wasn't enough to set them on the path toward wholeness.
The women found the path only when they discovered the will, the determination to meet their trouble head on. This commitment came with a heavy price. If they wanted to truly live, they had to penetrate the inner turmoil that comes with trouble, be it shame, despair, or any one of a number of difficult emotions. At the same time, they had no idea where this would lead them.