Summary and Conclusion
As stated earlier, insight often begins with bad news. Our emotional problems provide a very useful door into mindful awareness; an ever deepening opportunity to meet the moment of experience and to discover new truths. One of the basic advantages of focusing on problems in the ways described in this chapter is that it develops the capacity for self-reflection. Especially when practiced in conjunction with mindfulness meditation, states of self-reflective awareness deepen and consolidate.
As I have come to think of it, the basic psychological “move” in the process of inquiry is an experiential frame of “?”. “?” is part of the basic grammar of the life of the mind. The difficulties and predicaments of life are natural invitations to inquiry and investigation. Inquiring deeply neither denies nor reifies the self of everyday life, instead engaging exploration of its process.
The fundamental difference between Buddhist-informed therapy and meditation is the importance placed on narrative meaning. In the framework of meditation, engaging with the narratives in the mind can tend to obscure the background field of awareness from which all experience emerges (Siff, 2014).25 In contrast, in the framework of sustained psychotherapeutic inquiry, narratives are not distractions but rather appropriate stepping stones on the path of awareness. By exploring narratives, we develop awareness of the (unconscious) sources from which stories originate and proliferate. This allows the development of compassionate insight, which ultimately is the goal of both Buddhist meditation and psychotherapy.
We can meet our problems with mindful awareness and without preconception as to whether our inquiry about them is psychological, spiritual, neither, or both. In a Zen koan, Nonquan says to Zhaozhou, “the Way is not about knowing or not knowing. When you know something you are deluded, and when you don’t know you are empty-headed” (Tarrant, 2004, p. 49). In inquiring deeply, the “middle way”26 is the truth of our own experience.