Summary and Conclusion
As was defined in Chapter 1, inquiring deeply is an integrative psychotherapeutic framework that honors the wisdom and methods of the dharma while, at the same time, recognizing patterns of psychological function in the relationally organized human psyche. This chapter elucidated the importance of the relational dimension of inquiry. A relationally wounded self feels itself to be at odds with its network of relatedness and its ground of being. Therefore, inquiring deeply begins with a focus on relational wounds. It invites a deeper lived experience of psychological pain that may have been disavowed or repressed altogether.
Mindful awareness of the psychological experience of connection can play an important role in psychological healing. The therapeutic relationship both builds a foundation of interpersonal trust and heightens psychodynamic understanding of relational experience. At the same time, deep experiences of relaxing into right here, right now—both in meditation and in psychotherapy—help to instill a sense of being at home in the present moment, with ourselves and with others. Such experiences can provide a profound sense of safety and belonging, of being held by the world.
Intimate sharing of deep presence with another is a truly corrective relational experience—an essential experience of being with another. As awareness deepens, the felt sense of this relatedness can expand to include wider and wider circles of connection: being with others, being with nature, and, ultimately, the unity of all being. Buddhism creates the understanding that you inter-are with every other thing; you cannot actually be just by yourself (Nhat Hanh, 1998).
Mindfulness of connection at the intimate edge of experience is not simply the boundary between self and other; it is also the boundary of self-awareness (Ehrenberg, 1992). In Chapter 7, I will discuss further how our experience of the space we share with Others is involved in the construction of Self. The intersubjective intersection is the surface of expanding self-discovery at which one comes to know one’s own experience through the evolving relationship with the other, and then to become more intimate with the other as a function of greater attune- ment to oneself.
The intimacy and compassion of the therapeutic relationship is arguably its most important therapeutic dimension.26 At the same time, the relational encounter in psychotherapy can also be a doorway into the wisdom and compassion of the dharma. As the therapist brings contemplative awareness into his or her relationship with the patient, this provides a healing experience of connection interpersonally and also an experience of non-separate being intersubjectively. This experience, which my colleague Concetta Alfano (1995) calls transcendent attunement, is a natural outgrowth of mindful therapeutic presence and interpersonal resonance, as discussed in Chapter 5.
From there, self-awareness can evolve toward deeper and deeper inquiry into the very experience of self, who we take ourselves to be, and how we came to constitute ourselves in that way. And for some, this inquiry naturally dovetails with deepening experience in meditation, leading eventually toward inquiry into the nature of being itself. In this way, psychotherapeutic exploration and Buddhist mindfulness become harmonious partners (Bobrow, 2007, 2010). Both participate in the “evolution of subjectivity” (Schuman, 1998).