Integral Yoga and psychotherapy

I’ve recently been talking to a number of folks associated with Integral Yoga who are interested in a deeper conversation about how IY relates to therapy and to psychology in general. I hope some of you who are interested might be interested in participating in a conversation here in the comments section (as far as I know, the comments are essentially unlimited – also, if you want to add a guest blog, you’re more than welcome).

Jan (my wife) and I are very much focused now on getting our website store online. We have a “text only” website – www.remember-to-breathe.org – and plan to have audio and video up soon. The site focuses a great deal on Dan Siegel’s particular formulation of what he calls “interpersonal neurobiology” – a fancy term meaning not only are our mind and body seamlessly connected but we’re all connected “interpersonally” as well – with each other, and in fact, with the world, and the whole universe. Though not “IY” – it is to me truly remarkable that psychology and neuroscience has arrived at a point where, if they took just a few steps further, they might really step past the threshold of materialist bias.

Please feel free to leave a comment if you like.

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6 Responses to Integral Yoga and psychotherapy

  1. Don Salmon says:

    one reason why I’d like to focus on how integral yoga psychology can help with psychotherapy for people who are NOT interested in yoga of any kind – for some reason, in the IY community, when we’re walking around being regular people talking to each other, we use ordinary, every day language. When we go online, (as for example, on Auroconference) and we talk about, well, just about anything, suddenly we’re using words like “supramental” and “jivatman” and “shakti” as if they are the same thing as talking about stopping at a cafe and having some coffee. I thought maybe, if we start out talking about people who wouldn’t have any idea what these words mean and wouldn’t care, we might start very simply.

    Just a thought….

    • Rick Thomas says:

      Finally, Don, I am commenting upon this subject, with a particular interest of my own, which is related to the several points you make.
      First, from the Mother, the expression “what you focus attention on, you become” repeats itself to me often , as an important aspect of yoga and psychotherapy.
      Certainly there is much now written on rewiring the brain, using the prefrontal cortex, etc.
      Also within this focusing and attention, I would assume that there many images or formats that would effectively draw the person to the psychic center without using yogic terms.
      My curiosity here is in using mantra japa as affirmation and positive thinking; how one might address this and what might be useful to make it effective, what does it engage in the being, or any other thoughts about this practice.
      I might add I see it very seldom discussed, and when I mentioned it on Auroconf I got no reply at all, interestingly.

      • Don Salmon says:

        Hi Rick:

        Great point. I’ve been using mantra as an invocation of the Mahashakti – the Mother – for 41 years (actually, since March, 1975). Over time, it becomes spontaneous, though occasionally “the pump needs to be primed” – that is, with intentional repetition.

        it’s one of the most powerful practices I know, and I’m not surprised that Mother came to see that a mantra was needed to bring the Force into the cells of the body.

        I recently heard it suggested – plausibly enough, to me – that Savitri itself is sufficient as a mantra – reading it out loud, opening to the mantric power of the words more than the verbal “meaning.”

        All powerful ways of doing sadhana, I think. Thanks much for your comment.

  2. Don Salmon says:

    More reflections: Question – what would I choose as the major themes for understanding how profoundly Indian psychology could change our approach to understanding our psyches and carrying out therapy?

    1. The psychic being. A good start, I think, is the Sri A Ashram collection entitled, “The Psychic Being” http://www.amazon.com/review/R2IDFJXJPVXIPW/ref=cm_cr_rev_detup_redir?_encoding=UTF8&asin=0941524566&cdForum=Fx2RWMAOYO9APJ1&cdPage=1&cdThread=Tx1PDEIN5IB10GR&newContentID=Mx15650EJ0WZ7EL&store=books#Mx15650EJ0WZ7EL I would pay particular attention to the many passages in which the influence of the psychic being on the outer nature – an influence which occurs in everybody, not just among those “consciously” doing Yoga. There are many great hints regarding how you can detect and I would think, inspire in your patients, this influence – “a certain feeling for the true, the good, the beautiful”. Appreciation of beauty, of noble gestures in people. There’s a whole form of psychotherapy which simply consists in studying the lives of people you admire and emulating their best qualities. The whole movement of “positive psychology” could be immensely enriched by this study of how the psychic being influences the outer nature.

    2. Intuition. This is another universe to explore. Sri Aurobindo makes a distinction between physical intuition (the kind that many sports figures exhibit, as well as performers like musicians, actors, painters, etc), vital intuition (which most good therapists have, just “knowing” how to respond to another’s emotional needs, for example), mental intuition (quite easily seen in a composer like Mozart or in descriptions of how new discoveries in science were arrived at in moments of profound insight). Understanding what intuition is and how to be more receptive to it can be amazingly helpful in moving psychotherapy from “merely” intellectual insight to fully embodied intuitive/feeling/sensory awareness.

    There are so many, almost infinite ways in which therapy would completely, utterly radically change if the insights of integral yoga were truly integrated.

    • Don Salmon says:

      and I didn’t even mention the whole world of the inner mind and inner vital. When we start taking lucid dreaming really seriously as a means of profound therapeutic value, therapy will have made one of its most radical transitions to something of true worth.

  3. Don Salmon says:

    I was reflecting on this relationship – IY and therapy for folks not interested in doing “yoga” – this morning. It occurred to me – I wonder how controversial this will sound – if you took just our ordinary waking consciousness, the most superficial level of consciousness from the yogic point of view, and looked at what Indian philosophic and the yogic tradition has to tell us about it – just looking at it in that very isolated way – I think it would be correct to say that there is probably not much you would get from it.

    I’m about to completely contradict myself (intentionally) so hold on for a moment. This is of course a completely artificial way of looking at things, but just for the sake of it, if you took all we have learned from psychology and neuroscience and compare it to what Indian “psychology” – including Mother and Sri Aurobindo’s voluminous writings – tell us about our ordinary, superficial waking consciousness – there’s probably not a lot more than Indic/yogic traditions have to add.

    So why have I spent my life studying indian psychology and how can I say – after writing the above – that the most important single thing I’d recommend to anybody doing psychotherapy is to learn Indian psychology – and beyond that, to use Mother and Sri Aurobindo’s writings as a guide for learning?

    Because virtually everything – without exception – changes when we look at the surface nature through a yogic lens.

    Let’s take an incredibly mundane example – I’m sitting in a coffee shop, I notice someone at the next table very well dressed, in excellent physical condition, eating a brownie. Let’s say I’ve been struggling to control my “diet” and I’m aware of a certain envy in regard to that person, with a number of rather irritable, unpleasant thoughts arising in my mind imagining various thins about them.

    So what does modern psychology/brainscience/psychotherapeutic theory tell us about this example, and how does Indic/yogic psychology transform our understanding of it?

    …….. (to be continued)

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