Tami Simon: You’re listening to Insights at the Edge. Today’s episode is a special broadcast honoring the life and teaching of a warm and beautiful man; a true pioneer in the intersection between Western psychology and Eastern wisdom: John Welwood. John Welwood passed away in January of this year, 2019, at the age of 75. He was a clinical psychologist, a psychotherapist, a teacher, and the author of such groundbreaking books as Toward a Psychology of Awakening, and Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships. I have to say his books and his teachings have greatly influenced me, and I feel a true depth of gratitude for the “heart selves” that John Welwood exerted and put into his writing and his teaching. The recording that you are about to hear was originally broadcast as part of Sounds True’s Psychotherapy and Spirituality online series, and it’s an honor to have this chance to share this with you now on Insights at the Edge. The recording took place about 18 months ago, and during the session I could tell at the time that John was weak, that he was suffering with an illness. But I could also feel his strong determination to teach and to share his great love and understanding of how psychological and spiritual work relate and amplify the growth potential in each. John, thank you for bravely paving the way for so many of us.
John, welcome to The Psychotherapy and Spirituality Summit, and thank you for joining us. Thank you so much.
John Welwood: Well, thank you, Tami. It’s great to be here.
TS: All right. “Psychotherapy in a Spiritual Context.” Take it away.
JW: OK. I’m going to start by talking about spiritual bypassing, one of the things I’m noted for developing as an idea. Spiritual bypassing, you might say a synonym for that would be premature transcendence. Trying to rise above the raw and messy side of our humanness before we have fully faced it and made peace with it.
The tendency in spiritual practice today—although the notion of spiritual bypassing finally seems to be getting into the mainstream of the alternative stream. More and more people are hip to that issue of putting aside, or disparaging one’s humanness, one’s human feelings, one’s human problems. My approach has been to try to bring together the spiritual tradition—especially Buddhism—with our humanness, in order for them to become fully grounded in our culture. Try to move beyond our psychological and emotional issues by side-stepping them sets up a split between, you could say, the awakened part of us and the human part of us, the Buddha and the human.
It leads to a kind of conceptual one-sided spirituality where one pole’s life is elevated at the expense of its opposite. Absolute truth is favored over relative truth. The impersonal is favored over the personal. Emptiness is given priority over form. Transcendence is valued higher than embodiment. Detachment is made more important than feeling.
So, one might for example try to practice non-attachment by dismissing one’s need for love, but this only drives the need underground, so it becomes unconsciously acted out in covert and harmful ways. There’s a lot of consequences of spiritual bypassing that divide the absolute and the relative. Pit them against each other. Elevate one at the expense of the other, which is to diminish human life. My view is that we’re Buddhas becoming human, as well as humans waking up as Buddhas. These are both the two sides of human consciousness and human existence.
I’d like to present something I haven’t presented much in public before, which is something I call the psychospiritual architecture of Samsara. The work I do these days, I call it embodied psychospiritual work. We’re going to get into that with some experiential practice later in the session here, but I want to lay out first what I consider the psychospiritual architecture of Samsara.
Samsara here just a simple way to define it is neurotic suffering, unnecessary suffering, self-created suffering, and this is how we do it. This is the structure of it, which applies both to our psychological problems as well as our spiritual disconnection.
The first part I want to lay out is the ground. I want to lay out three sections here: the ground, and then the wound, and then the false self that develops out of the wound. The ground, the ground of being is our natural openness, the natural openness of our awareness. You can call it the open groundless ground of being. It’s not a solid ground. It’s an open ground. Open means empty, spacious. It’s filled with awareness. This is what we come in with. It’s our nature. And our goal as spiritual practitioners to realize the natural openness of awareness, the open groundless ground of being.
You could also call it basic goodness as Chögyam Trungpa called it. It’s felt. It’s not just a metaphysical idea here, but it’s felt. It’s felt, and it’s felt as sensitivity. It’s felt as rawness. It’s felt as tenderness. It’s felt as vulnerability. So, it comes along with a certain predilection for anxiety. As soon as we talk about sensitivity or an honest tendency for vulnerability, we’re in the realm of anxiety-producing experiences.
The next layer, and these are like layers that are in this architecture. The next layer above the ground is basic existential anxiety. This is what the existentialists focused on quite a bit. We don’t essentially know who or what we are, and the ground that we encounter is a groundless ground. It’s a no-thingness. It’s not something solid we can do something with. There’s nothing supporting us in that sense. The next layer there is basic existential anxiety. It just comes with the territory of being a being who has access to the natural openness of awareness. As far as we know, only human beings have this access, so it’s our great gift and our great treasure. It’s also the source of all our pain.
The next level that we encounter is what I call “the basic no”. We can’t handle being so open and sensitive. We can’t digest intense, overwhelming fear and anxiety. What we do instead is we contract and disconnect from the openness. We tighten up and lose connection with our essential nature of openness. The kind of basic dissociation happens here, dissociation from the ground and also starting getting dissociated from our body. Dissociation means disconnection, so the loss of connection of our essential nature is openness. It comes from the basic no. The no is the no to pain or to threat. The no is to feeling so open and sensitive and vulnerable. We can’t digest that fear and anxiety as a child, so in our history we have a contraction, a disconnection from our openness built in.
The next step that comes from this upward is the basic existential wound. Out of the basic no we contract, we disconnect, we dissociate from our body, and this leads to a sense of loss of being, loss of ground, loss of connection to source. Disconnection from the ground of our nature. That’s the basic existential wound. So far, all of these are things that the existentialists are very interested in, so it’s not exactly an Eastern presentation here, although it also replies to Buddhist spirituality. Buddhist spirituality, which views the views on nature as basically an empty openness.
The next level up is the relational wound. The basic relational wound. What’s interesting is that the openness is the ground of awakening, but it’s also the ground of wounding. Those two weave together. The basic relational wound comes from experience, now we’re talking historically here, in terms of child development. Historically, the child encounters the lack of a good holding environment.
A holding environment is the name of a concept that was developed by Winnicott, who was a psychoanalyst pediatrician. He talked about the holding environment as the necessary formation for health as a child. Holding here doesn’t mean physical holding, although it could include that, but it’s more—my sense of it is, there are two elements to a good holding environment for parents to provide for a child. One is contact, and the other is space. In other words, the experience of parental love isn’t complete unless there’s a nice combination of contact and space.
If a parent specializes in contact with love, it’s going to lead to smothering the child, or controlling them through love, withholding love and so forth. If a parent gives only space, the child doesn’t feel loved. It feels abandoned, or it’s just left to its own ways. It’s the combination of contact and space that makes for a good holding environment. And very few parents can actually provide that. So the child doesn’t feel seen. The child also feels like there’s some overall sense of problem, something wrong with me. There’s a thing that happens with children, and it’s been pointed out by various object relation theorists, but when the child meets the lack of a good holding environment, and doesn’t feel fully seen, loved, and met—met with contact, loving, emotional contact allowing generous space, the child can’t understand that’s something going wrong with the holding environment.
What happens is children pretty much always make it their own fault. The child cannot really understand why a parent is not providing unconditional love, which would be openness, complete openness to their being, and meeting that being so they actually feel met. That’s the experiential proof that you’re in the presence of unconditional love is you feel met, you feel seen. You feel the contact part, and you’re also let be. Letting be is the space part. To the extent we don’t have one or both of those—some people don’t have either as a childhood experience—but to the extent we don’t have one or the other of those, contact or space, we call the basic relational wound, also called the wound of the heart. The wound part is that the child thinks it’s their own fault. It’s the only way a child can understand it. It’s also too threatening for the child to blame it on the parents. I’m not blaming, by the way, I think it’s not a subject for blame because there’s no real good training for being a parent. Just have to do it in the trenches, find out by just being a parent.
It’s not their fault. I’m not trying to blame anybody, but it isn’t really possible for the child to see that the problem is with the parents. The problem from our point of view is that the parents didn’t get this themselves. They didn’t get a good holding environment either. There’s no training in unconditional love, that’s much valued around for most people. It’s hit or miss basically, and mostly it’s miss.
The child tries to understand this by making themselves wrong, believing there’s something wrong with me. I’m not being met, I’m not being seen, I’m not being loved for who I am because there’s something wrong with me. This is the big relational wound that most of us suffer from in one way or another.
The next level up becomes what I call the deficient identity. The way that that presents itself is there’s something wrong with me. I’m unworthy. I’m unloved and unlovable. I’m cut off from life. I am lacking, not enough. It’s all about lack, this wound. Relational wound comes out of the existential wound, which is the loss of being. They kind of weave together. It’s very interesting is that out of openness, you result in a existential wound and a relational wound. The relational wound is worked with in healing by psychological work, and the existential wound is actually resolved or healed or worked on through spiritual work. They kind of weave together. It’s part of why it’s important to have both in our life, I think in the West especially.
That’s the wound. The wound includes the basic existential anxiety, the basic no, the basic existential wound or also being, and the basic relational wound, and division identity. This is the architecture I’m laying out. Going up to the results of this, climbing up the ladder of the psychospiritual architecture, there’s a false self. The false self is the attempt to compensate for the wound and the deficient identity.
Basically, from the point of view of deficient identity, I’m lacking. I’m not enough. I’m cut off from life. I’m unloved or unlovable. I’m unworthy. There’s something wrong with me. This leads us to an overall sense of lack. Something is basically wrong with life and we need to set it right. We need to prove, the next level up is called self compensatory, call it compensatory identity. We need to prove that we’re good. We need to prove that we’re lovable. We need to prove that we’re worthy. We need to prove that we’re a success. We need to prove that we can perform. We need to fill ourselves up with love, praise, achievement as proof of our worth.
Which puts us on a rollercoaster of hope and fear. The rollercoaster going up the rollercoaster is hope. Maybe I just published a new book, or maybe I got on a radio show that I wanted to get on, or maybe I got a great introduction from Tami. My rollercoaster of hope goes up, and then here I am talking about it. I’m not knowing how I feel about it, and a little fear creeps in. “I hope it’s OK. I hope I’m living up to Tami’s expectations. I’m afraid I’m not.” I’m driven to prove that I’m lovable, worthy, a success—to fill myself up with love, praise, and achievement as proof of my worth. This is the almost universal structure of the compensatory identity, which is at the peak of the architecture of Samsara.
The other thing that helps is everything becomes self-referential in our experience, which means that we’re constantly looking at experiences and input, and states of mind that are good. They’re good for me. They make me feel more solid. They try to repair the wound of deficient identity by filling it up with stories about ourselves and our world. We’re constantly spinning out mental stories. They’re self-referential.
You notice this when you meditate, for example. You start to notice that your mind is continually projecting mind movies where everything… We’re the hero of the mind movie, and we’re trying to make it good. We’re trying to win life over because we’re lacking internal intrinsic sense of self-worth from the ground, which can only come from the ground. How to find that in the ground is what spiritual practice is about, in a large part.
We notice when we meditate that the mind is continually constructing movies about what’s happening. My mind is drifting off. Why does it keep drifting off? What’s the matter with me that it keeps drifting off? I must not be as good meditator as all these people at Sounds True. So, if we keep constructing stories that reinforce that sense of hope and fear, which also reinforces the sense of I’m lacking, and reinforces, basically the deficient identity.
The problem with the rollercoaster of hope and fear is it’s always going to come down. There’s not a steady up move on the rollercoaster. It’s always going to come down. Every success is met by some problem, and some threat of defeat. Maybe you got a new house, but then you find out it has termites. It’s always like this. That’s not a problem. Basically we can get a termite inspector, but the problem—that I’m using the house to make myself feel better is what is the problem here. Then when we use things in the world to feed ourselves in a hope and fear way, it inevitably leads to fear, fear of failure.
Don’t walk around with that fear of failure. That fear of lacking something, and pinning all of our hopes on our attempts to compensate for that. Our life becomes an attempt to compensate for that. This leads to another level of this, which I call mind spin. The busy spinning mind, there’s a constantly going, getting carried away by trying to stay up in control, to avoid going down the rollercoaster. The law of nature, one of the things about the teaching of the pyramid that’s very useful is to recognize that there’s no up without a down. It’s inevitable for the rollercoaster to come back down. We need to be able to be open to that experience as well, the dissolution of our hope and so forth.
Just to review then. We have the ground which is basic openness, natural openness, awareness. The ground that allows for awakening to happen. It is felt as sensitivity, rawness, tenderness, and vulnerability, which are threatening because that brings us our fear of groundlessness or lack of any support, external support. The basic existential anxiety, the basic no, which is no to being threatened, feeling threatened or painful, and contracting, disconnecting from the openness through contraction and tightening up, which leads also to a dissociation from the body.
Then above that, there’s the existential wound, basic existential wound, which is loss of being, out of that come dissociation of also loss of being, loss of ground, loss of connection to source, disconnection from ground of our nature.
The next level is basic relational wound. Historically, as a child then there’s a lack of a good holding environment, and the child does not feel seen and met and then makes up a story about it, or makes up an understanding about it, that it’s the child’s fault. There’s something wrong with me, which leads to the dissociation identity. I don’t know what I am. There’s something wrong with me. I’m unloved, and unlovable. I’m cut off from life. I’m lacking, not enough.
Which leads to the compensatory identity, the attempt to compensate for the sense of deficiency. The compensatory identity puts us on the rollercoaster of hope and fear. I hope I’m OK. I’m afraid that I’m not. I’m driven to prove that I’m lovable, I’m afraid that I’m not, etc., and mind movies where everything becomes centered around ourselves. This is the way in which often some spiritual traditions self-referential consciousness is criticized and be made to feel shameful. Once you understand the self-referential pattern is due to a wound basically—it’s basically a wound—you wouldn’t criticize it. You wouldn’t say, “Oh, you people are so self-referential. You only think of yourself.”
That’s true. We only think of ourselves, but it’s a part of our wounding. If we relate to it that way, there’s a chance of some compassion to come in. I think this whole thing is full of compassion, places for compassion to come in at every level. It’s one of the great healing elements we have in this world, which is lovingkindness and compassion. That’s why I’m laying this out because I think it’s important to understand what’s going on in our Samsara, in our unnecessary suffering, our self-created suffering. Our suffering is also self-referential. Our mind movies are continually spinning out stories about self and world, and the mind spin, the busy spinning mind is always spinning, spinning, spinning, carried away, trying to stay up, trying to stay in control, trying to avoid going down. That’s the basic structure of the false self, the compensatory identity. I think to end, I’d like to end with an exercise.
I just want to say something about methods of working with these problems I just named. I call this embodied psychospiritual work. I find that there are five basic methods, these five methods just have appeared to me, and there may be more others, that are as important and essential, but these five methods feel very important in working with these issues.
I just want to name them, and then I’m going to focus on one of them. One of them, the first method, there’s no order, no meaning to the order. I’ll present them as is. There’s engaged presence. What I mean by that is meeting your felt experience directly. Bringing your presence to bear on your felt experience, specifically on the felt experience of pain, loss, self-centeredness, self-referentiality. Doesn’t matter what, actually, that’s part of it. Engaged presence, it doesn’t matter what you encounter in your mind or your body or your feeling. It can be met with presence. I call that actually unconditional presence.
Unconditional presence is a subset of engaged presence. It’s a form of engaging with your experience directly.
Then, there’s cutting through, number two, which is actually really the opposite of engaged presence. Cutting through is the ability to drop one’s involvement in neurotic patterns. Doesn’t matter that it seems like the opposite of engaged presence. They are necessary for different situations. This is like a little toolbox. Meditation is actually a form of cutting through because when you notice that you’re drifting off in thoughts, and you come back to the breath, you’re cutting through the thoughts. You’re dropping them. You come back again right away, but you can bring your mind back to the body or to the breath, to whatever your focus is and cut through your involvement in the thinking process that’s carrying you away. That’s an example of cutting through.
Then the third kind of exercise or method is embodiment exercises. This is something that Reggie Ray focuses on quite a bit, inhabiting the body. I do a lot of work with belly, heart, and head centers. Here we’re talking about the subtle body, really, subtle body being the lived body. Inhabiting it means actually making conscious one’s life, the life of the body that one’s inhabiting. That deals with the embodiment piece.
Then there’s inquiry, method number four would be inquiry. Another way I talk about that is track and unpack. Look into your experience. Track it. Track what’s going on. This is what psychotherapists should be doing. They’re not always doing this, but often a lot of psychotherapy is mental, directed from the mind, but inquiry is actually following the thread of the self-sense. Self-sense is a word that my teacher Eugene Gendlin—the late Eugene Gendlin—taught about how to track a felt sense. You do that by you just you feel it first of all in the body, and then you open to it in a spirit of inquiry. You ask yourself, “What is this? What is this? Where does this come from?” or “What’s going on here?” These are inquiry questions.
Good example of a method that Gendlin developed is focusing. It’s all about tracking and unpacking. Unpacking means following the lead of different kinds of psychological stress. They’re all… basically everything gets conglomerated, and we can unconglomerate that by looking at different pieces of our experience without any preconception of what it is or what it should be. I call it open inquiry.
Open inquiry is just following the lead of the felt sense. In other words, you might feel slightly queasy in your stomach. You just bring your attention to bear on that. You basically ask the body what’s going on in here, and see what happens. Don’t answer the question with your mind. The whole thing about inquiry, you can say felt inquiry, you don’t ask any of the questions with your mind. Glendin once said a very interesting thing. He said, “The only psychotherapy that works is when the client is saying something they’ve never said before.” In other words, it’s not coming from memory or expectation. It’s coming from open inquiry, asking questions and waiting for the body to respond. That’s number four.
Number five is holding experience in loving awareness. This is a little different from engaged presence. Engaged presence is focusing on the presence, bringing your presence to bear on experience, bringing all of yourself to bear on experience. The holding experience in loving awareness is just that. It’s self-explanatory really, but the ability to do this depends on being willing to feel the pain. If you feel the pain, then it’s possible compassion could arise. If you’re not willing to feel the pain, then no compassion is possible. Compassion means feeling with compassion. That’s the fifth one.
That’s it. We’re going to practice, do a little practice with unconditional presence, I think. We have about 15 minutes left. I’m going to lead you through a little exercise in unconditional presence, which is a form of what I call engaged presence, one of the methods.
So, let’s start with you picking something to look at in your experience that’s difficult. Something that’s going on for you that’s difficult, that’s causing anxiety or fear in your life. Doesn’t have to be right this minute, although it would be better if it was right this minute. Pick something you’re afraid of, or something that’s causing you stress, or something that’s difficult to deal with. I’ll give you a little bit of time to just pick something to work on.
If you’re picking a particular problem, see how it feels in your body. See if you’d be willing to turn toward it. Normally we’re turning away from anything that’s stressful or difficult, but here we’re just making the turn and allowing, basically acknowledging that this is a feeling that you have in your body. Find the place in your body where you feel this. Where you feel anything about this, and meet that place. If it’s something that seems to be an obstacle, turn toward that and feel that. If there’s resistance, if there’s denial, feel that and acknowledge that as well.
Give you minute or so to just turn toward the feeling in your body that this problem situation brings up or is connected to. You don’t have to know what you’re doing. You’re just trying this out. Instead of turning away from it, you’re turning toward it. You’re meeting it. Just see what it feels like to meet it, or to turn toward it, instead of running away from it like we usually do, or denying it.
Just the act of turning toward it can actually feel liberating by itself. Do this without preconception. It’s OK, whatever happens. Whatever comes up is OK. You can just acknowledge it and meet it as it is, without any goal or outcome.
If you can do that, see what it’s like. What is it like to turn toward it? What is it like to acknowledge it? What is it like to meet it? Might be a little shaky. There might be some relief. There might be some threat, threatening feeling, but you’re basically turning toward it no matter what it is. That’s the unconditional part. That might be enough to do today, but that’s the first step of the unconditional presence.
To go a little further, see if you can now, if you’re in touch with a feeling that comes from the first step, see if you can allow it to be the way it is. Give it space. Let it be. Open up space around it. The essence of allowing is giving it space. Hold it in spacious awareness. Open up the space around it. When you do that you start to soften because the softest thing in the world is space. There’s nothing softer than space. When you can hold and experience the spacious awareness, you’re already starting to soften toward it. Just try that out in a very gentle way. Don’t push anything. If you have resistance, you can stay with that. Keep turning toward it and giving it space.
Any of these steps might be enough to do. I’m going to go on and continue just to give you the whole picture. If you feel like you’ve done enough, just stay with whatever stuff you managed to experience. The first one is acknowledging. The second step is allowing, giving space. The third step is to open. Basically, to open your heart to your experience, or to yourself, what you feel. Whatever there is you’re dealing with here. This is a little more threatening, opening to it. It can also be softening, fearless softening. Bring down the barriers opening.
That’s pretty much all of the practice. There’s one more step which is more advanced step, so you may not want to do that today. May just want to stay with whatever piece of this that has meant something to you. The fifth step… I’ll just review.
We had the first step was turning toward it. Second step was acknowledging and meeting it. Thirdly allowing it, giving it space. Fourthly, opening your heart to the experience. Finally, fifthly, entering into it. Entering into the experience. See if you can be one with this feeling without trying to do anything. See if you can enter into this in a sense of almost like surrendering to it.
Again, if you’re back in the earlier stages, just stay with those. If you can get a little sense of entering into the feeling, being one with it, that’ll take you to another level.
OK, well, that’s it. So, I’m going to give you back to Tami. It’s been a pleasure and a joy to do this.
TS:Thank you, John, you’ve brought us, and communicated at such a depth during this whole session. I really appreciated that.
TS: I do have a question for you, which is that the sense I have is that you’ve laid out very clearly both this map of self-created suffering, and also this toolbox that we can use. I’m curious if you could map for us what you see as the healing process? The journey, if you will, to psychospiritual health, or I’m even going to throw this word out, enlightenment. How do you see that journey, given that we have this map of our self-created pain, and these tools to use? What’s the healing process like?
JW: Well, I’d say the spiritual dimension of the healing, which is also the existential issue, is the relationship to the basic primordial openness. Making a relationship with primordial openness. Basically, through meditation practice, or other methods, but for me it’s been meditation practice. That heals the relationship to the loss of being, the loss of the ground. That’s that level. Basically psychological work, is to address the relational wound because all psychological wounds are relational. They’re all about not feeling loved or lovable. It’s such a tender thing. We all hid it away. Such a vulnerable thing to admit, but we have this sense of lack of feeling loved and lovable.
Healing that wound is psychological work. A healing—that happens in relationship mainly, not in retreat cabins—but in relationship to another person who’s a therapist and provides a good holding environment, where there’s a meeting. That experience is met. You can say we just had an experience of what it’s like to have experience met through unconditional presence, and at the same time there’s some kind of space allowing the client to be themselves, celebrating that. That’s a way toward healing the psychological aspect of the wound.
You can see that both sides of that work, the psychological work and the spiritual work, are necessary and important for complete human development.
TS: It’s interesting to me that you answered the question that I asked by taking this sort of two-pronged approach. One of the things I’m curious about is how do you see the relationship between the spiritual healing work that we do at the level of the existential wound, and then the relational healing work we do at this heart wound level? How do these two interact? Are they like separate channels that complement each other, or are they woven into some kind of unity in some way?
JW: That’s a really good question, Tami. I think it could be either way. Somebody could have done a lot of spiritual work, but they desperately necessarily are needing to do psychological work, and vice versa. As a therapist, I want to assess where their main work is, and so it could be separate channels. It could be completely woven together. Could go either way, depending on where the client is at. Does that answer? Sounds like you have a question.
TS: Well, you left it either/or/both. It wasn’t very definitive.
JW: Well, some things aren’t definitive.
TS: No, I understand.
JW: Depends on where someone is at. I would say most people need both, but some people are not interested in spiritual work, so I guess you’d just send them elsewhere.
TS: I think one of the things in my own path and development was that I thought that the spiritual work that I was doing would heal the relational wound, and I found that I needed a different approach. That was surprising to me.
JW: Yes, that’s right. That’s where a lot of spiritual bypassing comes in, is that it tries to do work on a spiritual level that needs to be done on a psychological level, a relational level.
TS: You mentioned that in terms of healing this relational wound, that that’s where the psychotherapist can provide the holding environment. What I’m curious about is do you think that in relationships—and I know that you’ve written a lot about relationships—that we can heal the relational wound in a certain kind of way through intimate partnership, and what does that look like?
JW: Yes, you can but it’s… My experience is there needs to be other things as well, not just in your primary relational relationship. What was the second part of your question?
TS: It’s just outside of the psychotherapist’s office, how do we heal the relational wound? That’s kind of the core of my question.
JW: A lot of healing can be done in an intimate relationship, there’s no question about that. But I think to put the main burden of one’s healing in that area doesn’t quite work because it’s also about… An intimate relationship is about a lot of things other than doing psychological work. So I’d say a certain amount can be done that way, but not completely.
There’s something about doing the work with someone who has no investment in how you turn out, which is the therapist. There’s no personal investment in you being a certain way, whereas your partner or relationship has a big investment in how you are and what goes on. It’s not as complete a crowd as the other is.
TS: Then, John, just one final question for you. You said something that moved me, that we’re not just humans becoming Buddhas, but we’re Buddhas becoming human. Why would Buddhas want to become human?
JW: I said that Buddhas are waking up in human form. My sense of this planet is it’s a school, so certain lessons are being learned by everybody. Everybody has different lessons to learn, and so for a Buddha to become fully embodied, he or she needs to come up against obstacles, problems, irreconcilable feelings, etc. It’s all a school. It’s about becoming human. Becoming human means having access to more and more capacity to relate to experience as we meet the issues and problems that we meet and encounter. It’s a fullness. The fullness in that work.
As we’re seeing today, often the spiritual practitioners who haven’t dealt with their psychological issues—these problems leads to more and more kinds of problems. For example, the classic is the problem of spiritual teachers who become abusive to their students. They seem like they were in such advanced states of consciousness, but actually when it comes to relationship, they fell down. Hopefully, that’s a great learning for them on that path. They’re needing, they’re really needing to learn something about relationship—that’s one way to look at it.
TS: Again, John, I want to thank you for bringing your depth and wisdom to The Psychotherapy and Spirituality Summit. Thank you.
JW: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
TS: You’ve been listening to a special broadcast of Insights at the Edge, honoring the recent passing at the age of 75 of pioneering psychologist and writer, John Welwood. Bless you, John, for your great insight and great love. SoundsTrue.com: waking up the world.