May 31, 2013

Getting Off the Treadmill & Becoming Bodhisattvas in Today’s World.

Dr. Miles Neale and Nugget

In Pursuit of a “Crazy Vast Vision.”

A couple of weeks ago, I enjoyed a Saturday afternoon in the company of Dr. Miles Neale, and his wife, Dr. Emily Wolf. After being greeted with doggy kisses by their two dogs, Bobo and Nugget, the three of us sat down for a casual, delicious, vegetarian lunch prepared by Miles. He presented a rather tasty insalata caprese, supported by grilled artichokes, hearts of palm and seasoned olives. The thickly cut Italian bread with dark crunchy crust rested on a side plate next to me as I’ve been gluten free since February—again. I could appreciate the quality of the bread just by looking.

After eating, Emily headed out to a pottery class, leaving Miles and I to talk about The Nalanda Certificate Program in Contemplative Psychotherapy, an unprecedented two-year certification program offered at Nalanda Institute in NYC this fall.

Before meeting up with Miles, I read the curriculum and saw the phenomenal line-up of teachers, scholars and masters. My curious nature as well as belief in the healing properties of meditation and psychotherapy, wanted to know more about this program and what makes it unique.

The Nalanda Institute approach is based on Nalanda University, the first public university in India and the world. The curriculum was taken from India into the monasteries of Tibet, then stored for 1,000 years as a time capsule, then died out in India. It was preserved in Tibet and then came back out when the Dalai Lama fled. What this means is those teachings based on non-violence and emptiness “have now been safely transported and successfully seeded beyond the realm of the Tibetan plateau for the benefit of a far wider swath of humanity and for future generations of liberation-seekers.”

Nalanda’s curriculum is based on what the Tibetans call lam rim or gradual stages and fits a university model, covering insights and skills in a steb-by-step, comprehensive, systematic manner—how we Westerners are programmed to learn. This revolutionary program merges ancient Eastern Nalanda University teachings and practices with modern Western psychology and neuroscience directly taught to you by world pioneers and faculty: Robert Thurman, Joe Loizzo, Sharon Salzberg, Dan Siegel, Rick Hansen, Richard Davidson, Artemus Engle, Ethan Nichtern, Jeffrey Rubin, Pilar Jennings, Emily Wolf, Miles Neale and many more.

I’m pretty excited by this program, as Svadhyaya (self-study) is part of the yoga path. I can’t imagine what better way to go deeper. Why self-study is overlooked in Western culture is beyond me. Well, not really because it means understanding self, getting off the treadmill, thinking outside the proverbial box, understanding who you are and what your life’s purpose is. With all the marketing out there, consumerism, “follow this,” “like that,” why would an American ever want think for herself when there are folks out there who are getting highly paid to do it for her? I digress.

My personal studies and path for the last 20 years, first yoga then the Buddhadharma, have recently led me to want to understand my mind and my “story” via psychotherapy as I suspected I had fallen prey to spiritual bypassing. Spiritual bypassing is a term coined by John Welwood and can happen to anyone who has spiritual practices. For the reader who is unfamiliar with this term, Mr. Welwood describes spiritual bypassing as such:

“Spiritual bypassing is a term I coined to describe a process I saw happening in the Buddhist community I was in, and also in myself. Although most of us were sincerely trying to work on ourselves, I noticed a widespread tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks. When we are spiritually bypassing, we often use the goal of awakening or liberation to rationalize what I call premature transcendence: trying to rise above the raw and messy side of our humanness before we have fully faced and made peace with it.”

~ Human Nature Buddha Nature An interview with John Welwood by Tina Fossella

Dr. Miles Neale is a proponent of alerting yogis to the spiritual bypass and has offered a free lecture on the subject that has been well received.

Miles is a practicing contemplative psychotherapist, Buddhadharma teacher and yogi—a trio of earned titles leaving no stone unturned, with psychotherapy being the most foreign to me. I had not gone spelunking into my own mind in a formal way with a therapist until recently.

Before going to therapy, I felt like I was missing a link and I kept thinking, “Do I need to become a therapist now, too, to understand therapy?” The answer is a resounding, “No, Kim. Just go to therapy!” Eh-hem, in a gentle loving voice mind you. I often confuse appreciating a teaching with wanting to know how can I teach that, too. This is the teacher in me. Then I remind myself that I don’t have to become a licensed therapist to help others. To live life from a place of loving-kindness and compassion is enough. More than enough. Most of my actions, what I do—it seems I do—are about giving back to the world. It is pretty clear to me that the individual can’t keep taking what she needs without putting back more than she took—otherwise we end up with a society depleted of diversity, the have and have-nots grow into a greater divide. We must understand we have more than we need, especially here in the abundant grand ol’ U.S. of A. is a starting point and shift of consciousness towards abundance rather than deprivation.

The answer is within, then extends outward.

We need to see this first in order to turn the system on its head. We can turn this puppy around. It’s going to take community, interdependence and visionaries like Drs Loizzo, Neale and Wolf who created The Nalanda Certificate Program in Contemplative Psychotherapy. We are fortunate to live in a country where we are free to learn these teachings, have this information, coming down the pipeline, direct experience transmissions from masters, scholars, visionaries, available to all of us, right here in the U.S.

I am grateful to Miles for his candor and pure presence in every class.

In the course of our conversation that Saturday afternoon, not only did I learn about a White Op, an operation and term Miles created, but also his personal mission to implement and be a part of systemic change in society and the world because quite frankly, this planet needs a White Op like yesterday! September is too far away!

“The world is falling apart and our systems are breaking down. You don’t have to be a monastic or in robes to help others.”

He shares the same vision of his mentors, Joe Loizzo and Bob Thurman, who have direct teachings from his Holiness The Dalai Lama. They can’t do it alone, but they can infiltrate society quietly as more and more laymen are showing up to classes at Dharma and yoga centers, hungry for change, personal growth, sustainable happiness, and want to be a part of revolutionary change. The people of this planet are waking up.

“The two-year certificate program is for professionals who have a platform to offer their services and now they are getting retrofitted with contemplative science; doctors, nutritionists, educators, nurses, trained in a traditional way for their occupation, but now they have a training in contemplative science. The spirit comes from a different POV.”

This is the genius of a White Op. He explained black op as I am not familiar with military terms, if only possibly can identify a military term if they are titles of a movie like Black Hawk Down or Zero Dark Thirty: the first a black souped-up military chopper that went down and “Zero Dark Thirty,” is military slang for an unspecified time in the early hours of the morning before dawn. Both I looked up. I would not have rung in on time to win on Jeopardy for sure. A black op is clandestine operation conducted by a small group of highly trained specialists who infiltrate a target, slipping beyond enemy lines, off the radar, like a Trojan horse.

Similarly a White Op is a covert operation with a positive mission sending Bodhisattvas (awakening beings) into already existing systems permeating the government though public health facilities, public education, family health care.White Op’s mission is to infiltrate reputable existing systems such as our now failing medical schools and educational institutions to train doctors and nurses or coaches, teachers, and business leadership, people who can make a difference, a systemic difference, armed with love and compassionate practices based on the wisdom of emptiness that contemplative science teaches.

“Tibetans have ‘crazy vast vision’ a messianic vision. They think globally, beyond merely ego-centric parameters, the consensus I, me, mine mentality, that pervades modern culture.”

In 2008 Miles heard His Holiness the Karmapa speak. The emphasis was on spiritual awakening and ecology expressing if we don’t take care of the planet soon, now, we won’t have a choice about the future fate of civilization.

In the 1970s, pioneer Jon Kabat-Zinn integrated his studies of Zen teachings, yoga, and Western medicine into the platform of “integrative medicine,” understanding the need to penetrate the medical system with a new model in the form of a stress reduction program. To see the need for systemic change is one thing, to implement a plan, get the ripple effect working for you, to get your vision out there… is where society has to step up, be accountable and present. We can no longer afford to be solely concerned at the micro level or individual scope, the one-off seminars and workshops. We need to think macro level, global scope and systemically building upon preexisting infrastructures of higher education and professional training.

We need to implement the wisdom of “crazy vast vision,” or what Robert Thurman calls a “cool revolution.” This is how we can make a difference, have an impact on our future.

“Don’t try and reinvent the wheel. Just infiltrate the already existing systems.”

With that in mind, came the birth of The Nalanda Certificate Program in Contemplative Psychotherapy.



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Ed: Brianna Bemel

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