In my previous psychotherapy work, and equally now in my work as a life skills coach, I apply established principles of psychology to what clients bring as problems. Most clients certainly move on but, in my experience, something beyond what is offered by conventional psychology is needed to guard against the gradual creeping back of difficulties.
Normal psychotherapy approaches - such as work on problematic sub-personalities - can be highly effective in producing required change, but sometimes they may provide only a partial remedy. A lasting change can be had if clients practise the skill of operating from what I call a dis-identifed consciousness - disidentification from sub-personalities.
The development of this skill is seldom recognised as coming within the scope of psychotherapy or coaching. However, it is my belief that all clients, indeed all people, can benefit from practising dis-identification skills. Therefore, in the course of my work, I offer various suggestions about consciousness-raising.
It was in studying the Advaita tradition that I became aware of the possibility and value of a disidentifed consciousness beyond the ego. Everyone has the possibility of that, according to Advaita, but it is screened off by the habit of false identification - something which evolves in us during the development of the powerful thinking and feeling centres that eventually can become our identity, or seemingly so.
Access to dis-identifed consciousness is achieved by clients practising simple but profound techniques to direct their attention away from whatever may trigger their problem states. These techniques have been developed out of traditional sources, including some beyond the Advaita tradition.
I see my clients as beings equal to myself - indeed everyone is in the same boat - therefore, I take care not to appear to be an authority on Advaita [or anything else]. It is clients' own experiences in exploring what the techniques can bring that are used to consolidate their practice. In that way they can become their own expert and so stay healthily independent of the need for any other authority.
Techniques are not much found in Advaita sources. This is because the tradition is that knowledge is conveyed from teacher to student in a rather enigmatic style - a style that is far from appropriate in coaching or psychotherapy. However, I have a book in preparation: Getting Free - Staying Free, which is a practical guide to present-centred living based on Advaita.
Because clients' enhanced awareness is practised and built by them, that permits the dis-identifying aspect of Advaita to be conveyed in quite a plain and sometimes refreshing way. It also avoids the tempting and common sidetrack of students trying to learn by focusing on a teacher's process rather than concentrating on their own. Accordingly I aim to convert any interest about my journey into an enhanced interest about theirs.
The most I disclose about my learning is to offer a reading list to anyone who wants to explore what lies beyond psychotherapy in the direction of Advaita and similar orientations. Such understanding as I have comes mainly from the work of Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta and Jean Klein, all outstanding teachers of Advaita, the latter more intelligible to westerners. There are various living teachers of Advaita, the only ones I have met, and therefore can recommend, are Pamela Wilson and Francis Lucille. He has in preparation, links to other teachers and organisations. See also Francis Lucille: A Talk in Napa, California
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