My tryst with Presence
“Where does the spiritual meet the psychological?” “It’s you, my dear, you. That’s where they meet – in this very embodiment of the Self” I’ve come to know this as Presence.
The personal and professional are not so separate. My own personal journey entwines with what I’ve chosen to train in as a psychologist and listening deeply to the journey of clients and students as I walk with them as a therapist impacts my own personal inquiry and integration. This is a reflection on certain key events and insights that came together over the years to frame the approach of Presence Oriented Psychotherapy.
As a psychotherapist, around twenty years ago, I was very interested in how my meditation practice of Vipassana could really come into my work with clients. The question that was really driving me was where does the psychological and the spiritual come together, what’s the meeting place. That inquiry really started a path of personal exploration of where and how does it meet within me and what do different approaches in psychotherapy offer around this. And in all the work I have ever done, this has been a passionate task of merging mainstream psychological processes with the essence from wisdom traditions.
Exploring Mindfulness based approaches became quite intriguing. It led me to an international certification in Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) from the Center of Mindfulness, University of San Diego, California, USA. I also did and continue to explore Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT). I trained in several approaches, each coming in response to a need to be there for clients in the best possible way in my one-on-work with them.
There was a growing realization that not one size fits all and for all that is encountered in the therapeutic space. There were discoveries sometimes that came more from an intuitive holding of space. There are so many threads that need to be seen and can be seen and worked with – the cognitive, affective, somatic, behavioural, energetic and the spiritual. This led me to specialize in a number of therapeutic approaches.
Each specialization a two or three year learning and a continuous learning. I am very fortunate to work and learn with some of the world’s finest therapists. Some of the modalities I specialized in were cognitive approaches, Integral Somatic Psychology (ISP), Biodynamic Cranio-Sacral Therapy (BCST), EMDR along with training in mindfulness based approaches. Exploring trauma resolution work became important. I also completed a certification in Focusing Skills. And continue with learning Focusing Oriented Psychotherapy. Learning about attachment work was another key area and continue to learn DARe and somatic based ways of working with attachment patterns. Internal Family Systems (IFS) is another modality that I sought and continue to pursue. And an on-going exploration of Buddhist Psychology.
With all these influences there was something that started to brew as to how does it all come together and whether a training could be offered that brought all these threads together with what I considered as the single most important ingredient for therapeutic change – that of Presence.
That brought in designing and developing long-term trainings for mental health professionals as well as those who simply wish to hold listening spaces. I had already a considerable amount of experience in designing training programs in my work with Connecting NGO, a suicide prevention agency in Pune. Here, I designed and co-developed a Mindfulness Based Active Listening Training for volunteers on a helpline service and trained hundreds of volunteers. I also had vast experience in designing and executing trainings for mental health professionals, educationists, social entrepreneurs and field workers as well as corporate groups. In all programs a central theme was awareness, deep listening and silence. The power of a listening space where one is simply being with someone has always been a critical piece and an integral part of my learning about Presence.
All of this came together in the designing, developing and executing a two year PG Diploma course in Presence Oriented Psychotherapy: Integrating Mindfulness, Compassion & Wisdom – A Non-Dual Approach emerged as a joint certification through Just Being and CLL-TISS, Mumbai.
Something close to my heart was also to further develop spaces for listening in society and in the community. That one did not necessarily need a full-fledged degree in psychology to simply hold space and listen from the heart and from a space of silence. So I also designed, developed and offer the Mindfulness Based Counseling: Listening from Embodied Presence, a one year part time Certificate through Just Being and St. Mira’s College (Autonomous), Pune.
I have come to love teaching Mindfulness, Presence, Listening as much as I love to show up in this space for clients and groups and living it and discovering it from the inside out. So I enjoy my other teaching assignments at colleges and universities where I take short modules in Mindfulness, Presence, Listening in mental health for students of psychology as well as students of Buddhist psychology at the University of Pune and St. Mira’s College and TISS, Mumbai.
My experience as a school counsellor with the RBA school and the Madhavi Kapur Foundation, when I began working in the field of counseling, gave me a vast exposure to holding spaces for teachers, children, youth and looking at the whole school system. That work continues with Mindfulness work with schools and educational institutions.
My own journey as a parent led me to offer workshops, retreats and courses for parents. Parenting I’ve found is one pathway to really come in touch with myself and all the places that need attention as well as provide the doorway to touch into deep spaces of simply love.
My children teach me each day and I’m grateful for such generous and loving teachers. My partnership with my husband teaches me what it is to be in relationship in a very human, simple and easy way. My beautiful feline and canine friends bring me into Presence each day as do my clients and students as I witness their unfolding and at the same time honour mine.