“To undertake a genuine spiritual path is not to avoid difficulties but to learn the art of making mistakes wakefully, to bring to them the transformative power of our heart.” – Jack Kornfield
I. love. this. quote. And I believe it applies beautifully to therapy. I’m going to break this quote down and go through it, part by part.
“To undertake a genuine spiritual path”
Therapy is a genuine spiritual path, for clients and clinicians alike. In therapy, we explore ways to live a fulfilling life, which certainly sounds spiritual to me. And therapy is a path – a long, winding, confusing, difficult, but beautiful path. Therapy is a process. Even when the therapy process ends, the personal growth continues for each person involved.
“is not to avoid difficulties”
Anything worth having – a marriage, a friendship, a career, a ‘genuine spiritual path’ – will also come with difficulties. Even the most ‘perfect’ partner will hurt or disappoint you eventually. There is no one on earth whose life isn’t full of twists, turns, and unwelcome surprises. Difficulties are absolutely unavoidable. Rather than trying to ignore or prevent difficulties, we must experience them and ride out the accompanying sadness, stress, anger…
“but to learn the art of making mistakes wakefully”
For therapists, the “art of making mistakes wakefully” refers to the awareness of our fallibility. No matter how qualified a therapist is, we will push our clients too far, too fast, or will not push enough. Making mistakes is inevitable because each time a therapist gets a new client, there is a learning curve. Every person is so unique and complex that treatment will have to be adapted to best suit them. The important thing is not that therapists avoid mistakes, but that that we are looking for them, and consequently, looking for ways to provide better treatment.
During therapy, clients often begin to ‘awaken’ to ineffective patterns and habits of which they weren’t aware. Most therapy clients have been engaged in these patterns for years and years. Breaking old habits and developing new behaviors is incredibly difficult. Doing so will almost inevitably involve relapse. But if therapy clients are able to continually examine themselves honestly, they will become empowered in ways they may never have thought possible.
“to bring to them the transformative power of our heart.”
I’ll be honest, this part is a bit confusing. Does “them” refer to mistakes or difficulties? Either way, the message is the same: we must rigorously practice self-compassion, therapists and clients alike. Self-compassion, together with accountability, will lead to radical change.
What do you think? Comment below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.