by Joe Loizzo
Joe Loizzo MD, PhD, is the founder and Academic Director of the Nalanda Institute for Contemplative Science. The following essay has been adapted from the forthcoming 2nd edition of Advances in Contemplative Psychotherapy to be published by Routledge in January 2023. To learn more about the Contemplative Psychotherapy Program visit our information page.
Contemplative psychotherapy is a hybrid therapeutic approach that blends the meditative insights, ethics and practices of Buddhism with the theory and application of Western neuropsychology, social psychology and psychotherapy. This amalgam may invoke cognitive dissonance for some. “Contemplation” and “contemplative” — terms derived from the Latin contemplatio — have historically been used to describe a discipline of individual and group reflection considered central to introspective learning, especially the meditative and ethical learning practiced by lay and professional people in traditional Western religious communities. Psychotherapy, on the other hand, has evolved as a healing discipline of introspective learning based mainly on a dyadic method of reflection, informed by scientific views of human nature, and practiced in confidential relationships by mental health professionals and their clients in modern clinical settings.
by Joe Loizzo, MD, PhD
Today’s confluence of breakthrough neuropsychological research and diverse methods of mind/body health and well-being has coalesced in a new multi-disciplinary consensus and a historic confluence of distinct therapeutic approaches. Centered around a positive new science of human nature and a radically optimistic framework of plasticity, learning and change, this watershed has prompted a dialogue about mental health and well-being that not only crosses the lines between distinct schools of psychotherapy, but also the lines between Eastern and Western, ancient and modern, scientific and spiritual approaches to mind/body healing. Nowhere is the promise of this watershed more apparent than in the surprising convergence of the latest neuropsychology and embodied approaches to trauma with the timeless embodied contemplative psychology and transformational arts of the Tibetan Buddhist Tantras.
By Geri Loizzo
Another week, another shooting. Just in the past two weeks, we have seen unspeakable killings — of children and their teachers finishing their school year in Uvalde, of cherished elders and guardians shopping in a Buffalo grocery store, and of churchgoers sharing community in Laguna Woods. It has become a common occurrence for us to witness precious lives cut short in an instant by rampant, toxic masculinity and the glorification of gun violence. Dr. King warned us about the afflictions of greed, hatred, and racism. Where can we begin to fathom a way forward in our personal lives and our collective society?
By Katherine Jamieson
Editor’s Note: Katherine Jamieson will be leading a 3-session contemplative writing course, Contemplative Writing: Uncovering the Writer Within beginning June 6th. Find out more and register today.
I talk to a lot of people who want to be writers, but are struggling. Something is in the way. They think: What should I write about? Am I good enough to even be doing this? Who would want to read my work? They sit down to create and 10,000 distractions rise up: text messages, appointments, pressing errands. Soon they are doing something else, something urgent, which is actually a relief. Anything is easier than writing.
The act of writing is very simple: just put one word after another. But this simplicity is also anxiety-provoking. There is no hiding behind an instrument, tools or fancy technology. All you have is a pen or pencil, maybe a computer. Writing is a very exposed art. You are sharing your thoughts on the page, laying your mind bare for all to see. You are offering your view on what it means to be alive. What could be more amazing, or more terrifying?
by Anita Anandan
Editor’s Note: If you’re inspired by Anita’s story, please check out Compassion-Based Resilience Training (CBRT) / Teacher Training and become a certified CBRT Teacher. Find out more and register — the training begins May 25th!
In December 2021, I had a chance to teach Nalanda Institute’s Compassion-Based Resilience Training (CBRT), in a local prison. CBRT is an 8-week curriculum covering mindfulness, insight, compassion, mentor imagery along with breath and posture practices, complimented by Western scientific validation of these ancient practices.
Out of safety concerns during the pandemic, the prison arranged for me to communicate with the men remotely. The men gathered in a common space, and a video conference was used for the almost 80 men and I to communicate with each other. From time to time announcements reverberated through the space. Some of the men spoke Spanish, which I did not, and did not speak English, the language I used. But unwilling to let that deter them from fully participating, they brought a friend who interpreted between us.
by Joe Loizzo, MD, PhD
It’s no secret that our work lives are becoming ever-more complex, fast-paced and stressful in our global, digital age. We need only look at how the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the workplace to see how rapidly and radically the conditions of living and working in today’s fluid environment can change. At the same time, the pandemic has also laid bare pressing social and environmental needs—for true racial, gender and financial equity, and for a more sustainable economy—that demand fundamental changes in the way we think, live and lead.
by Dan Donohue
Editor’s Note: Dan Donohue is Nalanda Institute’s recently-appointed Executive Director. In this post he shares a bit of his personal journey in the context of the Institute’s renewed mission and vision statements.
I hope these words find you well as we say goodbye to another summer and welcome the fall. I’ve always felt this time of year to be auspicious — given all those years of school starts — so it’s a fitting time to share with you Nalanda Institute’s renewed mission and vision; the fruit of a collective effort by many of our staff, faculty, board and community members.
Our mission is to support people from all walks of life to cultivate an open mind, warm heart and altruistic way of being by infusing timeless contemplative science and practice into contemporary life.
by Vanessa Kelly
Completing Nalanda Institute’s Contemplative Psychotherapy Program transformed my life in many expected and beautiful ways. It deepened my understanding of Buddhist psychology and philosophy, supported and solidified my mediation practice, and immersed me in a diverse, inclusive community of inspiring friends and colleagues.
It also transformed me in unexpected and equally beautiful ways. My personal relationship both to self and others flourished with the infusion of compassionate inquiry and understanding. I began a meditation teaching training path (and now am honored to occasionally offer the Nalanda Institute and Tibet House’s Lunchtime Meditation!). It set me on a path of Buddhist centric service and study, as well as routinely attending silent retreats.
by Joe Loizzo
With summer here, we invite you to make more space and time to practice unwinding, whether in your favorite natural refuge—seaside or mountainside, lake or forest—on the cushion in your meditation space or in your choice reading chair or coffee nook in whatever spare minutes or hours you can clear in your day. Turn off your devices, wishing all life well, and reconnect with your own body and mind.
As you reconnect with yourself, tuning in to the natural rhythms of your body and mind, feel how precious such reflective moments are in your life. Especially invite and savor any memories that evoke a felt sense of being fully whole and alive—in harmony with yourself, nature, and the extended family of all life.
by Nina Herzog
As a Buddhist, technically, I’m not supposed to be angry. So how exactly does that go? Anger eats us up inside, it’s a poison. As The Most Awesome Ruth King once told me on retreat, “Anger is not the deepest truth that wants to be told.” That pretty much stopped me in my angry tracks. It also forced me to go deeper. What’s this deeper truth?
As an ode to Pride month, I’d like to offer this reflection: While I identify as gay-as-a-technicolor-synchronized-swimming-competition, over the years I’ve come to understand that the queerest thing about my body is its size, not its gender or sexual expressions. These last few years, I’ve finally gotten in touch with how unjust the world is for fat people. This has taken me a long time. It’s permeated every part of my life, every phase of my development, every year of my 55-year old existence, shaped the way I see everyone I meet, every environment I enter, every community I consider joining. It’s certainly the first thing people see about me. Because I’m NYC-based, my “standard” queerness isn’t as central anymore. As an immigrant, coming out to my parents at 27, in 1993, just six months before my mother died, it was a bit of a horror, but that horror ended, for the most part. The horror that is being fat in this world continues.