Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy
 and Couch
Winter 2014
Top_of_pageWelcome to the Winter 2014 issue of Cushion and Couch, the journal for IMP members!

In this issue:





By Nina Carmel



"There is no reality except the one contained within us. That is why so many people live such an unreal life. They take the images outside them for reality and never allow the world within the body and mind to reveal itself." 
--Herman Hesse


As a psychodynamic psychotherapist and as a teacher of yoga and meditation, I have been trained in Relational Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, as well as Bioenergetic Analysis, Mind-Body therapies and Sensori-Motor approaches to trauma. These complementary modalities have led me to find both the Buddhist as well as Hindu teachings on the centrality of the body deeply resonant and affirming.


Whether we are following the breath, listening to qualities of sound, or tuning into the range of visceral sensations in mindfulness practice, we are connecting with our sensory experience through what is known in Buddhist teaching as the six sense "doors" of perception. (In Buddhism the sixth sense is thinking.) According to the American Buddhist teacher, Jack Kornfield, Buddhism considers the human body precious because "it provides the necessary conditions to realize freedom and true happiness."


Grounding in reality happens through contact with our body. Equally and essentially important is that through the physical, visible body, we connect with a deeper reality of Being. Eckhart Tolle, the modern spiritual teacher, places the body at the center of his teaching on cultivating attention to the present moment.


As in these major Eastern teachings, Tolle claims that "in our deepest center we already know that the body -- subject to disease, old age, and death -- is ultimately unreal and not who/what we really are."  In Buddhist teaching, this is our deepest delusion regarding our essential reality.  Eckart Tolle tells us, "Do not turn your attention elsewhere in your search for the Truth, for it is nowhere else to be found but within your body."


Having spent most of my life in some form of movement or body-based practice (as a competitive gymnast, professional dancer, dance teacher, massage therapist, in Mind-Body therapy trainings, practicing and teaching yoga, and meditation), I have come to appreciate the physical form, the expression of the beauty and poetry of the body through dance and the healing potential of body therapies, and the contemplative practices of yoga and meditation.


The foundation of my professional, and personal, path was established at the age of 16, in 1976, when my class in world religions at a progressive high school was invited to visit the original Kripalu ashram in Sumneytown, PA. At the time I had been competing nationally as a gymnast, training 30 hours a week. This was to be my first immersive experience with a concentration practice.


At Kripalu we were invited to participate in a guided meditation where we were instructed to lie down and close our eyes. We were told to "relax...notice your body breathing...feel your body lying on the floor...let it sink..." I was well into it at this point as my mind was so accustomed to being focused on working with my body in gymnastics.


The meditation experience was different, however, in that it was an introduction to the finesse of the mind by way of "felt experience" of the body in its physicality and its "subtler layers" as the yogic/Hindu tradition calls it. The outward freedom I had lived for while soaring, twisting, and flipping through space as a gymnast I now found in the spaciousness of the "inner body."


Having been, up to that point, a fairly shy, diligent student, and disciplined athlete, I wasn't prone to public outbursts, but now I suddenly found myself feeling uncharacteristically compelled to somehow share the "good news." ("It's all within. There's unending freedom inside!")


I began leading my classmates in guided meditation, unknowingly setting my sails on a life-long voyage of studying Eastern philosophy, meditation, yoga and psychology. 


A decade later, having lived in two meditation centers in Europe, I came to deepen my practice and understanding of the importance of knowing the mind so as to recognize the afflictions of greed, hatred and delusion.  I learned to use the body as the truth-teller of our lives and as the gateway to recognizing and feeling both our humanity and our divinity. 


As a practicing psychotherapist, I then came to experience that which I had discovered as a teen - that the layers of defenses don't alter our basic nature. And yet we need to work through our repetition compulsions so as to connect  with ourselves, with others, and with life, to feel the liberation that we have available to us.


So, on a practical level, how does one work with Mindfulness with and through the body? In my current clinical practice I run Mindful Therapy Groups  which utilize Mindful Yoga, Mindfulness Meditation, followed by group work.


I begin each weekly group session with Mindful Yoga practice.  Like meditation on the cushion, this practice focuses on "staying with" the sensations that arise in each particular pose; on utilizing the breath as a point of focus, as well as a tool for building tolerance/capacity for unpleasant sensations; investigating the mind's responses to what the body is experiencing, and highlighting options for relating in more wholesome ways.  Attending to the energetics of the body, as one deepens into contact with the inner body by way of the yoga practice, provides a language for the formless dimension of turning one's attention inward.


Some sessions are focused on where we push ourselves - where we can soften, watching judgments rise, accepting the truth of what our older body perhaps can and no longer can do, etc.  The yoga session ends with a guided relaxation (known to yoga practitioners as Shivasana).  In the Hindu tradition Shivasana is the turning inward towards concentration, absorption and meditation. Yoga is considered preparatory  for sitting in meditation. Then, I guide a mindfulness or compassion practice which will correspond to the theme the group is currently working with - e.g., greed, hatred, delusion; the four immeasurables; skillful action, wise speech; anger, grief, or fear.


After the sitting meditation the group gathers for inquiry and process of whatever is arising from the practices. We might explore where one might be stuck, hooked, confused.


There may be strong emotion that needs working through. The emphasis is on the hindrances as they appear. The group members practice internalizing the support from others as a healing presence. They also work with internalized objects where and when they are seen to be playing out. And the group members commit to practicing right speech and right action when working with group relational dynamics.


For those who find this approach appropriate and useful I find that working directly with the body in this way seems to expedite work that can take clients years to get to in talking therapy alone.


After years of leading this body-centered therapy process, I am witness to, and believer in the nourishing, irreplaceable power of the Sangha for one's personal well-being and as a member of a growing, nurturing, playful and compassionate community.


Nina Carmel, MSW, RYT  has a private practice in Group, Couple and Individual Psychodynamic Psychotherapy; Consulting; and Coaching in both Lincoln and Arlington, MA. She teaches Mindful Yoga classes and leads Meditation classes, workshops and retreats from the Buddhist, Hindu, Advaita Vedanta and Zen traditions. Nina is a graduate of the first Certificate training group at IMP.  

To contact Nina: 




interviewAn Interview with Jeff Goding

By Barbara Van Zoeren LICSW


Jeff Goding is an executive educator, researcher, and advisor, and on the Board of Directors of the Cambridge Insight Meditation Center. He has spent 20 years helping executives of leading global enterprises optimize the performance of both their organizations and their own minds.

I spoke with Jeff about his upcoming presentation at the Buddhist Psychology Lecture Series January 12th and his personal and professional path to his current work.


Barbara:  Can you tell us something about your work and what you'll be presenting in January?


Jeff:  My background is perhaps a little different from most who present in this series. I am not a psychotherapist.  I am going to share how I utilize mindfulness and some psychotherapeutic principles together in my work with top managerial people in organizations, and what that looks like.


Barbara: What drew you to mindfulness and how did you get started integrating those principles in your work?


Jeff: I studied comparative religious philosophies as an undergraduate, years ago. I had even considered pursuing a contemplative life at the time. I was headed to the divinity school at Harvard but decided I needed a break. I realized that my stipend at the time was less than my living expenses and I wasn't sure how I was going to make that work.  I took a break for what I thought would be a semester, working at a technology oriented publishing company. I told my boss there about a wonderful trip I planned to take and he got so excited that he quit and went on the trip before me! I was asked to step into his position and stayed on there.


Barbara: So you never took your trip!

Jeff: I never went on the trip and never went back to pursuing the formal studies. I held a series of jobs in many different industries,  helping to run the quality systems and operations of organizations. I eventually became the CEO of an organization called Hammer & Company, which was the management research and education firm that invented the now mainstream re-engineering and business process management concepts. We researched and trained executives how to improve overall company performance by redesigning the way work and the people performing it were structured, managed, and measured across rather than just within the various departments. We found that the greatest struggle executives faced was in making the mindset shift required to successfully overcome organizational fragmentation. It wasn't that they didn't understand what was needed, it was just hard to change their mental habits.


Barbara: I can see where this is going regarding mindfulness...


Jeff:  After years of working 80-100 hours per week, I too found it very difficult to change my own mental and work habits. While struggling with this, I recalled that my previous Buddhism studies had mentioned something about overcoming habitual thinking, and so I reread all of my college textbooks, and began attending CIMC. I soon realized that although I had studied Mindfulness academically many year before, I hadn't really understood the practical applications.


Barbara: How long ago were your studies?


Jeff: 26 years ago, I studied Buddhism, started meditating but then abandoned it. In 2008 I began earnestly meditating and studying again. I took at least 1 course at CIMC every week, several at BCBS, and sat at least two, 7-10 day retreats every year for 5 years straight. During that period, I probably took everything CIMC offered, and much of what was offered at BCBS. I also went through CFM's MBSR course and Practicum, and attended workshops and dharma talks and read the works of a number of leading Mindfulness teachers, including Jon Kabat-Zinn, Joseph Goldstein, Sharon Salzberg, John Peacock, and Jack Kornfield, among many others. After this intense reimmersion in Mindfulness practices, I began to more clearly see the parallels between how an organization improves its operational health by rethinking how it structures, measures, and manages it business processes and its people, and how individuals can improve their own mental health by leveraging mindfulness together with related "systems thinking" techniques to fundamentally uncover and rethink their own mental processes. For instance, the business process approach emphasizes the need to identify and manage internal organizational misalignments such as competing departmental agendas in much the same way Richard Schwartz emphasizes the need for individuals to recognize and manage competing parts. 


Barbara: Yes, I thought of the similarity to IFS while you described this. So how do you bring this to the people you work with?


Jeff: Well, for the past 17 years, I have been researching and teaching business leaders how to apply systems thinking to their organizational performance. Over the past six years, I have also been helping leaders apply this same kind of systems thinking and awareness to their own mental processes, as well.  I teach mindfulness principles and techniques, although I frame them in business terms such as awareness, resilience, and self-management training. I'll ask executives: "Is it increasingly challenging to aim and sustain your focus? Are you expending a lot of energy on non-value-adding mental activities? Are you getting the maximum return on your stress? Are you experiencing internal misaligments? How might you be competing with yourself? Do you feel you can bring your whole, authentic self to the office? How comfortable are you with ambiguity and uncertainty? How do you feel about not always being the smartest person in the room? I try to frame the discussions in terms and contexts that resonate with business people.  And I emphasize that while many of the Mindfulness practices we explore have a long history as spiritual practices, my approach is strictly secular.  I often position mindfulness meditation as a technique for among other things, creating the calm that leads to clarity. And that this clarity precedes insight. For executives struggling with intense schedules, constant pressure, an inability to sustain focus, and a sense of not being present in their own lives, the promise of greater calm, clarity, and insight is enticing. The conversation usually begins by focusing on how mindfulness can help them with their own quality of experience issues, but it often expands into a much larger discussion. As executives examine and better understand their own mental processes, their own triggers, how they relate to their inner experiences, how they impact others and how those others impact them, they naturally begin to explore larger questions concerning both their personal and their organization's mission and values, and possible misalignments.  Some executives even begin to fundamentally question and rethink the purpose of business, and how best balance that purpose with real systemic challenges such as stock market demands, quarterly reporting, and the like.


Barbara: So you're helping to increase social responsibility in businesses. Do you get push back from some of these companies?


Jeff: I don't lead with that but it seems that enhancing inner literacy tends to enhance our understanding of the world around us.  I've found that people who adopt mindfulness principles tend to develop a greater sense of agency, a sense that they can indeed do something about the problems in business,  even if only gradually.


Barbara: Are you writing about this?


Jeff: Not yet, but I want to.


Barbara: It sounds like it has potential for exponential growth and decreasing suffering on a wide scale.


Jeff: It does. While some companies wish to simply leverage mindfulness for employee stress relief, others really see that it is about a deeper inner literacy, and a few go so far as to hold themselves responsible for the pro-social, emotional, and meta-cognitive development of their employees.


Barbara: Wouldn't that be a lovely thing to have spread around!


Jeff: It would be. Interestingly enough, one of the companies with the most mature thinking in this area is one of the world's largest hedge funds. Not what you might expect.


Barbara: Well, you have your work cut out for you.  I find this very hopeful and interesting. Thank you so much for speaking with me. I look forward to your presentation.




reviewFOT: A Review

A book review by Laura Fisher PsyD


Theory and Practice of Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy: Beyond the Talking Cure


Emerging Practice in Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy: Innovative Theory and Applications 


Both edited by Greg Madison


December's Buddhist Psychology Lecture Series speaker, Joan Klagsburn, PhD, of Lesley University, addressed the topic of "Focusing: Uncovering the 'Felt-Sense' in Psychotherapy."  She noted, "Focusing is a gentle, respectful approach to working with illness by reclaiming the body as a source of knowing and wisdom."  Focusing- Oriented Therapy, or FOT, is based on the work of Eugene Gendlin. His initial text "Focusing" was released in 1978. "Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy: A manual of the experiential method" followed in 1996. 


This review looks at Theory and Practice of Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy/ Emerging Practice in Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy, a two volume series that examines and furthers the field of FOT.  In the first volume, authors address FOT as a methodology and integrate this approach to psychotherapy with other established theories. Authors also delineate modalities of practice and offer an FOT perspective on current topics in psychotherapy treatment.  The second volume is filled with examples of FOT in practice and is primarily presented as a way to introduce clinicians new to FOT to the model.  Authors cover chapters on implementation of the theory in a wide range of settings and for a myriad of psychological issues.  For instance, the breadth of topics span the following: treatment of PTSD, use of FOT with diverse groups in Asian cultures, alleviation of addictions, dream work, working with illness and death, and group interventions. The series concludes with an interesting "day in the life" of a FOT therapist and a short chapter written by a patient who benefited from FOT.


FOT is based on the construct of a "felt sense" in the body; therapists use this felt sense as a modality or vehicle for change within the course of psychotherapy.  Felt sense is defined as "a bodily experience of interconnected emotion, energy and sensations that are an expression of knowledge of collective experiences through time" and "a bodily sense of some situation, problem or aspect of one's life."  Clinicians approach treatment with "focusing attitudes"- a stance of non-judgmental, compassionate acceptance of the "felt sense" and a belief that the body knows how to heal itself in relation to experience.  Most sessions discussed in the texts used a technique known as "clearing the space." This consists of checking internally with the body to see what is most present or distressing through quiet reflection and then setting these emotions/experiences/memories/sensations at a distance (e.g. placing them in a "box" in one's mind) to help examine them more neutrally and objectively. Then clients "carry forward"- looking deeply at what the body is telling them in terms of creating health instead of stagnation- and "ask the body" what is the next step in alleviating the distress.  Finally, a client "receives"- he or she receives the information without judgment, which allows the person to respond with a more healthy response (i.e. settling an argument versus internalizing the anger).  The authors state that therapists can even use the "felt sense" of the therapist as a way to intuit what is happening with the client (e.g. "a restriction in my throat" may be due to client's inability to speak).


Overall, the series is most likely relevant to those with an interest in FOT and not for the casual reader.  The two volumes do cover a plethora of information, however, and would be great for both the clinician and student interested in this technique.




About Us
The Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy (IMP) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the education and training of mental health professionals in the integration of mindfulness meditation and psychotherapy.