What inspires me to practice
therapy and coaching
The Joy of Continuous Growth
When people ask me why I went into therapy and coaching, I find myself tongue-tied and unable, really, to put something so intrinsically wonderful into words. I have often tried to find my own expression for it, and have often failed.
So, to begin, I will first borrow some lines from the great Chinese master who brought T’ai Chi Chuan to the West, Professor Cheng Man-Ching. He inscribed this poem over the entrance to his teaching studio. The first part goes:
THE HALL OF HAPPINESS
"May the joy that is everlasting gather in this hall
Not the joy of a sumptuous feast
Which slips away even as we leave the table
Nor that which music brings — it is only of a limited duration.
Beauty and a pretty face are like flowers
They bloom for a while, then die
Even our youth slips swiftly away and is gone.
No, enduring happiness is not in these. . .
We may as well forget them
For the joy I mean is worlds away from these.
It is the joy of continuous growth
Of helping to develop in ourselves and others
The talents and abilities with which we were born --
The gifts of heaven to mortal men.
It is to revive the exhausted
And to rejuvenate that which is in decline
So that we are enabled to dispel sickness and suffering.
Let true affection and happy concourse abide in this hall."
I remember first reading this poem while studying T’ai Chi from the Professor’s students in New York City in the 1970’s, and how it strangely moved me. It seemed to articulate just what I had been searching for — to find a way to be healed, to realize one’s deepest potential, to be in a community with the same intentions, and then also to learn how to help others become healed and to grow.
I think that then and there I was called to the profession. I imagined the honor and privilege of being there, seeing a person’s own Buddha nature awaken, stirring from the depths, energized and able to obliterate coils and layers of pain and doubt. To be a catalyst. To see them embark on the spiritual journey, knowing now they are not alone. To offer the friendship of the spiritual path that sees all beings as equals, to remind them that there is a state, an experience we can all have, of unimaginable happiness. . .
The second part of the poem continues:
"Let us here correct our past mistakes
And lose preoccupation with self.
With the constancy of the planets in their courses
Or of the dragon in his cloud-wrapped path
Let us enter the land of health
And ever after walk within its bounds.
Let us fortify ourselves against weakness
And learn to be self reliant, without ever a moment's lapse.
Then our resolution will become the very air we breathe
The world we live in. . .
Then we will be as happy as a fish in crystal waters.
This is the joy which lasts
That we can carry with us to the end of our days.
And tell me, if you can
What greater happiness can life bestow?"
What brought me to the healing profession, then, is what the Professor says in his beautiful poem. I eventually found similar inspiration, guidance, and fellowship of like-minded people in the Buddhist community. But I have always maintained my profound love and appreciation for the other great wisdom traditions of the world, and continue to draw upon them. This is why I sometimes call myself “a buddhist with a small b.”
Or, as His Holiness the Dalai Lama says,
“My religion is kindness.”
When all is said and done, I can think of nothing more fascinating than that phenomenon of how people change. How they can jump — sometimes in a moment — from a state of great pain, confusion, and anxiety — to a higher realm of understanding and peace, as if the soul is waking from a bad dream. To help foster those changes in the sacred encounters of therapy and coaching is what I treasure in my work.
Please click on the link below to read about how a Buddhist counselor, therapist, and coach begins to help their clients.