My first therapist, Lou Carini, saw patients in a kind of annex built at the rear of someone's house. The room was fairly large and almost empty. There was a gas heater and, in the corner, there was a lamp and a chair where Lou sat and a small couch, where I sat. There was a low, narrow table between us that held the requisite box of kleenex. My appointment was at 4:00 p.m. and during Vermont winters it was nearly dark when I arrived. I'd stumble through the snow to the entrance at the back of the house. There was no waiting room -- this was when psychotherapy was still an art, not a quasi-medical procedure. Just 2 people talking about one person's life, inciting deep and shocking change. It felt holy.
Many healing traditions work with the review of the simple events of a person's life. The Huichol and Toltec shamanistic practice of recapitulation is one of them, designed to release bound energy that can then be used for expanding awareness. The Alcoholic Anonymous practice of taking an inventory is critical to recovery. As Esmeralda Arana describes in her book, The Path, many of the AA 12-steps have parallels in Toltec mystery practices. Then there is the ultimate life review that is said to occur upon death. Some near-death experiencers report the reliving of a life in an instant. Others tell of a more detailed life assessment. The most unremarkable moments of our lives are important and significant.
How can this be?
People are holograms. Therapists know that if you examine the most ordinary thread of a person's life deeply enough, eventually you'll get the whole tapestry. Freud memorably developed an entire psychology through his early study of slips of the tongue. Using spiritual language, life is the movement of God: everything is One Thing and is meaningful. And we don't have to go to esoteric depths to find this, either. Zen Buddhists rightly point to the suchness of events and objects that reveals the nature of the universe.
So many of our efforts seem to be attempts to get away from life and its messy feelings -- Internet, TV, even meditation at times. But, truly, this is It. There are great mysteries right in front of us. Psychotherapy, on both sides of the table, has been my spiritual practice. It is nothing more, or less, than a sustained, awestruck and reverential look at daily life.