Tea and Therapy

teatherapy1Wrapped in that special atmosphere of a retiring afternoon, I sip a cup of tea. As precious as diamonds, quiet is only augmented somehow by occasional rustling of the birds.

If there is any moment more therapeutic in the world, I do not know it. “Therapeutic” is an interesting word, though. Therapy itself is definitely a growth industry. Each week I see a new method, a new name, a new approach.

For years I have read and researched in one area of human knowledge called Taoism. It contains within it a meditative aspect, a martial component, even a scientific section. Yet whether there is a therapy in Taoism is another question.

There are such practices as therapy and it is an important necessity in our modern condition. It puzzles me however how often major religions – vast stores of human knowledge – are designated as simple therapy.

People study T’ai Chi for therapy, they meditate, they write, they engage in tremendously esoteric and disciplined practices all in the name of therapy. These people are cheating themselves. Somehow we’ve gotten the mistaken idea that therapy will lead to transcendence. It won’t. Transcendence leads to transcendence. The implicit goal of therapy is simple functioning. Therapy is a corrective procedure. It does not bring one face to face with ultimate reality.
It brings one to see one’s own eccentricities.

I knew a teacher, a behaviorist, who never kept a patient more than five sessions. His goal was simple, fix what they came for.

When you are engaging in therapy you are attempting to regain simple normal functioning. Therapy is therefore what people do when they are enslaved to habit, misconceptions and other obstacles. Transcendence is what they do when they are free.

People often come to the martial arts for some kind of therapy. Occasionally they are referred by counselors, some times religious leaders, or their own minds make a correlation. And the martial arts, like meditation, Ch’i Kung, or even science, has a therapeutic value: but there’s a catch.
The catch lies in the proportion of the response to the situation. One doesn’t kill a fly with a canon. If you’ve sprained your wrist you don’t take up the violin to strengthen it.

Therapy is a way-station on a road. At the end of the road lies whatever one must unavoidably face in life: God, Ultimate Reality, Transcendence, Tao: call it what you will.

But our culture has alienated us so much that we’ve confused long and short term goals. Like Diane Keaton in “Manhattan” two weeks is too far to think ahead.

Meditation, for instance, is not therapy. (At this point we have to distinguish between therapy and therapeutic. The first is a method, the second an effect.) Meditation is curiosity aimed at Reality. If you don’t want to know the nature of the universe but rather how to deal with your aunt’s death, meditation is not the answer.

The goal of therapy be it martial, meditative, or artistic is simply normalcy. At the end of therapy we want to function, to eliminate harmful habits and misconceptions. Therapy is based on the supposition that you aren’t entirely you – yet. But transcendental practices are centered in another place, a place outside ourselves. They are based on the concept that there is somewhere to transcend to … some place perhaps a bit more sacred and absolute that our quirks and whims.

All of these are a part of being human: therapy, transcendence, recovery, contemplation. But they are different parts of the human struggle, that’s why they are called by different words.
After all, now that you’ve “centered” yourself it’s time to go somewhere.


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