A Meditation and Psychotherapy Story

Two friends met at a cafe one day and began to talk over tea. They told each other of the dissatisfaction in their lives, how life was not what either had expected, how despite their best efforts, they seldom woke up happy in the morning, how they did not want to feel this way for the rest of their lives.

One said things were so bad he was thinking about going to see a psychotherapist; the other said things were so bad  he was thinking of taking up meditation; perhaps he’d even enter monastic life. They wished each other well and did not see one another for 10 years.

Then they happened to meet each other again in the same cafe, and once again they sat down over tea. The one asked the other, “So, how are you? What have you been doing?”

The first said, “Well, I did go into therapy. I discovered a lot about myself through the process. I learned how frightened my inner child had been all my life and how I had defended against that fear by being angry and depressed. I learned how much I had projected unresolved stuff from my childhood onto my bosses and my lovers. I learned to value my feelings and express them. I learned to value who I was. You know, my whole life I’d thought that deep inside I was nothing and nobody, and now I know that I am somebody. I’m feeling much better than the last time we met. How about you?”

“Well, I did take up a meditation practice. In fact, I traveled to Asia and joined a monastic order. I sat for hours and days and years in a forest monastery. I learned to concentrate my mind and go without much sleep or food. I learned a lot about myself through the process. I experienced pain and loneliness. I experienced moments of indescribable bliss and joy. I learned how to make my mind peaceful.  I contemplated the nature of Reality, and I learned that life is an illusion and everything is impermanent. I learned there is no self. You know, all my life I’d thought I had to be somebody, and now I know that I am nobody. I’m feeling much better than the last time we met.

His friend replied, “So it sounds like you had incredible experiences there; you were able to make your mind peaceful. Why did you leave then? Weren’t you happy?”

“Well,” said his friend, “I was content there in many ways. I didn’t have to decide when to get up or when to meditate or what to wear or what to eat. I didn’t have to earn a living or relate to women. But I started to wonder how it would feel to do those things. Could I maintain peace of mind in the world? And so I came back.”

“And?” asked his friend.

“Well, it’s been difficult. Traffic is so loud; there is crime on the streets. Meditation can still be wonderful, but I can’t seem to maintain much peace of mind when I’m dealing with my boss. And women! I don’t seem to have a clue! Maybe you could give me the name of your therapist. You seem pretty happy.”

“Well, my friend, let me be honest. My relationships are better and I’m not nearly so afraid to be myself, but if the truth be known, I still have deep longings despite my years of therapy. I long for the ability to still my mind and experience different states of consciousness. I long for something to help me understand the meaning of life, the nature of Reality. I wanted to ask you where I could find a meditation instructor.”

The two friends exchanged information, wished each other well and went on their ways.

Many, many years passed and the two friends once more met for tea in their old cafe. They walked more slowly now. Each looked older and wiser. Their faces were etched with life and experience, yet each could notice a sparkle in the other’s eyes. They sat in silence for a long time after the tea arrived. Finally one said, “My, the tea tastes good.” The other nodded and said, “It’s so good to be with you.”
* * * * *
(And they sat contentedly in one another’s presence, ~ sipping tea and enjoying not having to be somebody and not having to be nobody, but just being.)

Copyright Dorothy S. Hunt
San Francisco Center for
Meditation and Psychotherapy
1719 Union Street
San Francisco, California 94123 4406
September 17, 1993

Posted by | Paul Reynolds
Paul has been a yoga teacher on the Island of Kauai for many years and is the facilitator of the weekly Living the Question Blog - a repository of wisdom and inspiration. Paul also produces and hosts Le Guru is You Radio Show, showcasing everyday gurus.

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