By Madhur Nain Webster
What is the true objective of psychotherapy? I was thinking of this question the other day after contemplating how my approach to therapy affects my clients and their overall experience. Some people only come in for a check-up or tune-up, while other clients have been working with me regularly for four years or longer. The varying frequency of each client’s therapy sessions, and therefore my role in their lives, got me wondering, “What is my purpose as a therapist?”
Of course, the main purpose of therapy is to help people. My function as a therapist is primarily to help them get moving in their lives, eventually on their own. However, this doesn’t always happen. It is a difficult truth for therapists to accept because it makes us confront the reality that we may not have provided the optimal guidance our clients need to yield the best results.
I believe much of the healing experience in therapy, or lack thereof, is due to the relationship between the therapist and client. When someone attends therapy they go there to talk. Or, at least, that is the general assumption. Sometimes clients visit their therapist for guidance on processing their lives. They need help to try and make sense of something that is plaguing their mind, or to try and heal their minds after dealing with pain established during various stages of their life. Sometimes a session will result in a big epiphany, but other times that epiphany never happens. Sometimes a client will find peace with their situation, while others will continue to struggle.
How comfortable a client feels with their therapist is key when it comes to opening up and sharing their dilemma, which ultimately affects how much advice a therapist can offer. When a client is comfortable enough, they can be real with themselves and with others; they are also more willing to listen after establishing a mutually respectful relationship. If a client does not “click” with their therapist, they are wasting their time and money. There has to be some kind of spark between the two parties that ignites an engine of trust allowing the client to open up not only to themselves but to their therapist as well.
The concept of a therapist teaching a client to truly connect to themselves is not always easy to address. After all, how can we teach our clients to trust if we don’t fully feel it ourselves? How can we encourage our clients to open up and reveal their inner truths if we don’t know what it means to expose our own authentic self? My personal solution to this issue has been achieving and maintaining a strong sense of self-awareness. I do this with deep reflection through the daily practice of meditation.
For over thirteen years I have practiced Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan, without missing a single day, and have seen its positive results in my own life. It is something I personally believe has been a useful therapeutic tool. I knew that I had to have this authentic experience with meditation before offering it to my clients for their own self-healing purposes. Nowadays, I encourage 75 percent of my clients to practice daily meditation at home as part of their healing process.
As therapists, we are always directing our clients to walk daily, drink more water, drink less coffee, write in a journal, spend time in nature, and develop other positive habits. All of that is good, solid advice that is easy to accomplish. So why is it that so many people have a hard time changing their habits and following through with their homework? Is it because they do not like to be told what to do? Is it that they are afraid of change? Is it that they don’t know where to start? No matter the excuse, the outcome is the same – they remain “stuck” in the old, and sometimes destructive, mental patterns.
I teach my clients about Kundalini Yoga and meditation specifically, as this is the yoga of self-awareness. Being “self-aware” does not mean you are just awake in your life; it means that you are capable of self-reflecting so that you are active in your self-corrections. Being self-aware means that, because you recognize your issues, you can trust yourself to work through them. With practice you are able to uplift yourself through self-reflection. Instead of feeling stuck, daily practitioners recognize the moves they need to make in life — and then they initiate the proper movements to push their mind into a more positive state.
Kundalini Yoga guides us to poke, provoke, and confront the mind. While confrontation often has a negative connotation, it does not have to be a negative action; in fact, if approached correctly it can result in positive results. Yes, confronting the self may be difficult at first, especially because it involves being insightful and perceptive to your own needs. But, as my mother says, “Life without conflict is life in a coffin.” If we do not confront ourselves and recognize our issues, we will remain stuck in our old ways of thinking and being. Being honest is being honorable.
Kundalini Yoga is a tool that helps people get unstuck and out of their own way. The trick is that you have to be able to self-initiate and show up in a class. Once you are there and you tune into the space with the rest of the meditators your journey will begin. This journey entails self-discovery and facing your innermost issues – fear, embarrassment, anger, uncomfortableness, or other internalized feelings. Kundalini Yoga helps us to break through those barriers. The process of meditation provokes this self-examination through deep insight. When the client has this experience and then comes to therapy, they are more equipped to share their feelings with their therapist. The deeper work can then continue.
Most of us don’t want to face our problems or even think about them. We assume that over time we will forget about the issues and that they will go away. However, problems don’t always just disappear. When we find we can’t face issues that continue to haunt us, then we can’t evolve and change in other parts of our psyche. When we don’t change, we sit in stagnancy and continue to suffer; this can directly result in anger, anxiety, depression, and other “stuck” feelings. This is when self-awareness is critical to the process of healing and this self-awareness is the goal of Kundalini Yoga. That is why I believe more therapists should encourage their clients to practice meditation at a studio while they regularly attend therapy. It will support your client in their life goals, including the process of healing.
The one constant in life is change. Like a running stream, we need to continue evolving just as we continue breathing. This is why I recommend Kundalini Yoga and meditation to help initiate change in the mind, body, and soul. It will change your thoughts. Talk to your own therapist about attending yoga classes and setting goals about what you hope to achieve by utilizing meditation practice. Try attending classes twice a week for at least three months to help establish a rhythm. Eventually, yoga and meditation will become a healthy habit; a habit that will help support other self-healing tools such as daily walks, water intake, mindful journaling, and more.
Find a Kundalini Yoga and meditation teacher near you by visiting the International Kundalini Yoga Teachers Association.
This is an excerpt from The Stressless Brain, which is one of the first books that teach how to use Kundalini meditation to deal with stress and anxiety. Bridging the worlds of yogic meditation, psychology, and science, the book aims to help readers utilize the meditative tools in order to harness their entire being: mind, body, and soul. By exploring Kundalini meditation, readers will be able to develop intuition, consciousness, and connection to higher energy. This, according to Webster, is a spiritual method towards building a relationship with oneself.
Everyone deals with stress and anxiety at some time in their life. Whether the stress is a mild nuisance or a persistent struggle, we can often feel or actually become stuck in our lives. We do not know what to do, which direction to take, or even how to make rational decisions when facing such stress. This book gives readers the tools (i.e. Kundalini meditations) to alter their relationship with stress and anxiety so that
they can make healthy, informed decisions throughout all aspects of their life, Webster concludes.
The Stressless Brain, is available on The Source.
About The Author
Madhur Nain Webster
Born into an ashram in Amsterdam and raised by spiritually-minded parents, Madhur-Nain Webster’s life has been balanced by the traditions and practices of Kundalini Yoga. Her love of humanity and fascination with the human mind and behavior guided her towards a career where she could influence people and enrich their lives through the use of meditation.
She received her master’s degree from the University of Oregon and current practices as a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Napa, California. Madhur-Nain is a Lead Kundalini trainer and teacher as certified by KRI.
She travels around the world to share her yogic experience and knowledge with those looking to enhance their lives. Her book, The Stressless Brain, is available on The Source.