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Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States
Karen is a yogini, writer, student, teacher and meditator. She founded Garden Street School of Yoga in 2000. Karen lives with her husband Chris. They have two amazing sons, Eli and Leo (both of them young men).

Oct 1, 2014

Back in School

I am back in school.

Some of my Yoga friends and students are  interested (I am honored !)  and asking me to journal or in some other way keep track of this journey so they could follow along as I weave together Yoga and Psychology. And this blog is my first attempt at that.  

Here's how it started.

Last spring I was talking on the phone with my wonderful friend Denise Benitez and she said, mostly as  joke, “Want to come get a Masters in Counseling with me at Saybrook?”.  I had never even considered such a thing before, But it was like a matrix was already in place in my mind and when she said that, the lights turned on, the matrix lit up – and I realized that OF COURSE that is what I want to do. 

But I didn’t go to Saybrook. It is a hybrid program and I could have made it work but it was too much of a stretch in terms of travel and time away from Garden Street Yoga and teaching.  Instead I applied to and was accepted to and am enrolled at Gonzaga in a 3 year MA program in Counseling Psychology.
I was sad to not do the program with my Yoga-sister Denise….but I AM happy to do it closer to home. And anyway we are sending each other weekly school reports.

30 years ago I earned a MA in Education at Gonzaga. At first it was surreal to be back there now. Everybody had gotten so much younger J

I love it. I feel beyond fortunate. I love studying theories of psychology and counseling and ethics. (Those are my classes this Autumn). The ethics class is mind-expanding and I’ll probably write about it on this blog. But right now I want to focus on Theories of Counseling. We are studying one theory at a time – and the techniques that come out of that theory. And of course this study includes each theory’s view of the nature of persons.

At the end of the program we are each required to write up our personal theory paper.
Exciting!  I find it a-m-a-z-i-n-g to have an opportunity to dive so deeply into the theories and practices of how so many great people have deemed it best to work with mind and heart and body. And THEN to be invited and required to distill into poetry and science my OWN theory and practice of working with my own and others mind and heart and body.

To coalesce into words my personal theory I will need to incorporate some of these questions:
·      What is my view of human nature?
·      What do I think accounts for change in human nature?
·      What are the main values I live by? And how might my values help or hinder me from listening without judgment to another without jumping int to  “teach” or convert.
·      What gives me a sense of meaning and purpose in my life? ( Like - what is my dharma?) And how is that potentially related to my need to help others?
·      Where does my motivation come from? And what do I think motivates people and their behavior?
·      How do I define “health” and being a “healthy person” and how do I define psychopathology?
And there’s more – but that’s good for now.

I am a little startled to realize that after 40+ years of working in the world of somatic health and mind-heart-body healing and growth, nobody including myself has ever asked me to clearly and concisely speak my own theory.

We began with Psychoanalysis.  And that began with Freud. He believed we are determined by psycho-sexual factors that imprint and determine us during our first 6 years of life. While first studying his thinking, because I am such a strong advocate of conscious parenting, I thought "Oh no! I might be a Freudian" (and nobody likes a Freudian….I’d have to be a closet Freudian). I am so very passionate about the effects that early childhood parenting has on a child....the way that our attitudes and actions towards our children, when they are very young and impressionable, is like the easy imprint of - say - a thumb - on very soft clay. So I had to agree with Freud that the first 6 or 7 years are critical
But we parted company on most of the rest of his theory and technique. What a relief not to have to live the rest of my life as a closet Freudian.

Next in the psychoanalytic camp came Alfred Adler. He was a student and colleague of Freud but they eventually parted company. Adler felt that people are not sick or mentally ill, but that they are discouraged. And that we are motivated and determined by psycho-social factors (such as birth order and a drive to succeed)  as much as or more than psycho-sexual forces.

Adler had a tough childhood - one that should have discouraged him enough that he could not have succeeded or thrived in the world if psychosexual factors were the dominant determinant.
He was sick a lot. When he was very young, his beloved brother died in the bed right next to him. He was a slow learner and told often that he was not intelligent and that he would never be more than a shoemaker. But In spite of such deeply pressed and discouraging early experiences, he studied, worked, and became a doctor.

Freud got angry with Adler for abandoning the primacy of determinacy of psycho-sexual factors, and kicked him out of the club. But Adler went on to have a huge influence on all of us nevertheless.

One Adlerian therapeutic technique for instilling courage is to ask "the miracle question": “If you were not suffering from ________, what would you be doing? How would your life be different?

So – I am probably an Ardha­-Adlerian (partial Adlerian) (and that makes me truly a psycho-Yoga-nerd) I do think that a clear “aim” can be a form of encouragement, a recovery of one’s dharma, and can overcome and even give meaning to very difficult early life circumstances.

Apparently it is the case that all of us in western society are Adlerian to some degree. So I will not have to be a closet Ardha-Adlerian.

I should say right here that so far none of the theories is championing a more “yin” or “feminine” mood….of surrender, softening, allowing, waiting…..and nobody seems to speak to the psyche being interwoven with eros and the body like shiva and shakti – or that we are made of earth and flesh, that we are embodied and incarnated, that our bodies are more than dumb boxes for the psyche.

Because of this absence of embodiment in most of the psychology I’ve been exposed to, I never imagined I would be pursuing a MA in the field.  It has always seemed to me that the possibility of unraveling or unpacking the psyche without a form of mindful movement and mindful breath and embodied sensory awareness and self-observation, is like Sisyphus pushing the large boulder of the psych up the very real mountain of embodiment as if to conquer it   - and we know how that ends - over and over again.

But I am SO INTERESTED!  I think I am going to have a LOT to say about the marriage of Psyche and Eros. 

I Hope.

OK – stay tuned – existentialism is next. Thanks for Reading.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Karen,

    That's so great that you are doing you Masters. I am doing mine in Social Work a 2 year program. My research will focus on yoga as an alternative/complimentary treatment of PTSD. It sound like you are going be focusing on somatics and psychology which is such interesting work.