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Contemplative Psychotherapy and Maitri Practice - Jigen Lindsey Wilkinson, MA, LPCC

Throughout time many different insight traditions have trained students to learn about their own minds though meditation and self-discovery. Contemplative Psychotherapists develop their ability to recognize the innate brilliance and wisdom in the minds of their clients. Every mind has a natural movement towards sanity and healing and the ability to move into balance regulating to its environment. The Maitri lineage is a theory of mind that is rooted in compassion. Maitri refers to love, the kind of healing loving kindness that flows through us all. This foundation is one element that helps our minds become resilient and whole.

Contemplatives can work psychotherapeutically with clients in traditional modalities or clients can begin a path of self-inquiry if they so choose. This particular path begins with the understanding that our fundamental nature is good and healthy and the more we connect to this nature the more awareness and consciousness we can bring into our lives. Seeing your essence with the eyes of perfection allows the self to relax and discover what is really going on. This actually allows us to face the truth of our past, the loss, trauma, grief, abandonment, etc. and the shadows within us, the places where we have gotten stuck, the beliefs that inform and misinform our lives and the simple pain of existence.

To practice Maitri, one can simply take a few minutes to be with themselves and notice the quality of their own mind. When negative thoughts arise greet them with a warm loving embrace and let them go. Practice greeting your experience and honoring its truth even if that truth is only partial. There are many ways to develop a loving relationship with yourself: it might be asking what is needed; it might be a conversation in the mirror; it could be words of affirmation, or a nurturing activity. Maitri is this unconditional friendliness to oneself. It is the foundation of healing and emotional maturity. When we can take a step back from our own ego and see it as an individual who deserves love and compassion, one can take a step towards self-healing. When someone treats us badly we can stand up for ourselves; if we are rejected, we don’t have to react with volatility.

Sometimes this takes a while to practice and internalize Maitri. This practice can bring up conditioned beliefs rooted in the idea that we are fundamentally flawed and negative messages we have all received all through our lives. Rarely are children and teens taught how to be kind internally to themselves. Even the most kind and loving people sometimes are unknowingly self-aggressive. This is the first step to self-love and it is fairly easy once you get past the resistance to change. This is of course just the first step, other forms of mind training include insight meditation, mindfulness and embodied meditation, focus meditation, calm and peaceful abiding, compassion meditation or metta practice, and emptiness meditation. All of these train different aspects of mind that can support your life and reveal your authentic self and evoke your natural impulse to grow.