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Buddhadharma : Summer 2012
SUMMER 2 0 1 2 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 33 BUDDHADHARMA: What sort of problems do Buddhists tend to experience in their practice when they’re avoiding or suppress- ing emotional issues? JOHN WELWOOD: I’d say one of the occupational hazards of being a Buddhist is that there’s a tendency to actually with- draw from the world. Long retreats, for example, and even meditation practice, as wonderful as it is, can be used as a way of withdrawing. The most basic human defense, psy- chologically speaking, is what is called in technical terms the schizoid defense, which is the tendency to withdraw. One’s practice can sometimes reinforce that tendency. Renunciation and meditation can become a way of pulling away from the world, pulling away from your emotions, pulling away from your unresolved emotional issues. Buddhist practice is geared toward experiencing emptiness, basically, but the relationship to emptiness can become mixed up with that schizoid tendency to pull away, deny, and not engage with relational life, feelings, or emotional vulnerability. I think that’s a big problem. GRACE SCHIRESON: What I see in my students when they get caught in that withdrawal is that they attend the events and do what Suzuki Roshi described as “looks like good”—they imitate the form of the practice. They sit perfectly straight. They chant wonderfully. They ring the bells wonderfully. Yet there’s a kind of stiffness. They’re trying too hard. So there’s a kind of imitation of doing it right, and getting stuck there. Often those students feel they’re not getting anywhere in their practice. PHOTO TANYA REIHILL WWW.FLESHANDSTONE.COM