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Buddhadharma : Summer 2014
SUMMER 2014 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 39 codependence therapy JUDY LIEF: Certainly, one cultural frame that Buddhism falls into in the West is that of self-improvement. We tend not to think of the dharma as a way of life, as something that com- pletely infuses everything. Westerners also have a bias toward rationality; we tend to be quick to dismiss what we perceive as magical thinking. I think we lose something in the Western emphasis on fixing our sorrows and becoming more at ease, rather than being willing to step into what is unfathomable. JACK KORNFIELD: We live in a compartmentalized culture, where the body is tended to at the gym, money in the marketplace, and religion, if you have it, in the church, synagogue, or mosque. But Buddhist teachings are of a whole. They’re an invitation to liberation, to live from a free heart and spirit no matter where you are, so when the dharma gets translated into only psychotherapeutic terms, it can limit the imagination of human possibility. Western psychology is largely based on a pathological model of curing disease. Through that lens, we can lose the vision of liberation that’s possible for all human beings, no matter their circumstances. Buddhist teachings lead to dimensions of well-being and joy beyond anything known in the Western tradition. BUDDHADHARMA: Do you find that students enter into the teacher-student relationship with expectations based on a therapeutic model, one in which the focus is on serving the needs of the client? JUDY LIEF: My students don’t state their expectations, but they tend to come seeking help in dealing with the pain in their lives. I do think students, at least initially, seek out a parental model; we’re always looking for someone who can care for us and support us in a pure way. Students go through a lot of different views of the teacher on the journey, and as we real- ize that they’re not quite the point of that relationship, those ideas tend to melt away, one after the other. JACK KORNFIELD: And yet maybe, in a way, they’re all the point. My teacher, Ajahn Chah, often had people come to him whose children had died, and he would put their heads in his lap and grieve with them. Soldiers would come, and he would talk to them about what it meant to enter into that life without anger or vengeance. Corrupt government officials would come, and he would talk to them about the karma of living with integrity. People came with eating problems or anxiety, and all of those problems were amenable to the medicine of the dharma. There wasn’t any notion that this part is your meditation, and that part you have to go to therapy for, and that part you take to the gym. All of it was amenable to the four noble truths. I see people coming to us in the same way, with the full range of the