Wednesday, August 13, 2014


Many years ago - as a way of developing a more intimate relationship with that aspect of my consciousness - I named my Higher Self. I call him Wiseheart. By giving him a name that transcendent aspect of my consciousness moved from being an abstract notion (which might have many possible labels: Higher Self, personal Higher Power, Buddha Nature, Christ Consciousness …) to something more concrete and deeply personal. The visual image I have of him is that of a bearded old man who emanates deep loving compassion and wisdom. In a corner of my office, behind the chairs where patients sit, I have placed a totem of Wiseheart - the face of a bearded old man carved from second growth redwood. On a tree across the brook that runs behind my home I have hung a similar concrete image of my old friend. Both of these iconic images are daily reminders of the ongoing presence in my life of Wiseheart.
My life and work have been deeply enriched by this relationship with Wiseheart. The purpose of this brief essay is to encourage other psychotherapists and counsellors, in whatever way works for you, to develop a more intimate relationship with your Higher Self. Hour after hour, day after day we are in the psychological field of the suffering and struggles of our clients. We are exposed to so much sadness, fear, confusion, doubt. To be a compassionate open-hearted presence wherein our minds and our hearts are fully engaged with the struggles of our clients is -if we really allow ourselves to think about it - too daunting a task for our small selves, our small hearts. By connecting to something larger within ourselves, something that has a much larger Heart capable of great compassion and love, and something that is capable of more transcendent perspectives on the issues of our patients, it is very possible to be compassionately present with them for hours without becoming overwhelmed, numb or depleted. Our Higher Self is that source within our own consciousness. The good news is that He/She is always with us. Our task is to become more aware that this aspect of our consciousness exists, to engage more fully in an ongoing intimate relationship with it and to develop ways of connecting with our Higher Self during sessions.
Five minutes before starting my early morning or late afternoon sessions I look at my carving of Wiseheart, take some meditational breaths, and ask Him for assistance. "Help me to be a vehicle of compassion, of loving kindness and the wisdom of the heart with my patients today. Help me to tap into the healing knowledge within me and from other sources of wisdom outside of myself." Then I open the door and welcome my first person.
Invariably as the daily work unfolds I am in the psychological energy field of some big sadness/fearfulness/confusion/anger that my patients are experiencing. I think that the ordinary human reaction at these moments would be to pull back or shut down -probably without conscious awareness -our hearts as a way of protecting ourselves from being overwhelmed by the bigness of the feelings. What I have learned to do as soon as I become aware that my patient is experiencing one of these big emotional states is to look over at Wiseheart and start doing some meditational breathing. With the in-breath I imagine that I am connecting to this Big Heart, that aspect of my Higher Self that is easily able to be present in a deeply compassionate way. I also imagine that I am accessing wisdom perspectives that transcend ordinary consciousness. With the out-breath I imagine that I am letting go of any anxiety about being overwhelmed, that I am releasing any of my patient's big feelings that may have entered the psychological; energy field of my personal consciousness.
I continue to be grateful for and awed by how doing this enables me to be present in an open-hearted loving way in the face of huge patient feelings. For hours. And not feel emotionally drained, numb or detached. Having done this way of connecting to Wiseheart for many years I never cease to be amazed by His capacity to be deeply compassionate in the presence of some horrific stories and to be a source of what some ancient sages referred to as "the peace that underlies all things."
As I end this essay I again want to encourage psychotherapists and counsellors to develop some daily practice of connecting to your personal Higher Self.Before I begin my contemplative walks in local nature settings I say to myself that one of my intentions is to use this time to deepen my connection to Wiseheart. After my meditations I pray that I become more open and receptive to Wiseheart,s love and guidance. I am profoundly grateful that He provides me with loving companionship and wise guidance both in my everyday life and in my work as a psychotherapist. I hope that your Higher Self does the same for you.

This blog entry is based on work in the Small Heart,Big Heart chapter of "Working From the Heart: A Psychotherapist's Guide to Heart-Centered Psychotherapy"