Finding the Center Within: The Healing Way of Mindfulness Meditation.

BOOK: Finding the Center Within: The Healing Way of Mindfulness Meditation.
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Finding the Center Within


The Healing Way of

Mindfulness Meditation

Thomas Bien, Ph.D.

Beverly Bien, M.Ed.

John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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Finding the Center Within
is a practical manual on the practice of mindfulness which can help many people to embody their Buddha nature and become radiant and peaceful beings. It provides easy steps for practicing mindfulness in day-to-day living.”

—Thich Nhat Hanh, author of
Peace Is Every Step, The Miracle of
, and
Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames

“I like this book very much. Wise and clear. A further step in the art and science of healing.”

—Stephen Levine, author of
A Year to Live: How to Live
This Year as if It Were Your Last

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Finding the Center Within


The Healing Way of

Mindfulness Meditation

Thomas Bien, Ph.D.

Beverly Bien, M.Ed.

John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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Copyright © 2003 by Thomas Bien, Ph.D. and Beverly Bien, M.Ed. All rights reserved Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey Published simultaneously in Canada

The authors gratefully acknowledge the following for permission to quote from:
Being Peace
(1987) by Thich Nhat Hanh with permission of Parallax Press, Berkeley, California. (Extract on page 67.)
Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings
translated by Burton Watson. © 1964 Columbia University Press. Reprinted by permission of the publisher. (Extract on page 86.)
The Poems of
Emily Dickinson,
Thomas H. Johnson, ed., Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Copyright © 1951, 1955, 1979 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Reprinted by permission of the publishers and the Trustees of Amherst College. (Poem on page 39.)

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning, or otherwise, except as permitted under Section 107 or 108 of the 1976 United States Copyright Act, without either the prior written permission

of the Publisher, or authorization through payment of the appropriate per-copy fee to the Copyright Clearance Center, 222 Rosewood Drive, Danvers, MA 01923, (978) 750-8400, fax (978) 750-4470, or on the web at Requests to the Publisher for permission should be addressed to the Permissions Department, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030, (201) 748-6011, fax (201) 748-6008, email: [email protected]. Limit of Liability/Disclaimer of Warranty: While the publisher and the author have used their best efforts in preparing this book, they make no representations or warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the contents of this book and specifically disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose. No warranty may be created or extended by sales representatives or written sales materials. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation. You should consult with a professional where appropriate. Neither the publisher nor the author shall be liable for any loss of profit or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

For general information about our other products and services, please contact our Customer Care Department within the United States at (800) 762-2974, outside the United States at (317) 572-3993 or fax (317) 572-4002.

Wiley also publishes its books in a variety of electronic formats. Some content that appears in print may not be available in electronic books. For more information about Wiley products, visit our web site at

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data:

Bien, Thomas.

Finding the center within : the healing way of mindfulness meditation

/ Thomas Bien, Beverly Bien.

p. cm.

Includes bibliographical references.

ISBN 0-471-26394-X (pbk.)

1. Meditation. I. Bien, Beverly. II. Title.

BL627.B53 2003



Printed in the United States of America

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

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Thich Nhat Hanh,

who shows the


of the path.

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There’s a center of quietness within, which has to be known and held. If you lose that center, you are in tension and begin to fall apart.

—Joseph Campbell,
The Power of Myth

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Preface: Calm in the Storm


Part I: The Key


(Week One): Know Where You Are



(Week Two): Find a Path to the Center


Part II: The Door


(Weeks Three and Four): A Gentle Approach to Meditation 45


(Week Five): Bring Meditation into Your Life



(Week Six): Look Deeply at Your Life


Part III: The Path


(Week Seven): Work with Dreams



(Week Eight): Transform Negative Emotions



(Week Nine): Cultivate Healthy Relationships



(Week Ten): Meditate on Paper


Part IV: Arriving Home


(Week Eleven and Beyond): What Kind of

Buddha Are You?


The Ten-Week Program: A Recap


Sources and Readings





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Calm in the Storm

The Buddhist meditation teacher Dipa Ma was one of those individuals who exuded a special presence. Just to be around her was an experience of wisdom and love that was almost palpable. It had not always been that way. Married at the age of fourteen, as was the custom in India, she suffered horribly when her husband and two of her three children died suddenly. Her suffering went on for years until, wasting away, she recognized she had to do something or perish. She entered a Buddhist monastery in Burma, where she progressed quickly to deep levels of concentration and spiritual attainment. Later in life, when she had become a teacher with this extraordinary quality of presence, she was asked what was in her mind. She said simply, “Concentration, lovingkindness, and peace. That is all.”

Imagine being a person whose whole consciousness consists only of

“concentration, lovingkindness, and peace.” Most of us would love to be that way. Most of us would love to be happy, loving, and peaceful individuals—people whom it was a blessing just to be around. Most of us wish we knew how to be calm, how to hold our center even in the face of the most extreme storms that life blows onto our path. This desire is the deep reason people come to churches, synagogues, and meditation centers, and it may be the unspoken wish of many who come to a therapist’s office as well—simply to find the center within. The center within is a spatial metaphor for a spiritual reality. It is that which holds us together and keeps us from falling apart. In spatial terms, you can think of it as being at the center of the chest at the heart level. Sometimes this is helpful. But the true center is everywhere. Temporally considered, the center within is a process. It’s your ongoing mindfulness as you continue moment by moment to bring calm, accepting awareness to what is going on, without fighting or struggling or judging. To find the center, and hold it, is the capacity to live deeply and fully, with boundless peace and happiness, in any external circumstance. ix

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It is knowing that, since everything passes, peace cannot be found in any thing or circumstance. Peace is the center of awareness itself. If you are wondering whether that is even truly possible for you, good. You are taking it seriously, and seriously acknowledging your hunger for the center. It may seem unimaginable to dwell in the center continually. It may seem thoroughly beyond your grasp. Yet the Buddha and other great teachers insist that it is possible. You can do it. However hidden or obscured our capacity for peace may be at times, all of us have Buddha nature; all of us share in the divine spark. And therefore it is possible for all of us to learn to be the calm one in the midst of the storm. It is possible because that is our true nature—not something that we are just trying to add artificially to who we are. To realize this true nature, however, we must learn to see things differently, removing the walls that conceal who and what we really are. When we can do that, we discover the calmness and wisdom that are already there, though obscured under layers of misunderstanding and old conditioning. We learn to find and hold the center within. Integrating the Spiritual and the Psychological

In the pages that follow, we offer ways of breaking down the barriers that prevent us from actualizing our wise inner self. We combine spiritual wisdom—especially the Buddhist practice of mindfulness—with the pragmatic wisdom of Western psychology. When you realize that Buddhism is at heart a form of wise, ancient psychology and a practice for waking up, this combination makes perfect sense. But we also need the psychology of our own day, suited as it is for our time and place and way of life.

For spirituality to be of value in our world, it must connect with the unique problems of our times. It must deal with the problems of rushhour traffic and complex relationships, of mortgages and telephone bills. The Zen injunction to “chop wood, carry water” must become, as the Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck has so aptly said, “make love, drive freeway.” Mindfulness is the energy that allows us to do this, while at the same time providing a wonderful point of contact with psychology.

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these two areas have remained largely unacquainted with each other—

sometimes even hostile.

To understand why, consider Gail, who was depressed. A Protestant minister, she was embarrassed to find herself in a psychologist’s office. Even though she referred people in her congregation for therapy, she somehow did not feel that she should be there herself. After all, she was a spiritual leader. She was supposed to be strong, and her faith was supposed to provide all that she needed. She felt like a bit of a failure as a person of faith to find herself in need of the help of a psychologist. But lately there had been too many days that she could barely function. And finally, she had had to admit to herself that she stood in need of the human help that therapy could offer. And so, with deep ambivalence, she found herself in my office.

Gail’s feelings are shared by many religious and spiritually minded people, sometimes even taking the form of cynicism and antagonism toward the practice of psychology. They feel they should not have to search beyond the spiritual to find what they need, as though their faith were imperfect if it could in any way be helped along by psychology or other human means. Like many religious people, Gail found that these ideas got in her own way. She could not become the loving person she wanted to be until she could be loving toward herself, until she could begin to be more accepting of the feelings of being less than loving at times. These feelings conflicted with her role as a spiritual leader. She needed the presence of another person to help her learn to accept and be present with these feelings. But once she did—once she could learn to embrace the very feelings that she rejected—she came closer to being the person that she wanted to be.

Religious and spiritual people have no monopoly on distrust of other models. Psychologists and psychiatrists, trained in the model of empirical science, often believe that their approach to learning about the world is the only valid one, and that it should be sufficient on its own. Some behavioral scientists have a hard-nosed, “show-me” attitude. Some of these professionals even chose their field in part as a reaction against religion or a religious background.

Both psychology and spirituality tend to be closed. Both can be mistrustful of other ways of knowing. Yet both also have much to offer. Spiritual people are prone to what the psychologist John Welwood has called “spiritual bypassing.” This is an attempt to use your spirituality to run from the reality of life, to avoid facing your life issues and 00 BIEN pref.qxd 7/16/03 1:54 PM Page xii


BOOK: Finding the Center Within: The Healing Way of Mindfulness Meditation.
3.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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