#370 – Mindfulness and Loving Relationships with John Amodeo

John Amodeo


John Amodeo PhD has been a licensed marriage and family therapist for over thirty years. He is the author of the new book, Dancing with Fire: A Mindful Way to Loving Relationships. His other books include The Authentic Heart and Love & Betrayal, which have just been translated into Mandarin. He co-authored a chapter with Sue Johnson on EFT and Buddhism in The Emotionally Focused Casebook and he is a certified Focusing Trainer. He is a former writer and contributing editor for Yoga Journal, an adjunct faculty member of Meridian University, and has conducted workshops internationally on relationships and couples therapy. He has appeared as a featured guest on programs that included CNN, CNBC, Donahue, and New Dimensions Radio.

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  1. Steve Bar Yakov Gind
    Posted October 5, 2013 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Great interview, Be sensitive to your feelings in your relations. I had been afraid of listening to further discussion about relations, though I know that I requested this once from Dr Dave, this was guilt free!
    Much of the relations dudes and gals that run the Internet lecture circuit make one feel inferior since their suggestions seem difficult but this one was easy to deal with and helpful advice.

  2. Gloria
    Posted October 7, 2013 at 12:27 am | Permalink

    Another great interview Dr. Dave. I loved John’s clarification of the Buddhist concept of suffering and its causes, where he explained that the word (tanha) often translated as ‘desire’ is more accurately described as thirst or craving.

    One of the traps of the spiritual path is desiring the end of suffering and of course that’s perfectly understandable as it is very often suffering that puts us on a spiritual path in the first place. It’s not too hard to start desiring a blissful anaesthetic and God help those who get it, if they haven’t dealt with their addictive tendencies!

    From the interview transcript, which I feel very privileged to be able to do:

    “Dr. Dave: Now you say ‘spirituality’ is a hazardous word. What’s your definition or understanding of spirituality?

    John Amodeo: The word spirit comes from the word breath. To me spirituality means being alive, being connected to what is, in the aliveness of being connected to life. So it’s not a spirituality where you’re just developing this serene disconnect… this kind of sereneness, this inner quiet that’s disconnected from relating. To me spirituality’s about connection, connecting with something beyond our ego, connecting with something larger than our self.”

    John also talks about the different kinds of paths and how we are drawn to Eastern spiritualities and this is another topic close to my heart, having gone the route of trying all sorts of things.

    I actually gave up my inherited spiritual path (Christianity) when I was in my teens because it didn’t alleviate my suffering and when an ‘accidental’ kundalini awakening during a very difficult time impelled me to try and understand what was happening to me, I didn’t go back to my roots immediately because I had such resistance to it. The New Age movement was just starting to become popular and that was my first port of call. Fortunately I had enough of a grounding not to buy into the ‘you create your own reality’ paradigm but still did get caught up in feasting at the spiritual smorgasbord for a while.

    What really became my mainstay was the dream life that had opened up when I had the initial experience and that led me to Jung. In the meantime I dabbled in Zen and Tibetan Buddhism before eventually settling back into exploring the deeper levels of my tradition of origin and that has been richly rewarding. I reckon the Bible was the prototype for the DSM series. Talk about dysfunctional families, it’s all in there, along with some good, sound therapeutic remedies!

    I also love the way you and John explored the topic of gurus and the ramifications of students and followers investing their own power and authority in others, be it a leader of a community, or the community itself. In your summary, David, you said that there’s a part of us that is still seeking the ultimate perfect mummy and daddy and I know that has certainly been true for myself. Not only mummy and daddy but family – sisters and brothers and cousins etc., and that is where communities can become extensions of our own dysfunctional patterns.

    John’s advice was to listen to your own experience and trust what feels right for you and he rightfully says that meditation and mindfulness practice is one way of doing that, along with other techniques. I would suggest dreams too, for anyone so inclined, they have been very helpful guides for me through the maze.

    In fact, once upon a time, I was heavily into a particular teacher, who I had (and still have) the greatest respect for, a Franciscan priest by the name of Richard Rohr. One night I had a dream in which I was saying to someone ‘Richard Rohr says…’ I didn’t get to finish the sentence because a voice boomed from the sky saying, ‘Don’t worship the messenger, listen to the message.’ It was so loud it literally woke me up with a start and I’ve never forgotten the message of the dream. Would that they were all so clear and direct.

    I checked out some of John’s videos as it is always nice to put a face to the voice and I have to say, maybe he’s not keen on having daddy projected onto him but he looks like he would sure make a nice granddaddy figure!

  3. Richard Powell
    Posted October 17, 2013 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    Gloria, what a great comment!

    Like you I found John Amodeo’s definition of spirituality notable and quotable. I suspect there are a good number of Shrink Rap Radio listeners who have had various religious experiences and who struggle to integrate those experiences with their academic and skeptical sensibilities. I know I do!

    You said, “What really became my mainstay was the dream life that had opened up when I had the initial experience and that led me to Jung. In the meantime I dabbled in Zen and Tibetan Buddhism before eventually settling back into exploring the deeper levels of my tradition of origin and that has been richly rewarding.”

    I also grew up in the Christian religion and since my teens I’ve had an ongoing interest in Buddhist philosophy and practice as well as other traditions to a lesser degree. Mindfulness has been an accessible and practicable form of Buddhism for me!

    Like you I also found Richard Rohr to be helpful in finding a tradition within Christianity that resonated for me. This side of religion, the “archetypal/dreams/personal growth” side combined with the ethical guidance side are positive and generally well-developed, so why wouldn’t we take advantage of that body of knowledge!

    The alleviation of “inner” suffering, as you suggested, has not been as well developed in Christianity and may explain Buddhisms ongoing appeal to Christians. I would go so far as to say that certain doctrines of Christianity have increased internal suffering and I’m not sure how that lines up with your idea that suffering has a role to play in our personal growth. Christianity, I must hasten to add, has traditionally done a good job of relieving large-scale suffering, such as poverty, homelessness, and food distribution, so perhaps smorgasbord religion really is the answer!?

    Lastly, thanks Gloria for you work in creating so many transcripts. It is much appreciated.

  4. Rick
    Posted November 10, 2013 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    It has been quite sometime since I have read or listened to anything that brought what are seemingly opposing views together. I have long believed that spirituality is about connection. That when we connect to another we make contact with God. However, I have never been able to articulate it well.

    The two things that were brought together so wonderfully was the seemingly binary relationship between spirituality and “the world of psychotherapy.” He brought these two ideas together beautifully, demonstrating that these views are complementary rather than in conflict. I think that those who interpret detachment from relationships as spiritual gain are typically very damaged people. A fulfilling life is all about relationships and connecting spiritually to others. I like to tell folks that there are at least two types of enlightenment; one we obtain on our own and one we realize through intimacy.

    I have been doing things recently to prepare myself for my next relationship because I realize that my life is not nearly as fulfilling without one. The reason I engaged in avoidance behaviors masked in religion and ambition was because I got burned bad. It’s time to move on and build something new. Thanks for all your hard work Dave

  5. Rich Featherly
    Posted April 16, 2015 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    I really like the distinction that eventually came clear in the interview between connection and attachment. We are all connected as in the web of life we all are part of, but we are more connected to those we are closest to. The trick is to be aware of that connection. Our attachments (which I’ve heard described as cravings and aversions) and judgements cause us to lose our awareness of our connection.
    there is an analogy I like of two trees growing next to each other. Their roots are connected, but if one tree is leaning on the other, they are attached. Then every time the wind blows the trees rub against each other and it creates a weak spot which can break in a storm.
    I am making the rounds of studying different forms of spirituality as the other commenters here. I have come full circle to Genesis. It explains the cause of all our problems is seeing evil in a world that the creator saw only as good for four out of the first five days and very good on day six. We created evil by believing in it. The original “sin” is judging. I can’t think of too many of our worldly troubles which are not caused by judging. Craving and aversion are just special kinds of judging. That’s why acceptance, which is the opposite of judging, is so helpful. Moving from judging to acceptance is called forgiveness.

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