#431 – Stillness in Mind with Simon Cole, M.A.

Simon Cole

Simon Cole M.A. runs a retreat center in France, having worked in psychological health in the UK for over 20 years.  Holder of a Masters with distinction and special award in counseling from Ripon and York St John, he is a senior-accredited counselor, with experience in the Health Service as well as in private practice in Britain.  He also developed and ran a progressive counselor training program to advanced diploma level at Carlisle College.  He has long used mindfulness and meditation alongside his professional work and has formulated the Clear Space Meditation Path as an integrated model, incorporating established psychotherapeutic practices, to produce a western method for personal development and healing.  His approach is described in the 2014 book, Stillness in Mind.  Not your typical guide to mindfulness and meditation: method without mystique for the only journey that really matters…living.  Stillness in Mind is written by a professional who is first a person-centred therapist and for whom the relationship with the client or student or co-traveller is paramount.  Thus the book is written so that the reader can feel the author alongside as an empathic fellow-traveller.

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A psychology podcast by David Van Nuys, Ph.D.

copyright 2014: David Van Nuys, Ph.D.

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3 Comments

  1. Posted November 30, 2014 at 2:58 am | Permalink

    I really enjoyed this interview and your, as always, penetrating questions. I like the stress he put on mindfulness as a natural part of human functionality and that he views mindfulness and meditation as adjuncts to psychotherapy rather than being the main treatment. One thing though that concerns me greatly about the whole mindfulness bubble, as you put it David, is that it is being marketed as a panacea for all ills and one reservation I did have about Simon’s approach was when towards the end of the interview you asked him if there were any sorts of psychological issues for which it would be particularly recommended. After saying he would consider it as a complimentary therapy for anyone suffering severe stress he added that he thought it could benefit anyone anywhere. I was very pleased to hear you probe a little further with your question on contraindications but was surprised at his response. He said that there was some discussion about whether meditation generally could possibly trigger a psychotic episode but that the jury was out and it is not known. Really? I wonder if he is acquainted with the work of Stanislav and Christina Grof and the Spiritual Emergency Network just for starters?

    This is a subject that is dear to my heart because of my own experiences with meditation and my observations of others’ experiences when I’ve been involved in groups of various types. I innocently took up meditation 18 years ago when my husband decided to try it as a means of dealing with terminal cancer. I had what I eventually learned was a kundalini awakening experience and have had an on and off relationship with meditation since then. I have had some very difficult episodes with it but because I do think it has value, I keep persisting. I did not have any pre-existing psychological conditions when I took it up but I did have a lot of unresolved childhood trauma and what I know now is that meditation is a way into the unconscious and that can open up a Pandora’s box.

    There are way too many people teaching meditation who don’t have a clue about the unconscious mind. I sat with a Zen teacher for 15 months a few years back and while there was no doubt about the depth of her realisation, her integrity and her genuine desire to help people, she was psychologically naive and her response to any problem was that it’s all resistance and to ‘just sit.’ I eventually left because I felt that she was way out of her depth and I saw too many people struggling to deal with what they were experiencing. My view is that meditation needs to be treated with the same amount of respect and caution as entheogenic drugs.

    I actually came pretty close to a nervous breakdown from the breaching of the unconscious that was triggered by my early meditation experiences. I am sure I would have been hospitalised if I’d got into the psychiatric stream but my mother’s experiences in the mental health system made me determined to sort it out myself. Jung, dreams and your podcasts have been a vital part of the healing work. Doing the David Schoen transcript in early 2013 on the archetypal shadow was a real breakthrough for me. In my humble layman’s opinion, knowledge of the shadow, especially the archetypal shadow, is vital when dealing with the inner world. Jung’s other corresponding concept, that of the archetype of wholeness, or the Self, is the other side of the equation.

  2. Posted November 30, 2014 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Gloria, for your comments, which I have read with great interest. I would like to offer some response in view of the depth and diligence of your post, but I am at present on a book promotion tour. I trust, therefore, that it will be ok if I offer a few thoughts in a week or so.
    With good wishes,
    Simon

  3. Simon Cole
    Posted December 16, 2014 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    I am writing in response to Gloria’s comments on my interview and to appreciate many of the personal experiences she shares.

    Firstly, I am, of course, aware of the work of Stanislav and Grof and it has always been a concern for me to be alert to the possibility that meditation may not be an appropriate complement to therapy for all clients. (The same concern, though, I do not have in relation to mindfulness, in the way I distinguish these two elements of practice in “Stillness in Mind”.) Perhaps because the majority of people to whom I have taught meditation have been clients in some sense, either for psychological therapy or on individual or group retreat, I have known more about them than many meditation teachers do of their students. I am sure that, over thirty years or so, there will have been occasions when I have selected a different path as the therapist, without contraindications necessarily being the instigator.

    My experience has been that an opening up to the possibility and potential of a simple practice of mindfulness is invariably a valuable accompaniment to the early part of a therapeutic journey. Carl Rogers describes the first stage of therapy as characterised by the client’s “fixity and remoteness of experiencing”. It invites an introduction to the complementary benefits of mindfulness, which, I have found, releases the client from that feeling of being completely bound up in their difficulties.

    Beyond this what I seek to do in “Stillness in Mind” and with the Clear Space Path is to ground the client/meditator in a practice of sitting alongside themselves as their own empathic companion. This, in my experience, facilitates the sort of shifts in awareness which mark the client’s uncovering of the inner processes which cause them distress or inhibit them from realising their living potential. Gloria, as she has recounted, was facilitated in this uncovering by Jungian theory of the person and I hear how this has worked for her. In the end words are conveniences, as Alan Watts observed. They are not the experience itself. Likewise, paradigms are frameworks for understanding the person, they are not human process itself. Like all authors I have had to use words to communicate ideas, but I have sought to use them as they reflect human experiencing rather than abstract intellectualising.