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Self and Awakening in Psychoanalysis and Zen

Residential Program
Dates: Oct 13, 2023 - Oct 15, 2023
Days: Friday - Sunday
Number of Nights: 2 nights

Instructor(s): Barry Magid, Max Erdstein

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Program Description:

What is the relationship between Zen Buddhist practice and Western psychology? Are these entirely separate, though perhaps complementary, disciplines? Do they have areas of conflict or harmony? What might a psychologically–informed Zen practice look like, and how might it be liberating? In what ways would our traditional views of psychology and Zen need to shift to accomplish this?

Psychoanalysts have often viewed the self as inner and private. According to this view, the self contains hidden unconscious wishes and fantasies we are unaware of even as they influence our day-to-day motivations. Understanding, from this perspective, is synonymous with uncovering and awakening to be shining a light into hidden recesses. In contrast, Dōgen, the founder of Sōtō Zen in Japan, offers a radically different perspective: nothing is hidden and who and what we are is constantly on display. For Dōgen’s Zen, awakening is performative, not investigative. Sitting expresses our enlightened nature rather than uncovering or developing it. How then is it transformative? What is it we realize through practice? How can the psychoanalytic perspective be reconciled or potentially integrated with Dōgen’s approach?

In our time together, we will explore a relational and intersubjective psychology, one influenced by Wittgenstein and Heidegger as much as by Freud, in the hopes of finding a common ground with Dōgen’s Zen. And we will envision a contemporary Zen practice that is informed, illuminated, and enlivened by this relational and intersubjective psychology. 

Noble Silence:
Noble silence will be observed following each evening session through breakfast the following morning. Additional silent practice periods will be scheduled throughout the program.

Experience Level:
Suitable for beginning and experienced practitioners.
    About the Instructor(s):
  • Barry Magid he has been teaching Zen for over 20 years, having received Dharma Transmission from Charlotte Joko Beck. A practicing psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, he has been at the forefront of integrating Zen and psychodynamic theory, and has explored the pitfalls of emotional bypass and dissociation that all too often warp Buddhist practice. He is the author of “Nothing is Hidden: The Psychology of Zen Koans.”

  • Max Erdstein teaches at the Insight Meditation Center and the Insight Retreat Center. He is trained as a teacher by Gil Fronsdal. Max has practiced Vipassana and Zen in America, Japan, Thailand, and Burma. He received lay ordination from Sojun Mel Weitsman at the Berkeley Zen Center. Max completed the Spirit Rock/IMS Dharma teacher training program and trained in Buddhist chaplaincy with the Sati Center. With Gil he taught the first weeklong retreat at IRC in November 2012. Max holds an AB degree from Stanford and worked at Google for five years. He is a husband and father of two girls.