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.