Prior to my interest in CPP, I was working largely with the poor in the Karoo and Eastern Cape [in South Africa]— first as a social worker, doing development work, and later as a theologian and Anglican priest. My Christian roots and training led to my exploring various forms of silent meditation, which inevitably began to include Buddhist practice. Through my exploration of the Buddhist tradition I was fortunate to meet Thanissara, a former nun, who, with her partner Kittisaro was, at that time, establishing a hermitage—Dharmagiri—in the Underberg . Thanissara had had contact with the Karuna Institute having recognized that there are elements in one's life that cannot be shifted through meditation and that the psychotherapeutic journey can be an invaluable path of enquiry.
I had never been drawn to the study of psychotherapy before, but soon after beginning the foundation course, it was as if I caught a whiff and I applied to register for the professional training and later that year moved to England for what turned out to be a 7 year training period. For me it was definitely the broader spiritual holding that drew me to the work.
The Karuna Institute is situated on Dartmoor in the south of England. The setting is wild and remote--an excellent place for such a training. Karuna is a Sanskrit word meaning compassion. The Institute was begun in 1980 by Maura Sills and her husband Franklyn Sills. They developed the Core Process model drawing on the Buddhist tradition and Western psychological theory. The Institute offers an MA in CPP, which is validated by Middlesex University.
Why Core Process? What do these words mean? The word core refers to what in Buddhism is often spoken of as brilliant sanity--that essence of the person that is always present, even in the midst of extreme difficulty. In Christianity, a similar concept is the understanding that each of us is made in the image of God. Clinically, the implications of this are profound. Whatever the state in which the client finds him or herself, there is a deep confidence in the inherent goodness and health of the person. It can be difficult to really know this quality in oneself. The Core Process training is such that one's confidence in this core-- each person's brilliant sanity--is unshakeable.
The word process refers to the way in which we meet the world. In Buddhism the sense of self is seen to be a construct that can be explored and that can become more fluid. Process is the way we have become accustomed to meet the world, and we usually identify this with who we are. The opportunity in CPP is to begin to slowly soften this sense of self, to be able to slow down its processes enough to notice how it constellates itself. This is a fine art.