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Core Process Psychotherapy
Who Do You Think You Are? A thumbnail sketch of Core Process Psychotherapy
Post Qualification
MA Programme
Post Graduate Diploma
in Mindfulness Based
Core Process Psychotherapy

Who Do You Think You Are? A thumbnail sketch of Core Process Psychotherapy. Part 3

Re-aligning with inherent health

The Buddha's medicine for this predicament is to know the nature of suffering rather than becoming it over and over again. Our capacity for clear comprehension is never lost only obscured. A major vehicle for recovering that potential at our core is through mindfulness practices that can tap into that fulcrum of awareness within. These are contemplative means of enquiry through which we can begin to settle our attention beneath the more formed layers of thoughts, perceptions, feelings, emotions, opinions and beliefs and cultivate a sense of witnessing the passing parade of our internal experience. From this vantage point, more space and fluidity starts to emerge. This is not about dissociating from what's happening. We allow everything in but we also allow it to pass through, noticing any tendency to believe, reject, embellish or hang on to anything. We get to know those processes that constitute who we take ourselves to be and depend less on identifying so solidly with them. This is not a cognitive knowing but an experiential one at the depth of our being.

These kinds of practices are increasingly being taken into contemporary mental health services where they offer a wide variety of people a way of resourcing themselves. This development has grown from the recognition that contemplative practices, often undertaken as a solitary activity, can be fruitfully extended into one-to-one or group work. In a psycho-spiritual psychotherapy context, as in Core Process work, mindfulness – or awareness – is brought into the heart of the therapeutic relationship. It is the cornerstone of a joint practice between therapist and client where it is embodied awareness in relationship itself that enables the client to begin to witness their self-processes. This opens a door to reconnection with a subliminal wellspring of health and coherency from which something other than pain and suffering can emerge.

The therapist enters the relational field with the intention of seeing the personality structure not as a problem to be sorted out but as a contingent process to be held in the light of awareness (Sills F.,2008). She brings her attention to her own inner landscape as well as to that of the client and cultivates an embodied presence to whatever is arising in the present through the gateway of relationship. Sustained attention to the open and empty ground state as well as the self-constructs and personality positions of the client allows an expansiveness in which defensive self-forms can begin to dissolve. An orientation towards emptiness helps the client's self-processes to slow down and make themselves known. It is often in moments of silent contact in a deep wordless being-to-being meeting between therapist and client that the most profound shifts take place. Touching into emptiness frees us from what gets in the way of experiencing our oneness with all of life. It releases the potential for an unhampered experience of empathy and compassion for ourselves and others.

As a client who has spent many years withdrawing from relationship, I might begin to feel the pain of my isolation being deeply received. As I enter into a holding field of profound recognition, acceptance and warmth, I not only contact the developmental wounding of my past but open to a much bigger field of awareness in the present. As my habituated self-processes begin to loosen, there is something much vaster for me to let go into. It's not that I'm exchanging one sense of self for another to which I can become equally attached. My whole sense of self becomes something I can hold more lightly as it comes into greater alignment with being and emptiness. I touch into a subliminal quality which the Theravadin teacher, Venerable Ajahn Chah, has described beautifully as "still, flowing water" (Ajahn Chah, 2007).

A regular mindfulness practice based on meditation and contemplation is both a resource and a skill for therapists working in this way. It nourishes a fine attunement of attention that reaches through and beyond personal and generational histories into the profoundest expression of interconnectedness. It is not necessary for clients to be following a similar practice outside the therapy room or to have any particular spiritual orientation. The therapist's intention of bringing the quality of awareness into relationship includes both client and therapist in a journey of inner experiential enquiry where subtle layers of meaning emerge for each participant. The most important element is the therapist's willingness and capacity to meet the client at a being-to-being level. When this is present, the potential is released for the deepest realisation of who we are, rather than who we think we are.


  • Ajahn Chah (2002) Not for Sure: Two Dhamma Talks. Thailand: Wat Pah Nanachat.
  • Ajahn Sumedho (1988) The Four Noble Truths. England: Amaravati Buddhist Monastery.
  • Thich Nhat Hanh (1988) The Heart of Understanding. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press.
  • Lake, F. (1980) Studies in Constricted Confusion: Exploration of a Pre- and Peri-natal Paradigm. Nottingham: The Clinical Theology Association
  • Sills, F. (2008) Being and Becoming: Psychodynamics, Buddhism and the Origins of Selfhood. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
  • Sills, M. and Lown, J. (2008) 'The field of subliminal mind and the nature of being', European Journal of Psychotherapy and Counselling, Vol. 10, no.1, March 2008.
  • Winnicott, D. (1965) The Maturational Processes and the Facilitating Environment, London: Hogarth.

Judy Lown (jlown@macdream.net) is a Core Process psychotherapist and supervisor in Brighton, England, and a member of staff at Karuna Institute in Devon which offers professional trainings in Core Process Psychotherapy – founded by Maura and Franklyn Sills in the early 1980s as a mindfulness-based form of depth psychotherapy which integrates Buddhist psychology and practices with the skills and insights of Western psychotherapy.

Contact in Ireland: Deirdre Walsh | Deirdre.Walsh3@yahoo.com | 0877931715

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