Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy
 and Couch
Spring 2015
Top_of_pageWelcome to the Spring 2015 issue of Cushion and Couch, the journal for IMP members!

In this issue:


'Connection Practices of Tich Nhat Hanh' By Amanda Peacock


Connection Practices of Tich Nhat Hanh

By Amanda Peacock


Amanda Peacock, LICSW, has a private psychotherapy and relationship coaching practice in Watertown, MA.


Lately I find myself resonating with Tich Nhat Hanh's teachings and practices on connection and reconciliation, both in my practice for myself and with my clients.


Tich Nhat Hanh's fourth mindfulness training is equally applicable to interactions with others as to interactions with oneself:


Loving speech and deep listening (Fidelity, p. 120).


"Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and compassionate listening in order to relieve suffering and to promote reconciliation and peace in myself and among other people..." *


I reflect on the way I speak with myself as well as with others, and the way I listen inside myself, as well as how I listen to others.


Say I become aware that a way I tend to express myself causes another to feel badly about himself. I may realize I haven't been practicing loving speech with him. As this occurs to me, I also notice how I am holding this inside. It may be hard to hold such an idea with compassion for myself. There may be regret or even shame that I have hurt someone I love.


I might sit or walk mindfully to soothe the heat of regret or shame. Perhaps I could invite awareness that this pattern grew out of something I couldn't help, didn't create or was unaware of. Using compassionate listening and loving speech, I might invite kindness for the parts of myself that have suffered from this wound and the habits that may have grown out of it. From here, I may decide to speak with my loved one differently.


Tich Nhat Hanh recognizes that peace is not a solo practice. We practice to establish a foundation of peace in ourselves so we can connect in peace with others.


In How to Love, Thay describes six mantras for nourishing true love:

  1. I am here for you
  2. I know you are there, and I am happy
  3. I know you are suffering
  4. I am suffering
  5. This is a happy moment
  6. You are partly right

These can be used to mindfully hold either our own or another person's suffering. As we listen wholeheartedly, we might hold the mantra in our heart, "I am here for you".


In Reconciliation, Healing the Inner Child, Tich Nhat Hanh describes a third practice called Beginning Anew. This is done with two or more people.  Beginning Anew is a process for practicing deep listening while another person describes something difficult for them, perhaps a way they felt hurt by the other person, or sorrow they are feeling in the moment. All of the practices described previously can be applied in the Beginning Anew practice.  In this practice, there are three parts:

  1. Flower watering (expressing appreciation)
  2. Expressing regrets
  3. Expressing hurts and difficulties

In flower watering we express sincere appreciation for qualities of the other. In expressing regrets we speak about our actions that we know were harmful. In expressing hurts and difficulties, using loving speech, we describe ways that we have felt harmed by another. The one who listens in Beginning Anew only offers compassion as she practices deep listening. If she has concerns or corrections, she waits until it is her turn to speak, maybe the next day or next week. This way, the person speaking can feel the compassion of being deeply heard.


In each practice, we breathe. We mindfully and compassionately notice what is happening inside our own bodies as we attend to what is happening inside the other. Over time, we learn to simultaneously practice care for ourselves inside as we care for other.


These practices developed by Tich Nhat Hanh can help us develop and teach our clients the mindful connection skills needed to live peacefully in the shelter of each other.


* This instruction continues with detail about exactly how to practice this training. It is worth studying. If you study nothing else all year, this could transform your relationships.




interviewA Talk with Bo Forbes

By Barbara Van Zoeren LICSW


Bo Forbes is a clinical psychologist, yoga teacher, and integrative yoga therapist. She is the founder of Integrative Yoga Therapeutics, a system that specializes in the therapeutic application of yoga for anxiety, insomnia, depression, immune disorders, chronic pain, physical injuries, and athletic performance. Bo conducts teacher trainings and workshops internationally in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Europe, Asia, and more. She is the author of  Yoga for Emotional Balance: Simple Practices to Relieve Anxiety and Depression, which we have reviewed in this edition.


I spoke to Bo about her work and her thoughts about healing and what she refers to as embodiment, a process of returning to our natural state. She has offered her talk from the Mind and Life Institute in this edition. A link can be found below.


Barbara: What drew you to mindfulness and psychotherapy and the intersection of the two?

Bo: I've been a clinical psychologist for 25 years. I've always been interested in emotional transformation since I was a kid.

My real focus clinically is embodiment. To me the body seemed to be missing from psychotherapy.  So early in my career as a psychologist I began integrating the body into psychotherapy. 

I believe mindfulness starts with the body.  In the Satipatthana Sutta it is listed as one of the four elements of mindfulness. It is one of the foundational suttas of mindfulness meditation.

I integrate the body into psychotherapy through restorative yoga, breath work and then eventually transformation happens physiologically and then trickles up into our mental awareness.  It is much harder to get mental awareness to trickle into the body.

I began to see these disparate modes. And these are also mapped out by neuro- science. We have the narrative mode and the experiential mode that are mapped differently in the brain. The experiential mode is shown to be more effective in alleviating anxiety and depression. I've moved towards a very conscious and circumscribed use of narrative and am more looking at embodied experience in the process of emotional transformation.


Barbara: So you use movement in your sessions, or direct clients to attend to their body sensations?

Bo: I'm a yoga therapist, so we use all kinds of embodied movement and all kinds of embodied meditations through restorative yoga.


Barbara: You said you were interested in emotional transformation since you were a kid, people making changes in their lives. Do you see what you do as relieving suffering in a larger way?

Bo: Well it's not just about making change. Everyone starts out as this embodied person with tremendous potential and things get in the way of that, life happens, and I'm interested in how we return to that state.

Relieving suffering is a great phrase and applies to traditionally why therapists are interested in doing what they do. 

I tend to not conceptualize it that way. I tend to think about it as a recovery,  uncovering. Removing things that get in the way of us being who we really are.


Barbara: Is this something you want to see more of in the field of therapy?

Bo: The question people are wrestling with right now is, "do I want to refer people out for adjunct work" or "do I want to train in sensori-motor therapy, or do I just work with a yoga therapist who I also refer my people to"?

It's not like I want to see more of a certain thing done by other people.

I think the people who are suffering will find people who use modalities that they resonate with.

I think we've become very focused on evidence-based modalities for things. The bottom line is that I'm passionate about embodiment in all its forms. Whether it's integrated with other things or done right in the process of psychotherapy, which was my preference to do.

I'm really interested in the intersection of yoga, mindfulness, neuro-science and movement therapies.


Barbara: Do you have a meditation practice?

Bo: I have a sitting practice, do movement and do restorative rest. Those 3 things are my main stay.

The embodied and contemplative practices are where my passion is and where I think transformation really is.


Barbara: Thank you very much for your time Bo.

Bo: It was my pleasure. 


Click here to listen to a talk Bo Forbes gave at the Mind and Life Institute!


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reviewYoga for Emotional Balance 

by Bo Forbes, PsyD

A book review by Laura Fisher PsyD


It seems that yoga is omnipresent in today's society.  Talk show hosts praise its use in weight loss and strength training programs, medical doctors have been studying its effectiveness in sleep studies, cancer trials and stress reduction, and mental health practitioners espouse its benefits in limiting symptoms of depression and anxiety.  More and more individuals are becoming yoga instructors every day.  Recently, the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) set clinical standards for individuals who would like to receive training in yoga therapy and has been accrediting schools across the United States.  To date, there are over 3400 yoga therapists from 48 countries worldwide. Bo Forbes, a clinical psychologist and yoga therapist, writes about the juxtaposition between yoga, mental health and meditation in her book, "Yoga for Emotional Balance," an approachable book for anyone who either struggles with depression and/or anxiety themselves, or who wants to help clients utilize alternative strategies to combat symptoms they may be experiencing day to day.


"Yoga for Emotional Balance" is broken down into manageable sections that can stand alone or that can be read cumulatively.  Dr. Forbes first talks about how depression and anxiety can manifest in someone's life and impact his or her daily functioning.  She discusses the difference between anxiety and depression as well as the way these two disorders interconnect and mimic each other.  She then addresses the barriers one can create, unconsciously or otherwise, to changing his or her own faulty patterns of coping. Dr. Forbes subsequently proposes a model to alleviating suffering that utilizes breath work, yoga and meditation.  She breaks this model down into five component parts, further linking her theory to four different "types" of anxiety and/or depression.  Each type is then tied to a specific yoga practice that is outlined in the final chapters of the book, including detailed instructions, pictures of poses, use of props, and modifications.  She wraps the book up with a chapter on finding meaning in the midst of one's illness.  At the end of each chapter, she provides a breathing exercise and a body based exercise.  These exercises are cumulative and do build on the previous work done by the client (in theory), but Dr. Forbes is quick to remind readers to go back if they are not reading the book sequentially or are having difficulty with the proposed exercise at the end of the chapter.  By the way, these exercises can be easily adapted for a psychotherapy session or given as homework to a client.


It was interesting to read about the different ways Dr. Forbes addresses anxiety vs. depression vs. mixed anxiety and depression.  She uses forward bends, for instance, to calm anxiety and back bending sequences to address depression.  It was also nice to see that anyone (and I mean anyone- these poses were very approachable) could try these poses at home with limited knowledge of yoga and with limited use of specialized props.  As Dr. Forbes notes throughout the book, once someone is in the pose, the real work begins.  What a larger metaphor for life. Overall, this is a recommended book for a therapist interested in the interconnectedness of yoga, breath-work and psychotherapy- a field that will no doubt be advancing in coming years.  Happy reading!


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About Us
The Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy (IMP)  is a non-profit organization dedicated to the education and training of mental health professionals in the integration of mindfulness meditation and psychotherapy.