Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy
 and Couch
Fall 2014
BCBS Buddha Hand
Top_of_pageWelcome to the Fall 2014 issue of Cushion and Couch, the journal for IMP members!

In this issue:

PedullaMindfulness Practice

By Amanda Peacock



The mindfulness practices I find most helpful lately, for clients as well as myself, move through a process of exploring experience, relating to what is found with equanimity and compassion, and taking care. I learned most of these practices from teachers affiliated with the Insight Meditation Society and Barre Center for Buddhist Studies.



We may enter into experience through a doorway like breath, sound, or sensation in the body, to discover what is here. If it is a sound, we explore the quality of the sound. Loud or soft. Low pitch or high. Pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. We attend, as we can, to beginning, middle and end of the sound. Arising and falling. Beginning with sound, breath or sensation in the body, later we may explore pain or fear or frustration. 

With exploration, we just notice what's here, like seeing what leaves fell or flowers bloomed on the path this morning. We notice our reactions - thoughts, feelings, stories. And we notice how they change as we watch. Beginning. Middle. End.



When exploration turns up distress, we might move to an equanimity practice. We note: Things are as they are. We breathe and again note: Things are as they are. 

As if we found a bird who had died on the path, we ask: Can I be with this just as it is from beginning, middle to end? 

Seeing bird. Surprise. Concern. Despair. Acceptance.

Things are as they are.



From equanimity, we move to self-compassion practice. We may place a hand on the heart and say to the part that is hurting: I care about this suffering. I am here with you.

And breathe. We stay with the suffering for a while to soothe what has arisen with kind attention and presence. Beginning. Middle. End.



From self-compassion, we cycle back through exploration, equanimity and self-compassion, deepening connection inside with each pass. 

Exploring we check in to see what is happening. Is there arising or passing away? 

Moving to equanimity: Things are as they are. Can I be with this?  Beginning, middle, end.

Offering self-compassion: I care. I am here with you. 


Take Care

We take care to notice the body's answer to "can I be with this?"  If it answers "no", (by physically racing or beginning to dissociate, for example) then we move to taking care. We practice to know when we can challenge the system and when we need to step back. We attend to the system to hear what it needs. 


We ask: Is a shift in attention or kind action needed? 

If yes, we may deepen the breath to invite calm. 

We may move from attention inside, to attending to what is outside. 

We might shift attention to another sense, like sound or feeling the feet on the floor. 

We might move from meditation, (inside) to connection (outside).

We might choose to bury the bird, share our sadness with a friend, or notice the sun reflecting on the river.


Image by Laurie Rhoades



interviewAn Interview with Dr. Lawrence Peltz

By Barbara Van Zoeren LICSW


Dr Lawrence Peltz, is the director of the Bournewood-Caulfield Center in Woburn MA. His new book, The Mindful Path to Addiction Recovery: A Practical Guide to Regaining Control over your life has been recently published by Shambala Publications Inc.


I interviewed Dr. Peltz at his office.  We spoke of his path to mindfulness and psychotherapy and his work with addiction recovery. 

: What drew you to psychotherapy, mindfulness and the intersection of them both?

: I was a psychologist when I was urged by my mother to become a psychiatrist. I was doing some mind/body research in biochemistry. I liked psychiatry but wasn't emotionally ready to be a therapist. I was struggling with some things including the loss of my mother while in school, so I chose a "heady" subject of study in neurology. I started in neurology in Boston We'd be on rounds and while it was fascinating I would find myself looking at the OTs and PTs who were working directly with the patients and wanting that. I realized neurology was not for me.

: You wanted to work directly with the people.

: Yes. So I left after a year and started working in emergency rooms. Through my experience in those clinics, I would find myself talking with and advising patients while I treated their physical wounds and realized I wanted to be in that role with them.

: So we see the psychotherapy part. What about the mindfulness part?

Larry: I first heard the dharma on the radio. It was in 1979 in Brookline. WBUR would play Alan Watts lectures.  Psychology was fascinating but then here was this person, talking about a much deeper notion of possibilities.  My girlfriend, now wife, began doing some chanting while I was traveling. When I returned I started chanting as well. I found it very powerful in helping with focusing my mind.

In 1985, CIMC opened and I started going there regularly. I began to trust my experience of the practice. It was a long time before I realized that I could let go of trying to control my thoughts and follow my breath. One time I said to a teacher at CIMC "but my thoughts are so interesting" and he said "I doubt they would be interesting to me". 

: That was an interesting intervention!  

: Yeah, but I resonated with him and it was helpful.  I worked at Somerville mental health and was the medical director of the methadone program at Cambridge Hospital. We started integrating psychodynamic theory into addiction work. I was also in therapy myself. Psychotherapy was much more powerful in learning than supervision. I could see that I had similar issues to my clients and I could know it from the inside.  And I now have a much easier time staying with clients in the session. I don't "drift away" as much.

: So your mindfulness practice helps you to be more embodied, more present.

  Yes, but also, the client gets inducted into it with some simple directions. I ask them if they're willing to try something, then ask them to notice their feet on the ground, their butt in the chair, their arms at their sides. I ask them to direct their attention, and invariably they go inside.

: so you present in very "matter of factly"

: Yes.  We see folks who are reactive, acting badly and then blaming themselves for it and this helps just to soften it a little.  Some of them become meditators and some don't. We see them making use of these skills.

: Informally.

: Informally.  We teach mindfulness simply. We say "we want you to live now," to notice the little things. We want you to notice simple moments so you don't have to go for a "big score". Sex, drugs, shopping, gambling etc., because there's so much more pleasure and interest in your life moment to moment. In groups I teach on the 5 obstacles to a clear mind and an open heart and ask everyone to name their "hindrance of choice" or we'll go around and have everyone name an experience/feeling and do a "making space" exercise. Can they allow or accept this experience? 

:  Lots of simple, experiential exercises. 

: We've had some good outcomes with this.

: Where else do you see exciting work going on in the intersection of mindfulness and psychotherapy?

: There's very creative work going on at UMASS and The Barre Center for Buddhist Studies. CIMC is working to offer a deepening of practice with the experienced clinicians group and the IMP with their new book is making it all so very accessible. I think that's exciting and generous.

Thank you for your time Dr. Peltz.




reviewAddiction and Recovery

A book review by Laura Fisher PsyD


According to the National Survey of Drug Use and Health, approximately 23.5 million Americans are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol.  This is a staggering number of individuals.  Just to put this in perspective, that number is equivalent to the entire population of Texas.  Even more shocking is that only 11% of individuals receive services and treatment for their addiction. That means that 20 million people are in need of treatment and are not getting it. Furthermore, the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids noted that the rate of drug and alcohol use in teens has gone up in the last few years, not down, and that the most widely used drugs were alcohol, marijuana and Ecstasy.  Teens are normalizing drug and alcohol use amongst their peers and have shown less concern about use and abuse overall.  Interestingly, many teens indicate that they are using "because it's fun," a predictable reason, but also as a way to deal with life stress.  Clearly we need to right the apple cart here.  This month, I encourage you all to consider how we can change this path, either through our individual psychotherapy practices or in the community at large. 


A good start is to read "The Mindful Path to Addiction Recovery: A practical guide to regaining control over your life" by Lawrence Peltz, MD.  Although this book is written for people who are working towards recovery, I actually think it is equally, if not better, served for clinicians that want to help individuals through this process.  Dr. Peltz separates this book into three major sections: addiction and mindfulness; recovery and treatment; and challenges to recovery.  He includes meditation exercises throughout and peppers the pages with interesting and compelling case history examples of how addiction has impacted people in various ways.  The writing can get unwieldy at times (he refers back to multiple case examples in the book from time to time and it can be difficult to keep straight who is who); however, I believe that the essence of the book allows clinicians to see the myriad of ways they can help individuals get clean and stay clean.  


The strength of this book lies in the third section, which covers challenges to recovery. Here Dr. Peltz breaks down difficulties faced by most people suffering from addiction and provides concrete and user-friendly ways to combat these struggles.  He strategizes about how to limit cravings and urges, work through pain and aversion, and deal effectively with energy and mood states.  Importantly, he links all of these "hindrances" to doubt, a key component to many slips and relapses.  He also addresses how judgment and comparison can infiltrate into someone's mind and impact his or her recovery process.  Finally, he closes the book with a wonderful chapter on kindness and compassion (he notes that "recovery is the beginning of kindness and compassion"- so true!).  Throughout the book, Dr. Peltz balances the blissfulness of meditation and mindfulness practices with the reality of drug and alcohol addiction and recovery and finds a way to blend the two into a seamless whole.  A reference you should have on your shelf.




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.