Psyche and Mindfulness
Welcoming the Wisdom of Your True Nature
Suzanne Szalay, M.D.

                From my earliest days as a Jungian analytic psychiatrist, I’ve observed extraordinary benefit when the practice of drawing on psyche's wisdom (analytic depth work) is partnered with practices of the contemplative traditions and with the wisdom of yoga. Psyche’s symbolic language and practices such as mindfulness mutually inform and enrich one another. Together they loosen our habitual attachment to the narrow perspective of the ego. They widen our view, and help us stretch into the light of awareness.

               Analytic depth work fundamentally entails becoming more mindful. It fosters deep attention to the thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and sensations that color our daily lives. In the process we awaken to a forgotten source of wisdom that radiates perpetually from within. Practices such as mindfulness similarly strengthen alertness to expressions of this inner light.

               But here's the thing: while mindfulness may awaken us to our inner radiance, still we need help (especially when we’re absolutely sure we don’t!) waking up to the countless ways we fool ourselves. Unconsciously—that is to say, without even realizing it—we fall into well-worn paths of pride and ignor-ance. Then in the midst of so-called mindfulness we can “mindfully” remain there! We need psyche's help in order to wake ourselves up to the myriad ways—even as we practice mindfulness—we unconsciously undermine our very best intentions. 

                Without waking up to the ways we fool ourselves, our paths can be dazzlingly and distractingly phony. By learning to translate psyche’s language as it emerges in our bodily sensations, symptoms, and difficulties, we can rely on psyche’s guiding light to find our way through the dark layers of our self-deception. You see, psyche depicts with tremendous precision the ways we turn our backs on our inner light. It exposes the roots that give rise to our convictions and highlights the pitfalls of our self-deceptive pranks.

                Analytic depth work—learning psyche’s metaphoric language—dovetails magnificently with contemplative practice because both are grounded in the wisdom nature of the body-mind. Both also challenge the collective tendency to suppress our awareness of our subtle (and not so subtle!) discomfort with “what is.” Both recognize the hazards of the inner critic and its collective mainstream counterpart. And finally, when you join the wisdom of the unconscious with a growing capacity to sit with discomfort, you allow yourself more space in which to greet, get to know, unpack, translate, and ultimately dance with whatever discomfort may come your way. 

© Suzanne Szalay, M.D.