Oscillations: Zen & Psycho-analytic Versions
PAUL C. COOPER
Paul C. Cooper, MS, NCPsyA is a member of the National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis, training analyst, clinical supervisor and faculty of the Institute for Expressive Analysis; Former Board member and faculty of the Center for Spirituality and Psychotherapy; Advisory Board and Faculty Harlem Family Institute; Editorial Board: Groundwater: Journal of Buddhism and Psychotherapy. He is the author of poetry and numerous articles; recipient of the NPAP Ernest Angel Award for ‘‘Affects and Self States: A Case study on the Integration of Buddhist Analytic Meditation and Psychoanalysis.’’ His co-edited collection Psychotherapy and Religion: Many paths, One Journey is currently in press. Paul Cooper maintains a private practice in Manhattan.
Abstract: The author provides a personal and experiential account of Zen Buddhism and psychoanalysis. The notion of oscillations serves as an organizing structure. Drawing from the British psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion and the American Zen teacher Robert Aitken, the notion of suffering, meaning here to permit, is considered as the central motivating force and organizing principle for both disciplines. As a critique of traditional psychoanalytic writing an ‘‘experiment in dialogue’’ is offered that draws from a variety of writing styles including prose, poetry, free- association, stream of consciousness, traditional teaching stories and case material to discuss various experiential states such as linearity, circularity, resistance, ambivalence, passion, rage and the potential for a mutually supportive dynamic between Zen and psychoanalysis.
摘要：作者描述了有关佛教禅修和心理分析的个人经验性观点。碰撞（Oscillation）的概念起到组织全文结构的作用。根据英国心理分析师威尔弗雷德•比昂（Wilfred Bion）和美国禅修老师罗伯特•艾特肯（Robert Aitken）的观点，所谓的承受（此处意为“认可”）认为是两方（心理分析和禅修）的核心驱动力量和运作规律。作为一篇传统心理分析的评论文，此处写了一个“对话试验”， 作者借鉴了一系列的写作手法（包括散文、诗歌、自由联系、意识流、传统教育故事和案例资料），目的是为了探讨不同的经验状态，譬如线性，环性、抗拒、矛盾、激情、愤怒，以及探讨禅修与心理分析之间的相互支持的潜在性。
KEY WORDS: psychoanalysis; Zen, Buddhism; Wilfred Bion; Robert Aitken; meditation; poetry.
This article is an experiment in dialogue that integrates the languages of self-reﬂection, personal history, free-association; the unique languages that develop between analyst and analysand; mystical languages, such as the enigmatic Zen dialogue and the rich poetic that has evolved out of Zen. The notion of oscillations provides a loose structure.
Involvement in Buddhist study and practice, for me, has been an ongoing series of oscillations occurring with variations in pitch, speed, depth and intensity. Initially, I would touch Buddhism lightly, let it touch me, and bounce away. These encounters occurred years apart. These oscillations give the impression of straight lines leading nowhere, like so many new interests that one peeks into. Yet, like deeply planted seeds the oscillations remain buried and germinate out of sight until they sprout and blossom as they deepen, diminish and repeat. With deepening involvement micro-oscillations appeared woven into the fabric of wider arcs such as in the ﬂuctuations in intensity, duration and frequency of sitting meditation. Over the years, I developed a daily practice of one or more forty-ﬁve-minute sitting periods. At times, I might stop practice, or I might notice a diminished intensity or a lack of clarity and focus. Enthusiasm would wax and wane. At some points during meditation sessions, I would simply notice time passing and play at day-dreaming to get through the boredom. At other points, states of timelessness would ensure.
Psychoanalysis, on the other hand, despite periods of turbulence, has always felt steadier than my initial forays into Buddhism. Since my ﬁrst encounter, I simply stayed with it with few interruptions. Thus, despite their presence, psychotherapy’s oscillations often remain unnoticed, unconscious, or evolve in arcs too wide to perceive close up. Yet, oscillations certainly do occur between hope and despair, feelings of fragmentation and wholeness, depression and elation, agitation and equipoise, to name a few.
Oscillations draw momentum from both inner and outer sources. Most predominant were my longings that continue to consist of a bittersweet blend of wonder, doubt, passion, deadness, sadness, elation, joy, and pain. When attended to over time, both painful and joyous aspects of longings begin to exert a different kind of impact. They lose their threatening feel and paradoxically intensify adding energy, richness and meaning to life. They are no longer perceived as something dangerous and toxic. Rather, whatever emerges can be accepted. My deepest longings ultimately expressed a matter of life and death urgency. With passing time the resulting encounters began to touch an emerging gnawing desire to get at ‘‘the something’’ or ‘‘the nothing’’ inside of myself.
Simply put, suffering motivated me to pursue Zen and psychoanalysis. It would be naive to suggest otherwise. Wilfred Bion notes that ‘‘There are patients whose contact with reality presents the most difﬁculty when that reality is their own mental state . . . The patient who will not suffer pain fails to ‘suffer’ pleasure’’ (1970, p. 9). For Bion, psychotherapy requires suffering the fact that pain exists for both self and other.
Likewise, the Buddhist commitment to save all beings, acknowledges the suffering of both self and other. To suffer is to permit or to allow. The Zen teacher Robert Aitken writes that ‘‘Duhkha, the truth of suffering . . . is resistance to suffering. It is the anguish we feel when we don’t want to suffer’’(1994, p. 50).
This constant, ambiguous ‘‘something inside’’ that I felt was, at the time, the best I could do to describe the nameless depths of my own suffering. ‘‘Something inside’’ perhaps serves as a compromise for what can and cannot be said about what might or might not be felt. The capacity for suffering, and even naming suffering, gets buried under layers of self-deception. This observation ﬁnds expression often enough, perhaps so often, that it reaches the point of meaninglessness. Overuse can strip language of its meaning and impact.
Whatever can be said about what might be numbed out and what might be felt becomes safely reduced to cliche. However, despite the many ways one might conceptualize, articulate, buffer or neutralize experience, suffering remains real. At stake is one’s capacity for experiencing suffering, which might or might not have been developed, derailed, damaged, deformed, interrupted or stalled. Suffering, when considered as permission, engenders a deepening into life, into our pains and our pleasures, our terrors and our delights. Numbing or nulling out our capacity to suffer our being human looms equally large to felt suffering. Do oscillations engender balance points between insensate mindlessness and exquisite mindfulness where the impacts of life can be felt, experienced, permitted, endured and allowed?
Enlightenment cuts through suffering, not by numbing it out or by transcendence. Rather one strips away what might buffer or prevent suffering. My patient Anna, for example, stays in bed. She attempts to avoid the fear and pain of being in the world. She succeeds but misses her passing life. Her depression functions to buffer what she might otherwise suffer. Anna lives at the perimeter of literal life and death, and she misses the wide-awake dream called life. Analysis, for Anna, becomes a process of waking up to herself, her pains, and her joys. Zen and psychoanalysis both acknowledge that being wide-awake, fully permitting the experience of life and enduring its impact, remains a constant struggle.
Each oscillation between wakefulness and unconsciousness penetrates consciousness much deeper and increases one’s capacity to endure and permit what needs suffering. One begins to see through the illusion and relinquish what need not be suffered. Scratching surfaces, digging deeper, hitting bedrock, one uncovers new surfaces to be worked with. The plunge into any spiritual practice contains both soft and rough edges, moments of equipoise and of chaos. Seemingly solid bedrock can fragment into smithereens in the constant come-together, break-apart life rhythms one inevitably encounters, whether suffered consciously or not.
Accounts of literal and psychological violence, chaos, horror and terror, ﬁll both the Zen and psychoanalytic literature. Maiming, dismemberment, and disﬁguration appear as common Zen themes that express the intensity of desire for Truth. A vignette from Keitoku Dentoroku (The Transmission of the Lamp) a classical collection of Zen koans typiﬁes this theme: He [Shinko] went over there [Shorinji] and day and night beseeched Bodhidharma for instruction. The master always sat in zazen facing the wall and paid no attention to his entreaties. On the evening of December 9, heaven sent down a heavy snow. Shinko stood erect and unmoving. Toward daybreak the snow reached above his knees. The Master had pity on him and said, ‘‘You have been long standing in the snow. What are you seeking?’’ Shinko in bitter tears said, ‘‘I beseech you, O Master, with your compassion pray open your gate of Dharma and save all of us beings.’’ The master said, ‘‘the incomparable Truth of the Buddha can only be attained by eternally striving, practicing what cannot be practiced and bearing the unbearable. How can you, with your little virtue, little wisdom, and with your easy and self-conceited mind, dare to aspire to attain the true teaching? It is only so much labor lost.’’ Listening to the Master’s admonition, Shinko secretly took out his sharp knife, himself cut off his own left arm, and placed it in front of the Master. The Master recognizing the Dharma caliber, (Dharma being the Buddhist doctrine of the law of cause and effect, phenomena and things), told him, ‘‘Buddhas, when they ﬁrst seek after the Truth, give no heed to their bodies for the sake of Dharma. You have now cut off your arm before me. I have seen the sincerity of your seeking.’’ (Shibayama, 2000, p. 287)
In his commentary on the text, Shibayama points out that: ‘‘The above account is not in accordance with historically traceable facts . . . But the painful and desperate struggle in seeking after the Truth, even at the risk of one’s own life, is not a mythological fabrication by an old Zen Master. He who has experienced the same pain and hardship in really seeking the Truth cannot read just lightly as an old story’’ (Ibid., p. 287).
The snow of Shorin is stained crimson,
Let us dye our heart with it
Humble though it may be. (Ibid.)
Poetry constitutes an important aspect of the Zen religious literature. Lucien Stryk notes that: ‘‘Appealing directly to one’s feeling and volition, as poetry in general does, Zen poetry is more likely than Zen prose to enable one to make the leap to the ultimate Truth. . .’’ (1973, p. xix).
In the context of seeking and suffering, Zen poets frequently speak of ‘‘void-splitting,’’ ‘‘earth smashing to smithereens,’’ ‘‘thunder and lightening,’’ ‘‘ocean beds aﬂame,’’ ‘‘swallowing molten iron balls, that cannot be spit out’’ to describe the experience of Zen practice and awakening. Muso, the 13th century Japanese Zen poet (1275–1351) writes:
Vainly I dug for a perfect sky,
Piling a barrier all around.
Then one black night, lifting a heavy
Tile, I crushed the skeletal void! (Stryk and Ikemoto, 1991, p. 24)
One might attribute the ‘‘out’’ aspect of the experience of oscillations to resistance. A path taken becomes the many roads not taken. Resistance to what is known can become an opening to what remains unknown. Resistance as pure energy, accumulated, and stored, provides the force for smashing through the bedrock of reiﬁed states of self-deception. Regardless of the choice of description, either as resistance, momentum building, or one of an inﬁnite number of permutations inclusive of both, oscillations continue.
Time passes, practice continues; Buddhism and psychoanalysis converge, diverge, overlap, dovetail, dissolve and intertwine. Practice engenders shifts in awareness and relatedness to self and other. Self might be taken more or less seriously, others more or less separately, depending on one’s shifting perceptual vantage point.
Ambivalence, in light of Buddhist and psychoanalytic process, contains both rough and soft edges from mild confusions to deep splits that cut through and divide one’s very core of being. Ambivalence presents itself as imperceptibly slowed-down oscillations which, at the extreme, freeze like a still-frame snapshot and crack at fault-lines. These cracks can expand into abysmal gaps of forbidding depth within the psyche. Psychoanalyst Melanie Klein (1935), for one, speaks graphically of splits between internal and external reality, creative and destructive forces, joy, horror, love and hate that derail natural movements.
借助于佛法和心理分析过程，矛盾包括了粗糙 与柔和的边缘，从轻度迷惑到深度分裂，这样的分裂割开并分隔人的的真正核心。矛盾表现极为细微减慢的碰撞，在极端情况下，它会凝固起来如同一张画面静止的快照相片，或者是断层处的裂纹。这些裂纹最后会在精神世界里扩展成深不可测的巨大鸿沟。心理分析师米兰妮·克莱恩（Melanie Klein）生动地讲述了种种分裂，譬如内部现实与外部现实、创造性与破坏性力量、愉悦与恐惧、爱和恨等等，这些情况已经脱离了自然运行轨迹。
In my practice, psychoanalysis and Zen express, become part of, and further natural rhythms. The movements charted by Zen/psychoanalytic oscillations weave together both linear and circular elements, as the ongoing expanding and contracting timelessness of the moment becomes momentous in one’s experience of it.
Without disregarding the reality of ambivalence, oscillations between the linear and the circular seem inevitable, normal, necessary aspects of being when not derailed. The natural circularity of life becomes revealed in oscillations. Many forms of circular movement exist: spiralings between deﬁnite and inﬁnite that express inner, outer and in-between rhythms; breathing which reveals recurring thought patterns, transference-generated repetition compulsions; the cycles of seasons and tides; the endless rounds of chanting, bowing, and sitting meditations. There is the circular movement of patient and therapist in recurring sessions, the dynamic dramas of transference and countertransference, the emotional unfoldings as patient and therapist endure together the passing days, months and years. Seekers, patient and therapist alike, begin again and again each year, each term, each week, each day, each moment in both real and phantasy time in patterns of circularity that crystallize in both the familiar and unfamiliar and then once again dissolve.
One point along the path of Zen practice that ups the intensity of one’s involvement with oscillations of larger than life proportions occurs during sesshin or silent Zen retreat. This point, if we were to magnify it, reveals micro-oscillations within a framework not unlike the passing of day and night in the larger ﬂow of changing seasons.
Sesshin takes place in the Zendo. This space is decorated with only the essential ritual items: a minimal altar, a Buddha, ﬂowers, a candle, and an incense burner. The Zendo feels clean and sparse but not lacking. Round black zafus (cushions) for sitting lay atop larger square cushions and line the Zendo hall in neat orderly rows. Many of these ritual items reﬂect a Spartan parsimony and an efﬁciency of purposeful management. A bell signals the beginnings and endings of meditation periods. Wooden clappers signal the retreat participants to stand up, to walk, and to sit again.
In a recalled memory of a Zen retreat, I enter and feel anxious. The structure evokes unpleasant memories. Perfectly lined up, the zafus remind me of elementary school chairs in rows, nailed to the classroom ﬂoor. I remember rigid over-regimentation, corporal punishment, grim-faced nuns. The lack of spontaneity in the classroom of my memory engenders deadness. Feelings of ridicule and humiliation douse my nascent creative sparks. Sadism reigns in the form of excessive punishment witnessed by peers and rationalized as sound discipline. Sadism engenders shame and destroys emerging glimpses of self. These long repressed memories return to me during extended periods of zazen. I begin to see how they color my present landscape.
In the Zendo, a monk circles the hall periodically offering to relieve tense backs and shoulders by striking the meditator with a hardwood stick. Initially, I wince and my body shakes in response to the cracking sound. This stick used to release tension is so reminiscent of the stick of my early memory used to punish. I think to myself: ‘‘Why do I put myself in this horriﬁc situation?’’ Old coping mechanisms that helped me survive elementary school become activated. My mind shifts out of the present, to fantasies, and daydreams. Dissociated mind states follow. I feel rebellious. These feelings become an obstacle that gets worked out through Zen practice and deeper familiarity with the process and the structure.
Psychoanalytic formulations provide meaning for these dynamics, detailing names and faces as internal object relations as they become conscious. My early experiences in the parochial school engendered anxiety. These early anxieties became unconsciously reiﬁed and created ﬁxation points that, in psychoanalysis, become activated along with associated self states in similar circumstances.
In the Zendo, I ﬁnd myself feeling like the frightened child anticipating a thrashing with a stick. My body becomes tense and my posture rigid as I sense the monk slowly approaching. As he passes, I feel relief. Through deeper awareness and involvement with these feelings, unconscious aspects are exposed. Reactions, formerly blind, once revealed, can be questioned, examined.
However, when not fully conscious of these processes, I remain caught in an identiﬁcation between the Zendo and the parochial grammar school. Despite years of analysis, initially, I am caught and I don’t know it.
With continued practice and deepening familiarity with both inner experience and external structure juxtaposed, the Zendo space and the discipline of sitting evolves into a holding environment that makes it possible for me to do everything I am there to do. Incidentals and concerns are taken care of through the structure of practice.
I feel like a spiritual fetus (seed) incubating (germinating) and held safely in the room (womb) of the Zendo. Can I ripen and bloom forth at my own pace in my own time? Will the retreat provide a viable option to the suffering-resistant cocoon-like skin wrapped tightly around my psyche? Eventually, it becomes clear to me that there is nothing parochial about the stick or the experience.
The intensity of Zen practice both demands and engenders passion. Passion is primary, emerging from the heart-center, the rhythm of the heart, and from the heartbeat of psychic life. Buddhist cosmology describes passions in both the god realm and hell realm states and in both states of ecstasy and equipoise. In my experience, however, for the most part, Zen Buddhism does not deal fully with emotional life.
The Buddhist belief is that over-emphasis on emotional life will obscure realization of ultimate reality because the transient emotions such as anger, love, hurt, and envy, for example, are aspects of the phenomenal world or relative reality. The problem, as I see it, lies in an unhealthy avoidance or wholesale denial of the emotions and their signiﬁcance for the internal world of the individual in regard to one’s relationship to self, to others and to practice. This relativizing tendency becomes one of degree. Neither over-indulgence nor denial of emotional life is tenable.
Passion/rage permutations mark an experiential converging point between time spent on the zafu and time spent on the analytic couch. Through Zen I become sensitized to both subtle and powerful energies. Buddhists often view rage as reﬂecting separation, or unfulﬁlled longing. In terms of separation and union, what is the psychic distance between something being given, the promise of something happening, and something being taken away? Sometimes feelings of separation have to do with what we seek, especially during the experience of self-fragmentation and/or when the oneness of mystical union is imminent. When approaching the oneness of mystical union, passion evolves into compassion. Dissolved subject and object distinctions close the you/me gap.
In Zazen, there is the promise of satori, connectedness with self, with other, with what is beyond self, with teachers, with Buddha. Through waiting, sitting, waiting, Zazen locates raw emotion, thought and sensation. In this experience, I feel rage bubbling over. I watch the volcanic eruption, watch myself, selves, and others as form melts, crystallizes, shatters in permutations of liquid psychic lava in an emotional upsurge and outﬂow. Passion swirls as forms and images spew forth. Multi-colored mind ﬂowers blossom and melt away. Prolonged zazen builds the capacity for handling increasing intensities.
In this zendo, I sit with rage and ﬁnd myself opening into passion or perhaps passion opening into what I imagine is me. Can rage intensify and burn through enough of me to reveal itself as passion? Can I grow through rage, past rage’s destructiveness, until it transforms?
I embrace the horror and disturbance of felt rage. I embrace the enlivening passion ﬁres. I swallow ﬁre and dream rainbows. Fire–pure energy—transforms into a multi-faceted gem, a spring cornucopia of blossoming psychic ﬂowers.
Rage is passion’s burning bush. The deadliness of rage can feed the aliveness of passion: raging passions, passionate rages. The rage feels tense, tight, my body, nerves, muscles, bones, joints constricted. The ache intensiﬁes. Each heartbeat pulses through my body into my limbs, to the ends of my ﬁngers and toes. My thoughts become simultaneously effusive and restricted. Oscillations spin out from feelings of hurt, indignation, disappointment, failed grasping. Tighter and tighter circles of thoughts and feelings spin around repetitive motifs.
Yet, these tight qualities of rage reveal openings to passion. Beyond the dialectical tensions, pure energy evolves, permeating every cell and ﬁber of my being. The pure ﬂuid energy of rage/passion, rises and subsides with varying proportions, differing degrees of intensity and color. When the tail of rage’s tiger is fully grasped and embraced, it becomes passion. Transformed rage becomes a lived passion for peace, for creature-comforts, for eros, sensate pleasures, connectedness, aliveness. In its variations, it may include a passion for music, writing, painting, creating and destroying. Rage transforms into orgasmic passions, kitchen-sink passions, dish washing activities, garbage collecting and removing. All of it!
Similarly, psychoanalysis gives meaning to bits and pieces of raw experience. Continued sitting in the ever-widening oscillations of both processes brings into the present situation an awareness of inner obstructions. In both cases, awareness dissolves rage, which, if suffered, transforms into passion.
Passion, at best, becomes longing for union with the divine, with divine-lover, with the universe, with truth, life, death, and inﬁnite moment. One may experience the depths of one’s own being as an intimate connection, what Zen describes as ‘‘the face before I was born.’’
Psychoanalytic and Zen passions translate as passions that oscillate between work and play, love and hate, consuming and being consumed. Not only do they oscillate, they eventually transform play to work and work to play. Love and hate passions that formerly split asunder, dissolve andmerge.
The oscillation between rage and passion and the potential for transformation pertains even to the death passions which ﬁnd an epitome of artistic and spiritual expression in the highly regarded death poems of the great Zen masters. For example, Date-Soko (1089–1163) writes:
Life’s as we
Find it–death too.
A parting poem?
Why insist? (Stryk and Ikmoto, 1991, p. 18)
The consequences of the synthetic process of oscillating dialectic can be far-reaching. The radical misguided Moslem Jihad represents a contemporary manifestation with horriﬁc global implications at the crossroads of life and death. At the extreme, even misguided and malignant life and death passions might evolve in oscillations between collective turbulence and peace.
Rage, in its raw form, expresses separation, subject and object disconnection, but also functions to maintain self/other distinctions. Dualistic thinking functions to split rage and passion creating and perpetuating a seemingly unbridgeable gap. Access to passion becomes lost. The multi-faceted gem that life can be becomes ﬂattened and one-dimensional.
Oscillating through the terrain of the amorphous, intuitively felt Zen experience paired with the speciﬁcity of the psychoanalytic encounter has made me ever-conscious of the child who waits for his mother; the ideal mother who never comes, who promises to come, but fails, the mother who makes promises that she cannot keep. I imagine these as ‘‘womb promises,’’ shattered by a too-soon birth, an induced labor, a forced delivery. These failed promises, in the context of a child’s longings, become buried in bedrock as unremembered longings.
When bedrock is shattered, these longings become pathways. What is Truth? Are these longings about motherly love, or the absence of it, from a mother who ﬁnds it impossible to hold her infant in her arms? Or is truth reaction formation and repressed passion/rage? Within me, oscillations range from fear to a wish to smash. What was it like to be my pregnant mother, to be pregnant with me, her son? What was it like to be the son within her womb?
Mother and son–one! What was it like to have the womb-son ripped away too soon? An infant ‘‘dropped’’ too soon by an induced labor bears the scar of the violence of a forceps-forced birth. Then, there is the ever-present reminder to the mother that her son was torn away. There is the inevitable fact that the son, in some way, knows of this wound through the eyes of the mother.
Whose longings are these that I feel when plunging into abysmal emptiness and despair? Are these longings mine or hers? Or both? The memory-shattered aging mother of the present speaks poignantly and passionately to her son calling, ‘‘I miss my son, my son, my love.’’
Does the remembered and longed for promise of gratiﬁcation, paired with the reality of brokenness and unavailable nourishment become the psychological palate from which present experience derives its color? Overlays of abyssal colors obscure the moment’s truth despite the suddenly emerging force of past memories. When pulling on the rage thread, passion unravels. When following the passion thread, what will one ﬁnd? Psychoanalytically, I experience,
Anger, fear, passion, from this couch
where a hungry dawn
swallows raging stars from an ink sky.
In the zendo, sitting still on my zafu, I reach the limits of what can be suffered. I am back to breathing and sitting, hearing the ringing bell, the wood block’s clap, up and slowly walking once again.
From this zafu,
just past the open window,
between bare branches
the rising dawn sun shimmers
on a wind-rippled lake.
Aitken, R. (1994). The Practice of Perfection: The Paramitas from a Zen Buddhist Perspective.
Washington, D.C.: Counterpoint.
Bion, W. (1970). Attention and Interpretation. London: Karnak Books.
Klein, M. (1935). A contribution to the psychogenesis of manic-depressive states. In Love, guilt and
reparation and other Works: 1921–1945. U.S.A.: Delacourt Press/Seymour Lawrence. (1975), pp.
Shibayama, Z. (2000). The Gateless Barrier: Zen Comments on the Mumonkan. Trans.: S. Kudo.
Boston, MA: Shambhala.
Stryk, L., Ikemoto, T. (1973). Zen Poems of China and Japan: The Crane’s Bill. N.Y.: Grove Press.
Stryk, L., Ikemoto, T. (1991). Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter. N.Y.: Grove Press.
文章来源：Journal of Religion and Health, Vol. 43, No. 3, Fall 2004 (Ó 2004)