The Jungian analyst Marion Woodman talks about the moment her own analysis really began. Although she had engaged in many sessions with the famous Jungian analyst E. A. Bennet, she had spent most of her time trying to prove to him that she was a good, smart, and organized person. "I had been seeing him for about six months," Woodman says, "and I was still trying to be a good girl. On Christmas Eve I learned that my childhood dog had been killed. I decided not to waste my six o'clock session that evening talking about my dog and I arrived as well organized as usual." At the end of the session, Dr. Bennet, who was in his eighties at the time, asked Woodman if anything was wrong. He had sensed that her attention was elsewhere during the session. Woodman lightly noted that her dog had died. Then the old doctor began to weep. He was weeping over her dog. This astonished her. He asked her how she could have wasted the session chattering when her "soul animal" had died. Suddenly Woodman knew what she had been doing to herself all her adult life, how she had been treating her own soul. She sat with the old doctor and wept. "That's when my analysis truly began," she says.
Dr. Bennet was a brilliant and well-trained therapist. He also was a humble and tender man. All of these are good qualities to look for in a guide.
Psychotherapy is a powerful process. If it works well, we emerge with a stronger sense of who we are in our body, mind, heart, and soul. We gather skills to help us move with less fear through the fires of life. We create a firm foundation that can support our talents, endeavors, relationships, and quests. Combined with a spiritual practice like meditation, therapy can help us develop happiness, humanity, and mastery in life. And yet, for all of our spiritual peace of mind and our psychological sanity and strength, there remains the fact that we will never quiet all our anxieties or tame all our neuroses. We are, remember, bozos on the bus.
And that is where prayer comes in.
Sister Alice Martin teaches gospel singing at Omega. I have taken her workshops because I love to sing, and for me singing gospel music is like diving into an ocean of bliss. Sister Alice is an electrifying singer, songwriter, and gospel choir leader. When she walks into a room, you sit up a little straighter. When she directs a group of people singing, you never take your eyes off her. During her workshops, in between leading the group in song, Sister Alice talks about prayer. "Prayer is about being hopeful," she says. "It is not a phone call to God's hotline. It's not about waiting around for an answer you like, especially since sometimes the answer you're going to get is no!"
My favorite advice about prayer from Sister Alice is this: "If you are going to pray, then don't worry. And if you are going to worry, then don't bother praying. You can't be doing both." When I stop and listen closely to what's going on inside my head, I often hear the buzz of worry, like the drone of bees in a wall. That's when I remember Sister Alice's words of wisdom. What would I rather being doing, I ask myself, worrying or praying? I usually choose praying. It's a lot more fun than worrying.