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Presence, clarity and the space of receptivity in counselling : shambhala buddhist counsellors’ narratives of experience Rodrigues, Jennifer

Abstract

This study is an inquiry into the experiences of Shambhala Buddhist counsellors. My interest lies in whether the Shambhala Buddhism paradigm of health and basic goodness and the practice of working with emotions affect counsellors in their relationship with clients, have relevance for counselling practice, and pragmatic usefulness for counsellor training. My question is: does the practice and study of Shambhala Buddhism inform their counselling and how is this distilled in action and in interaction? The participants are Shambhala Buddhist counsellors who have a history and depth of experience in both Buddhism and counselling. My research path comprised interviews, a group dialogue and an art-making component. Congruent with counselling and Buddhist approaches, I inquired into these counsellors' stories of experience and practiced mindfulness and openness as my researcher's stance. I did multiple readings of the various texts, investigating the participants' view, presence, and interaction with clients. To analyze and present the findings, I used the Buddhist logic of ground, path, and fruition. My inquiry outlines how these counsellors' view of basic goodness and selfconstruct is embodied in practice. Enhanced counsellor awareness, profound empathic connection, attentiveness to self and other and in relationship, and openness without agenda give rise to the conceptual clarity that informs skillful action. It results in an openhearted presence, clarity, and receptivity. Strategically helping clients examine their experience and how their mind constructs that experience shifts clients' relationship to pain, themselves, and others. This enhances clients' self-reflectivity, self-acceptance, and disengagement from fixed patterns and constructed storylines that maintain suffering. This focus helps clients develop greater emotional configurations and more fluid ways of being. These insights and practices address core, fundamental, and valuable components of counselling. They have great relevance for the relational process and experiential reality of counselling. This research enlarges the conversation on empathy and counsellor competency. It points to the educational significance of incorporating experiential expressive forms and practices of embodied learning to enhance counsellor self and other awareness and the possibility for attunement. This study offers substantive theoretical and practical implications for counselling practice and for the education of counsellors.

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