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A revolutionary new technique?

Adaptation Practice has been called a revolutionary new technique for mental health, but it would be more accurate to call it a revolutionary ancient way of emotional training. During my medical training, and my years as a hospital psychiatrist in the NHS I was greatly surprised to discover there is almost nothing in terms of what we might call a science of emotion and in order to develop Ap I had to turn to the ancient traditions of the East concerned with emotion and behaviour.

Specifically, I studied the preliminary training a Zen Buddhist monk undergoes before joining a temple. I hasten to add that there is nothing religious about Adaptation Practice, it is totally secular, a system in which you train much as you would train to become a ballerina, a rock climber or to ride a bike.

All the same, a Buddhist monk in the Zen tradition undergoes a special way of training as a precursor to being accepted in a monastery. This preliminary training, which Adaptation Practice is derived from, teaches him to master the inner fires of emotion in order to attain the tranquillity needed to undergo serious training as a monk.

The special way of training is highly applicable to us to deal with the emotional difficulties we face today. I have been in just such a traditional Zen training for more than forty years, and the insights it contains have formed the bedrock of my life and Adaptation Practice.

Heart – not mind

In the 70s, when I first encountered Zen Buddhism, it was considered a very odd thing to do but nowadays the bookshops are of course filled with books on Buddhism and mindfulness meditation. It is worth pointing out that the term ‘mindfulness’, although it is too late to change, is based on mistranslations and misunderstandings. Buddhism is concerned mainly with the heart; not the mind. The heart includes emotion, moods and feelings and how these affect us: the mind includes rational thought, logic, calculation and mental pictures, and is devoid of emotion. What’s more, the functions of the mind are at the mercy of emotions arising from the heart. Consequently, western mindfulness and meditation ignore those aspects of training and practice without which we cannot tackle the root causes of emotional and behavioural problems.

To make ourselves whole and to be able to enjoy life again we need to spend less, not more, time in the mind thinking or picturing our bodies, feelings and thoughts.

Through Adaptation Practice we come to see for ourselves that emotion is at the source of our distress and yet there is nothing alien or malign about emotion. It is the most fundamental aspect of us, designed by nature, so to speak, to move us towards what we want, and away from what we don’t want. It is as natural as our heartbeat and to try to get rid of it, as we so often do, or to view it as a disease, only increases the distress we seek to address, and alienates us from the life in us.

Learn to bear how we feel

Instead, in the Practice, we train ourselves to accept the emotion as natural, and to live in harmony with it. And yes, unfashionable as this notion is, particularly in the West, we must also seek to bear it rather than try to extinguish it.

Why? Because by bearing how we feel, little by little, an inner strength develops in us which changes the emotion itself. In the process we change too: we adapt to life as it really is instead of living in a fool’s paradise or a self-made hell.

It is this insight that lies at the core of the Practice. Insight comes from experience, not from thinking.

Since this is a training and not a medical intervention, I refer to all those who do the Practice as students. They are not clients, and certainly not patients.

It is essential as a first step towards self-knowledge that you come to understand that you do not have an illness. This is in no way to minimise or belittle the severe emotional pain that you suffer, but you are not ill.

No special skills or previous experience are required to do Ap, anyone can do it. But it is not easy. It demands commitment and dedication just as learning any new skill does. All that is required is the willingness to try to do it. As with learning any new skill change comes from trying.

Sometimes positive effects of the Practice manifest themselves within a few weeks, but it might take longer.

Adaptation Practice is not a quick fix. The underlying causes of your difficulties and problems are far too deep for any quick-fix to reach let alone deal with. The very fact that you have found your way here leads me to believe you already understand that. You have probably tried all the quick fixes.


Read more about this on the Classes page.


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