Sunday, January 30, 2011

Homosexuality: Part I

Edmund Bergler's book, "Homosexuality: Disease or Way of Life?" was referred to in my last post. Bergler was a Freudian psychiatrist who believed the commonly held doctrine in the 1950s and beyond, that homosexuality was an illness which was curable if the “patient” was not too badly damaged and if he or she truly wanted to be cured. My interviewee recalled that Lea herself was not too exercised about homosexual activity per se but was more interested in what was termed “latent homosexuality,” a catch-all phrase used to indicate the hostility of men towards women, usually beginning with the mother/matrix. But this is a puzzling usage. If men are hostile toward women, in what way does this reroute their sexuality toward one another? Does latent homosexuality in women refer to hostility toward men, i.e., the father? It was also confusing because of the way that this concept slid somehow into Lea’s interest in “devouring” or “cannibalistic” behavior. Because there were homosexuals in Lea’s practice from early days she thought and speculated about the issues that they raised. Bergler’s book was used as a reference for learning therapists.

Homosexuality was spoken of in groups in many different ways without much clarity. If a gay couple came into therapy they were kept apart and encouraged to enter into their house groups as a family which could help them to grow emotionally. Engaging in sexual activities with one another or with other gays was viewed as “acting out” and was highly discouraged. Heterosexual activity was discouraged in a house group for new clients as well but it was viewed more benignly. Lea would not to my knowledge speak pejoratively of a person’s homosexual activities when working with him or her. Working as a therapist she would engage with the individual in an encouraging manner, focusing on the troubles and problems of that person. In groups talking about homosexuality more speculatively, however, she would make comments which linked active homosexually with psychotic behavior, with pedophilia, or with profound paranoia.

There was a certain threat or dread associated with the idea of homosexuality in the community in the late 1960s and 1970s. Gus, one of Lea’s early clients and a member of the first learning group, would speak of it perhaps in terms learned in his native Newfoundland. It became known jokingly as “dat der queerness,” or “dat der” for short. Many references were made both seriously and in fun about emotional connections between men or between women that smacked of this element. If it was spoken of seriously the intent was to call attention to certain destructive components in the relationship; if in fun, it was used as a tease. For gay or lesbian people who entered into therapy because of the same kinds of confusions and unhappiness that brought any of us to seek help, it was no laughing matter. Their sexual orientation was viewed as a central problem that had to be corrected if their therapy was to be successful. The following recollections are those of a man whose therapy and life were blighted by this approach:

“When I look back on my therapy the thing I am most bitter about is the amount of homophobia that I suffered – starting with Lea. She had an investment in turning everyone out straight, with the men adoring her. All of the feelings of self-loathing that a gay person experiences in this culture anyway were greatly amplified there. It was so wrong. The main thing I have had to deal with since leaving Therafields has been deprogramming myself from the homophobia that was inflicted upon me. My therapist spent a lot of time trying to “cure” me of homosexuality though towards the end he changed. I think he was one of the first therapists to begin to understand that it wasn’t a disease. But most of the time he was very influenced by Lea’s teaching that homosexuality was a sickness that could be cured if one applied oneself. I spent 12 years trying. In individual sessions and in groups the main thrust of my therapy was to cure me of being homosexual. It was very painful, truly horrible. I can forgive a lot of things except that. I had a relationship with a young woman for three years. I loved her as much as I was able but I always knew that my whole self wasn’t engaged and I felt a lot of guilt as I was still having homosexual encounters during that time. It didn’t work, but I tried. Gay people in Therafields took an incredible amount of bashing. Lea would talk about homosexuality as being the same formation within a person as pedophilia.

In one of the short-lived Hypno III groups I had been very depressed and Lea said that I might be suicidal and that I needed a project. It was the fall of 1971and the extension of the Willow had just begun. My project was to last a week. Howie Gerhard, Bill Davidovitz, Karen Ellwood, and others came up for it. Somehow or other we got involved in the construction work at the Willow. Lea decided that we needed to do physical work as well as therapy work. It was cheap labour for the Willow too. She did abreactive work with me, which she later said was the beginning of that work for her. A lot of the people who had come to help were also disturbed and she ended up working with everyone. Some quit their jobs and we stayed on for three months or so. It continued even after I left for 316 St George. In the meantime we did a hell of a lot of physical work. We helped to build that place. It was kind of exciting. We felt that this great historic work was being done and that we were a part of it. Comparisons were made to Findhorn.

At the same time I remember feeling trapped and wanting to get away, partly because I was cut off from having homosexual experiences. During my years in therapy I surreptitiously remained a part of the gay scene in Toronto. When I lived at 123-5 I had a ground floor room. I would crawl out the window and go downtown but it was totally promiscuous sex. If I had had a supportive milieu I might have been able to develop a loving relationship with someone. One of the big ideas for the project was to turn me into a straight guy who could live a normal life and have a girl friend. I explored a lot about my relationships with my parents and my early life. I have always felt though that the main thing I gained from therapy was a deep understanding of psychopathy and narcissism. Lea was good at exposing those elements and showing how destructive they can be. I don’t know if I would have been better off without the therapy that I had. I do see a lot about psychopathy and narcissism in seemingly civilized people and this has helped me in choosing friends. But I don’t know what else I got out of my therapy. I had suffered from depression since I was 12. My aunt who was important and encouraging to me committed suicide then. I felt as though my life had come to an end. I had no one to rely on after that. Since I left therapy I have suffered some depression but nothing like I went through in my early years.

The biggest thing that helped me to work my way out of Therafields was falling in love with my partner. He had never been in a house group but he was involved in the work group at the farm. When we became involved I started to be aware of my anger about the homophobia in Therafields. Attitudes of homophobia are still prevalent in today’s society. I teach kids from Mormon and Muslim families, for example, and it is deeply ingrained in them.

Overall my biggest gain from Therafields was finding my partner. I was racked over the coals for it at the time because I was assisting Adam with the work group when I met him – a member of that group. I wasn’t his therapist but I was supposed to be helping him with his work problems. But I knew from the first time that we had sex that if I didn’t put myself totally into the relationship, that I could be talked out of it. I can see how it could be perceived as unscrupulous behaviour. Gus was very angry and I was roundly confronted in the group. I think that being in Therafields gave me a lot of insight into human nature. I am still angry about the homophobia but I guess that its half and half. Some of the people I never want to see again. I went to the Therafields reunion when it was held a number of years ago. I resisted going and wasn’t planning to. But I did go and once there I didn’t want to leave. There were a lot of people there that I was glad to see.”

In my next post I will give the account of a lesbian woman who suffered discrimination because of her sexual orientation and likely because Lea simply did not like her.

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Personal History and Reflections

I would like to present some of the personal histories that people have given me about their journeys through Therafields. Each highlights some aspects of the issues that I have written about as well as particular features of his or her own experiences and reflections. The first of these histories was given to me by a man in an interview in 1997:

“In the spring of 1964 a priest I knew mentioned casually a woman therapist whom he was seeing. I’d always thought that if I saw someone I would like it to be a woman, so I got her number and called her. I was late as always. A cab took me there but I had the wrong number. When I arrived and saw her she seemed a strange lady. We went up to her room on the second floor. She was wearing sunglasses in a darkened room and a green smock. She looked weird but I kind of liked her. I went blathering away about being late and the first thing she said to me was, “You’re very apologetic, aren’t you. Why is that?” I had no idea – for being alive? After I had seen her for several weeks I talked about her to all of my chums.

Lea was on Brunswick Ave then. She started telling me about groups. I wasn`t interested at all. It sounded horrendous. She practically had to sedate me. But by the summer I went into my first group – which was absolutely hair-raising for me. There was a roundish table. She had told me in advance who would be there – a seminarian, a teacher, a truck driver. I got them all wrong. It was awful. I hated every group. At the end of the summer she talked about a house group. I said that I had left my boarding house experiences behind in England. But against my better judgement I did move in. I moved into 477 Brunswick with Mitzi, Grant, Barry, Mike Mohan, Richard Taylor, Bernice, Liz Follis, and Bob someone who didn`t stay long. Lea had moved over to 59 Admiral Road. I was at 477 for two years. It was a great house group. That was the beginning of some important friendships, with these really good people, good friends. Then I had two years at 32 Admiral Road. I was in Therafields for seven years, leaving in 1971. I had been in four house groups, the last one being 123-5 Admiral Road. I hated it; it was so chaotic. I moved out but went on working with people for a little while. Then in 1971 I told Barry that I wanted to leave altogether and he took my clients for me. I went to Dallas, Texas for six months. I felt relieved about getting out but guilty as hell at the same time.

When I first met Lea the huge army of people who came along later didn`t exist. It was one-on-one therapy and she was wonderful. She was full of hope and I felt very encouraged by her. She pointed out lots of ways that I was holding myself back, all kinds of things that wouldn`t have occurred to me in a million years. It was unbelievable. Because I was so enthusiastic about her, all my friends started to drift in. I was a scardy cat about the house groups but I loved it on Brunswick and at 32 Admiral. We had friends everywhere. I loved all that social part of it, the dances, the picnics, etc. What I hated was the big groups. I eventually got over that, especially when I was a therapist and a group therapist. What I didn`t like and resisted from the first was this society within a society that was being shoved down our throats. I felt it right at the beginning when we moved into Brunswick. Lea was talking about some kind of empire building that I was uncomfortable with. She didn`t spell it out but she had an image of something. I was picking up signals and was uncomfortable. Once in the group room at 59 she said -- we’ve got to have more houses, you know, and the real estate in the annex is very expensive. She turned to me and said -- but would you want to go out to Runnymede? There were only about three houses then but I could see that it was becoming a movement and that there wouldn`t be a place for me. She used to say that two years should be the maximum time in therapy and then one should leave. But it seemed to have changed. Now it was a whole life. At 32 Admiral Datsi said once -- we`ll have our own restaurants, our own graveyards, our own priests, our own religion. We howled with laughter because we could see exactly where it was headed and none of my friends liked that direction. How were we all going to live? Would it always be in these rooms, in houses, paying very high rent for a room in a house and having your whole life scrutinized and analyzed? I wanted out but I was burdened with patients and was trying to keep my feelings about this to myself while I was working with people. It was very hard, painful and foul. I felt better when I moved out on my own but it wasn`t easy.

I don`t regret that seven years. It was a way to get through the ‘sixties. Everyone was crazy in the sixties anyway; there was so much happening. The friends that I made in Therafields were the most important thing. On the whole, I liked almost everyone. If I run into anyone from those days now, it`s always marvellous. It`s something we all shared – the horror and the wonder. You can’t take that away. I imagine it`s something like being in the military – it’s intense, but thank God it`s over. No one on the outside will ever really understand what it was like. I`m not sure if I gained anything from the therapy. I`ve asked myself that question many times over the years. I don`t feel bitter over the experience even though Lea drove me nuts. I couldn’t ever be honest. She was always holding me up: Let`s ask him. He`s the one person whose always tells the truth. I thought, God, if I ever did tell the truth, you`d find me hung in the morning. She`d be mad at me. She didn’t want the truth at all, I don`t think. I mean she wanted it when it was to help someone else. If it was about the organization or her kids, never. I’m not stupid. I knew she didn’t want the truth so I didn’t say it. It would have been nice for her if she had seen in me a fellow adult with a brain who had something helpful and true to say to her about her children or about her own personal relationships. But I wouldn’t risk it. In the end that`s what made me so angry with her. She forced me to bullshit and I hated myself for it. Two other people have said the same thing about their relationship with her. Once or twice they did tell her the truth and she fell on them like a ton of bricks. She wasn`t interested. But I guess the therapy itself did do me good. The ideas that I absorbed and now live with me came from 1964 when I first met her. Some I reject and some I don`t. I`ve never felt bitter about any of it because it was too offset by the good things.

I remember Lea saying once to someone in a group -- don`t ever tell anybody anything if you can`t tell it with love. She really meant it. I`ve always tried to practice that because it`s true. The things that I wanted to tell her would have hurt her so much that I couldn`t do it. I felt badly about Harry for one thing. I didn`t know him well. My first encounter with him was at 477 Brunswick where he`d slide cups of tea in to me at sessions. He was old country stock. I have no idea what he was like as a husband and a father but he seemed like a nice old guy.

Barry had lived at the Howland Ave house before he lived with us at 477. I could tell that he was Lea’s boy wonder. The two that she solicited most for their opinions were him and Gus, to a lesser extent, Jack. They were the reliable ones. Barry was good; he seemed very clean in his opinions. I never had the feeling from him that he was just giving the party line. He had a good way of establishing a rapport with people one-on-one. To me he was like a kid brother and we had a lot of fun. We couldn`t have been more unalike except in our enjoyment of the old music. I was able to tell him the truth when I was fed up with Lea and the way things were going in Therafields. He was understanding and tried to help me over the hump without making me tow the party line. Generally, I was treated delicately by the family because they liked me and they knew that I wouldn`t take too much pressure. They encouraged me in some ways to be myself.

I talked to Barry the week before he died. He said that he was scared to death of the surgery he was about to have. He was a terrific loss. I felt that at some point he had put all of the Therafields stuff at arm’s length. I suspect that he knew that his own integrity was endangered. He was a Governor General Award winner and he had a reputation that went beyond Therafields. He was able to straddle both worlds and do it with √©lan. I think that toward the end he put some distance between Rob and himself.

One other thing. I am and always was and always will be a Catholic. My parents were devout and I go to Mass almost every day. I didn`t like what was happening to my religious practice during my time in Therafields though I think it was a sign of the times in the 1960s. After two years or so in therapy I stopped going to church altogether but when my sister died in 1971 it turned me totally around. I feel terrible about what happened to all of those priests in Therafields. Stan Kutz was a kind of spiritual director for me at the Newman Centre. I thought he was a really good priest. I liked him very much. He reminded me of men in my family like my father. Mike Quealey too. I knew him as a priest. There were so many – Ken Plotnik and Maurice. I thought it was bad that they left the priesthood. I felt so at the time and I feel that way even more now. I don`t know what their problems were but they were good priests, the kind we should have. They were sensitive and tough when they needed to be. They were kind, super people. And the nuns too. There is a real shortage of people like that in the church right now. I had become indifferent to the church but my sister`s dying changed all of that in an instant. That`s when I started working to get out of Therafields. Those two communities couldn`t mix.

There was a really bad feeling then about anyone leaving. The apartment building that I moved into was dubbed Paranoid Towers as though those of us who moved there were the paranoids. It was horrible. It hadn`t happened often to me while I was a part of the community but on one occasion I was the low man on the totem pole. When that happened to you, you`re life was hell. Everybody knew that you were the bad guy. I saw other people living that way, isolated from all of their friends. I remember saying to Mike Mohan once around 1967 or 1968 -- I think the people that get ground down most are Stan Kutz and me. But then it stopped for me. I wasn`t any longer seen as a dangerous psychotic, undermining the foundations and so on, but Stan was. He was roasted. It was after his marriage and it went on for months. Different people were stigmatized at different times. It was from Lea and it was endorsed by Barry at times. He may have agreed that someone seemed like a danger to the community. My friends, the ‘group of friends,’ were looked upon as practically fifth columnists. Lea had us turning against one another. She talked about us all to the others. I`ll never forget some of the things she said about my close friends. She said to me once -- you may not always see these people, you know. But I do. Nothing has changed; we are still friends. She didn’t really understand friendship.

Then there was the farm. The worst experience for me was around Christmas time in 1968. Josie picked who she wanted for a project and we went to the farm for about a week. During that time Howard Lever committed suicide. Lea said -- we`ve got to have an emergency group. Everyone must come to the farm. It was scheduled for Sunday. Something warned me not to go so I volunteered to stay and look after Matt. I`m so glad I didn`t go. Lea turned it into a fund-raiser. A friend of mine was there. She was working with Stan Kutz. She never lived in a house group. She went up to the meeting and she described it as horrendous and so did everyone else. Lea turned it all into this thing to buy the Phoenix – a place for schizophrenics like Howard who could be there and be surrounded with help. There would be a soothing green room and a conservatory. I thought it was pipe dream No.28. Of course, it was purchased and it became personal property.

Lea developed a lot of strange feelings about homosexuality over time but it wasn`t like that at the beginning at all. She would see inter-personal relationships as the place that we really had to work. Sexuality never had a chance to come up, not because she stifled it, but because it wasn`t her focus. She never seemed to want to focus on the sex act primarily. Now and then she would say -- that`s very homosexual, you know. People would have a hard time knowing what she meant. She was more interested in unconscious hostility toward women. She seemed to be saying that a lot of men, maybe most men, felt this. It was like a cancer and had to be gotten at. People having sex with someone of their own gender wasn`t of interest to her. She was more interested in latent homosexuality and the way it manifested itself in hostility to women. She had us all read Bergler`s Homosexuality: Disease or Way of Life. He had hope for a cure for homosexuals. She thought if there wasn`t too much damage to a person that he might be able to develop heterosexually. In 1971 this approach wasn`t seen as homophobic. Homosexuality was seen as a disorder that needed to be treated. It didn`t seem to bother her if people were sexual with one another. It seemed more of a concern to her how people felt about themselves and others. When I left Therafields I didn`t care to hear anything more about this or about psychology. But ten years later some of my chums who were still there felt that they were being force-fed heterosexuality.”

In my next post I will give the experiences of two people who were profoundly and adversely affected by the tenor of theory and practice with respect to homosexuality.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Lea's Thinking

I apologize: this post was put out about six weeks ago but somehow ended up put back into simply draft form. When I posted it just now, it has been inserted at the top of the posts, even above the one that I have just posted today after a six week hiatus. The print of the entire blog has shrunk also. I will see if I can change this. Brenda.

In tracking the changes in Lea's thinking about her practice of therapy in the second half of the 1960s and into the 1970s, it is helpful to examine the books that she was reading and recommending to her students and clients. There may have been others than those I will mention here but these are the ones that I recall. To my standard group she would often refer to a particular Catherine Cookson book that she had just finished. Cookson was a contemporary of Lea's, born in 1906 and living until 1998. She began writing about 1950 and published over 100 novels. Her stories are set in an England familiar to Lea; they showcase romance, class struggle , "wickedness," and often, the triumph of good. The stories are quite readable. They would make a point that Lea was perhaps stressing in her work with someone in the group. This type of reference was quite in tune with Lea's method of working in the group at that time. She rarely, if ever, used academic or psychological terms, and she did not give analyses according to any school or theory. Rather she would invite a person to speak about their trouble -- for example, conflict with a spouse or a boss. She would ask for an example to illuminate the way that the conflict was typically acted out. From this example she could often reach an understanding of the roots of the trouble in the group member, in the other party, or both. She made use of her knowledge of the person, her experience with and understanding of relationships, and, her intuition. Simply being in the group was a learning experience as one observed her moving quite organically from the confusions of the speaker to a clearly enunciated understanding of what was happening. The results could be quite moving as the work sometimes opened the speaker to another level of feeling and awareness of him or her self.

Lea would speak of Freud, though certainly not in terms of any particular theory of his. She encouraged the reading of his works, in particular the New Introductory Lectures, a most readable account of the basic workings of the conscious and unconscious mind. Another book that she recommended was Man's Presumptuous Brain: An Evolutionary Interpretation of Psychosomatic Disease by A.T.W. Simeons, MD. I had had courses in human anatomy and physiology so the base information of this book was not difficult for me. Simeons' interpretation made enormous sense as a base for conceptualizing the power of body work which some of us took on after CAG was founded in 1968. Karl Abraham was a colleague of Freud's who was also suggested. I found his writing somewhat heavier going. We read also Robert Lindner's set of case studies in the Fifty Minute Hour: very interesting.

When Alexander Lowen's book The Betrayal of the Body was published many of us read it, again on Lea's recommendation. I saw in it a future of work which went beyond Freud's "talking cure."

The San Francisco Zen Centre and Therafields

I am well and truly back now from my wonderful experiences in Italy and Egypt with my husband, Mark Hall and some others with whom we were on tour for a time in Egypt. I want to continue writing about issues related to the history of Therafields as I experienced them, relying also on the interviews that I conducted in 1997-8.

I’ve been reading Michael Downing’s book Shoes Outside the Door about the troubles in the Zen Centre in San Francisco that came to a head in 1983 and led to the forced resignation of their abbot, Richard Baker. There is much in Browning’s account that bears resemblance to the dynamics in Therafields that ultimately led to its succession of crises and its dissolution about this same period. There are many important differences as well, but it is instructive to look at another community formed in the 1960s, with a practice at its core – in this case meditation, and with charismatic leadership which went awry, confusing and dividing the core members – not just with one another, but within themselves as well.

The responses that long time members gave about their feelings toward the Zen Buddhist priest, Suzuki-roshi who came from Japan in the early 1960s to found a Zen centre, read very like those given by people who knew and were involved with Lea in the early days of her practice, in the days when her practice was the true and dynamic centre of her life. People said: “I loved him; he was my teacher, my friend; I felt that he saw me and accepted me to the depths.” “I wanted to be around him, there was peace with him; I’d go with some neurotic problem and in ten minutes it didn’t seem like a problem any more. The words would just fall out of my mouth like a pool on the floor and all I would want to do is to be with this beautiful man;” “I loved Suzuki-roshi: he was the most important influence in my life.” “We were his students; he loved us; he would have died for us; he was devoted to us.” “He taught me to trust.” One woman said when she came for the third time to sit at the centre she feared that he would throw her out because she couldn’t sit still like the others. He came by and adjusted something in her posture. “He touched me and there was such love and acceptance in his touch: it was like I had been in a drought. Here was a loving person at last.” “He was what we were doing there.” “What I had to hold onto was my meditation and my helpless transference to Suzuki-roshi.” A man who had been in and out of Harvard a couple of times and had sought out many teachers and philosophers said “When I met him, I knew that he was the guy. I never try even to praise him; I don’t have the words.” “He unequivocally changed my life forever.” “Just watching him, the way he sat (in meditation), the way he stood; we were learning by watching, by imitating. He was just there. He sort of captured all of us.” Browning, pp71-73)

It’s rather like an ancient myth: a mature person comes from afar with an unknown practice and a charisma that together give to some young, idealistic, searching people in the 1960s an emotional home as well as a location for growth within that same practice. Browning captures the power of their capitulation into disciple-hood in these words: “Sometimes it reads like a love story: falling in love with a stranger, falling so far that you forsake all others; falling away from yourself until you are not an American and you are not Japanese and you are not a layperson and you are not a monk and you find yourself wrapped up in a black robe and falling on your knees to bow down in gratitude to the person who occasioned this fortunate fall.” (Pg.71) A major difficulty with losing yourself so entirely to a stranger from afar is that you don’t know what you don’t know. What Suzuki-roshi’s disciples didn’t know was that he had been given a mission to found a centre for the Japanese already living in America, to develop a monastery from which some few could go for training in Japan and ultimately secure the lineage and traditions of Japanese Zen Buddhism among the diaspora. But Suzuki was a bit of a rebel. He had his own ideas about the development of Zen in America. Two key pieces thus were brought into forms as they developed in the Centre: “monks” could be married (certainly not unknown in Japan but still a disputed reality); and, the Centre could be self-sustaining through the entrepreneurial spirit so much a part of the American scene. When Suzuki died in 1971 at the age of 67 of pancreatic cancer, Richard Baker became abbot.

Richard was 33 years old, married with children, and had been for years the spearhead of a number of businesses run by the Centre which made it an extremely profitable enterprise. He had been practicing zazan, the study of the self especially through the practice of meditation, for close to 20 years, and had received Transmission from Suzuki: -- the passing-on of his teacher’s dharma and lineage within the Zen tradition. He was Suzuki’s heir and was accepted as such by the membership – in part because he was Suzuki’s choice and in part because of his own considerable charisma. Over the next 12 years he developed his own way of being abbot. There were problems with that way that created divisions within the membership and within individual members but there was no forum within which these could be addressed. Finally they came to a head in 1983 when Richard was seen to quite openly have an affair with the wife of a wealthy and influential layperson. The crisis occasioned by the husband’s public outrage gave the Board and the Abbot’s Council – many of them the same people – a space, a perceived permission to speak of, to acknowledge their hitherto unexpressed, unshared concerns and doubts about Richard’s stewardship. He was asked to resign. The problems had come to a head over a sexual issue but had their roots more in the extravagant life-style that Richard had assumed for himself as the head of the Centre. The regulars, students who lived and worked at the Centre and in its multitude of businesses received a small stipend in addition to room and board. Richard had ways of manipulation, unacknowledged even to himself most likely, to protect himself from criticism and dissent. Sex, money, power, charisma, obedience, the desire for things to be alright, a leader who cannot grasp or acknowledge his own failures and limitations, self-censorship, and the censorship perpetrated by the leader through denial, rejection and shunning: all familiar pieces to anyone close to the centre of Therafields over the 1970s.

In the Japanese Zen tradition the teacher is viewed as enlightened but not perfect. The teacher can make mistakes; the student needs to see these and to learn from them as things to avoid. Enlightenment or Kensho, literally means, “Having seen a corner of the nature of things,” or, “Getting a glimpse of it from time to time.” It’s like Winnicott’s “good-enough mother.” You do the best you can but you can never be perfect and to try to be perfect or to set yourself up as being perfect is a distortion that divides you from yourself and from others. This was the missing piece for the membership at the Zen Centre over the years of Richard’s stewardship. It was also the missing piece in Therafields from the days when Lea’s core connection with her clients and students changed profoundly in its nature. The core changed but that fact could not be acknowledged. Too much was invested in the way things had been, both for Lea and for us. We didn’t have the perspective to see Lea as one of a possible number of teachers who could help to give direction to our lives. We couldn’t, as a nascent community, accept her fallibility. We had no experience of a person like our own stranger from afar and like the people who met Suzuki in the 1960s, we didn’t know what we didn’t know. People who had worked with Lea, who loved her and owed a great deal to her and who were committed to being a part of the community that had formed around her, became divided within themselves in the same way that she was divided. No one could say that the emperor had no clothes. No one could say: Lea has made some bad decisions and is not being open or honest about them. This is not working; we have to acknowledge that fact and so does Lea; we have to get back to basics and see what we are about. Others need to come forward to carry on not just her work but her leadership. There were people who had the capacity for doing just that. Why this did not happen both early on and much later in the history of Therafields involves all of the usual sources of human failures to which we are subject, some of which I hope to explore in future posts.

I appreciate hearing from people about the posts and would be happy to speak with anyone interested in contacting me about their reactions or their own personal experiences.