Many psychologists have identified the ability to truly "be with" one another as the most important gift a psychotherapist has to offer to a client in psychological pain. The ability to be with others comes from being able to be with oneself no matter what state of mind one may be experiencing: vivid emotions, confusing thoughts, or quiet peacefulness.
Since the ground of working with others is taken to be familiarity with one’s own experience, the program places great emphasis on meditation practice and body/mind awareness disciplines. Each semester of the program students enroll in a Buddhist Psychology class. The sequence begins with an introduction to Buddhist Psychology as well as an introduction to the practice of mindfulness-awareness sitting meditation. Each semester of the sequence provides formal support for the students’ sitting practices as well as providing teachings of the Buddhist understanding of the mind and linking those teachings to clinical work.
Students are encouraged to develop a daily sitting practice and are required to sit at least five hours a week. They may work up to this gradually during the first semester. Each semester the program conducts an intensive practice week during which students practice sitting and walking meditation during their class times. In the second and third years an additional three-hour block of sitting is required each month. The emphasis on contemplative practice is further strengthened by the Maitri retreats.
Students are required to do the basic meditation practice presented in the program. Students who come to the program with a contemplative discipline are encouraged to maintain their practice, but must additionally do the specific practice taught in the program.
Students are also strongly encouraged to engage in body awareness practices such as t’ai chi, yoga, aikido, and other mind-body synchronization practices.
Each student works with an individual meditation instructor throughout the program. Applicants who are new to meditation practice are encouraged to try it out before making a commitment to the program.