Join clinician and author Lisa Dale Miller at the leading edge of integrative mental health! We deliver thoughtful dialogues with innovative clinicians, researchers and contemplatives that unite health science research and profound wisdom traditions, inform about somatic psychotherapies and Buddhist psychology, and we do it all with big dose of intelligence, clarity, curiosity and openheartedness.
Basic Human Goodness
36:45This is a recording of a dharma talk Lisa Dale Miller gave March 19, 2003 at Marin Sangha. Recently neuroscientist Richard Davidson reiterated a long-held tenet of Tibetan Buddhism that all human beings share the same wish to be happy and free of suffering, and that this wish emerges from innate basic goodness. This goodness is often viewed in Mahāyāna and Vajrayana Buddhism as an expression of Buddhanature, the fundamental awakened mind of all beings. There is not much in the Pāli Canon to support the notion of innate goodness. However, the Buddha did teach unconditioned mind—a mind purified through contemplative effort, not an innately awakened mind. This dharma talk compares these two frameworks and explores the cultivation of ethical goodness using specific suttas and findings from affective neuroscience. And I am joined by a co-teacher ChatGPT, which explicates historical references to goodness and investigates its own sense of how to engage in ethical conduct. Lisa's catalogue of Dharma Talks can be found on the Groundless Ground and those done prior to 2020 are available on my clinical website.
Mental Health Renaissance
42:34Psychologist, researcher, and executive Cassandra Vieten and I dialogue about a wide range of interventions that can shift the mental health crisis into a mental health renaissance. Cassie’s many years of offering patients empirically-based, mind-body tools for sustainable transformation, has taken place at several renowned academic medical institutions and greatly contributed to psychology’s integration of embodied, spiritually-oriented interventions for human flourishing such as: meditation, qigong and tai chi, being in nature, ritual, spiritual exploration, and most recently, psychedelics. This is a jam-packed episode full of practical information for health professionals seeking easy ways to facilitate patient well-being.Watch Cassie's TED Talk! Build Your Ecosystem!Cassandra Vieten is Director of Research and Associate Scientist at the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), Executive Director of the John W. Brick Mental Health Foundation, co-founder and Clinical Psychology Director at the Psychedelics and Health Research Initiative at UCSD, and a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Noetic Sciences. She is a licensed clinical psychologist. Her research has focused on spirituality and health, transformative experiences and practices, the development of mindfulness-based interventions for emotional well-being, and development of media technologies to inspire awe. She received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies. She was a Scientist at the Mind-Body Medicine Research Group for 12 years, and worked at the Institute of Noetic Sciences for 18 years. She has authored three books and has published numerous articles in scientific journals.
Meditation Beyond Optimization
52:47This is a very special and quite different kind of episode to finish out the Groundless Ground’s 5th season. I have a frank discussion about the pitfalls of packaging and delivering meditation as a performative act in health contexts with Donna Sherman—clinical social worker and teacher of practical wisdom from yoga sciences, mindfulness meditation and behavioral sciences. Since Donna has studied extensively in the Tantric yoga tradition and I have expertise in Buddhist psychology, we interview each other about the ancient science behind Yogic and Buddhist meditative practices. Donna’s Therapeutic Yoga Nidra is the NSDR (non-sleep deep rest) practice I refer to my patients. And Donna is also a longtime dear friend and colleague from whom I have learned so much. It is hard to imagine a good life without her along for the ride! And wow, 5 years and 60 episodes. What an adventure Groundless Ground has been and much gratitude to every listener! You continue to be my greatest inspiration. Best wishes for the holidays and very happy and healthy New Year!
Turn on Love and Intimacy
1:04:09Alison Ash PhD is a sex and intimacy coach, educator, and creator of many sex positive workshops including her upcoming, very popular Sexual and Emotional Intimacy Skills Mastercourse. This dialogue was stunningly rich and informative for both of us. We freely converse about sex positivity and how consent skills make it possible to skillfully and joyfully give and receive pleasure, flirt and seduce, have more intimacy, and better understand monogamous and non-monogamous relationships. We also discuss how the lingering pain and shame from sexual trauma impedes healthy sexuality and what systemic healing and resolution of sexual trauma entails. Alison clearly explicates the difference between pornography and erotica, and the deleterious effects of widespread porn use by teens, adults and couples. This episode is a romp through a diverse landscape of contexts and practices in which sex positivity is being experienced and enjoyed. Alison Ash PhD is a sex and intimacy coach, educator and creator of many sex positive workshops including her upcoming Masterclass. She coaches individuals and couples in sex positivity. Her book Gender Ambiguity in the Workplace: Trans and Genderqueer Discrimination was published in 2018. In addition to her private practice she is a Stanford University lecturer in the Wellness Education program teaching Sexual and Emotional Intimacy Skills to both undergraduate and graduate students. Her website is https://www.turnon.love/
49:15Psychologist Raja Selvam, discusses his new book, The Practice of Embodying Emotions: A Guide for Improving Cognitive, Emotional, and Behavioral Outcomes. Raja is the creator of Integral Somatic Psychology™ (ISP™), an effective somatic therapy that encourages optimal mental health by fully embodying emotions. Raja and I explore how clinicians can facilitate patient resolution of difficult emotions by allowing increased recognition of emotion and then expanding that emotion to more of the body. Rather than cognitively down-regulating emotions, this somatic approach of expanding emotion increases affect tolerance and resolves systemic distress. ISP is a complementary modality for all talk therapy methods. It was an honor to dialogue with Raja about ISP and also our mutual interest in non-dual philosophy.Clinical psychologist Raja Selvam, PhD, is the developer of Integral Somatic Psychology™ (ISP™), an effective somatic therapy that helps clients achieve optimal mental health by fully embodying their emotions. Raja is also a senior trainer at Somatic Experiencing® International. His work is informed by Reichian Therapy and Bioenergetic Analysis, Bodynamic Analysis and Somatic Experiencing, and bodywork systems of Postural Integration and Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy. His work is also inspired by Jungian and archetypal psychologies, Kleinian and intersubjective schools of psychoanalysis, affective neuroscience, quantum physics, yoga, Polarity Therapy, and Advaita Vedanta (a spiritual psychology from India). He did trauma outreach work in India in 2005–2006 with survivors of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, based on which he has published an outcome study titled “Somatic Therapy Treatment Effects with Tsunami Survivors,” in the journal Traumatology in 2008. Dr. Selvam’s work is also inspired by the work he did in Sri Lanka in 2012–2014 with survivors of war, violence, loss, and displacement, and with mental health professionals engaged in treating them, after Sri Lanka’s thirty-year civil war ended in 2009.
Science of Psychotherapy
44:38Richard Hill and Matthew Dahlitz have written a comprehensive, definitively modern psychotherapy textbook titled, "Practitioners Guide to the Science of Psychotherapy". Their book covers basic neuroscience, body-brain systems, genetic processes and the application of integrative psychotherapy modalities for mental health disorders. This is the textbook I wished for many years ago when I attended graduate school. I was so excited to dialogue with these two brilliant men about the current sad state of standard psychotherapy, and the need for updated curricula and therapist retraining that rests upon scientifically validated patient-responsive treatments. This episode is a critical rallying cry in support of transforming a psychology/psychotherapy profession that fails to adequately meet the needs of so many patients. Richard Hill is managing editor of The Science of Psychotherapy magazine and lives in Sydney, Australia. at 42 (1996) beginning with a Bachelor of Arts majoring in linguistics. This triggered a curiosity that led to a diploma in counselling and a new career in psychotherapy. Studying continued and he has added three Masters degrees – an MA in Social Ecology; an MEd in Social Ecology; and a Masters in Brain and Mind Sciences (MBMSc) from Sydney University. Richard is also fortunate to be mentored by the esteemed Ernest Rossi PhD who has invited Richard into the International Psychosocial Genomics Research Matthew Dahlitz is editor-in-chief of The Science of Psychotherapy magazine. He founded The Neuropsychotherapist in 2013 and lives in Brisbane, Australia. autodidactic, whose knowledge spans across the arts, technology, psychology, neuroscience, emergency medicine, and business. Studied psychology at the University of Queensland and gained a Master of Counselling postgraduate degree–now a specialist in neuropsychotherapy and the Editor-in-Chief of The Neuropsychotherapist, has taught post-graduate courses in neuropsychotherapy, and is author of the book The Psychotherapists’s Essential Guide to the Brain.
56:02This episode features a rich, in-depth dialogue with Buddhist teacher and author Shaila Catherine on her new book, Beyond Distraction: Five Practical Ways to Focus the Mind. Using a Theravada Buddhist approach for cultivating focus, clarity, and wise action, Shaila offers an effective five-step method for changing distorted, habitual thoughts: 1) replace unwanted thoughts; 2) examine the dangers of distracting thoughts; 3) avert distraction; 4) investigate the causes of distraction; and 5) exert dedicated resolve. This informative and enlightening conversation will be of great benefit to anyone seeking a focused, clear mind and also mental health professionals who favor top-down interventions. It was a great honor to spend time with Shaila, a Buddhist teacher and consummate practitioner, whom I respect and admire.
MORE Research Update
58:12Eric Garland, PhD, LCSW, and I discuss exciting new research on the effectiveness of Mindfulness Oriented Recovery Enhancement (MORE)—his unique mindfulness intervention—for alleviating the cognitive-affective distress associated with chronic pain and co-occurring opioid misuse. We also focus on the value of meditation, expanding consciousness, and experiencing bliss in decreasing reliance on opioids and increasing capacity for ordinary pleasures. Lots of neuroscience and we cover research on the role of psychedelics as adjunctive treatment for chronic pain and opioid misuse.Eric Garland, PhD, LCSW, is a rare combination of rigorous researcher and compassionate clinician. His unique integration of CBT and mindfulness led him to create Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement (MORE), an integrative group intervention for treating chronic pain, stress, and opioid misuse. His attention to detail and methodology has made him a trusted researcher. In 2019 he was appointed to the NIH HEAL Multi-Disciplinary Working Group to help guide the HEAL initiative on pain and addiction. Our dialogue was exciting for both of us. We share a sense that helping patients attend to savoring and insight is key to moving beyond the murky grasp of addiction.
Being Wise in a Time of War
56:40It’s been a very disturbing few weeks since Russia invaded Ukraine. Coincident with the initiation of war, clinician, author and dharma teacher Lisa Dale Miller taught two weeks in a row at Marin Sangha. These two dharma talks explore, from a Buddhist point of view, what it means to be wise, compassionate, and even awakened in the midst of difficult circumstances. The second talk, which starts at 27:00, dives deeper into what the Buddha called, the rod of violence, as well as its causes and alleviation. May these talks benefit all beings everywhere and contribute to the end of all war and violence.
Mark Solms on Consciousness
1:04:39Consciousness remains a scientific puzzle: what it is, what creates it, and though all known conscious systems are alive, not all living systems are conscious. These days cortical-based theories of consciousness are all the rage. However, renown neuropsychologist and psychoanalyst Mark Solms has put forth, in his book “The Hidden Spring”, a radically convincing theory for the subcortical, homeostatic origins of consciousness rooted primarily in feeling or what is known as affect. Dr. Solms explains why a particular area of the brainstem is his choice for where the lights of consciousness get switched on and off and deftly explains the difference between mind and consciousness, and why humans have evolved a mind to mediate between the needs of the visceral body, the self, and the objects in the world that satisfy those needs.Dr. Solms’ research on consciousness has recently pivoted toward bridging affect into artificially intelligent systems and yes we do talk about the ethics of that frightening possibility. This episode is fascinating and mind-blowing and I am so grateful to have had time with such a compassionate and brilliant researcher, clinician. Mark Solms is a renown South African psychoanalyst and neuropsychologist best known for discovering forebrain mechanisms of dreaming, and neuropsychoanalysis, his unique integration of psychoanalytic theory with neuroscientific methodology. He holds the Chair of Neuropsychology at the University of Cape Town and Groote Schuur Hospital (Departments of Psychology and Neurology) and is the President of the South African Psychoanalytical Association. He is also Research Chair of the International Psychoanalytical Association (since 2013). Solms founded the International Neuropsychoanalysis Society in 2000 and he was a Founding Editor (with Ed Nersessian) of the journal Neuropsychoanalysis. He is Director of the Arnold Pfeffer Center for Neuropsychoanalysis at the New York Psychoanalytic Institute.