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Below are the contents page and a chapter from the thesis that Sherry has written on Process Psychology & Buddhism. If you would like to order a copy of this thesis, please contact Sherry

Psychology & Buddhism



Sherry Marshall Sydney, Australia November 1999




Process Work enlightenment; Buddhist enlightenment Physics and spirituality; Taoist enlightenment; Dream and Illusion


The historical Buddha; The Three vehicles and four schools of Tibetan Buddhism The Paradox of enlightenment; Towards Process Work enlightenment


Background beliefs; Inner Work and channels; Metaskills; Towards Process Work Meditation


Becoming who we are; Similarities; Differences

      1. DEVOTION

Devotion in Buddhism; Towards Process Oriented Devotion The Shamanistic Relationship; The Alchemical Relationship Becoming the Gold; Spiritual Warriorship


Method; 4 Interviews; Data Collection; Story telling as a method; Analysis of data


Meeting the path; Relationship to the teacher; Devotion Dreams and the Dreaming process; Common themes; Other observations.


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Chapter on Dr. Julie Diamond, Process Psychologist, USA.

Nothing initially drew me to Process work because it didn’t exist! However I could say that I was dragged to Zurich as Dawn and Adam had been there and Dawn said, ” come to Zurich and study and meet this guy, Arny Mindell.’ I didn’t really have any interest in psychology, though I was interested in dreams and inner work, but I didn’t have a vision of wanting to study with Arny or drawn to be a therapist. It was really a coincidence. I was in college studying education and literature to be a teacher. So I went to Zurich for 3 months and stayed for 10 years.

The Ground Floor

I stayed because I adored Arny and the work and it was all very exciting. Something was happening at that time and it was like a spirit of the times. Arny was just beginning to experiment with doing weird things in his Jungian practice. He was still teaching at the Jungian institute and most of his students were Jungian students.

He opened it up to other people also and some people started to be interested in studying and not just being clients. It was an unbelievable time when things were growing and developing and it was like getting in on the ground floor of a magical mystery tour. I couldn’t leave that. It was really special and fun and an era of discovery. It wasn’t institutionalised and didn’t have a name or a structure. It was precious.

I had a lot of resistance in the beginning against therapy because I was convinced that it was going to try to make me different. I thought therapy was going to tell me that I had to be more soft and feeling and more in touch with my feelings! I was a tense young person and from my other experiences from personal growth, I thought I was going to be told to be soft and relaxed! However the first thing Arny said to me, was that I needed to be smarter and more intelligent.

I was really afraid that my intellect was going to be put down. The experiential therapies are like a counter-cultural flip where you are supposed to be in your body and not in your head. Arny even recently commented when someone said, ‘Oh I’m in my head now,’ that isn’t our head part of our body. So, from the very beginning, I adored him for that, for embracing the very thing in me that I was sure wouldn’t be embraced. Initially though, I felt more intimidated and shy and didn’t have a more personal relationship with him until a number of years later.

He was so wild and radical and an unusual figure as a man and an authority figure. He so represented the non-rational and irrational in life. I have a very rational father and an internalised one as well and to be able to learn from someone who was irrational was great. He was so in the dreaming world and I think that hooked me more than anything.

As I’m answering the question about what I adored about Arny, I’m aware that I’m answering it without really knowing the answer to the question! I feel it’s a very deep question and I’ll know more in another 40 years time.

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Devotion to the Dreaming

I’m not really identified with devotion either in my relationship to Arny or my relationship to Process work. The word devotion doesn’t have a lot of currency and it’s very controversial to some people. The West has such criticisms towards the concept of devotion and it’s misunderstood. However what drew me to Process work was not that, ‘oh, I’m devoted to process work’, but of course, I am.

It’s an unexplored thing. But, what keeps me here, and I’ve been here for 20 years is probably that I can leave any time. Every minute it’s my decision and there has never, ever been a sense that devotion is necessary. That’s why it’s so controversial to talk about because in some of the Eastern religions, there is a theory of devotion. That is an aspect of the teaching.

This is not the case in Process work, because the devotion is to the dreaming process and that is utterly individual. So that’s where devotion does come in; devotion to your dreams and following the irrational. That’s the only element that I can think of, where I would say, devote yourself to that.

There is nothing in Process work though, that say’s, devote yourself to the teachers or to Arny or to the training programme. It is all utterly dependant on your dreams and you may want to enter the training programme but there is no guarantee that you will graduate or that it will be right for you. Your dreams will want you to stay in it.

Arny does ultimately embody following the dreaming process but your individual dreaming may lead you to Mongolia and following that would mean you were devoted to Arny. For example, if my dreams told me to do something, somewhere else, I would have to follow that and that would make me closer to Arny, even if geographically I wasn’t.

I remember a story about that. Once, in my therapy, I went through a phase of transference and wanting to be closer and have more contact with Arny. I mentioned to him, in passing, that I had been in the mountains that weekend. Arny asked where I had been and he said that he had been there on the same day. He said, ‘see, we are close. We have a spiritual connection, so we are spending more time together.’ Of course, the little ego wasn’t satisfied. I was like, ‘alright, fine, but.’ but that story said something to me.

When I first arrived in Zurich, Max was one of the first people I met and I remember we took an immediate liking to each other. I was really amazed by that, because I was young and didn’t know who I was or that I had anything particularly intelligent to say. Max has always been a very important teacher for me. When other people apart from Arny started to run classes, which only happened in the mid-80’s, Max was doing classes in German.

I’ve always loved Max’s combination of being radical, mischievous, brilliant and incredibly non-linear and really heartful. He’s one of the most unique people I’ve ever met and a hugely important teacher for me. I adore him. Our relationship has changed so much over the years and we have also had big fights.

One of the things I love about him now is that he is in a tradition that I feel very aligned with. He’s very political and related to the world and so am I. Max is an incredible student of history and political theory which are big passions of mine too. He adds to Process work this incredible passion about the world. He makes it more real. He’s like a Renaissance man.

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What is Therapy?

I think its pretty amazing that I have been seeing the same therapist for a long time. Of course, there are different ideas about what therapy is. Some people go because they have something they need help with, and that’s great. Other therapies are not so much to solve a problem, but for continual deepening of understanding of who you are and why you’re here. It’s more like a spiritual journey.

I see phases in therapy. Initially, typically people go to therapy to work out problems and then, if they get interested, it’s no longer about a problem that’s troubling you, but more about your attitudes. Then you start to realise that there are always going to be things that can trouble you, but it’s the ‘you’ that gets troubled. You then become more the focus of the therapy, rather than the problems.

In that stage of therapy, you begin to work deeply with your inner metaskills, or what I call the wall paper of your inner house. When you open your eyes in the morning, what kind of mood is present? Who are you and how do you view things? When you get there, then it becomes very spiritual, necessarily so, because you are starting to work with deeply held approaches to life and death.

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Process Enlightenment

I would see enlightenment in process work more as a verb than as a nown, and see it more as ‘enlightening,’ a process rather than as a state. I think one of the problems in talking about enlightenment is that the debate is centred around the state of attainment. Maybe that’s because I’m so far from it, that I think it should be a verb! Maybe in cultures where you see more states of utter attainment, you are more comfortable with it being a noun.

In Process work, the sense of enlightenment is more the process aspect of it, rather than the state. It’s dropping yourself and seeing every role as you, as much as possible. You are not caught up in struggling and straining against things happening, because you see what is happening is you. You go along with what is happening and that totally changes everything.

It changes even your physical body, because so much of who we are is wrapped up with struggling against experiences. It’s a physiological experience. Once you drop that and change that, you’re no-one and everybody at the same time. You drop yourself and then you become everything around you as well and I think that’s enlightenment. It’s very similar.

As Process work really develops, and refines its methods and theories, it becomes similar to Buddhism. It’s uncanny. I think about how group work has changed Process work tremendously, in understanding picking up all the roles and seeing it as an inner process. Picking up all the roles is what the Buddhist’s say, not getting caught up in any one thing, not getting stuck in an identity, not getting stuck in your little ego. Seeing everything as a dream that you are part of. That’s very much an attitude of Buddhism and also Process work.

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The Tao of the Edge

On the other hand, in following your dreaming process and how it manifests, if you’re attached and obsessed and you can’t drop something, then you follow that. The edge is interesting because there is also a Tao to the edge. I remember a story about that. Years ago Arny used to run Sunday night classes, and one was about the basic elements of Psychology.

We were sitting at a long director’s conference style table and someone asked Arny why there were edges. This person was sitting right opposite Arny across the table. Arny said, ‘well, if I didn’t have an edge, I could just reach out and shake your hand. If I have an edge however, I can’t do that and in order to get to you, I have to go around the table the long way. In so doing, I meet him and her and him and her, and I stop to meet all these 25 people on the road to getting to know you. That’s the Tao of the edge.

The whole journey has all been ecstatic and difficult, every minute. In the beginning I talked about that sense of utter excitement around discovery and research and learning together. Everything was an experiment and we would do unbelievable things which we might not do now! The culture, climate and whole profession is so different now, around boundaries and therapy.

These days, people go to seminars and work in the middle can be quite brief. I remember in the 80’s, we would spend a whole morning working with one person. It was partly because maybe we didn’t know what we were doing and the concept of the edge wasn’t so sharp, so it cycled more. I think actually though, part of the reason it went so long was because it was a trip! It was wild and pure raw discovery. We’d stay up late at night brainstorming. That was the ecstasy of research and discovery and was some of the highpoints of my time in Process work.

However, it was also difficult, initially, in Zurich. We were young people and no-one would talk to us. There was Amy and Adam and Dawn, Jan came later. There was a group of people studying with Arny in their 30’s and 40’s and we were 21 and they were not that friendly to us! We were intimidated, being immigrants and couldn’t speak the language and had no money.

There was no structure even to support us, no classes, no centre and no place to go. You had one hour a week in therapy and a class on Sunday night. There was a seminar 2-3 times a year, so there was nothing to do but work on yourself. In fact, in retrospect it was fantastic, but really painful at the time.

The other difficulty for me is that we’ve changed so much and now we’re a school and an institution and that has it’s own challenges. It’s a contemporary change with the development of group work and worldwork. We’re also developing our personna in the world and our structures simultaneously and that has been challenging applying it to ourselves and to the world. It’s been exhilarating but also painfully difficult.

I have taken a leadership role within the political structures of Process work and that has been hard. I have organised Intensives and courses from the early eighties and was also involved with setting up a business structures of Process Work with others, like Max, Jean-Claude and Arlene. Then Joe and I and others turned the Training Programme into the Master’s programme and got it through the State and Immigration. I was also the Academic Director. The challenges for me around all that has been working with consensus and other people, especially at the centre.

I felt a lot of times like the lonely voice in the wilderness and didn’t have the people skills or the ability to work with a group. I found myself trying to batter people into making a change or trying to make them understand what I wanted to do. That was really hard for me and felt frustrating and painful because it was also with my closest companions. Now, in retrospect, I see that there was a huge change going on and I was going through a process of learning how to work with groups, to develop detachment and take things less personally.

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The whole thing about devotion is that it’s connected to the word teacher. That is one of the reasons I think it’s controversial, because Process work is now a formalised structure with teachers and students and it brings problems of rank, autonomy and independence and power abuse. Our style of the training programme now has a very strong mentorship component. You choose the people you want to study with and can more or less, study what you want. I could say that we allow room for devotion in the programme in the form of mentorship.

Mentorship is actually a very spiritual idea. You choose a mentor and it’s a very direct and personal relationship that you have with a teacher around who you are and what you are doing in the world. You can give a lot of power to the mentor to train you. What makes it controversial is the interface between deeper feelings and the world in which we live.

The world in which we live doesn’t really believe in mentorship. We have to have a school which is accredited. We can’t say that we require people to be devoted or you follow who you’re devoted to. It’s not a popular concept in mainstream American and most Western cultures. It’s not to say that devotion is not a strong aspect of Process work, but we talk about it differently.

When you ask someone to be your teacher, or to be their student, you are asking them to engage very deeply over who you are. That means that you open up to potentially painful and complex experiences. You are asking the teacher to come forth with their perceptions and awareness, understanding that they have rank which comes with that perception, so it can be experienced with great force. These are huge, deep spiritual components of the teaching and learning of Process work, without calling it devotion.

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Reality and Rank

One of the problems is that people get identified with the rank that they have on a social dimension only. I feel this is what can make people begin to be abusive with their rank, because they confuse reality with material reality. They think that reality is the reality of the social structure, where I’m older than you, or a man, or I have more money that you or a better education. However, if you are really devoted to dreaming, you understand that is not THE reality. It is one reality but there are multiple realities.

I may have more social rank by being a teacher, but on a spiritual level, you may be my teacher. That is where I think roles flip. Someone might have more balance or depth or detachment, charisma or popularity than a teacher. A teacher may be jealous of those elements of rank and use their social rank as protection against the jealously that they feel about the other dimensions of rank.

Devotion to the dreaming path is what connects us all in Process work. Following the sense of the unknown, and following that which we perceive as the other. It gives us a sense of largeness. We relate to everything in the universe. That sense of alienation and opposition to other things diminishes and yet we can still fully engage. It may be right for me to be firm and fixed with who I am, or a social activist and campaign for something very strongly, that is also following your dreaming path.

It’s only problematic when your soul is not aligned with what you’re doing. That’s simple; that’s an element of suffering. When you are in alignment, you have a sense of creativity and happiness, even when what you are engaged in, is difficult. You also feel that this is really right for me to be here or this is important. You have a larger view of things, so you don’t feel the additional difficulty of lack of energy or congruence with the project you are involved in.

If you wish to order a copy of this thesis about Psychology and Buddhism and Meditation, please contact Sherry

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