PW: Can you describe how Emotional Alchemy evolved?
TB-G: I had been doing mindfulness meditation [which involves the cultivation of awareness] retreats since 1974, even before I started to study schema therapy at the Cognitive Therapy Center at New York. After a while I saw that they were talking about the same process of inner transformation, one at a psychological level and the other at a spiritual level. Mindfulness has to do with how we can free ourselves from powerful emotional habits and patterns of reactivity, and so does schema therapy. I started to incorporate this work into my practice as a therapist, and eventually my husband [Daniel Goleman] and I started to do the schema work in our relationship. Out of that we developed a workshop that we've been teaching together for about ten years. We integrate schema therapy with Buddhist psychology, and mindfulness practice with neuroscience and cognitive science. We thought of writing a book together that we would call Emotional Intelligence. Then we realized that his work was more focused on social issues, and mine was really more focused on this integration of schema therapy and Buddhist psychology.
PW: Do you see this book and the appearance of other books that fuse Buddhism with Western psychology as a radical new development from a spiritual perspective?
TB-G: I think of it as a new dimension of therapy that is beginning to happen, developing out of the integration of two very different but very complementary paths.
PW: Can we think of it as a middle way through the mind field of the emotions?
TB-G: Yes, and it can be very effective. Mindfulness can speed up the process of therapy and also give people a sense that they have their own inner wisdom to turn to. Not that outside support isn't important, but people have to trust more in their own inner intuitive sense.
PW: Many people think that the spiritual life requires going off alone and seeking very rarified states. This book shows that we can do spiritual work in the midst of ordinary life.
TB-G: I've done both, and both paths are useful. I do think that it can be helpful to go off to do some kind of work where you could go more deeply inside and have fewer distractions-even if it's just practicing mindfulness at home in the mornings or on weekend retreats. But it's important to remember that we practice intensively to be able to live our lives with more compassion and more wisdom.
PW: How did you actually write the book? Did it involve practicing mindfulness?
TB-G: I like to work in the morning. I try to have nothing else scheduled before noon, and I just spend that time practicing mindfulness and then writing. I start out doing some practice and setting my intention for the work.
PW: Why do you think that growing numbers of people are buying books and going to workshops to learn about this new kind of psychotherapy?
TB-G: I think that people want to feel empowered through their own inner resources, not to exclude the importance of support from others. Learning that there are tools of awareness that can free the mind is incredibly liberating for people.
PW: I wonder if people begin to do this work with the practical intent to make a relationship better and end up going much deeper than they bargained.
TB-G: That has happened, but I don't force "spirituality" on anybody. Working with mindfulness shows you that awareness itself can be transforming. It's not necessary to think of mindfulness as this spiritual, esoteric thing. It helps you deepen the natural qualities of your mind so that you become more compassionate and clear.
PW: What is your hope for this book?
TB-G: I know that it is possible to be free from patterns of mind that keep us from being really deeply content. I wish that everyone who reads this book could come to trust that they have that inner ability to be free.