Swami Premodaya is a Los Angeles-based spiritual teacher who is unique in that before he began his current calling, he worked in the psychological field. For years, he headed hospital-based psychiatric programs, as well as working independently as a psychotherapist. I asked him about the relationship between psychology and spirituality:
“The simplest way to state it is that there’s a divinely given responsibility to grow, to become really who you are, to blossom into your true potential. For the small minority of people who consciously hold that purposeful intention, it becomes imperative to grow psychologically because that’s the base of growing in every other way. If you’re psychologically impaired or immature, your ability to advance spiritually is limited.”
How would that translate to practical advice? I asked.
“I recommend to your readers that if they want spiritual growth, they identify very clearly in what area of life they are out of balance. Life contains many required areas: work, social life, friendships, leisure time, finances, romantic relationships, health. Most people have areas of life that haven’t been dealt with and are not functioning adequately, and these become barriers to growth. For example, if someone has a chaotic financial life, they’re not going to be able to have the spiritual life they want or advance as far or as fast as they might like when they are constantly thrown back to deal with their money issues.“
The way I say it is so that these areas don’t capture your attention. Would he agree with that?
“Yes,” Premodaya continued. “It’s not required that you represent a pinnacle of health in every area of life, or that you be the best or perfect. It is required that your functioning is minimally adequate, so that each area is not a problem that becomes a crisis again and again.
“Competent outside help is often needed as it can’t be done on your own or with the help of friends or family. People come to me for spiritual help and often the first thing I do is send them for psychological help because that will be the right order of things.
“For me, psychology is the beginning phase of spirituality. For those who seek spirituality, psychology is the entry point. I don’t have a strong dividing line between the two—I tend to see it more as the rungs of a ladder. The top rung of the ladder of psychology is the bottom rung of the ladder of spirituality.”
I often work with spiritual seekers needing psychological help, so I was happy to find out that the swami considers psychotherapy helpful. To learn more about Premodaya, visit www.premodaya.com.
© 2014 Catherine Auman This article is an excerpt from Catherine’s book Shortcuts to Mindfulness: 100 Ways to Personal and Spiritual Growth