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Ron Balamuth, PHD

Ron Balamuth, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist-psychoanalyst, graduate of the New York University Post-Doctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis. He has been involved in meditation practice in various traditions for the past 30 years. He is faculty and supervisor at the William Alanson White Institute Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy Training Program, Columbia University and National Institute for the Psychotherapies.  He is in private practice in New York City, where he consults with individuals, couples, families, and children. He also leads study groups and case consultations for professionals.

Poppy Field

          "I have never liked binaries. “Good/Bad”, “inside/outside” have always struck me as confining and stifling. They seem to constrict playfulness and creativity. An early memory comes to mind. I am 4 or 5 years old, standing on a stool, reaching, straining for the new hi-tech light switch that my father just installed in the hallway. The old switch had a harsh, audible click “on” and “off” action, whereas this new, shiny German contraption had a mesmerizingly smooth feel that had no audible click to it. I spent long hours perched high on the stool, immersed in trying to find that elusive spot between “on” and “off” light and dark. On the rare occasion that I hit that spot, astonishing things happened: the light flickered and turned grayish-brown, accompanied by a strange deep hum as the device heated up and became hot to the touch.

            One day in the midst of my clandestine explorations, I hit the sweet spot. The light flickered, the hum got louder… and then sparks flew and all power in the house went out. This put a dramatic end to this phase of my explorations, and got me some serious talking to from my parents. It also sparked a deep fascination with, and awe of the forces that are accessed when one holds contradictions in dialectical tension without resolving them or collapsing them – just staying right there at the center, fully present.

            The spark of curiosity, the refusal to fall into binaries is still with me when I sit with patients. As I feel the familiar pull away from listening, towards “knowing” and “doing” I am called into question. I have come to know and recognize those golden moments when a word, a gesture, an interpretation emerges and is communicated from a deep source, not from theory or memory and not from anticipation or anxiety. The “third” space as Ogden calls it, which is neither within patient nor analyst. A creative inter-being as Thich Nhat Hanh refers to this way of being in the world. It lives in the moment and it leaves both patient and therapist transformed even if only for one breath. More essentially, there is recognition of such living moments when categories such as self/other, patient/analyst, transference /countertransference are no longer in the foreground. While always surprising, such moments affirm the profound healing power of deep listening, when ones’ body, mind and feelings, no longer separate, are now aligned and attuned to a totality of living with another human being.

            As Therapists and as spiritual seekers we are never alone. Our analysts, teachers and sanghas are there, holding us. Awakening to this holding matrix, a profoundly benevolent and generousinfluence, permits us to not fall into the despair of isolation and separation. As patients struggle with the anguish of loneliness and disconnection, they bring forth our own sense of separation and isolation. Staying with these hard-to-bear states, not rejecting, reacting, or trying to fix them, just holding them in “bare attention,” as Krishnamurti invites us to do, opens to a fresh possibility for presence, and intimacy."

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