This week our guest is Susan Gillis Chapman, LMFT. She teaches part time for Green Light institute and for Karuna Training in Europe. Susan is a retired Marital and Family therapist who has been practicing mindfulness meditation for over 35 years. She is the author of the book The Five Keys To Mindful Communication and a contributor to The Mindful Revolution, edited by Barry Boyce.
Susan has a unique background that combines expertise in western relationship psychology with spiritual practice. After receiving an MA in Buddhist and Western Psychology she spent ten years working with victims and perpetrators of domestic violence. During that time she worked as the program director for a battered women’s shelter and as the clinical director for a counseling center that offered both prison and community based treatment programs for men who abused women and children.
“Going into the shadows of our society I realized that our unrealistic expectations about love end up causing us to punish ourselves and each other. I could see this pattern in my own mind and heart. But meditation also showed me the opposite: how friendship towards ourselves can open us to others in a new way. Creating these models enabled me to bring what I was learning in my mindfulness practice back into my work with others”.
During those years, Susan began developing educational models for healthy relationship that were based on her training in mindfulness and the teachings she received from Shambhala Buddhist masters. She also drew from her education in the Convent of the Sacred Heart, a school with a gentle, progressive vision of enlightened society. Susan refined these models for her later work with healthy couples and tested their genuineness over her the past twenty years of her own marriage.
More recently Susan’s focus has been intentional community building. When their children reached adulthood, she and her husband Jerry joined a small community of 14 people and spent three years in a Tibetan Buddhist retreat. From 2002 until 2008 she and her husband lived in the Shambhala Buddhist monastery, Gampo Abbey, under the mentorship of Pema Chodron. Here the models that were born from working with domestic violence took their final form as examples of ‘a radically fresh approach to human relationships.’ The power of intentional friendship enables us to use conversation in a new way, bringing compassion to the parts of ourselves we’re afraid of and learning to unmask and open to who we really are.