An Interview with Richard Miller, PhD
Richard Miller’s deep integration of Yoga and western psychotherapy offer a unique glimpse into the process of emotional healing. Dr. Miller describes emotional wellness as, “Our ability to welcome everything, reject nothing and meet life just as it is.” In this interview he discusses his nondual approach, which has been deeply influenced by the Yoga Sutras, Kashmiri Yoga and Buddhism.
Integral Yoga Magazine (IYM): When was your first Yoga class?
Richard Miller (RM): I took my first Yoga class in 1970 at the San Francisco Integral Yoga Institute. I had recently moved to San Francisco and wanted to meet people, so I decided to take a Yoga class. The funny thing was that the class was a 12-week silent course, and I never met anyone! On a more serious note, during the first class the teacher took us through savasana, during which I spontaneously fell into an experience of unity in which I felt myself at one with everything. I remember walking out of the class feeling that I had come home. I had found my path.
IYM: When did you begin to integrate psychology and spirituality?
RM: Some months after that Yoga course, I met Laura Cummings, who had just arrived from the Far East, and who would become my training therapist and mentor. As a young child her mother had taught her Yoga and Buddhism. From the beginning of my training in psychotherapy, Laura taught me an integration of psychological and spiritual principles. So, from the start of my training as a psychotherapist, psychology and spirituality were an integrated approach. Laura taught me about interconnected oneness, non-separation and how the world is a projection of our mind. To her, healing meant meeting a person, not with the intent of changing them, but with the intention of helping them unfold fully as themselves and helping them realize the essence within themselves that is already whole and healthy.
Laura helped me realize my wholeness that doesn’t need fixing—which I experienced in that first Integral Yoga class I attended. In addition to my studies with Laura, I delved into many Eastern traditions as I was training in Western psychology. In the 1970s I took up studies in Yoga therapy with TKV Desikachar, Taoism with Stephen Chang and Zen with Maezumi Roshi. Through my Eastern studies I realized that those who come to psychotherapy are often ready for a deeper inquiry and we do them a disservice by not helping them experience their innermost ground of pure being. If we can, they feel healed psychologically, and experience themselves grounded in a deep sense of well being that can’t be disturbed by life’s travails.
IYM: When did you get into nondualism?
RM: Laura introduced me to an existential and nondual approach to psychology and Yoga. During my time with her I also studied Advaita and the teachings of J. Krishnamurti, Ramesh Balsekar, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Sri Ramana Maharshi and Sri Shankaracharya. So, from the beginning, my path of Yoga was comprehensively nondual. Then, in 1984, I met my spiritual mentor, Jean Klein with whom I spent 15 years integrating the teachings of nondualism, Yoga and Kashmiri Shaivism.
IYM: How have you integrated these teachings?
RM: With the help of Jean, I realized that Yoga comprises two paths: progressive purification and direct Self-realization. During my time with Laura and Jean, I experienced the direct realization of the oneness of everything that has, over time, established itself as my everyday lived reality. This realization has helped me understand how the path of purification, as embodied in the perspectives of Kriya Yoga of Patanjali and western psychology, clears away the misperception to the revelation of our true nature. And how the direct path, as exemplified in Advaita and Kashmiri Yoga, directly points to our true nature. I have the grace of two traditions: one concerned with purification and the another entailing direct teachings that inform us of who we really are and what everything truly is. For me these are ultimately one comprehensive and integrated path.
IYM: From this perspective, how would you work with pratipaksha bhavana (Patanjali Yoga Sutras, II.33) and the emotions…
Read the rest of this article in the Summer 2009 issue of Integral Yoga Magazine.