Therapy, Non-Dual Therapy and Enlightenment
Man’s mind is like a hurricane with a very chaotic periphery and a totally silent unmoving centre. When we wake up in the morning we immediately move out from the silence of deep unconscious sleep into the periphery of the thinking and desiring mind. We know nothing else. We have not been told that if we could just stay and relax upon awakening in the morning, there would be a possibility that we could wake up “as the silent centre”, just before it explodes into millions of thoughts and dreams.
In this periphery millions of things are going on. It is very much like a civil war! A thought or a feeling arises, and immediately other parts of the ego-mind try to grasp or reject it. The madness of grasping and rejecting prevents us from falling back to the silent, unmoving centre. This grasping and rejecting is ignorance and pain. It creates a duality between subject and object. We believe that there is a separate “me”, a person, and an object that this “me” has to get or get rid of.
In most Western schools of therapy there is the belief that there is a “me” separated from all the experiences – thoughts, feelings, perceptions, the body and other bodies. And this “me” has to work and become free from unwanted experiences! It can be traumas from childhood, relationship problems or frustrations that the “me” experiences when it wants to grasp for a good feeling or get rid of unpleasant things.
There are many variations of therapy. I have personally learned and worked with many of them. But the majority of them are based on the belief in the duality between the ego-subject and the objects or experiences. From this point of view the therapists even believe that there are “inner” and “outer” experiences. The therapy is based on helping the ego to try to survive in this drama of being a victim of outer and inner things that it cannot control.
When you go to a traditional psychologist or therapist, it is often because you feel bad in some way. Both you and the therapist believe that there is a “you” and some “feelings or state of mind” that are “real”. By real I mean that both the “me” and the “feeling” are seen as having a unique existence – a self-nature that is different from all other “egos” and “feelings”.
So ordinary therapy and psychology cannot help us to be free and established in the silent, unmoving centre. In most of these therapy sessions we work and work, and slowly there comes an acceptance of the problems. But we have not solved them, and we are not truly free! We are not free until we have seen through the illusion and realised that there is neither a “me” nor a problem, even though it might be experienced in that way. But if we inquire into this “me-feeling”, we will not find a separated, unique “me”. And the same is true for the feeling.
These types of dual therapy keep us fighting in the periphery through the use of names, labels, concept and judgements. When we are given a name for a feeling we immediately get occupied with the word. The moment words come in we are no longer present to the present. If it is a “good word”, for example “love”, we feel good and try to grasp the feeling. If it is a “bad word”, like anger, we try to push it away. This is the game of ignorance and duality – the game of grasping and rejecting.
Labelling immediately takes us away from the experience. But if we can stop being a victim of words, we will become present .We will just experience the experience, and suddenly realise that there really is no “me” and no “feeling” with independent nature. Then we are no longer victims of labels and judgements and we have transcended the duality.
In Non-Dual Psychology the starting point is that man is already whole. It is not something that has to be created. It is there as our very essence, and this essence is the Buddha – our natural state and our enlightenment. Man is born in oneness with the divine wholeness and he doesn’t need to be changed to come back to it. He just has to remember who he is. It is about freeing that which is already whole in man. Non-Dual Therapy, in combination with meditation, can help us to realise that which is already unborn and immortal in our innermost reality.
Every experience is essentially our Enlightenment, but this – our true nature – appears as the millions and millions of experiences. This is the dance of life, but none of these experiences have an independent self-nature. They are essentially all “you”. If we want we can also call them “God”, as Jesus says in the Gospel of Thomas, “I and my God are one; I and my Father are one”. But it can be difficult to see this, because we are getting so deluded by all labels, concepts and judgements. We don’t see what is right in front of us. Forms and names are not the truth, they hide the truth, and most people live in this drama of ignorance. In Non-Dual Therapy we don’t stop when we just feel good. If there still are two – “me” and a “feeling” – we inquire deeper into the very nature of the “me” and the good feeling”!
Awakening is a good word for the shift that happens when we realise our true nature. The great Indian sage Ramana Maharshi used to say that the only difference between a normal dream in the night and the “dream of life” is the length of the dream; the dream of life lasts longer.
The shift I talk about, the shift where we wake up from the dream of life can be compared to the shift that happens in the morning when we wake up in bed. Suddenly we find ourselves lying our bed, but just a few seconds earlier we where somewhere else – maybe in India (in our dream). Very much the same happens when we awaken to who we truly are. And we can take the analogy further. When you wake up it is very clear that you created the journey to India while you were lying in the bed; you did not go anywhere. “You” lying in the bed created the whole thing!
When we wake up to who we really are, we realise in a split second that we are effortlessly creating the world we are living in. Everything appears in consciousness – our body, the bed, the house and the entire environment. There is neither inside nor outside. The dualism between inside and outside is ignorance, and it is created by the illusory ego. But in reality there is no ego, just as there is no real dream character in the dream of the night.
Upon awakening we also realise that all is consciousness and that there is no “me”. We discover that life is impersonal. But then, what is creating all this; creating a world, which at first glance seems so real and objective, but disappears when we come close? It is the real “you” or the Divine – they are the same. Let us do a little meditation to illustrate this! Sit or walk and just notice how your attention is moving all the time. Also notice that everywhere you have your attention there is also an experience. Actually attention and experience cannot be separated. It is because “you” – the Divine – creates everything! You see a tree and you can say “that which I truly am is now taking form as this tree”. You see a dog, a house, a person, or anything else, and you can always say the same; “that which I truly am is now taking form as this”.
This way of perceiving reality is so far away from what we have been conditioned to believe. It is a very radical shift from what people in general think. The fact that almost everyone else believes in the duality between subject and object does not mean that it is true. But duality is a very established belief system. Claiming something else can be controversial and people might find it strange. There is an old Indian story about this problem:
There was a woman who lived outside the village, and she had her own well to draw water from. All the other villagers took their water from another well. One day the well in the village got poisoned, and all the people in the village started to show strange mental symptoms. But since they all had the same symptoms no one got suspicious. The woman outside the village was drinking from her own well and was not affected like the people in the village. So the people in the village became suspicious of her and called her weird.
This story shows how we are conditioned. The language and the belief systems define what is “normal” and prevent us from realising what we truly are. This conditioning is like a jail and very, very few see that there are “no bars”.
Much of the therapy and psychology we learn in the Western culture is dualistic and not true. To come out of “this collective hypnosis” takes a lot of courage, because people might think that we are a weird.
The first step to come out of this collective hypnosis is to learn to “go in”! The truth is discovered inside, not outside. And we must learn to “see with the Heart”. The brain is thinking and creating the dualism between “me” and “my thought”. The Heart is experiencing through intimacy. For the Heart there are not two. That is why we feel good in the company of people that live from their heart; we don’t feel separated from them. In Buddhism there is a very good distinction between “Everyday Mind” and “Nature of Mind”. The Everyday Mind is the thinking mind that creates the distinction between subject and object. It creates the sense of duality. But the Nature of Mind is realised in the Heart. It is our true nature beyond all separation.
The first meeting with the Heart is in the physical heart. A little deeper we find the emotional heart and even deeper the pure sense of being. When we realise being, we step out of time and space. In that moment we know that we were never born and we will never die. The pure being is the Nature of Mind. This realisation is the end of our journey and the end of a personal “me” running the show. It is also the end of agony and pain.
There are many obstacles. One of them is doubt. We are not home before we are free from both doubt and no doubt. As long as the ego-mind is believed to be the centre of who we are there will be doubt. The ego-mind balances on the line between knowing and not-knowing. But our true nature is beyond both!
About Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen Buddhism, they say: “he did not know, but he knew”. This is a way to let us understand that real knowing is not conceptual. The truth is unknowable. It is more correct to say that truth is something we are. It is our very being. Many people get deluded here, because for most people being is also an experience. As an experience it involves both the experiencer and the experience and this is dualism. If we get lost here it can lead to what Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche called spiritual materialism – the grasping for spiritual experiences. This is something that strengthens the illusion of a separated “me”. Therefore we do have to realise being. It means that a shift must happen – a shift from experiencing being to become being! This is very simple but in reality not easy!
It is also important to be aware of spiritual bypassing. This happens when we use spiritual practices to avoid facing suppressed feelings, psychological wounds or other mental obstacles. But in order to wake up we must be able to face everything in life! Some spiritual teachers say that God will ask us one question when we die and come home to him, and that is “Did you really live?”
So to wake up and realise who we really are is not for cowards. We must go so deep that we realise the impermanence of life and that takes courage.
For many years I have been training people in Non-Dual Therapy. This training is built on three pillars: therapy, meditation/dharmadoors and enlightenment. The basic focus is not on changing the personality, but to realise our true inner nature – the unchangeable reality which has so many names; “Buddha Nature”, “Atman” , “Self”, “Pure Consciousness” or “God”. To rest effortlessly in this reality is Enlightenment and this is the ultimate goal of the Non-Dual Therapy!
From the sixties and up to now we in the West have developed a more holistic understanding of man’s psychology. People like Abraham Maslow, Wilhelm Reich, Frederick S. Perls, Hal and Sidra Stone and others have been very important for the creation of new counselling methods, where the understanding comes very close to the Eastern thinking. In the work with Non-Dual Therapy we use many of these contemporary methods like NLP, Breath Work, Bioenergetics, Shock Therapy, Childhood Imprints, Family Constellations, Gestalt Therapy and Voice Dialogue. But this work with therapy is always combined with meditation and other spiritual techniques.
We only spend time in therapy to get in touch with what is suppressed. The therapy can help us to become aware of all the places where the mind is fighting with itself. Through this awareness we will relax and start to fall into our heart. When this happens the therapist will leave the therapy behind and start to work with meditation and mindfulness. If there is this awareness of what is suppressed, we will be asked to relax into to the feelings without using labels and concepts. When we just “experience our experiences” we will see that all experiences are impermanent; they have no self-nature and are constantly changing. Resting here will sooner or later take us into state of freedom where a full awakening can happen. But it is more common that the realisation comes if we stay and identify with this state of freedom and then invite our difficult feelings into this awareness. When feelings and awareness are allowed to take colour of each other they will merge and we will realise that “there are not two”. The duality between the experience and the experiencer will dissolve, and the result will be an effortless freedom beyond imagination.
Relaxing into our feelings, resting in aware presence and then inviting our experiences into this freedom is a Dharmadoor which I call “Associated Inquiry”. Dharmadoors are powerful techniques that can lead to glimpses of real inner freedom, and in Non-Dual Therapy we use many types of Dharmadoors to help us wake up.
One way to awaken is to realise the impermanence of objects and feelings. This is what happens when we work with Associated Inquiry. To see the impermanence of the subject is another way to go. Here we use Self Inquiry and the famous question “Who am I” to realise that there is no “I” or ego with an independent nature. Other examples of Dharmadoors are working with the process of surrender, modern versions of Zen inspired koans, mindfulness and learning to become the gap between our experiences.
On a regular basis I give longer trainings in Non-Dual Therapy. This is an opportunity to learn techniques that you can use and share as a Non Dual Therapist. This training is usually given as a series of retreats. The schedule can vary from country to country and detailed information about the trainings is available on the homepage.
I am also giving personal sessions in Non-Dual Therapy. Skype sessions are also available over the Internet. Please contact me for more information.