Editor’s Note / J. Stewart Dixon: Every once in a while an article comes along, such as the one below, with a special blend of poignancy depth and accuracy. An article similar to this resulted in my own awakening. May Brian’s article inspire, assist and transform you. And yes- this is a LONG article- mini book length. Light a candle, grab your ipad and relax in your favorite chair…
Every Evening Comes the Moon:
Awakening to freedom in the darker pockets of human existence
This article describes the necessity of the decent into no-self as being critical in
awakening to oneʼs true nature. The decent into no-self is not always a seamless one
and often fraught with encountering darker pockets of our personal and cosmic states of
consciousness including the need to deal with the end of oneʼs world, unconscious pain
and desires, and non-ordinary states. The author shares a small segment of his own
decent in pointing to the possibility of realizing the already awakened freedom of
awareness found in the moment and within such states and that by resting in the
absence of self, dying to the clinging mind, an incredible sense of freedom can be
found. The moon of awakening points to making oneʼs home in the emptiness of no-self
and riding the full deck of human consciousness. A nondual psychotherapy approach is
used in two case studies of clientʼs describing small segments of their own working
process in the decent into no-self.
Whoever goes into the night will be eaten up, consumed in an instant, incinerated
in a second. The night does not love you, does not do good things for you, does
not have mercy on you, and does not make your life easy. The only thing the
night can do is incinerate you. This is its only effect: absolute annihilation. This
sounds scary, but when you see the falsehood of your entityhood and recognize
the pure consciousness, you will be consumed with the passion to annihilate
what is false. The longing for cessation is the ultimate desire that we have. It is
the ultimate death wish, not the usual physical death wish. To die in total and
complete annihilation means not knowing that you ever were or that you will ever
- It is absolute darkness, absolute peace. (Almaas, 2011, p. 171)
Awakening is not revealed in a nice, neat little package.
It is a journey into oblivion where ones entire sense of self and conceptual world is completely exposed
and burnt up. With no effort at all, a thundering abyss can open up in the centre of our
being and magnetically drawn us similar to a black hole opening up in space swallowing
everything we have ever identified with. Everything we held dear to ourselves. It is not
surprising that the mind can conjure up many clever strategies in avoiding the full brunt
of such a cosmic napalm. But a vast freedom can be found in this endless blackness of
existence; a luminous freedom can reveal itself in the midst of our own apparent fear,
confusion and obsession. This luminosity can emerge through a deep acceptance and
surrender to the incinerating abyss and is the clarity and light of who and what we are
as human beings. It illuminates everything in existence, from our own lack of clarity and
unconscious obsessions to the darker pockets of existence; and even non-ordinary
states of existence. It is an endless fall into a black hole where all of our conscious and
unconscious attachments become intensely magnified. Not only do the gritty and
shadowy aspects of our own consciousness scream to the surface of awareness
demanding our attention and recognition but so to does the cosmic realm; opening one
up to the energies at a cosmic level. The demons and idols we have loved and feared
all come out to play. Rather than grasp at survival-hood, the invitation is to go all the
way, to let go and take the plunge with no expectations and be with whatever arises.
Buddhaʼs own decent is an intense invitation for us all to find the luminous
freedom in the darkness of existence. He realized there was no way around this abyss
and had to descend into the depths of the unknown with no life preservers; he stacked
his whole life for the mystery of existence to reveal itself. Sitting under the Bodhi tree he
saw through the desire for material existence followed by the ultimate desire of
achieving Enlightenment. He pierced through the whole seeking and awakening game
which allowed for a full on embrace of the emptiness of existence. His commitment was
so total that he willingly laid his head on the cosmic gelatin and died to all of his
personal attachments. He let go and fell freely into the abyss. Fear and desire were
burned up in the fire of awareness. Falling further he was enticed by the Gods with
cosmic hard-bodies and repelled with ferocious demons. His awareness did not flicker
and suddenly everything became radiantly clear and obvious to him. There is no such
thing as a separate self. The horror of existence is in believing that one exists in
separation. Here, it can feel like one is being hit with an atomic insight that tares the
fabric of self-identification instantly illuminating the paradoxical nature of who and what
we are. The ineffable presence of who we are. Here, we die living. The feel and taste of
this experience is so shockingly familiar because it is what we have always been but
have forgotten. It is as if we have dined on the bland buffet of separateness for so long,
for so many lives, that we have lost our palate for Eternity and only now realized it. We
have lost the flavor of sharing the gift of infiniteness in everyday life. It becomes
abundantly clear that we can not return to the world of lies and deceit buying into the
world of separation and otherness. No more can we stomach the lies of identification
and separateness, seeing through illusion and fixation moment to moment, dying to the
death of me and my life and resting in the fathomless black unknown, our true home in
the cosmos.The next section describes a small segment of my own plunge into the abyss.
The Newspaper Incident
Through many years of spiritual seeking and self-striving for the golden prize of
enlightenment, a sudden shift in identity occurred in the most ordinary of events.
Several years ago, while traveling through Europe on vacation with my wife we were
staying in Lucerne, Switzerland and while reading a newspaper in the hotel room, the
sense of “me-ness” suddenly dropped. The suddenness was striking. I felt like I had lost
all control and personal functioning and was spinning backward into a spiraling black
hole. Something completely impersonal had taken over. I sat on the bed in what
appeared to be a frozen state but my body could still move yet what was clear and
noticeable was that “I” did not feel located inside of it. I continued to feel as though I was
receding further and further into the background. There was an incredible blackness
and silence in the midst of all the traffic noise outside on the street. All the noise
became background and this awesome black abyss enveloped me totally becoming
foreground. Something had cracked in my consciousness and I was falling deeper and
deeper into the unknown. There was fear and it racing throughout my entire being.
My wife had returned from her walk and she saw that something was wrong, I
weakly reassured her that all was well, but I did not get into the specifics of what was
happening to me as I did not fully understand it myself. I simply asked if we could sit in
silence for a while. I tried to relax that evening but all I could sense was this continual
decent in each and every moment with no end in sight. The following morning I started
to journal about my experiences as a means of grounding and possibly shedding some
light on it. Humbly, it dawned on me that although there were many shifts in my
consciousness and awareness over the last several years there was subsequently a
great deal of accumulated knowledge and concepts that I had collected. I saw at times,
how I had parroted a lot of what other spiritual teachers had reported instead of coming
from my own direct experience. This was not merely conceptual thinking. It felt like an
energetic insight and realization had rippled throughout my body. It felt true. I felt some
embarrassment and a sense of fakeness but then it seemed like something in my being
had fallen away revealing more and more aspects of my consciousness and existence.
It felt like something was chipping away at my being without my involvement.
For many evenings during the remainder of our trip, I had a flurry of disturbing
dreams; dreams of being tortured and/or participating in the torture of others, mixed with
desires of many sorts manifesting themselves. The fear continued and my wife was
finding my company distant and unpleasant. As we entered Germany, the experiences
started to ramp up a little more. I felt like I was energetically sensitive to different parts
of the country, which were not uncommon for most people visiting Germany given the
violent history, but I was plagued by more and more disturbing dreams and witnessing
atrocities that seemed vividly real. At times, while staying the night in different villages I
had this peculiar sense of being followed by something threatening and unseen.
I felt desperate. It wasnʼt until we were in Bruge that I wrote in my journal, “You
just have go with it, stop running, whatever is happening, remember, just go with it”.
Soon, I felt like I could relax a little more and be more open to my situation. A sense of
freedom swept over me even while in the midst of my decent. My whole world was
caving in, losing its solidity, but I did not feel like I was resisting or fearing it as much
anymore. Upon returning home to Winnipeg, I continued to feel a sense of freedom in
the midst of the unknown and saw with some clarity, that existence had opened up
tremendously for me revealing a vast terrain of unchartered consciousness and
energies. I was slowly starting to see now how the beauty and dangers of existence can
be met and experienced from a place of freedom and surrender rather from a place of
terror and contraction.
A Gut-wrenching Decent
In one moment you are simply going about your ordinary daily existence and
then suddenly you find yourself falling endlessly into a cavernous abyss. Beyond logic
A void appears here that nothing in the world can fill; a gaping abyss opens up
at the very ground on which one stands. In the face of this abyss, not one of all
the things that had made up the stuff of life until then is of any use. In fact, that
abyss is always just underfoot (Nishatani, 1982, p. 3).
The energetic charge of separation is so incredibly strong that it often takes a
tremendous shock to the body-mind system in order to pierce through all the
accumulated conditionings; to see through the illusionary nature of self-existence and
embrace the true stateless state of the absolute. Having the floor ripped out from
underneath is sudden and striking and can quickly reveal how much of our energy is
involved in maintaining the illusion of separateness. The hold of separation is felt
throughout the entire body-mind system, like an intense contraction refusing to relax
and let go. What appears necessary here, when existence spontaneously reveals itself
to itself in conditioned form, is to cooperate and ease into the process; to give up the “I
am a separate self” drama and allow oneself and world to be totally consumed. Not just
our concepts, ideas, hopes and dreams but the body itself. The love for bodily existence
can be incredibly intense and the fear of losing it excruciating. As Segal (1996)
experienced in her meditation practice and conversations with her spiritual teacher:
Whenever I have clear experiences of transcending, Iʼm attacked by an
overwhelming fear that makes me feel like Iʼm going to die right there if I donʼt
stop meditating.” Maharishi broke into pearls of laughter, a response I had not
anticipated. “Donʼt worry about the fear,” he said, still laughing, “itʼs just the body
holding on to the world. You must let go of the world to transcend, but the body
becomes afraid because it thinks the world is all there is. You must not listen to
the fear of the body—just let go” (p. 32).
The body is compacted consciousness and energetically loaded with
conditionings so it is entirely normal for there to be an abundance of fear; in fact it would
be the bodyʼs biological nature to experience fear, but the invitation to relax beyond fear
is essential in abiding as oneʼs real condition. Osho (1981) observed the decent into noselfhood
is marked by an incredible sense of loss and death where he likened the
descent as to being “on the road of sighs” where everything that once applied to a
sense of self and itʼs conceptual world crumbled to pieces. None of it can be related to
in the same way. Almaas (1995) encountered this in his own decent into the abyss with
the existential realities of death and finitude:
This loss has implications I have never fully come to terms with. Death is no
longer living this particular present life. It is my particular, present life that I will
leave, and not only life in general. This is not a philosophical question; it is a
completely personal concern. The sadness is the grief about recognizing that I
cannot remain with what I love. When physical death arrives, I will lose contact
with all that I have come to love in this world. Death will be the end of contact
with family, friends, students, places, things, activities, work; everything and
everyone I love and cherish (p. 127).
The love for existence is so deeply ingrained in human conditioning that a flood
of tears can emerge in this realization. A deep guttural sadness at the loss of everything
which constituted oneʼs entire life. The attachments, hopes and ideals are all burned up
in this seeing. The shift in perception from a separate bound entity to the vast endless
mystery calls for such a death. The shift from the peripheries of life to the endless
depths of existence is so strikingly clear that one can not hold back. Perhaps this is
what is being meant in “crossing to the other shore”. The energetic charge of separation
begins to lessen and the pull to realize oneʼs true nature becomes even stronger.
Adyashanti (2008) experienced this while attending a friends wedding reception:
At that moment, it suddenly hit me that I would never again see life as most
human beings see it. It was as if at that moment I felt like something within me
was completely leaving the human condition. Viewing things from conventional
perspective was over for me; it was finished. This knowing was accompanied by
a bit of nostalgia…But in that moment I saw that the way most human beings
view the world was no longer the way I viewed it. And I knew Iʼd never view it that
way again. Whatever had happened, there was no going back (p. 176).
Falling further into the abyss one typically has to encounter and work through all
the nasty unconscious material buried deeply in the recesses of their being. The next
section points to elements of this experience.
Beggar’s and Hangers on: Working Through Unconscious Material
As we begin to let go of the peripheries of existence and dive into the depths of
no-self and wake up from the mud of conditioned existence we have to encounter all of
our unconscious baggage we have hidden from awareness. This can be excruciating
painful because such baggage keeps the belief of separation in place. As we descend
further into the abyss, it can feel like a Danteʼs inferno has erupted deep within the
recesses of our being bringing forth all of our deeply held unconscious complaints about
life, hidden desires and attachments to the surface, especially with the attachment to
the body. Although a profound shift in awareness may have taken place, we may still be
harboring complaints about existence about not yet being found out or recognized as
the next nondual awakened teacher, feeling like a fraud, chasing desire, hiding out in a
space of “nondual immunity” where we lack the ability to be vulnerable and touched
deeply by life, hiding out in nondual concepts, or mimicking a partial surrender where
the deep seated fear of no-self is far too great to embrace. This is where the nondual
rubber really hits the road.
Several years ago while participating in a nondual group, I remember feeling like
a fraud when it was pointed out to me that I was merely parroting nondual concepts as
my own experience. They were right. I felt exposed and vulnerable and a great
trembling in my being was taking place. I saw what I called a partial surrender where I
was willing to give certain things up but still projecting images of being the “Mr.
awakened guy. What I did not see at the time was that surrender is a non-doing.
Nisagardatta Maharj (1999) explains it best:
Self-surrender is the surrender of all self-concern. It cannot be done, it happens
when you realize your true nature. Verbal self-surrender, even when
accompanied by feeling, is of little value and breaks down under stress. At the
best it shows an aspiration, not an actual fact (p. 478).
All my nondual chatter was merely a defense against the underlying fear of noself.
I was invited to own it and not run or defend against the experience and dissolve
into the fear. “Fear will be there – in spite of it, go into the unknown. Let the fear be there
– still go into the unknown. Only by going into the unknown will the fear disappear,
because you will come to know there is nothing to fear” (Osho, n. d., p. 37). I soon saw
that the freedom is found in allowing it all to come screaming to the surface and met
with an open accepting heart. The slightest judgment or condemnation towards the
experience keeps one scrambling for an eternity. We are all frauds, liars, tricksters,
afraid, pretenders at times, who cares, we donʼt have to make any of it into some
healing project. We have to come out of hiding and expose our dirty little secrets. If we
open up to it in the moment with an open heart, that which is eternal, can shine through
By descending deeper into our beings and addressing our unconscious seeds
and not indulging in them we are subsequently not bound by them and released into a
more expanded sense of freedom. And with this new found freedom from the self comes
the possibility of opening up to realms of trans-personal consciousness where nonordinary
states can emerge.
Dealing with Non-Ordinary States
Not only do we have to contend with our own personal consciousness but at
times, existence has a way of tossing us a cosmic curve ball just to shake up our
beingness by way of dealing with the cosmic realm or non-ordinary states of
consciousness. As we descend into the mysterious depths of existence there can be a
cosmic opening up to uncharted levels and dimensions of consciousness where some
of the difficult or darker pockets of existence present themselves (Wilber, 1999; Grof,
1985; Modi, 1997; Nixon, 2001; Rich, 2012). Returning to the story of Buddhaʼs own
awakening, Mara, an apparent demon God, emerged in Buddhaʼs awareness tempting
him with beautiful women to give up the awakening process. The women represented
craving, desire and boredom and when this was ineffective, Mara attempted to repel
Buddha with ferocious images and visions of demons and ghosts hoping he would
contract back into separateness out of fear and return to a conditioned life. Buddha did
not give any energetic fuel to fear and desire and amazingly, while remaining completely
still, he saw through the illusion of the separate self and Mara himself. Existence
revealed itself to itself in a cosmic flash. It was all mind created. As there is no self,
there is no other. Mara never really existed and so there was no need to fight him, it was
all a dancing illusion taking place within awareness. There was no effort needed in this
realization, it was a spontaneous understanding happening to no one (Kramer, 1988).
Who could possibly surrender? There was no one there. It was all a clear seeing and
This can be a frightening experience but Buddhaʼs story points to how the
transformational process of awakening does not follow a predictable tract and that
everything is put into question. Whether it is in the energetic form of disembodied spirits
(Modi, 1997), spontaneous visitations (Moody, 1976) or unresolved traumatic past life
scenarios (Adyashanti, 2008) for some people, the need to see through the clutching
that has taken place at a cosmic level is critical to relaxing into the endless mystery.
Adyashanti (2008) experienced this in his own awakening:
For the most part, what I saw was anything that was unresolved about the dream
of “me” in a particular lifetime. There were certain confusions, fears, hesitations,
and doubts that were unresolved in particular lifetimes. In certain lifetimes, what
was unresolved was a feeling of confusion about what happened at the time of
death. In one lifetime, I drowned and did not know what was happening, and
there was tremendous terror and confusion as the body disappeared into the
water. Seeing this lifetime and the confusion at the moment of death, I
immediately knew what I had to do. I had to rectify the confusion and explain to
the dream of me that i died, that I fell off a boat and drowned. When I did this, all
of a sudden the confusion from that lifetime popped like a bubble, and there was
a tremendous sense of freedom (p. 209).
Instantly the traumas were resolved. By relaxing in and as awareness itself, that
which is prior to form and formlessness, heals the wounds of confusion, fear and
separation. This is important transformational work because there can be a significant
degree of energetic forces at play, which we are not even aware of, that can stunt the
unfolding of awakening. By not adopting a particular preference towards a non-ordinary
experience awareness pierces through and thaws the frozen experience freeing up the
accumulated energy and allowing for a full resolution to take place. Wolinsky (2002)
saw how this is important in helping someone who has made their physical exit but who
does not realize they are even dead and locked in a state of fear and shock.
When my dear friend, Christian, died, at first “my” mirage body-mind felt its grief
response. Later that evening, however, within the EMPTINESS, while “I” was
sitting in the living room of our apartment, there appeared the much less
condensed consciousness called Christian. That consciousness was floating in
EMPTINESS, and that consciousness did not know it had died, and hence was in
shock. “I” spent some time with him (his consciousness, which was thinning out)
letting him know what had occurred. Over the next 24-36 hours, “his”
consciousness was around until it thinned out within the BIG EMPTINESS and
was no more (pp. 145-146).
Seeing through his own dis-identifications and illusions of separateness,
Wolinsky (1993) was able to help his friend surrender to the dissolution process and
open up to the truth of who he is as emptiness. Everything is interconnected
consciousness and as such everything that manifests can be embraced in a relaxed
way; the typical “spiritual significance” given to such non-ordinary states dissolves and
seen as ordinary phenomena. The next section describes an embodied realization of
the truth of our being in all states and experiences of consciousness. Having been
rinsed out of all personal attachments, unconscious seeds and non-ordinary states
existence becomes an open field of free participation where nothing is excluded and
can be met with the light of pure awareness.
The Moon of Awakening
Waking up out of the dream of self-identity requires a dramatic shift in
awareness. Seeing through all aspects of personal and non-ordinary states of
consciousness one relaxes and rests as a spacious luminosity. The illusion of a
separate solids self is exposed and the truth of who and what they are is apparent
moment to moment. The moonlight of awareness illuminates all aspects of
consciousness and is a paradoxical realization; “In the process of decent, she learns
that there is no leaving the absolute, but that the decent is simply the integration into the
absolute of all dimensions of manifestation” (Almaas, 2011, p. 415). Everything is
arising happening to no one and existence becomes a play ground of energies. The
intensity is in this instance, seeing that at any moment, existence can snuff you out. The
next instance is not guaranteed. Everything is left up to divine will where an incredible
re-orientation of our being takes place. It becomes clear that in the dream state most
people only live 1% of an authentic existence, and the rest is all just bullshit and deal
making and fakeness. The question becomes where in my life have I really shown up?
That is the question. And the realization is to live from the vast openness in each
We are totally open and innocent, with no defensiveness and no strategizing.
There is no holding back, no hiding, no protection, no pretension. There is
complete openness, presence, and genuineness. There is no self-control
whatsoever. So the spontaneity is total. The absence of control is absolute. We
simply experience ourselves as freedom, lightness, delight, openness, and
spontaneity. Without self-consciousness, action and expression are absolutely
spontaneous, and hence totally free (Almaas, 2011, p. 387).
This is both exhilarating and dangerous all at the same time as there is no
knowing of what the next moment may bring. Being so alertly aware it may become
clear where we have made fraudulent deals with people over the years. One can have a
fraudulent mirror in the world and it is up to them to spot who that is. A fraudulent mirror
with whom one has given all of their energy to, giving away oneʼs gift of awakening and
completely dulling oneʼs energy and ability to move freely and fluidly in life. A fraudulent
mirror will typically support a sense of self-identity and it is up to each person to take
them down and reclaim their energy. We may see how for years we have been taking
on other peoples assumptions and insights about awakening without realizing it
ourselves; trusting on blind faith.
The supports that once made up a sense of self, spiritual or otherwise are all now
gone, incinerated completely. Here, one can feel themselves energetically pass through
people, not out of anger or anything, just a natural cosmic moving through where no
deals are made, no recoiling out of fear, no need for security, just love, all love. This is
the embodied realization of our true nature, where the eternal side of our being makes
its way into the relative world. The moment one can make the whole world their play
ground then one can meet anything that arises in consciousness with love and
Nondual psychotherapy invites us to realize this inherent gift within each and
The central task in nondual therapy is to facilitate “awakening an
experience of the unconditioned mind for the therapist and client, and the ongoing
cultivation of this experience” (Fenner, 2003, p. 28). Although a person may present in
therapy with very real emotional pain and inner conflict, when oneʼs thoughts, feelings,
sensations and inner conflicts, cosmic or relative, are seen from the stateless state of
no-self one is multi-dimensionally aware and liberated from the fixation that life in the
moment should or should not be the way it is (Wolinsky, 1993). This is depicted in what
the mystics have called “the one-thousand-petalled lotus”, a full blooming of awakeness
in both personal and impersonal aspects of consciousness. Here, the therapist is
abiding within paradox; the realization that there is no crystallized separate self, and yet,
in the same breath, there does appear to be one. The shift is in surrendering exclusive
fixation this appearance in resting in nondual consciousness. It is the clientʼs fixation
and belief in the reality of the apparent separate self that causes misery and endless
suffering (Osho, 1983).
This is mirrored and facilitated when the therapist herself is anchored in
nondual consciousness. The role of therapist and client are seen through, allowing for
the possibility of a nondual resonance to take place within the therapeutic process. The
boundary between client and therapist collapses bringing about a stillness and silence
out of which a spontaneous encounter can emerge (Blackstone, 2006). Within this
possibility of inter-subjective resonance, therapeutic techniques may be used and
developmental theories considered but they are regarded as mere pointers towards
nondual realization. Any fixation on a technique, role or particular therapy (even nondual
therapy) limits access to the already free flowing nature of nondual consciousness
In many ways, the nondual therapist is acting out of an impersonal love. It is an
impersonal love and acceptance of all things. Ones responses are fresh, clear and
spontaneous in nature. There isnʼt even the expectation or hope that a client realizes
their true condition because doing so would be placing a demand on the moment and
close down the aperture of awareness. It is similar to what the Taoists call “action
through inaction” where one responds to the needs of the moment without losing sight
of the already awakened condition of no-self (Wei Wu Wei, 2004). Almaas (1996 pp.
343-344) describes it as “a quality of boundless and gentle love, a delicate light
experienced as the presence off softness, sweetness and generosity. It is not exactly a
personal kind of love. It is love for everything and everyone—universal love”. The
nondual therapist makes his or her home in the clarity of no-self, moment to moment,
not matter what emerges. This is the moon of awakening in all aspects of life and a gift
to be shared with others caught in confusion and fear. In the next section are a couple
of case studies describing small segments of clients decent into no-self hood when
dealing with letting go of old ways of being, unconscious material and non-ordinary
Jack (a pseudonym) has been in recovery from drugs and alcohol for the last 6
years. He grew up in a family riddled with alcohol abuse and profound neglect and
found support and connection in joining Alcoholics Anonymous. Having been a member
for the last 5 years and a sponsor for 3 people he considered his home group family. He
also found himself drawn to the teachings of Eckhart Tolle and had been practicing
mindfulness strategies and attending online Tolle classes for the last year and half. He
had also recently completed a 12 week stage II recovery group with me. He scheduled
a session with me to discuss an experience he had had at a recent AA meeting. He
shared that while listening to the speaker share his story he suddenly felt himself “fall
inwards”, where he felt acutely aware but frightened all at the same time. He shared
feeling as though he could not move and that the room and people around him felt
“paper-like” as if they were not real anymore. Although he was able to finish the meeting
and ended up going home that evening he felt something had taken place for him that
he did not quite understand. He sat in his apartment feeling as though his identity was
When I asked him to share more about his experience he indicated that over the
last several days and while attending AA meetings he could not bring himself to
introduce himself as “Hi, Iʼm Jack and Iʼm an Alcoholic” anymore. It did not feel real
anymore. I felt this was an important experience for Jack as the shell of his identity was
beginning to crumble. In some ways, he appeared to be in the process of moving from
mindfulness to no-mindedness. He had attended many mindfulness meditation retreats
and experienced states of witnessing consciousness but nothing as sudden and striking
as this. Mindfulness helped him relax in the moment and contend with the dramas of life
but appeared to be used as a self-soothing strategy whereas the decent into nomindedness
is a whole other level altogether. I reminded Jack of Eckhart Tolleʼs decent
while sitting in his apartment and invited Jack to give up the identification game with
being an addict, a sponsor or body and mind, and to continue falling inwards and notice
the underlying emptiness within. “I feel like I am being pulled down,” he stammered. I
encouraged him to cooperate with it and not judge or manage the experience. It
seemed like the darkness he was avoiding was confronting his wound of abandonment
and neglect and allowing the spontaneous decent to unfold. After a few minutes of
sitting in silence, Jack began to weep heavily sharing he felt like he was losing his
family (referring to his AA group) and everything he knew. I only nodded not wanting to
pull Jack away from this insight. He then shared feeling like he was being abandoned
and feeling guilty. This was a delicate place for Jack as the unconscious wounds of
abandonment were natural given his traumatic biographical history and so I asked Jack
to feel into the wound of abandonment but not react from it, to see the freedom of
awareness even in the midst of his pain; to simply to allow it to be there and to take the
risk of not doing anything about it and to stop making abandonment and guilt into some
type of problem. After a few minutes, he smirked and appeared to relax into his
experience. I pointed out to Jack that the mind can use such emotional states as selfsurvival
strategies in maintaining control and separation and the endless “recovery
project”. “Maybe you have finally exhausted this whole ʻI am nothing but an addict
identityʼ, I said. “Also, the concept of family can be limiting, perhaps it is all just based
on connection”, I said. “Iʼm not sure if I can go back to my meetings and do the whole
AA ritual”, Jack replied. I pointed out that whether he went back to AA meetings or not
was not the point, “Who knowʼs”, I said. “But notice the freedom found here, when we
just drop into the emptiness of no-self”.
Several months later, I received a phone call from Jack sharing that he did make
the decision to leave his home group realizing he could not buy into the self-identifying
AA scripts any longer seeing it as a barrier to the natural unfolding of his being.
Although he found it painful he saw it as necessary and finds solace in reading of other
peoples accounts of descending into the mystery of existence.
Nancy (a pseudonym) arrived for our initial session filled with fear and panic. She
had been on a spiritual journey for a few years embracing Buddhist teachings and the
work of nondual teacher Joan Tollifson. She tearfully described the death of her
husband a month and a half ago; a tragic death where he violently took his own life. She
shared feeling the grief, confusion and sadness with the way he died but felt like she
was also going “crazy” these last few weeks stating she sees him almost every evening
sitting in the living room looking confused and angry. “He even yells at me, telling me its
all my fault. He would fade in and out. I just avoid going into the living room altogether
now.” She looked at me anticipating my response, perhaps worried that she would be
pathologized and judged. I responded that I was genuinely sorry for her loss and
pointed out that the phenomena she was experiencing is actually quit common and
ordinary. “Itʼs all consciousness happening”. She appeared a little relieved hearing this. I
invited her to slow things down and simply sit with the energy of fear, sadness and
confusion that was arising for a few minutes as there appeared to be a great deal of ego
activity taking place.
Nancy shared having many breakthroughs and insights into the nature of human
consciousness, letting go of self and attachments and enjoying a sublime witnessing
state but had never encountered this type of non-ordinary phenomena. She shared
desperately wanting to help him as she sees him trapped in a hell realm of his own but
felt too afraid. She appeared caught up in the drama of his own hell. I invited her into a
two phase intervention process by inviting her to sit in her own hellish pain first followed
by sitting with her partner and giving him feedback. It was important for her to accept
her own death and desperate need to survive. I pointed out that her ego activity was
perhaps a buffer against the realization of her own demise and invited her to relax the
need to save herself or anyone else; to dissolve together in the instance of this moment
with nothing anchoring her into separateness. We sat in silence together for several
minutes. Nancy reported feeling an “openness in my soul”. I encouraged her to allow
the openness to spread throughout her being. From this place, I asked her to recall the
last time she encountered him sitting in the living room and to see the whole scenario in
her mindʼs eye without trying to manage the experience or judge it in anyway; to simply
see it as another expression of consciousness happening to no one. We sat with this for
awhile as she felt a full spectrum of emotions emerge and fall. She also saw how she
was taking on his pain and confusion causing her to shut her energy down and feel
small and separate again. This was a significant insight for her. I asked her to see him
struggling in his own confusion and anger but from a place of presence and being
willing to sit in the fire of his own hell without flinching. “I donʼt feel myself in such a
panic right now but I have this fear in the background that i could get stuck in there with
him”. I pointed out that this was the fear of the mind and that she did not have to
participate with it. “The mind is fed by fear, youʼre prior to that. Whatever shows up in
awareness is just another experience”. I asked, “Can you simultaneously allow yourself
to dissolve while sharing what it is you need to say to him and pointing out to him that
he has passed on and needs to make his way and continue his journey?” “I think so”,
she said tearfully. Nancy was encouraged to come from this place the next time she
sees his consciousness appear in the living room.
Nancy scheduled another session three weeks later. She arrived appearing calm
and smiling. She described having “2 sit downs” with him sharing her love for him but
also sharing she was letting him go and that he needed to move on. I said to him, “I love
you with all my heart but I canʼt do this anymore. You need to go. I would share the
same thing each time I saw him until I felt him leave. I havenʼt seen him for a week and
half now.” She shared further, “It was strange, I felt my body twist and contort as if i was
letting go of a life time of relationship attachments with him and my own demons of guilt
and shame. I felt the emptiness within and I could see how much the mind wanted to fill
it with something, anything, but I just sat with it like how we do here and I felt pretty
I acknowledged her work as being an important shift for her and an aspect of
impersonal love towards her partner. Little was shared as we sat in silence for several
minutes allowing the instance of the moment to unfold between us; not knowing what
will emerge. There were rounds of sadness and grief but Nancy did not cling to her
experiences and reported a deeper shift within her being; a surrender to the mystery of
consciousness. By not making distinctions within consciousness she appeared better
able to meet her experiences in a fresh and clear way; a mirroring gift for her partner to
continue on his journey but also, a deeper realization for her in seeing that any situation
is an opportunity to let go and that we have to be alert and ready to meet anything that
emerges in our awareness.
The moon of awakening is waking up out of the dream of conditional existence
and finding freedom in the essence of our most difficult and contracted states of being.
It is a freedom of awareness which brings everything to light; illuminating the shadowy
corners of existence and allowing the freedom to encounter all levels of human and
cosmic consciousness. It is an awakening into no-self which is a total stripping away of
the illusion of separation and person-hood where there is a complete relaxation with the
need to identify with anything. Such freedom is found in the decent into no-self which is
necessary in awakening to our true nature and where no matter what presents itself in
our awareness, from dying to old habits and ways of being in the world, burning up any
unconscious seeds and dealing with non-ordinary states of existence, every moment
and every experience is seen to be a workable situation. The deeper the decent the
more it becomes clear that each moment is an invitation for us to see that which is ever
present, intimately aware and untouched by experience. Real freedom exists in being
able to ride the full deck of consciousness, in all pockets of existence, both beautiful and
dangerous. And for nondual therapists we can work with people stuck in such pockets
by pointing to the reality of freedom here and now when one simply relaxes, lets go and
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About Brian Theriault www.luminousawakenings.com
Brian Theriault (M.Ed., C.C.C.) completed his master’s degree in counselling psychology and embraces a nondual-transpersonal approach in his clinical work counselling clients. Brian was introduced to nonduality through Gary Tzu and has done personal work with him for several years. He has worked as a therapist in a number of counselling environments, including addiction and mental health agencies, and has co-facilitated nondual groups with Gary in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. He is also an associate editor for Paradoxica: The Journal of Nondual Psychology (www.paradoxica.ca) and has several published articles illustrating the transforming power of nondual psychotherapy. He utilizes the work of nondual psychologists Gary Tzu and A.H. Almaas, and the profound Zen and mystical teachings of Osho and Lao Tzu.