1st July 2016
In my last Newsletter (Beyond the Selves
) I likened our many selves to the rainbow of colours formed when pure light is refracted through a prism; the characters in a movie appearing on a TV or computer screen; or the waves dancing on the surface of the ocean. I suggested that the practice of Voice Dialogue, and the consequent development of an Aware Ego Process, naturally leads us to a deeper enquiry into the nature of the metaphorical light, screen or ocean. In other words, to the source of the selves. It is an enquiry that challenges our most basic assumptions about who we really are.
Until Aristotle proved empirically that the earth was a sphere around 330BC,
people believed that the earth was flat. It "made sense". If you walked or sailed far enough you would "of course" come to the edge. It took hundreds of years for the round earth paradigm to become commonly accepted. And when it was, it "made sense" to assume that the earth was the centre of the known universe and that the sun and planets revolved around it. After all, it was obvious that the sun "travelled" in a great arc in the sky. This geocentric paradigm became deeply entwined with religious dogma and anyone who questioned it was considered a heretic. It was not until the end of his life that Copernicus dared publish his proof of a heliocentric universe and a new paradigm gradually became established as the consensus worldview.
Today there is another paradigm that we take for granted. It is one on which our world culture is built. To question it is to provoke the same skepticism and hostility as happened when the flat earth and geocentric paradigms were challenged. It is the paradigm of materialism.
This paradigm assumes that everything is made out of stuff called matter. It is believed that consciousness arises out of this stuff. How this happens has been the focus of much research. But try as they may, scientists have not been able to show how the basic building blocks of matter - atoms - create our experience of being aware. They have therefore called it "The Hard Question of Consciousness".
But what if it's the other way around? What if the primary "stuff" out of which everything in the universe is made is consciousness? This proposition seems absurd to our rational/materialist perspective. It doesn't "make sense" to us. Yet this is exactly what a small but growing number of physicists, neuroscientists and philosophers of mind are proposing today.
In fact, this is not a new idea but one that has occurred throughout history and across diverse cultures. For example, the ancient non-dual teachings of Advaita Vedanta point to an infinite, eternal presence or "oneness" out of which all things come into existence (the word "exist" comes from the latin "existere" meaning "to step out, stand forth, emerge, appear, be"). The sacred question in this tradition is, "Am I aware?" Notice that the question isn't asking what we are aware of
(i.e. thoughts, feelings, sensations and perceptions), but simply are we aware of being aware. With this question the "focus" of our attention is gently drawn back into its origin or source as pure consciousness.
The practice of Voice Dialogue invites us to do the same. As we meet our many selves, we become aware of the particular thoughts, feelings, body sensations and perceptions they each have. For example, when speaking as a Pusher self we might experience a tension in our body, a feeling of impatience, and see life as a series of tasks to be completed. As we separate from this self and then from its opposite chilled, unhurried, easy going self, we rest back into an awareness that is neither this self nor that self. In Advaita this is known as the "neti, neti" process, meaning "not this, not this" or "neither this, nor that". It invites us to drop back into an aware presence that underlies all the selves. In other words, consciousness is experienced as primary - a "field of all possibilities" out of which all the selves with their various thoughts, feelings, sensations and perceptions arise, with which they are known and ultimately of which they are made.
'I repeat again what I feel to be true - that the Aware Ego process leads us inevitably towards the experience of Source Energy in some form. The ongoing practice of embracing opposites and learning to hold the tension of opposites can really lead to no other place.'
Many contemporary teachers and writers have elaborated this paradigm shift far better than I can - Rupert Spira
and Bernardo Kastrup
to name but two. My intention here is to invite you to enquire for yourself, to suspend your belief in the prevailing materialist paradigm and see what you find to be true in your actual experience.
In her article Awakening senior Voice Dialogue facilitator J'aime ona Pangaia describes how the practice of Voice Dialogue can gently lead us to the experience of who we really are. Artist and non-duality blogger Suzanne Foxton addresses the same theme from a different angle in her piece Many Voices, Raised to a Cacophony, Saying Nothing.
* * * * * *
If you are interested in learning how to facilitate Voice Dialogue sessions with clients, colleagues or friends, the next Facilitator Training starts the weekend of 17- 18 September (see below for details). There are four places available. Please get in touch with me if you would like to participate.
Warm wishes to all your selves!
On one level, Voice Dialogue is used as a psychological tool. It helps alleviate the stress of both inner and outer conflicts by bringing conscious awareness to our psycho-spiritual wounds. As we become aware of our archetypal defenses against being open (vulnerable), we gradually dis-identify with them. Separating from the defensive habits of these protective selves, we can begin to heal our everyday lives and relationships. In this approach there is no effort to change any patterns. Rather, the on-going practice of conscious awareness itself (what the Stones have called "The Aware Ego Process") naturally liberates us from our habitual patterns. Conscious awareness is the change.
On another level, the practice of Voice Dialogue has a dimension to it that is very
similar to the ancient Vedic discipline of Neti-Neti - meaning "not this, not that" - which is used to help practitioners open directly to the experience of Absolute Reality. In Sanskrit, Absolute Reality is named Satchitananda: Sat = existence (being), chit = consciousness, ananda = bliss, peace or happiness.
It is through direct non-dual perception (not through ideas) that Absolute Reality is experienced, beginning with the shedding of a separate "me" - and even of the duality of an "experience" and an "experiencer"! Through practice, as we steadily and non-judgmentally see and dis-identify from the patterns of feeling, thinking, sensing and perceiving that we call "me", there remains only pure being, consciousness, and bliss-in-stillness or happiness.
Voice Dialogue practice itself does not dissolve us into the Absolute Reality - that happens all by itself. But because our ego selves defend us against the experience of pure "is-ness", the regular Voice Dialogue practice of dis-identifying from these selves, parts, complexes or sub-personalities, begins a gradual softening, a dis-enchantment from a limiting description of a "me". We are gently led to the experience that what we/everything are, is already Absolute Reality.
A few years ago, I underwent a profound awakening. Amazingly, all the selves were still there, up to their usual mischief. I still laughed at funny things and got indignant about other things - the selves reacted and interacted with life, people, etc. Also, even as I was "waking up", the earth, the rain, the sky, the trees, the animals were all still there. So were the dishes that needed washing, the bed to be made, the bills to be paid.
Some part of me wondered, "How can 'I' be here and, at the same time, there is this clear experience, this state of no 'I'?" And then that self was seen: "Ah, it's a self that's asking this question! I'm not that self. It exists along with the earth, rain, sky, trees, animals, etc. - all temporary realities." I understood that both duality and non-dual co-exist!
One day, as I was on a beautiful car ride skirting the Olympic Peninsula of the Pacific NW (USA), I gazed out at the ocean and wondered:
"How is it that I am able to have this awakening? How come I have such good fortune? Why me?"
Looking out at the surf, an answer came:
"This didn't happen to you."
"There is no 'you'."
Looking at the ocean, I witnessed wave after wave arise and disappear countless, endless times. There's nothing special or unusual about this. It's always happening; it's always not happening. With that, another layer fell away.
Consciousness practices certainly bring psychological and social changes and benefits. But these are not the only transformations to be undergone. The practice of Voice Dialogue can lead us to the feeling/understanding that we are the ALL, the EVERYTHING that is in a constant process of "waking up" and "falling asleep".
Of course I'm trying to describe that which is indescribable!!
So, I invite you to feel the dance of it, of THIS, which is alive and conscious. Anything we label as good or bad, sublime or evil, beautiful or fearsome, exists as an expression of ALL THAT IS - exists despite dualistic labels - as part of the never-ending, simultaneous Creation and Destruction of Ultimate Reality.
* * * * *
Energies move in this body, in this mind and
unless I identify with them,
they're simply natural phenomena happening,
like the weather,
like that bird singing,
like the growling of my stomach,
like that deer, staring,
like a runny nose,
like a leaf falling,
like the rapids of a river,
or its stagnant pools.
These, that I've never mistaken for 'me.'
J'aime on a Pangaia is the director of Voice Dialogue Centre Northwest
Many Voices, Raised to a Cacophony, Saying Nothing
Non-duality can be explained in any number of ways to the uninitiated, but my current favourite nutshell is this: rather than matter (the universe, stars, planets, chemistry, biology, and eventually, sentient life) creating consciousness, consciousness creates the appearance of matter. It is the perception of this that constitutes "awakening" or "enlightenment". Many people believe that it is the realisation of this truth that is the goal of our existence. People seem to need to have some goal for their existence, some meaning to their endeavours, and some of them have come upon this - non-duality, Advaita Vedanta, Oneness teachings, whichever you prefer - as the answer. Nothing less than the absolute truth of the nature of existence and the universe will do.
In Voice Dialogue, as I understand it, different aspects of the personality are
separated, listened to, and their motivations understood. The goal of this process is to further understand the whole of one's personality by hearing, understanding and embracing these separate voices.
Alternatively, or even simultaneously, the voices may also be eliminated one by one until there seems to be nothing but the core of the individual, the essence, the true self. When this silent core is perceived, Voice Dialogue and non-duality teachings coalesce. When there is no apparent personality or persona, what is left? What is it that we actually are?
The removal of the layers of the ego is the goal of nearly all spiritual practices and also of psychotherapy. A great variety of practices - various forms of self-inquiry, therapy, and spiritual disciplines such as meditation - encourage the peeling off of the layers of the onion of self. The simple unfolding of day-to-day life itself can even be the practice that reveals the truth of our existence.
People seek to do this for many reasons, but often it is prompted by the discomfort with what they feel to be the dishonesty that permeates life. We all live with the lies that we tell ourselves in order to make an apparently meaningless existence bearable. So we find a confidant, or a therapist, or a teacher, or a sponsor, and confess our worst sins - mostly to ourselves. We hear the destructive voices of our egos. The reality of our lives is faced.
In the midst of this, all the layers of dishonesty peel away, and we confront our shadow, and know we are capable of all the worst - of hatred, selfishness, violence. As we fully accept our humanity, warts and all, the act of acceptance reveals another layer: unconditional love. We see that everything was a gift, and unfolded the best way it could. The unconditional love spreads, and embraces all the people, places and things that our lives touch, or that touch our lives. We see our intrinsic worth, and the worth of others. Any feelings that arise, however intense, are seen as part of life, and not to be avoided. We have peace of mind - at least occasionally.
But there are still a few layers left. Perhaps being happy, and having peace of mind, are not the goals. Perhaps there are no goals. Perhaps there is no story. Perhaps there is just this: the end of acceptance, perfect and total. And the last layer goes, leaving nothing. When the last vestige of identification with our complex and fascinating personality leaves, and the inside of the onion is seen as nothing, that is when - so many believe - awakening can happen. Whatever that is!
Yet this universal journey through the truth, humanity's longing for redemption and meaning, and the final letting go of everything that you ever considered of value - even that epic journey is another story! The stillness inside the onion is timeless. The motion of redemption and the finding of meaning is, like any other part of the appearance of life, of consciousness giving rise to our apparent world, just an appearance. Perhaps the final revelation, or recognition, is that no matter whether there is an incredible story of awakening, the miracle is always right here, right now.
So, listen to the voices, peel away the layers, understand yourself (your selves). Get to know your beautifully constructed personality. Keep listening and peeling until there is nothing left to hear and nothing left to reveal. Then what? Then what indeed.
To read an interview with her in non-duality magazine click here.
Voice Dialogue Facilitator Training
This training is for therapists, counsellors, coaches, health care practitioners and anyone working in the area of personal growth and development. It provides a comprehensive grounding in the theory and practice of Voice Dialogue, The Psychology of Selves and the Aware Ego Process. At the end of the training participants will have a powerful new tool that will complement their practice and enhance their ability to help clients achieve more balance in their lives.
The training includes 4 workshops spaced over 9 months (total 10 days). Each workshop will focus on the theory and practice of Voice Dialogue and its application to a range of client issues.
In addition, over the course of the training, participants will have a total of 6 personal 90-minute facilitations from the trainer (face to face or via skype), and will be expected to complete and document ongoing practice sessions with other members of the group.
Participants will receive a comprehensive self-study pack of readings, videos and exercises covering every aspect of the work.
Certificates of attendance are available for CPD.
Maximum group size 4 participants
The next course begins the weekend of 17th - 18th September 2016
For more information click here.