nondual therapy

Nondual therapy, or Nondual psychotherapy, is a spiritually integrated process that works to bring truly holistic healing, understanding and awakening into one’s life.  It can continue where traditional psychotherapy ends, and it can fill in the psychological gaps in spiritual or religious traditions.  Because of this truly unified and unifying scope, nondual therapy could very well be the next paradigm shift for psychology and spirituality. Frankly, if the next big shift is not nondual therapy, then it will likely be something that looks very similar: the need for a truly holistic healing model is crucial.

Nondual therapy is a fairly new field and as far as I can tell, has yet to be properly defined.  However, it seems to contain the following key elements:

  1. It is truly holistic, meaning it excludes no area of human experience. It connects mind, body, and spirit in one model.
  2. It considers that a person’s true nature is both the end goal, and also the means and the source of all healing and growth.
  3. Nondual therapy occurs with a facilitator that is intimate with awakened awareness, and who acknowledges that same awareness in the person being worked with.

 In the service of simplicity, those seem to be the most general components of this mode.  However there are some other aspects to this field which are unique and important to note: 

  • Nondual therapy has both a subtractive and additive modes and practices.
  • Meaning that some aspects of this process work to dismantle, unlearn, or dissolve limitations, identifications and beliefs that obscure one’s knowledge of their true being.
  • But also, it can have a seemingly additive process of embracing or reaching out or including any elements of the psyche that have felt separate. This unifying process includes both what we think of as internal, but also what we think is external as well – notably the body, “other” people, and the physical world at large. 

 These additive and subtractive qualities correspond to the inner/outer motions in some spiritual practices, as well as loosely aligning with the progressive/ direct path distinctions, as well as cognitive/ physical therapy modes.

 In actual practice, nondual therapy is primarily about integration. We acknowledge that the true Self, the buddha-mind, is a priori (meaning already present, even if we don’t know it) and as we discern this, we pick up and clarify the pieces that have felt fractured or separate.  It is a dance, a pendulation between the absolute and the relative, a paradoxical non-movement.  It often feels like touching into the divine, the dipping back into density, then touching into the eternal, then touching back into the confusion again, then back and forth, back and forth, call it what you will, we orbit around the sun that is our truth, until, like the moth, we are consumed by our own love.  Unlike the moth, though, nothing is lost.  

In my opinion, it is insufficient for a facilitator to merely be cognitively aware of our true nature.  A nondual therapist must be able to both know their true nature, but also have skill in bringing others to that awareness – and then further, to be able to help use that awareness to look for, tease out, and deal with, any lingering remnants of the separate self.  This process seems to get more and more subtle as the person matures.  The work can get very quiet, very deep, and be very surprising.

 Nondual therapy is not something that looks hugely different, necessarily, from other forms of therapy or spiritual counselling. It is fluid, and uses what is optimal.  It can include and use aspects of therapy models such as IFS or ACT, as well as inquiry methods such as The Work of Byron Katie or atma vichara of Ramana Maharshi.  Because the body and sensory experience is essential, ideas from Somatic Experiencing, as well as Tantric explorations (Kashmiri Shaivism) can play key roles as well.  Nondual therapy is less about a new or specific skill set, than about the space, intention, interplay between, and direction that these modes move with and towards.   

 Ultimately, nondual therapy is a paradox, like any deeply true idea.  It is a relational sharing and process that works with, and towards, a collapse of the subjective/ objective division that is the culturally conditioned norm.  Similar to the function of satsang (teaching or sharing) and the sangha (spiritual community), when this is facilitated in connection with another person, it draws out these ideas from the tendency to merely exist on a cognitive or intellectual level, or an isolated or non-embodied space, to one where it is increasingly normalized to exist in, and interact from, a nondual space.  When this is seen to be safe, real, and supportive, it is all the more easy to live in one’s day to day life.

When a log that has only just started to burn is placed next to one that is burning fiercely, and after a while they are separated again, the first log will be burning with much greater intensity. After all, it is the same fire. To be such a fire is one of the functions of a spiritual teacher. Some therapists may also be able to fulfill that function, provided that they have gone beyond the level of mind and can create and sustain a state of intense conscious presence while they are working with you.”

 – Eckhart Tolle

about emptyfullness

Emptyfullness is a non-denominational word that describes the paradoxical nature of reality that is pointed to in all religions and spiritual philosophies under various names. It is an attempt to literally translate the Sanskrit word sunysata/ sunyata, which describes the primal source of all things as a void that is pregnant with all possibility. Every part of life and creation is the same way, equally empty and full at the same time – just like this moment is both empty of any meaning other than that which you apply it, and also completely present as the entirety of all infinity. By embracing this paradox of reality, we may come closer to understanding and feeling the perfection in this moment, the holiness in the mundane, the sacredness in all of this. I make no silly claims to finality, but I’ve tasted our oneness, and it is certainly not what I thought it was going be.

But I can say this: it’s sweeter.

“True Fullness seems empty, Yet it is fully present”

– Tao Te Ching, verse 45 (translation Stephen Mitchell)