Sunday - June 23, 2024

History of the Dyad Communication Process


In the early 1960’s, in the beginning stages of the Human Potential Movement, Charles Berner devoted much time contemplating how to accelerate the process of self-discovery and radical insight. By the mid 1960’s he and his wife, Ava, had been working with people individually and in groups to help them become more self-aware and happy.

Along the way, Charles had an insight that what facilitated true and lasting healing with a person was to listen to them in such a way that they experienced being deeply heard and understood. This meant that as a listener, he would not interfere, pass judgement or give feedback when one was expressing what was in their heart. Through this type of honest speaking and deep listening, people seemed to experience a clearing away of past pain, suffering, and reactivity.

A vital turning point occurred in Charles and Ava’s work after a powerful session Charles had with a client. While using his new communication method during the session, his perceptions of the mind, the body, the physical world, and the cosmos expanded exponentially. He had what he understood to be an enlightened experience. This experienced forever changed how he and Ava worked with people.

Around this time, Ava had the idea to further develop the process that would enable followers of their work to have the same sort of clearing and opening amongst themselves. Together she and Charles gave thought to the idea and came up with a Dyad Communication Process, where two people would sit across from each other, switch places being the speaker and the listener, asking each other questions. They tried it out with their followers and knew they were on to something.

Around this time, Charles realized that the West was welcoming the teachings of Eastern spiritual gurus including Hindu sage, Ramana Maharshi. Up until this point, his interest wasn’t around having enlightened experiences. But as he began to seriously study the enlightenment traditions of the gurus, his focus changed. At some point, he discovered the book, The Three Pillars of Zen: Teaching, Practice, and Enlightenment by Phillip Kapleau. From this and his studies on Eastern spiritual practices, he had an idea to combine his and Ava’s Dyad process with the solitary of Japanese Sesshin way of approaching enlightenment (touching the heart-mind in a period of intense meditation in a Zen monastery), while contemplating the essential life question taught by Maharshi, “Who am I”. But, instead of simply examining “Who am I” on one’s own, as was practiced in the Sesshin tradition and Eastern meditation practices, participants would contemplate the question with a partner in the Dyad Communication Process. In combining these practices, he saw that it was a powerful method for freeing the mind of tension and chatter, and for deepening the awareness of oneself and others.

In the late 60’s, the Berners decided to try this new communication method in the form of an Intensive. They invited twenty-six of their friends and students to experience what they had envisioned. The first retreat was five days long and went from 6:15am to midnight, with breaks. They were amazed at the success of the retreat in giving birth to direct, as in personal, experiences of the true nature — who they were beyond their attachments, personality, thoughts and beliefs. Almost a third of the participants had what he called “enlightenment experiences”. This was the birth of the (Dyad) Enlightenment Intensive that is still available.

Over time, Berner adopted other essential questions besides Who am I? which enabled participants to have a breakthrough experiences when contemplated. Those questions are What am I? What is another? (anyone other than oneself) and What is life?

What is Enlightenment?

When first hearing about Enlightenment Intensives and hearing the details about the Dyad Communication Process, I felt a physical response and an intuitive resonance. I had long been on a path of self-realization. I had traveled many paths in the pursuit to experience the spiritual Truth of who I was. Some would call this the pursuit of enlightenment. This term enlightenment both magnetized and repelled me.

I find enlightenment to be a loaded word. A seeker’s concept of enlightenment can range from being free of suffering, to being free of karma so they can end their earthly journeys, to having no mind chatter, to loving everything and everybody, to offering themselves up to be in continuous service of others, to being an inextricable aspect of the forces that exist within and create all realities, and many variations in between. The practices one adopts to achieve enlightenment appear to be in direct relationship with one’s concepts about it, along with one’s religious or spiritual background, and what one wants ultimately to gain or achieve. I’ve encountered many on a spiritual path who crave freedom from the pain and suffering of the earthly physical reality. If, for instance, one’s craving is born out of their physical or emotional suffering, their practices to achieve a feeling of Enlightenment might instead take the form of avoidance, escapism, or magical thinking. This is sometimes referred to as a spiritual bypass.

At the moment, here is how enlightenment resonates in me: the highest levels of consciousness are attained as a result of thorough emotional healing work, spiritual exploration, and independent contemplation. Through these practices, one can then become largely free of their positive and negative attachments to the human condition and the physical world. What I mean by attachments is any thought, belief or habit that holds one bound and captive in the illusion that “this” is all there is; that they are separate from everything and everyone else; or that they are ultimately imperfect and not made of the same stuff that created and sustains this plane of existence. If one’s yearning is born out of a desire to know themself as inseparable from All That Is, simply to experience the truth of it, then the intent of their path, their practices, and their experiences as a result would be more pure and real.

I also resonate with many ways in which Rupert Spira talks about these states of expanded awareness. Here is a quote of his: “Awakening or enlightenment is the experiential understanding that what we essentially are does not share the limits of the destiny of the body or mind.” I might change the word understanding to knowing. But other than that, it fits well.