Q&A with Georgi Y. Johnson, author of Nondual Therapy: The Psychology of Awakening

1. What is Nondual Therapy and how is similar or different from traditional psychotherapy?

Nondual Therapy offers a direct route to spiritual freedom coupled with the core of individual purpose – which is to facilitate the healing and transformation of afflictions we carry in the psyche.

Everyone experiences degrees of ‘spiritual’ awakening during their lives – whether or not this is recognized or socially affirmed. These existential moments of pure ‘seeing’, from outside the box of personality or individual story, are essential to our psychological survival. In these moments, our individual consciousness becomes detached from the habitual patterns of action and reaction, and the addiction to the personal story. It can feel as if we are visiting the ‘person’ we believe ourselves to be from another place entirely – from a deeper home. When a sense of self opens beyond personal identity or psychological patterns, there is always a healing opportunity. There is a kind of psychic reset, in which first we realize our existence beyond all forms, and secondly we gain insight into the range of possibilities and attitudes we can have in our daily lives. Between unbounded consciousness and the relaxation of being somebody with the challenge of human responsibility, are contractions of suffering. It is here that Nondual Therapy seeks to bring relief.

While traditional psychotherapy offers many benefits, through connection, shared awareness, new perspective and compassion, it will often ignore these existential moments, or even attempt to deny them as they can seem to disrupt behaviour within the agenda of conformity to collective norms. In our times, leading psychologists have even named the experience of awakened consciousness as ‘depersonalization syndrome’ – a mysterious psychological complex. This means that someone with an experience of spiritual awakening (that can often be caused by the breakdown of part of the personality) can find themselves in a psychiatrist’s office with added fear of insanity, shame and a heavy dose of desensitizing medication.

Nondual Therapy is coming from a vastly different world view. Rather than seeking the relief of suffering through re-identifcation with structures of personality, it aims deeper, directly towards that sense of self in which consciousness is free, unlimited, undivided and filled with potential. If this involves a temporary sense of alienation or strangeness in the body or environment, this is seen as part of the process, which will of itself lead to reintegration.

It was Jiddu Krishnamurti who said that: “It’s no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” In Nondual Therapy we recognize that attempts to adjust to a collective illusion can paradoxically deepen the rift of disconnection, feeding fear and putting the psyche under ever-increasing degrees of stress.

In Nondual Therapy, we prioritize the healing power of consciousness, as a living source beyond the individual brain. Moreover, Nondual Therapy recognizes and affirms the experience of the healing qualities of consciousness. Qualities such as love, peace, innocence and freedom are not treated as conceptual by-products of successful social adjustment, but rather as healing resources of our True Nature that can help unravel entangled places in the psyche where we disconnect from life.

2. How did you get interested in Nondual Therapy and what impact has it had on your life?

Together with my partner Bart ten Berge, and others around the world, we are actually pioneering Nondual Therapy. We’re part of a global development that is driven by a human need for insight and reconnection with True Nature that is beyond any historic authority.

Spiritual awakening is often described as a one-time event, after which everything changes and we are free forever. This is a myth. There are milestones of liberation from the trance of the personality, but true freedom is here as part of who we are at the core, regardless of awakening and irrespective of any spiritual endeavour. It’s unconditional. It was this insight – that there is purpose in our suffering – that opened the question about the nature of suffering, and the way in which suffering can be vastly reduced through allowance and reconnection with the qualities of consciousness.

The lion’s share of our individual purpose here is evolutionary. This is a form of service in which we inherit a uniquely formed personality with its own legacy of trauma, sensitivity and mastery. No personality is perfect and every personality is in an evolutionary process through the field of conscious awareness. That is, where we are able to allow our own direct sentient experience of self, we are of service to the whole. Where we experience suffering, something is out of balance. Something is calling on us for reintegration, to be allowed home back into the unity of consciousness. There is a real need behind this, as all suffering transforms into quality when we can unconditionally allow it space and time.

Allowance is critical. So much suffering is created by the belief that we can negate an experience through resisting it. We are collectively programmed with a kind of megalomania that attempts to undo anger that has already manifested, or to get free of fear that is anyway here. Out of this, we believe we can kill the sense of hatred, banish the fear of abandonment, and neglect the sense of isolation. We try and get free of the pain of rejection by rejecting rejection. We become furious that we became angry. We freeze and disconnect when we long for connection. All of this is actually resisting life. Life is at war with life, then we die. Yet the experience of living doesn’t have to be an ordeal of surviving life. Through the neuroplasticity opened through the qualities of consciousness, we can begin to live in authenticity and freedom, beyond the dread of our times. When our experience of living transforms, our experience of reality also transforms. This affects others also, from a cellular level all the way to the nature of what we value with our minds.

Even in spiritual circles, there can be a subtle agenda to avoid uncomfortable feelings through bypassing the whole psyche and ‘transcending’ into ‘other’ states of being. But the psyche will always bite back, because it’s a fundamental part of why we are here, our purpose is to contribute to an evolutionary process through experiencing the twists and turns of the individual psyche..

We will not awaken from our psychic numbness by trying to fix a problem on the outside – by trying to change the world, or other people, or by blaming them. Neither will we awaken by trying to appear different, or by changing our behaviour. It can work for a while, but in the end the causal layer of the contractions we inherit with our psyche will be stronger. The relief of suffering in our lives always involves allowing time and space for the unravelling of knots and contractions within the individual psyche.

What we do with Nondual Therapy is reconnect those contractions – those sentient or insentient areas of stress and density within the psyche – with the living qualities out of which they’re formed. For example, the pattern of guilt and accusation (driven by a pervading inner sense of condemnation), is formed out of a loss of connection to the quality of innocence – an essential innocence that can never get lost, damaged or broken. Contact with this quality of innocence can initiate a gradual release of the contraction of guilt. By degrees, we learn to rest as the quality, irrespective of the psychological burdens we temporarily carry, and layer by layer, these burdens are released. We don’t need them anymore.

3. How do you think spirituality and psychology relate to each other? How are they similar and how are they different?

Every moment of experience – whatever its nature – is a spiritual moment; and at the same time,every spiritual awakening is also a psychological process. At the depth, spirituality and psychology are indivisible.

The word ‘psyche’ is actually Greek for ‘soul’. Psychology is the study of the soul, or at least of the deeper, more essential experience of being alive. The only authority on how it feels to be alive at any moment is the one who is experiencing. No amount of psychological text-books can overrule that existential miracle. So I feel there is inherently no split between spirituality and psychology, yet we are still tremendously immature in our conceptualization of what it means to be alive, as well as of the depth, source and versatility of the human psyche.

In our generation, there is a materialist whiplash to the historic power abuse of religion, and this has created a pseudoscience out of the field of conventional psychology.

There is so much obscurity here. For example, love, peace and compassion are essential to all psychological processes. Yet love is conceived as something that can be acquired, that is sourced in the individual personality, and that can be damaged or lost. Any other kind of love is ‘spiritual’ (for spiritual, read, fictional). There is a similar confusion around the quality of peace. Every psychologist feels successful when his client comes to peace. But that peace is sought through the absence of conflict; meaning that it’s often conditional on the client no longer experiencing conflict within themselves. If peace depends on the presence or absence of conflict, then isn’t peace a slave to conflict? How much of modern psychology really explores the nature of peace, and consciously resources this peace as a fundamental aspect of consciousness?

Where there’s a therapeutic disconnection from the qualities of True Nature, then the psychologist feels helpless. Fear around helplessness and failure, fueled by fear of insanity, can sometimes mean that the client is referred to the psychiatrist, to prescribe medication to enforce the appearance of peace from the outside. This is often like giving a dose of morphine to relieve the pain of a urinary tract infection. It brings relief from suffering, but an untreated cause festers beneath the blanket of anesthesia.

Many forms of spirituality and psychology deny the interconnected unity of the physical body, the psyche and the mind. Yet psychological contractions (contractions in how we feel), will express through our thoughts and also through stress, discomfort and disease within the physical body. The idea that there is a separation between body, mind and psyche is not only artificial, it’s irrational. In moving beyond these artificial hierarchies of human experience, Nondual Therapy offers a transpersonal and holistic alternative to accompany the unfolding of the psyche back to harmony .

4. How can Nondual Therapy help someone who is dealing with practical difficulties in life such as working in a career that stresses them out or not making enough money to pay their bills?

Practical difficulties are part of the art of living, and Nondual Therapy is about supporting each other in the art of living. In themselves, practical difficulties can be no less loathsome than a game of Suduko (if you like Suduko). It’s not the work, or the practical challenge which is causing suffering, it’s the associated emotional charge. This emotional charge is generated by contractions in the psyche. Each such contraction is born of inner conflict. Inner conflict creates stress, and stress directly affects our physical and mental wellbeing through changes in our biochemistry..

In Nondual Therapy, the first stage would be to let the contraction speak. As with every illness, a contraction is singing a song of need. Someone who is stressed in a career they don’t enjoy might be suffering, for example, under a sense of slavery. Other possibilities can include associated contractions of greed and poverty; success and failure; guilt and accusation; or conformity and rebellion. This is how we dance in duality. The Nondual Therapist will follow the client to the place of sentient awakening: meaning some area of intimate suffering is touched which is beyond the current context. When we touch these deeper veins of suffering, there is a sense of painful truth and reunion. This is already liberating. A part of experience that has been resisted, denied or ignored is coming to life, in a safe space. It has oxygen to breath and space and time to express.

Often, what this deeper thread of living pain is seeking is a Nondual Quality, For example, in the contraction of slavery and liberation, there will be a thirst for a reconnection with the sense of unconditional, living freedom. This is a freedom which is here as an essential birthright, regardless of what job we do or what compromises we sometimes make. Nondual qualities are expansive, which mean they reveal possibilities, which include freedom of attitude. Because Nondual Qualities are expansive, they release the absolute charge of any local problem or conflict, bringing greater clarity, patience and insight. Problems become reframed as opportunities for insight and evolution.

All of this is transformative. We follow the client in this, and encourage the client to follow the contraction by using their felt sense. Contractions are genius; they contain their own diagnosis, prognosis and prescription. We just need to listen to them, feel them, and show us what they need. Every contraction will find its way home, when we let it, especially when we resonantly allow the existential presence of the qualities of consciousness.

5. What advice would you have for someone who has tried meditation for over 10 years, but still struggles with anxiety and peace of mind?

The question is already framed with the agenda to ‘get rid’ of anxiety and troubling thoughts. This shows that meditation (in this case) is being unconsciously used as a weapon of war against suffering. Waging war to come to peace is not the fastest route to relax into a peace that is always, already here.

When we use meditation to try and negate a part of the spectrum of human experience, we are expanding the energy of repression and denial. Because of this, meditation can become a practise which separates us from the whole, increasing the suffering of conflict.

Even our suffering is inseparable from the suffering of the whole: it’s not private. If we think we can use meditation to reject the suffering of the whole and to become privately and separately free, then we are suffering a deep illusion as to the nature of the psyche. Whether we look at physical, psychological or mental dimensions, we are interdependent. At the depth of Nondual Quality, there is no inside and outside and no separate self. When we attempt to ‘save’ the separate self through meditation, we are actually investing in the notion that the individual personality is absolute and disconnected from the universe. It’s easy to imagine how rapidly the sense of loneliness and isolation could compel us back into a quest for thoughts and things to be fearful about, just in order to ‘get rid’ of the horror of disconnection.

Meditation is not about getting rid of anything. Not even the greatest spiritual master has the power to negate something that has already happened, or that is anyway happening. The attempt to ‘get rid’ of any state of mind or experience can only ever lead to contraction – a shrinkage of our perceptive universe into a space of limitation. If we can only find peace where there is no anxiety, then we impose conditions on our access to peace. If we can only find mental rest where there are no thoughts, we impose conditions on our mental freedom. All of this generates more stress in the psyche.

There are two key points that need to be understood, tried and tested. The first is that individual suffering is not separate from the suffering of the whole. There is anxiety among us. There is this insanity of busy mind. It’s here, but it’s only one frequency. We don’t need to give it any authority. It’s no more personal than the pollution above the city skyline. The more we try to ‘get rid’ of it, the more we are investing in it. It becomes tremendously important, when actually, it’s just white noise. The second is that to truly meditate, we need to be ready to move beyond resistance, toward what Nondual Therapists call a radical acceptance. The moment we accept conflict, we begin to let go and expand beyond it. We are so much more than any conflict. We can rest as infinite space, and let the conflict do its thing, until it dissolves by itself. The gravitas and momentous charge of conflict, including busy mind and anxiety is mostly an artificial, man-made construction, together with the belief that it’s up to us to somehow control it.

Let’s take this to the raw physical level of anxiety. Most of the time, anxiety attacks occur not because we are especially fearful, but because we resist the experience of fear, denying our physical vulnerability. In a way, we become afraid of being afraid. After time, this creates an explosive charge in the psyche. Suddenly, we can find we go into full-blown anxiety about the smallest of things. This is voltage in the psyche that has become unsustainable – perhaps due to decades (or generations) of denial. When we allow the fear to move through us, it can pass as rapidly as electricity. When we ground ourselves, walking, moving and not identifying with stories, it will begin to release.

Meditation with the agenda to repress anxiety could increase the voltage of repressed energy. So my advice would be to stop meditating and to walk, dance, move, and perhaps to do a competitive sport – depending on the particular nature of underlying contractions. Over time, we would also move together more deeply into an exploration of the trauma (perhaps inherited trauma) that has played a causal role in the denial of fear.

Fear is a loaded word, full of subtle condemnation. It would be helpful for us to rethink fear as sensitivity. Sensitivity is the doorway to experiencing life. When we reject our fear, we reject our sensitivity and for many gifted souls, this can be quite a waste. We need the fearful people, for that quality of sensitivity. Fear is not a curse but a catalyst of awakening: it’s an evolution. It’s in areas like this that Nondual Therapy can do magic, turning the mud of hell to the golden light of human quality.