Perhaps you've seen what happens when two mirrors face each other, reflecting each other, creating an infinity pattern. In Adversity 2 Awakening meditation retreats, we practice the art of tuning into another person while remaining rooted—being curious about another individual while maintaining ever-present awareness of our own moment-to-moment embodied experience. As you're about to see, this communication technique may be helpful for healing developmental trauma, and is also a potent contemplation and mindfulness meditation practice with the potential for numerous physical, mental, and spiritual benefits.
Dyad contemplation as a form of meditation is accomplished by exploring life-koans (questions that cannot be answered with the rational, thinking mind) such as "Who am I?" and "Who is in?" Within a highly structured format, one partner communicates their present-moment stream of consciousness as they tune into their body-wisdom and search for an answer. The other partner actively listens—offering the communicator the gift of their full attention and presence.
Koans are ancient meditation devices, the first known origins coming from Zen in the Tang dynasty of China. They help to bring about a no-mind state of present-moment awareness, ironically referred to as "mindfulness" (which really means how to be aware without judgment, and without thinking about). As you come into a state of deep presence, you may discover—or directly experience—the koan itself. In other words, when you become empty enough through meditation, something profound can happen—suddenly something else is revealed. It's you, but not the you that you think you are. This is where words fall short, but it is sometimes called an experience of satori.
The concept of combining Zen koans and dyad communication was originally conceived by Charles Berner in the late 1960's in California. This technique has resulted in retreats known by different names over the years, including Enlightenment Intensive, Awareness Intensive, Who Is In? and Satori. What makes Adversity 2 Awakening retreats unique is that they also focus on creating a secure base for attachment (the internal blueprint of how we relate to ourselves and others), which may be helpful to heal wounds from childhood. This focus on trauma healing also releases energy. The energy can then be used for greater awareness, taking the meditation even deeper.
People who have experienced any of the retreats just mentioned commonly report life-altering spiritual awakenings. Dyad contemplation within this context is no ordinary meditation—it is truly meditation magnified.
In more technical terms, the experience we create through dyads is essentially a highly structured intersubjective mindfulness practice. In his book Attachment in Psychotherapy, David J. Wallin says the ability to both self-reflect and be mindful can "...contribute to the internalized experience of a secure base, to integration, and to the opening up of mental space that strengthens (the) capacity to freely feel, reflect, and love." He also says that clinical theorists of intersubjectivity agree; "We need the mind of another in order to 'know' and 'grow' our own mind."
Developmental psychologist Edward Tronick, who created the famous Still Face Experiment, wrote a paper called Dyadically Expanded States of Consciousness and the Process of Therapeutic Change, in which he suggested that in a highly attuned dyad there is sometimes "something more" created in the field of consciousness.
I believe it's this expansion of consciousness which unlocks the door to what Abraham Maslow realized near the end of his life was the true pinnacle of human possibility—not only self-actualization, but self-transcendence. In this state, there is a dissolution that takes place, as our old sense of self melts into a universal experience of oneness with existence—synonymous with what mystics have been telling us for centuries.
In his book The Enlightenment Intensive: Dyad Communication as a Tool for Self-Realization, Lawrence Noyes tells the story of how this process has been used to powerfully facilitate hundreds, or possibly even thousands of spiritual awakenings.
Following are a few (but not all) of the possible physical and mental health benefits of dyad practice within the structure of an Adversity 2 Awakening retreat:
The pursuit of self-transcendence could be likened to the search for a rare and beautiful whale that hides in the depths of a mysterious ocean. We can't chase it. We can only go to where it will most likely be seen, and hope it reveals itself. Turning off the noise of our own mind is like turning off the engine to the boat. Quiet, stillness, and patience are required—only then will it feel safe enough to come near. When the thinking mind stops, and we find ourselves in complete inner-stillness, what may suddenly appear and look you straight in the eye is a surprise. Now, you know what you've seen. You know what you know. Nobody can ever take that away from you.