Now that we have described the philosophy of the Contemplation Intensive, we can describe the specific technique.
Set up: The seats are aligned in two rows so that each person faces their partner. This is what is meant as the dyad.
Giving the Instruction: The first side begins by asking their partner the ‘essence’ question that has been decided upon prior to sitting down. For example, Person A will say, “Tell me who you are.” This is for the question – “Who am I?” Other essence questions exist as well, such as “What am I”, “What is another?”, “What is life?”, and “What is love?”.
Receiver: Person B begins to focus on their question and the contemplation of it. They will then express whatever comes up as a result of asking their question to Person A, who responds only by acknowledging that they have heard what was expressed by saying, “Thank you”.
Change-over: After 5-10 minutes, Person B then asks Person A the ‘essence’ question they have selected and the same process continues. After 40 minutes, there is a brief break, people change partners, and the dyad continues.
This is the structure of the basic technique. But there are several more important things one must be aware of in order for the technique to have the intended benefits.
Being Present: As a person begins to contemplate, they are asked to express exactly and without censoring whatever is coming up for them. This means that whatever they are expressing is arising from the present moment. It is spontaneous, and as such it is truthful in that moment. Thus their answer is actually who they are in that moment.
Groundlessness: After one expresses what is coming up, the contemplator is asked to reset to zero or return to a state of groundlessness. Groundlessness means that one does not know or have any idea of what will come up next. The idea here is that one is asked to return to the present moment and contemplate the question from a completely new time and place.
Intention: Every act in the C.I. technique is done with intention by each person. The power of Intention should not be underestimated. The reason is that only an intentional act is a conscious act and it takes great consciousness and awareness to experience what we are seeking to know. If this is done in an automatic way, one is acting like a machine and one will not be able to achieve anything real.
Giving the Instruction: When asking your partner to tell you who they are, the instruction must be given with intention. You must intend to listen to whatever your partner has to say and to intend to receive it, without any judgment. You also will intend to understand what is expressed, but without any commenting, evaluating, or judging in any way.
The Contemplator: When beginning to contemplate the question, one intends to receive an answer. You intend to directly experience ‘who’ or ‘what’ you are. Then, when one expressing to your partner, you communicate with the intention of being heard, received and understood by your partner.
Openness: The contemplator is asked to remain in a state of openness to having a direct experience of who they are and to whatever is coming up for them. This includes thoughts, emotions, memories, or physical symptoms that are arising. In addition, one is asked to have the intention of not censoring or holding back in expressing to their partner. Realistically, this is a process where trust grows as the Intensive moves forward.
Witnessing: One is asked to witness all that arises within oneself. Witnessing is an act of self-observation that will develop as you do this technique. It refers to the ability of consciously noticing what is arising in you. This may seem odd, but as you engage in this technique, you may discover that you are noticing many different things that you ordinarily don’t recognize.
Consolidation: The contemplator is asked to consolidate what is arising in them before expressing it to your partner. This can be a bit tricky as there is a balance between expressing without inhibition and over-expressing. What needs to be avoided is just telling a story. If we do that, it is possible that an entire period would go by and no contemplation would occur. It simply isn’t necessary to tell all of the details of what is coming up. And yet, it is important to express fully and to your complete satisfaction. By doing the technique, you will discover the best way to handle this dilemma, so it will work itself out. We suggest that at first it is best to over-express than to under-express, so that you feel satisfied with what you have expressed.
Acknowledgment: The listener is asked to say, “Thank you” after each communication from one’s partner. This statement does not mean that one agrees or disagrees, approves or disapproves, etc. It simply means that one has received what was expressed. It also marks the point where the cycle has ended so the new cycle can begin.
Returning to the Question: After the communication is acknowledged, one returns to the contemplation of the question. The cycle begins again and continues until the end of the bell when the roles are reversed. The former contemplator now asks the question and becomes the receipt point for their partner.
More on what is to be expressed
Physical symptoms: It might sound strange, but it is very important to express the physical symptoms that come up as you are expressing to your partner. This is because those very symptoms are doorways into our own unconscious. Often the appearance of a memory is first occasioned by a simple physical symptom that could be ignored since it’s just an itch, or a slight neck or shoulder pain, etc. We tend to dismiss these since we assume they are insignificant. But they might not be. They are the first glimpses of the emergence of a memory or trigger that we need to look at as we seek to experience our true nature.
Resistances: In our attempt to do a good job, we may not want to express all the many resistances we may have in doing the technique. But one of the wonderful aspects of this technique has to do with the release that is possible simply by expressing whatever comes up. Some examples of resistances are tiredness/exhaustion (“I’m so tired I just want to go to sleep?”), expectations (“I’ll never be enlightened, it’s crazy to even try.”), doubts (“There’s no such thing as enlightenment”), and fears. The power of this technique is that it enables the participant to release all the considerations in the way of having a direct experience of ‘Who’ one is. Knowing that, we can recognize that it is those very resistances that are in the way of that experience. We only have to release them and we will be able to move forward. Thus is one of the most important areas with which we have to deal.
What you think you already know: Perhaps one of the most essential impediments to direct experience is all the things we think we know. In order to have the direct experience of what we are seeking to know, we must surrender all the things we think about enlightenment. These include philosophies, opinions, assumptions, past experiences, dogma, and the biggest one of all – beliefs. Most of us are full of so many beliefs, held both consciously and unconsciously, that we don’t realize the degree to which this is true. But this technique is designed for us to root these out and begin to recognize them as beliefs. The truth is that we often regard beliefs as facts. But when we see them as beliefs, and nothing more, they lose their significance and charge and can drop away.
Ceasing to censor, edit, or inhibit: We cannot know in advance what is important and what is not. If we do think we know, then that should be expressed as something in the way. To simply sit and express whatever arises without censoring is the necessary condition of this technique. What you express to your partner doesn’t have to make sense. It does sometimes take time for a person to trust this. We can gradually learn by simply doing the technique to trust ourselves, the person sitting across from us, and even the technique itself. Then we can just do it.
Non-judgmentalness: I am often asked if it is possible to get into a non-judgmental condition in just one Intensive. People recognize that we are often judging ourselves as well as others. The answer is that we can only do what we can and that it is a process. But one of the ways we are assisted is that when we sit across from someone working hard to express themselves honestly and authentically, we find that we can succeed at not judging or evaluating them. We do make an effort to do so. By doing this for another person we then find that we can begin to do it for ourselves as well.
The reason why non-judgmentalness is so important is that it is what we need to do to get ‘distance’ on all the material in our minds. This distance is created when we witness our thoughts and emotions. When this is done, something very powerful happens. We begin to see that all of this ‘stuff’ is NOT who we are. We just consider that it’s who we are because we have identified with it. It is at this point that we can begin to contemplate the possibility that one is that very “Witness.” It is taking a non-judgmental position when one is speaking as well as listening that enables us to do this. The greater the distance we have on all that arises in us, the less weight or influence this material has on us and the more we can discover Who and What we are.