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  • Zeb Lancaster, Ph.D.

THE “DIRECT” & “INDIRECT” PATH OF YOGA



Western psychology and the meditative practices of Eastern nondual spiritual traditions and yoga help us overcome core traumas based on childhood experiences that we still act out as an adult. Contemplation is a profound pondering that includes feeling and a series of thoughts about something. Nondual meditation is when the mind rests on a particular focus that leads to nondual consciousness. (The term “yoga” means union between you and the divine called Purusha.) Yet there are different ways of uncovering and awakening nondual consciousness. Knowing the difference can increase understanding about overcoming our deepest injuries and our spiritual practic

Yoga is one of six orthodox schools of Hinduism that in substance is practiced in many spiritual traditions. Most essentially, yoga is experientially based and intentionally guides us towards the realization of nondual consciousness. Yoga includes many practices, such as the physical activity of postures (asanas), conscious breathing (pranayama), visualization (yantra), and meaningful sound (mantra). Each of these practices involve some degree of concentration (dharana) or attunement to the unified dimension of experience, and meditation (dhyana) where we gain access to nondual consciousness.

The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word "yuj" which means to yoke (as in the yoke placed on farming cows), to unite or integrate. It is the process of integrating the fragmented parts of your ever changing evolving-self and bringing them to a state of unified consciousness. In this way, what you integrate is the subjective, “relative” dimension with the objective, “absolute” dimension of consciousness. The subjective, “relative” dimension of our self (one thing relative to another like perception-response) creates duality consciousness, which is based on the energetic dynamic underlying our evolving-self’s thought, emotion, and body sensation. The objective, “absolute” dimension of our self is based on nondual consciousness (here called the "unchanging-self" ). Nondual consciousness is unified and is not based on the fluctuations of energy, but rather is experienced as stillness, spaciousness, balance, emptiness, physically transparent, pervasive, and unity.

The “yoking” process of yoga is the means (via self-regulation) and unity (nonduality) is the goal. In this sense, yoga is a method and yoga is also the goal. For purposes of growing clarity about the intention behind the different yoga practices, it is helpful understand if the practice is meant to “yoke” or if it is meant to give you direct access to the still, spacious nature of unified consciousness. Yoga as a means to nondual consciousness offers ways to self-regulate your subjective body-mind perceptions and impulses. This self-regulation of your energy is an “indirect path” or method of realizing nondual consciousness because you have to do something (i.e. self-regulate) to manifest it. Self-regulating the energy underlying your impulses of mind, emotion, and sensation is an important part of healing trauma and awakening spiritually. As a result you balance the sympathetic (rajas) and parasympathetic (tamas) tendencies of your energy system (gunas). This influences your ability to maintain it’s homeostasis and optimal activation of the nervous system. Identifying and tracking what interrupts and obstructs your energy and what allows it to flow freely is an important part of self-regulation and learning how to stay out of fragmentation.

Yoga as a goal occurs with a “direct path” to the realization of the nondual dimension of your self and the environment. This happens when you attune directly to the nondual state of consciousness without intentionally self-regulating mind-body energies. The “direct path” to awakening nondual consciousness is recognized by “immediatist gurus” (Versluis, 2014) who are spiritual teachers that promise instant enlightenment and liberation (Eckhart Tolle, Ram Dass, Adi Da, Andrew Cohen). This allows you to have spontaneous, direct, unmediated spiritual insight into reality with little or no prior training. The direct path can also be found in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s understanding of immediate spiritual knowledge. The “direct path” to awakening nondual consciousness is much quicker than the "indirect path" but in my experience is difficult to sustain unless you self-regulate your energy to some degree.

While the “inclusive nondual” approach that I emphasize in my guidance also gives you direct, unmediated spiritual insight, the spiritual insight you access is different than the above mentioned spiritual teachers because it is an embodied nondual qualitative experience rather than pure nondual consciousness. The direct path I employ involves recognizing the nondual attributes of your unchanging-self. When nondual consciousness is a body experience what become evident is that it is fairly easy to access. Embodied nondual yoga gives us direct access to the unified nature of our self and also has simple practices that help balance the evolving-self’s energy tendencies that form the habits underlying our unresolved injuries. Uncovering and awakening a full body experience of the essential unchanging ground of your being gives you access to a sense of wholeness and unity. Both direct and indirect paths are an integral part of embodied nondual yoga practice.

Understanding when you are using indirect and direct methods in your practice can help orient you in your psychological and spiritual practice. As you deepen your attunement and embodiment of the nondual attributes of your unchanging-self you cultivate relational autonomy between the dual and nondual dimensions of your self. Each dimension of your self, dual and nondual, exists in communion with the other and allowed to express its true nature. This sounds complicated but actually it is quite simple and usually with a little practice can become a profound support in moments of intense elation or distress. These are the moments that go past your threshold of tolerance upon which you “fragment,” meaning you lose a sense of integration between the mind, emotions, and body and you lose wholeness-of-being.


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