The short answer is that the Enlightenment Intensive is a residential retreat
that accelerates the process of enlightenment or self realization.
What is the
The retreat combines a 10,000 year old yoga self inquiry
'who am I' meditation, with a modern, western technique called a
‘relating dyad’. Relating dyads increase effective communication,
focused listening and understanding thus accelerating the process
of enlightenment or self realization. The retreat includes a variety
of self reflective meditation activities including: the Enlightenment Dyad
technique; sitting, walking, movement and silent meditations; lectures
and wholesome vegetarian food. The retreat is a safe, supportive environment
that encourages honesty, authenticity, understanding and deep meditative
Three Paths Converge
The Enlightenment Intensive was inspired by bringing together
three unique self improvement practices. Two of them are ancient
traditional Eastern methods and the third was a modern Western approach.
The first path is a 10,000 year old yoga meditation technique
that focuses on the contemplation: ‘who am I’
The second of these ancient ways is a Buddhist meditation retreat
developed in Japan around the 12th Century. It's called a Zen
Sesshin. Zen is the Japanese word for meditation and sesshin is a
Japanese word that means an intensive retreat.
And the third approach is a modern, western self help
process that increases communication, understanding and awareness
between two people. This process is called the relating dyad communication
This tripartite synthesis was developed in 1968 by Charles Berner, a
spiritual teacher and self improvement guru in the emerging human potential
movement of the late 1950’s and 60’s. Berner had spent
several years helping people to improve their abilities
to live life and noticed that some people made more self improvement progress
than others. A scientist by nature, he wondered why. He observed
that people who were engaged in personal growth activities made the
most progress if it was their self, as an individual, and not their
ego or personality, that was engaged in the growth activity.
He noticed that, “..... if a personality does a technique and not the actual
individual whose personality it is then they don't make any progress.
That is to say they didn't know who or what they were. They weren't
living from themselves. They were living from a personality.”
Inspired by the new insight that people who knew who they were made
the most progress in self improvement techniques, Berner continued pondering
what could be done to help people know who they are.
Berner experimented with several techniques aimed at helping people
find out who they are. He even tried telling people
who they are but found that telling people didn't work because
it was just an indirect experience. It was one more piece of
information that was mentally superimposed and confused with
who they really are.
“Therefore, Berner said, “ I decided that what was needed was for a
person to experience the truth of themselves for themselves.
It would have to be a direct ‘experience’ of the actual who that one is.
This led me to the question used in ancient yogic methods, "Who am I?".
The “Who am I” Guru
As a teenager in Southern California, Berner had watched Ramana Maharshi
in news reels at the local movie theater. Ramana Maharshi,
known as the ‘who am I’ guru, was famous throughout India. He had
a constant stream of local and international visitors who sought
his spiritual guidance. His advice was always the same:
“Seek to know your Self. Practice self inquiry by asking yourself,
Who am I? Then you will know everything.”
Ramana Maharshi, born in South India in 1879, had a near
death experience at the age of 17 that transformed his life.
“From that moment onwards,” he recalled, “the Self focused on itself
and absorption in the Self continued unbroken. God is none other than the
Self. To see the self is to see God; all else is but a vision of
the mind. There is no moment when the Self is not. The
Self is ever present. You are always that. “
Many years after Berner was initially influenced by Ramana Maharshi,
he was was wondering what could be done to help people know who they are.
It was a warm, sunny spring afternoon and Berner was lying down and
looking up at some pine trees when the realization of the Enlightenment
Intensive structure came to him. “Suddenly, I went blank
and it occurred to me. It could be just like or similar to a Japanese
Zen sesshin in which people work intensely on who they are, but instead
of working alone, it would be in the context of a dyad. And
the koan I was going to use was the direct focusing question, ‘who am I.’”
Zen is the Japanese word that means meditation. Sesshin is the
Japanese word that means an extended and intense meditation retreat.
Buddhist monasteries traditionally engage in zen sesshins or extended meditation
retreats during the winter months when gardening and other outdoor activities
such were curtailed by the cold and wet weather. Berner knew about
Berner was familiar with Zen sesshins and the Japanese school
of Buddhist meditation called Renzai Zen. Renzai zen is over
3000 years old and originally came from China before it became popular
in Japan around the 12th Century. The meditation practices
of Renzai Zen aren't concerned with philosophy, ideas or religion
but with direct experiencing of reality. One of its practices is
the use of a riddle like question called a koan to help the meditator
penetrate into the absolute truths of life. The koan or riddle can
never be solved by reasoning or ideas. The riddle can't be
figured out. It's resolution is the enlightenment experience,
always direct, spontaneous and immediate.
‘What is the sound of one hand clapping?’
There are about seventeen hundred riddle like koans that have been
been systematized and used by zen masters over the centuries. All
koans point directly to our True nature.
‘What is the sound of one hand clapping?’ is a koan that has become
well known in the west. It is attributed to the Zen Master
Hakuin, a renowned painter, poet and sculptor who lived in 16th Century
Hakuin emphasized that a koan can lead to enlightenment only after
tremendous power and effort arouse the Great Doubt. “If
you take up one koan and investigate it without ceasing, your thoughts
will die and your ego demands will be destroyed. It is as though
a vast abyss opens up in front of you, with no place to put your hands
and feet. You face death, and your heart feels as though it were
fire. Then suddenly you are one with the koan, and body and mind
are let go.....This is known as seeing into one's own nature. You
must push forward relentlessly, and with the help of this great concentration
you will penetrate without fail to the infinite source of your own nature.”
‘What did your original face look like before your father and mother
This koan, also well know today in the west, had its origins in China
around 700 AD. It is credited to Hui Neng. “If you want
the truth cease running after things. Stop thinking about what is
right and what is wrong, but just see, at this moment, what your
original face was like before your father and mother were born.”
Hui Neng's koan points one to their original nature that cannot be understood
by logic, spoken by words, explained in writing or measured by reason.
“When you hear me speak of emptiness,” he said, “don't become attached
to it, especially don't become attached to any idea of it. Merely
“sitting” still with your mind vacant, you fall into notional emptiness.
The boundless emptiness of the sky embraces the ‘ten thousand things’ of
every shape and form....the sun, moon and stars; mountains and rivers;
bushes and trees; bad people and good; good teachings and bad; heaven and
hells. All these are included in emptiness. The emptiness of
your original nature is just like this. It too embraces everything.
To this aspect the word great applies. All and everything is included
in your own original nature.”
Berner understood the transformative power koans and decided to
use the ancient yoga meditation, ‘who am I’ as the koan or riddle for the
Enlightenment Intensive Retreat.
The Relating Dyad Process
By the late 1960’s, Berner had created and experimented with
a newly developed communication technique he called, ‘relating dyads’.
‘Dyad’ is a Greek word and it means the number two, as in two people.
A relating dyad is a formal contemplation and communication
exercise for two people. It is a tool for developing self knowledge
and improving relating skills. The exercise increases your
abilities to relate yourself to others and improves your communication,
listening and understanding.
The relating dyad exercise begins with two people sitting
opposite each other taking five minute turns at being a listening and then
a communicating partner. Roles are switched every five minutes and
the exercise lasts for a total of forty minutes. The listening partner
remains silent, receptive and open after giving the communicating or active
partner a self reflective ‘question.’ They listen without evaluation
or interruption while their communicating partner reflects or meditates
on who they are and then communicates what they are aware of.
The ‘question’ that is given is not actually a ‘question.’ It
is a command or instruction telling the communicating partner to
do something. It is always given in the ‘Tell me’ form.
Given this way, the statement is actually not a question but an activity,
something that has to be done. This is more than a simple matter
of semantics, but a fundamental distinction. The fact that it is
not a question implies that there can be no right or wrong answers.
Your response to your partners instruction is not an answer but what you
become conscious of as a result of your self reflection.
Berner developed scores of different dyad instructions to deal with
a variety of important issues in life such as, relationships (Tell me your
goals for our relationship. Tell me what sex is.); understanding
(Tell me what understanding is. Tell me something about yourself
you want me to know.); guilt (Tell me something you've done that
you think you shouldn't have done.); communication (Tell me what communication
is. Tell me how you want to be communicated with.); goal setting
(Tell me your goals for life.); etc.
It was in the late 1960’s that Berner began to experiment with the enlightenment
dyad instruction, “Tell me who you are.” It was Berner's
belief that if we open up to each other and at the same time not
hurt each other as we deeply self reflect on ourselves, we create a situation
in which a direct absolute experience of our True Nature can spontaneously
It was on the second of July, 1968, that Berner tested his ideas for
the Enlightenment Intensive. There were 26 people at that first experimental
Enlightenment Intensive held at The Institute of Ability near Lucerne
Valley, California. The Institute sat at the base of
the San Bernardino Mountains, 125 miles north east of Los Angeles with
a commanding view of the empty high desert floor. The retreat was
a surprising success with many participants becoming self enlightened in
little more than a weekend.
Berner, ever the scientist, asked himself a new question.
Why did so many people experience enlightenment in such a short period
of time, when most traditional techniques took several years of intense
effort to bear similar fruit?
Berner soon answered that fundamental question. He
discovered that understanding was the key factor that
accelerated enlightenment experiences. When two people worked
together on the project of enlightenment with intense self reflection
or meditation and combined this effort with deep contact and honest communication
to another the process of enlightenment was accelerated.
This was a unique enlightenment technique, because up to this point,
the majority of traditional methods used for enlightenment were based
upon isolation, solitude and withdrawal from life and society. This
consciousness expanding technique was different because it was
balance of solitary introspection combined with presentation and honest
communication to another.
“Tell me who you are.”
“I'm feeling tension in my head and a nervous excitement
in my belly. The kind of nervousness I feel when I've met someone
new that I like or am attracted to.”
Consciousness Results From Interchange
One of the principles behind of this dramatic acceleration of enlightenment
experiences was the idea that “consciousness is that state which
results from the interchange between individuals.” Increase
the interchange or contact between yourself and another and you expand
When you choose to communicate your true self to another you become
conscious of your true self. If you relate or communicate
something other than your true self, such as a personality, a thought,
an emotional state of being or something you are identified with
you will become conscious of that. If you relate anger to another
you become conscious of that. Relate kindness or confusion
or generosity and you become more conscious of those aspects of yourself.
Identifications are the Barrier
When you intend to experience or relate the truth of yourself to another,
the barrier to knowing your true self is the identifications you
have with who you think you are. The identifications begin
when you are only an infant and doing typical baby like activities like
sucking your thumb, crawling around the floor, crying when you want something.
You innocently begin to notice yourself in a baby body and you identify
it with being you. Your parents and others reinforce this identification
by cooing, “Oh what a cute little girl you are. Are you my cute little
baby.” As you grow from infancy into adulthood you ignorantly
and innocently take on other identifications such as personality traits
(always happy; ignoring conflict; angry at the world), ways of being (being
kind; being strong; being sexy) and other ideas about life (life is hard;
no one cares).
Identification begins by not being conscious of what and who you really
are. You mistakenly think or feel yourself to to be a body,
a mind, or other things that you were taught by parents and society or
that you thought you were in order to relate to others.
The principle behind the enlightenment dyad technique is that
as your contemplation uncovers things about yourself and you communicate
those things to another, the process of de-identification from who you
think you are rapidly takes place. If what you
become conscious of is basically untrue, that which you have identified
yourself with will separate and vanish to the degree it is understood by
another. By continually presenting what comes into your consciousness
de-identification occurs to the degree it is understood by another. As
you present idea after idea (I'm not a nice person; life is hard
and cruel) , of feeling after feeling (I feel bad I've hurt others; I loved
her with all my heart), of sensation after sensation (I've got this tingling
in my stomach that tells me I've done something I'll regret), of things
you have mistaken yourself for (I've always thought I was a generous person;
I didn't think she really liked me but I was wrong), de-identification
from all things occur. As you relate
what you are aware of to a non judgmental listening partner, your
mental confusions, preconceived ideas, fears and fantasies begin to dissolve
and that which is untrue about yourself vanishes, that which is truth
Consciousness is the interchange between you and another.
Consciousness of self expands to the degree that you let others
experience your self as you are. The magic that occurs
from working with partners is the the basis of the enlightenment dyad process.
Working with a partner keeps you focused. The live interaction
with others and their genuine open invitation for you to present the truth
of yourself keeps you to the task of self discovery inspite of your inclinations
to become distracted by thoughts in the mind, sensations in the body or
events in the environment and ultimately produces enlightenment experiences
in as little as a weekend, instead of years.