Dan Berkow
(from letters to the Guru Ratings Forum)
More on his online group / forum here,
and further glimpses into his story as process

On his work

When I work with a client, I meet the client where the client is.  I understand the world from the client's perspective as much as possible, and try to get a sense of the client's use of words and ideas so rapport can happen.

When we interact, I want to formulate a dialogue in which the client looks into himself or herself, so that experience is accepted as is, and anxieties and doubts can be confronted constructively.

Here's the thing about that:  I am not assuming to know ahead of time where the client needs to go or be, nor am I assuming to know what change may occur or what may be accepted as is, rather than changed.  It is not my agenda, although my profession is to be with someone in an open way that assists this kind of looking.  So, for this kind of dialogue, I am a person with another person.  I am aware of my feelings and thoughts, and the client's feelings and thoughts as that client's feelings and thoughts.  The nondual being which embraces us is never absent, but it is not a goal of the situation. Sometimes, opening may happen assisted by such dialogue, but usually not, and that's fine.

So, let's see if this could be related to teaching nondual wisdom.

I have, at times, had classes, the point of which was to look at nondual teachings and discuss these.  Such classes were different only in that the participants came with different expectations or agendas to some extent, wanting to know about things they had read about or studied with others, and how it applies to them, such as how could they realize nondual truth, what does kundalini have to do with it, what happens to their realization when their kids are angry with them, etc.  But essentially, it was more alike than different.  It involved a facilitating type dialogue, and the nondual truth that embraced the entire setting could never be made into a goal.

So, in conclusion, I'd say this:  in dialogue, the participants aren't in two different, separated truths.  If so, there is no dialogue.  If I am acting as a mirror for you, then you also are a mirror for me.  This makes it hard for me to understand dialogues that get set up around rigid roles, such as "I am the guru and I'm in an entirely different reality than yours," or "I can mirror you, but you can't be a mirror to me," "I don't have a center, but you do, and I'm here so you can lose yours like I have." This is why I don't tend to agree with your idea that a student should thank a guru for being mean-spirited or sarcastic in a way that wouldn't be accepted by the guru from the student, as I tend to see this as a traditional and rather restrictive form of dialogue, based on roles derived from the past and culture.  Particularly in current American culture, there are many drawbacks to such an approach, as it tends to get mystified, sometimes abused, since it is so divergent from our mainstream culture.

It doesn't ring true to me to say, "Thank you for showing me the flaws that I too have," from someone who has made it clear that such feedback from me is irrelevant to them, or even not to be tolerated. Such roles seem quite rigid, and the appeal of taking such roles may have nothing to do with "enlightenment" ...

Should a child thank a verbally abusive parent who denigrates while expecting to be appreciated? Or does this set up unnecessary and often unhealthful tension for the child?  If such a dynamic is recapitulated by a "spiritual teacher," is not such dynamic more likely to assist regressive, even hypnotic states, than openness and shifting vision as "reality" as "nondual truth" ...

I'm sure there are exceptions, and I don't believe in absolutistic rules.  I'm not saying this to try to preach how people should always behave.  What I am doing is raising questions, and trying to explain the drawbacks of rigid roles and stylized interactions around topics like "enlightenment," etc. 

On his story

My story just involves
someone who stopped still at 
a given moment.

Not out of choice, but because that's
how it happened.

Inexplicably, and after everything went somewhat
crazy for a while.

First, the stillness.

Then, the dissolution of any
psychological reality to "the future."

Then, dissolution of the sense of identity,
day to day.

Yet, the dynamics of my personal being continue
to work themselves out, day to day, as this
process of becoming ...

So, day to day, working on opening,
relaxing into/as "what is."  Not working
toward something, but as what already is ...

Just me, working out my life and dramas, day
to day ... just a human being like others ...
not heroic or unusual ...

And yet, and yet ...

Something that can't be stated, that is all that
is ...

As if, at the same time this day to day life unfolding,
with its ups and downs, stresses and resolutions ...
at the same time there is only no-thing ...
and all this happens as it must, all relational,
all-inclusive, past, present, future, here and there,
all intertwined and resonant ... no being ever separate ...

Well, you can see why it's difficult for me to
make a story of this ... sounds funny even as I
try to write about it :-)

Dan has written more on his story as an illustration of process, with a bit more historical detail here.

On Practice
(an edited exchange)

D: If your practice depends on conditions, then  it's a conditional activity, like other conditional activities.

Q: I'm not exactly sure what you mean by conditional.

D: We were speaking about certain conditions being more favorable, and other conditions being less favorable for the practice, and some conditions virtually precluding the practice.  So, it's a conditional practice. 

Q: But ideally practice wouldn't depend on conditions. If say, one has a sitting meditation practice, it shouldn't really matter if one is sick, or tired, or it's hot or cold. You just sit anyway.

D: You still need a place to sit, time to sit, and a body that is capable of sitting in whatever posture you deem is important for the practice.

Whatever conditions interfere with being able to get to, or maintain the place, to have the time, or to have the necessary condition of the body, will interfere with that practice. 

[ . . . ]

D: Can a conditional practice truly make "all the difference" as you contend is possible?

Anything conditional will pass when the conditions supporting its existence change, and no longer allow it to occur.

Practice that is conditional, doesn't in any way evade, alter, or transform the conditionality of one's being.

A deep insight into the nature of conditionality can't be brought about more and more as you pursue with vigor your conditional practice.

That is because conditionality is the basis for such practice even occurring.

Insight into conditionality cannot itself be brought about by conditions, nor can it have an existence apart from conditions -- or it wouldn't be affected by conditions and be able to have an insight into them.

As my practice is insight into conditionality, it is of a different nature than the practice you are describing -- it is the meditation that doesn't depend on any particular meditational activity.  It is one's own present awareness, which is the moment one is experiencing.

The practice you describe is merely one aspect of the conditional unfolding of conditioned being.  Being aware, one *is* the insight that goes to the heart of all conditioned being, and through any moment of conditioned being.  Being unaware, one is caught in conditions, taking oneself for an existing being that accomplishes things under certain conditions.  One might even make a claim to be accomplishing a movement that deconditions the conditional, or makes one more and more aware of one's unconditional nature.  But all of that is conditional.

Although this sounds paradoxical, that is only because words are themselves conditional events that depend on a conditioned mind to make sense of them.  And so are day to day perceptions, such as the rain making the grass wet.

Q: The way you describe unconditional practice, doesn't really even sound like what I would call practice in the first place.

It sounds more like a way of being, or something like that, because it seems as though you speak of it as a constant, and not something that you actually do.

D: Yes, I agree.

Doing, being, knowing aren't separated here.

So, it's not saying, "I'm going to do this to make that happen, so I'll benefit by the result of x."

That would involve separating the doer, that which is  done, the result aimed at, the awareness of what needs to be done.

It's not practice in terms of cause and effect, an intentional movement to make a desired result occur, which would be desired by a partialized being, a limited entity.

It could only be construed as a way of being, if it were understood the the being, the way, the movement, and the stillness weren't separable one from the other -- not something that is done by a part, to get somewhere else -- but the totality itself.

The practice doesn't get you to totality, because that would involve a part getting to the whole, which can't happen.

Totality is all-at-once, is not partialized or divided against itself.

Totality is the practice of totality.

Q: There is no trying to be aware, or get out of unawareness. So what I take you to be saying is that this practice
is about being aware, as you describe here.

"Being aware, one *is* the insight that goes to the heart of all conditioned being, and through any moment of conditioned being. Being unaware, one is caught in conditions, taking oneself for an existing being that accomplishes things under certain conditions."

So at one point Dan was unaware, and then he became aware?

D: At one point, there was the imagined construal of a Dan entity that existed at certain points, but not other points.  That construal involved assigning awareness to Dan, as if there were a quantity of awareness, a personal perspective, that belonged to Dan.

Timelessly, clarity is, that awareness isn't separated out, doesn't belong to particular entities, that existence doesn't happen in pieces.

Dan didn't become aware.  The barriers that were necessary to keep the Dan-image in place, dissolved.  The awareness as is, *is*, as could never not be the case.

Q: Before becoming aware there seems to only be conditional practice. After becoming aware, there is only unconditionality, awareness, but
nothing that could really be called practice any longer.

D: Well, you can certainly practice.  Being aware needn't prevent or interfere with whatever practice you deem useful.

I don't see this as an either-or situation.

The awareness that has no beginning isn't something you become or get to.

Conditionality *is* the meditation of the nonconditional being.

So, any conditional practice can be done, and day to day conditional events transpire.  The meditation is never interrupted.  Watching the rain fall on the grass, hearing Bush give a speech, being aware of breathing, interacting with a client, helping my girlfriend with her nursing homework -- all of these are conditional events, all are included in/as the meditation which is the unconditional expressing as conditionality, as "my perception, my being-time, my relating" ...

Q: Is there a catalyst of any kind to get from unaware to aware?

D: This present moment is fully catalyzing, exactly as is ... if it is not refused or avoided.  All kinds of things that seem like "this couldn't possibly be *it*" are *it* in disguise ...  You are confronted on all sides by *this* -- that it seems otherwise is only avoidance -- that any additional catalyst is needed is imaginary -- if a physical teacher appears who opens you as this opening which is also the teacher -- that is fine.  The teacher could also be not-a-physical-being.  That also is fine.  When there is opening where the catalyst is the teacher which is not represented by a physical entity, the entire situation of your being is the teacher.  It is not hiding from oneself, not avoiding anything one is doing or trying ...  that, to me, is the central catalyst.

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