The Wholeness Process
John Stanley: In the Ecobuddhism project, our concern is with the relevance of spiritual practice to the contemporary world situation. The condition of the individual and the collective are interdependent, so we also keep a look out for new, effective findings about spiritual practice.
The emerging theme of this new century, it seems to us, is that humanity is facing a collective evolutionary crisis. Hence people with a spiritual orientation may feel a strong pressure to evolve towards authentic, experiential self-realization. And people with an environmental or activist orientation might be asking themselves how they can deal with ecological loss or with burn-out. Knowing how powerful your earlier work on Core Transformation has proved to be, we would like to ask you here about the new method you have developed over the last decade. What is this Wholeness Process?
Connirae Andreas: Simply put, the Wholeness Process is an original way both of awakening and of transforming (or healing) our human problems. It addresses what you are talking about, and it is very much in alignment with Buddhist philosophy and practice. What is new is that it provides a specific, precise, step-by-step method for these twin aspects of awakening and transformation.
As I studied the great texts and descriptions of spiritual awakening, I kept wondering, “Is it possible to create a procedure for this, so that anybody can experience what these masters were talking about? When loss of the ego is talked about, what does that actually mean? When letting go of the small self and experiencing the vast self is talked about, what does this mean experientially? As I asked myself these questions, a method came to me that I began to explore in depth for myself. As I gained more and more experience of it, I gradually began teaching it to friends and clients, and evaluating the results. The next step has been to make it widely available.
JS: So you are saying this is a process. Even that you are teaching it in steps. Are you describing a movement from spiritual practice to process?
CA: It’s definitely a movement to specific process. I know that spiritual teachers often say that awakening, or enlightenment, is a mystery. It’s something we can’t begin to understand, so trying to create steps to “get there” is the wrong way to go about it. But perhaps awakening is also like a sunset. It is true that if we try to convey what a sunset is to someone who has never experienced it, no definition, words or concepts are going to get it across. However, we could give anyone with sight a process—some specific steps to take so they can experience a sunset for themselves. At this time of day, you walk to such a place, face the west and you will experience a sunset. If these steps are correct, he or she will be able to experience the sunset for themselves. I think awakening, or enlightenment, may be like this too.
Recently I taught the Process to a large group as a one-day workshop at the Psychotherapy Networker symposium in Washington DC. Most of the people there were interested because of their background in mindfulness or Buddhist meditation. The response was very positive. People were starting to experience results right there in the training. Some told me “this gives me a much more precise way of doing what I have been trying to do with mindfulness.” Or, ‘This is something I can even share with my friends & family members who aren’t interested in spirituality.” Because the process is about direct experience, it doesn’t need to include any belief system or religious terminology. It is an attempt to model and bring precision and specificity to spiritual teachings, but using ordinary language that anyone can relate to.
Back to this process vs. practice idea. These things don’t have to be mutually exclusive. One thing I really appreciate from Buddhist (and other traditions as well) is this idea of practice. It’s invaluable. The Wholeness Process offers a specific process. But I’m finding that it is when people use it as a life practice that the full transformation happens.
JS: A lot of people who have sincerely followed a classical spiritual path, Buddhist or otherwise, may reach a certain stage where they become blocked from further progress. They experience a lot of frustration when the practice ceases to deliver as it has previously done. Some may find themselves in a situation where they begin to question the religious belief system. Some experience a hunger for something more universal, relevant or communicable. There might be a problem of compartmentalization. One’s meditation practice might have become a way of by-passing personal issues rather than processing them. All these states demand some kind of personal breakthrough.
CA: Yes, I’ve had quite a few people come to me who are in this position. They have a spiritual practice, but they recognize they’re still emotionally off-balance, or they recognize certain life issues haven’t been dealt with. Just to give you a few examples, one client who came to me had been practicing Buddhist meditation for years, but still had an eating disorder and relationship issues she wanted help with. One man was losing his temper a lot, but his meditation practice hadn’t changed that. A woman with a regular spiritual practice said she still had “leftovers” from mistreatment as a child. Although her husband treated her well, some simple misunderstanding between them would lead her to escalate conflict until she was ready to leave him. Each of us can probably relate to this in our own way. Even if we get a lot out of our spiritual practice, we may find that some of our emotional issues are still intact.
The Wholeness Process is particularly effective because it gives us a way of doing “spiritual practice” that naturally heals and transforms our life issues. In it, these two are recognized as the same thing. Our issues actually become a doorway to ever-increasing spiritual enfoldment. When I used the Process with each of the people [described above], they experienced a relatively immediate transformation of the issue itself. The woman who had been escalating with her husband said that “Now it’s no big deal. It’s fine.” The man with a temper reported that he could be more loving and present for people. And so on. This doesn’t mean that for everybody and every issue, there is complete transformation in one session. It’s usually an ongoing process. However with the Process this transformation of our life issues becomes inevitable. The “juice” for our spiritual development comes from the transformation of any remaining issues, rather than our remaining separate from them.
I think there is a general need for this kind of approach now. Because the more integrated and whole we are, the more effective we’re going to be in dealing with the global issues we’re facing as a world community. I think everyone who comes to your website probably already recognizes this. If our spiritual practice is separate from how we live our life—how we speak to our spouse, to our children, to our neighbors, we are not going to be as effective. Even subtle incongruence will prevent us from contributing to our full capacity.
It is also the case that our personal life goes better—we are more content, experience natural well-being, and it becomes easier to deal with life challenges that used to elicit stress. These are all results that I and others have experienced from the process.
JS: Can you say more about "spiritual by-pass". How or why has this become such an issue?
CA: Well, it can be tempting to just try to develop our “spiritual” experience, avoiding the more “human” experiences and in some sense "blissing out". When we evade our issues and try not to notice them, it’s often because of an unspoken fear that they would be too difficult and unpleasant to face. And that could well be the case, if we don’t know how to integrate them. The key feature of the Wholeness Process is that what was pain or suffering can become a recovery of a greater aliveness. And this turns out to be simpler, gentler and kinder than we might imagine.
To be clear, you don’t have to start with life issues to use the Wholeness Process. You don’t have to create issues if you don’t have them in the moment. We can begin anywhere; it can be with a simple meditation practice. However, when issues do arise, the Process immediately takes us into a gentle transformation of pain, a recovery of the life force trapped in that issue.
I’d like to mention that there are two kinds of spiritual by-passing that I think need to be addressed. One is by-passing our emotional responses and life issues. This is the type that people are beginning to talk about. A second type, that I haven’t heard anyone talk about yet, is equally important. This latter can result from the common teaching that the self is ‘just an illusion’. While true in one sense, this teaching can cause people to “skirt around” something that actually needs to be noticed and addressed. Many spiritual practices involve going directly to a state of presence or awareness, and developing this state. There is nothing wrong with that, but it’s not the whole story. It misses something, because at the unconscious level there does remain a sense of self that the person continues to live out of.
The Wholeness Process provides us with a simple and direct way to identify this unconscious sense of self. Paradoxically it’s only when we recognize it – and I mean notice it in the direct way that is taught in the Process – that it is actually released or dissolved. People then discover that their experience of awareness or presence becomes richer and fuller, without effort. Because when we by-pass this unconsciously-held sense of ego, the experience of awareness is limited by a subtle effort that surrounds it.
JS: Insofar as I have used the Process myself, it reveals that the "I" is actually a cluster of constructs – conscious and unconscious – rather than one thing.
CA: Yes, I’ve found that interesting as well, as I’ve explored the Process in myself and with other people. And we can potentially identify each of them. There is a specific way for these unconscious aspects of ego to be identified and released. This is where the “practice” part comes in. The Wholeness Process is not a one-time fix that changes everything. It works best when we use it as a practice. I like to do so on a daily basis – others might prefer every other day or some other schedule, but it works best when it is done as a practice. What sets it apart is that it offers precise steps that everyone can follow, so you know what to do to get results.
JS: There is a historical distinction or debate that occurred in Buddhism between gradual and sudden awakening. In those terms, then, you are describing a gradual, transformative, experiential approach.
CA: Yes and no. I’d say it’s both. In the time I've spent in various spiritual communities. I began to notice that when people spoke about a sudden awakening, I could see that it wasn’t ‘finished’. There are some teachers who honestly acknowledge that themselves—“Yes, I had this awakening experience, but that wasn’t the whole deal. There was a gradual process that led up to it, and afterwards, there was plenty left to be finished up.” When there are dramatic awakenings, there may also be unfinished business—life issues, emotional issues, coping mechanisms, defence strategies—all this humanness remaining to be dealt with.
With the Wholeness Process, often the transformational shifts are subtle and gradual. Sometimes I guide someone through it, and they say “Wow, that was a huge shift for me”. They report kundalini-like awakenings—electricity, vibration, shifting to presence or oneness. But these dramatic aspects are not the most important thing. Rather it is that the Process—be it simple, subtle or dramatic—has an intrinsic capacity to continue and to carry us. It evolves, we find ourselves continually working with new layers. Whatever remains undone will naturally and inevitably come to encounter the transformative energy. Most of the time, this is ‘extraordinarily ordinary’. Simplicity increases. We become more effectual in how we ‘chop wood and carry water’. Increasingly we experience life as simple presence in the moment that notices what is happening, what needs in the world are calling to us, and where we have the capacity to answer them.
JS: It seems to me this is about knowing how to engage with a ‘transcendent function’. So you have the emergence of a process of personal evolution that is also relevant to social and ecological evolution.
CA: Yes I think so. My motivation in making it available to as many people as possible is because I'm seeing how it can resolve and integrate individual suffering, and also because I believe in its potential impact for our communities. So I put together a video training, because if I am just seeing clients, the number of people who will benefit is very limited. Even seminars reach relatively few people. I am trying to make it widely available in a form that people can use to get results themselves. The process itself is extremely simple. Yet there are subtle understandings that make a major difference in using it well. In the eight hours of video training you can watch and listen to demonstrations, explore exercises with step-by-step hand-outs, and learn the underlying principles of the method, how to adapt it to your own experience.
JS: It is certainly possible to get a lot from video trainings since there is unconscious learning going on as well as conscious cognitive learning. And you can go back to it multiple times until you have really internalized it.
CA: Yes. I chose to present it first in video rather than the printed word, since there is so much you can get ‘in person’ that you can’t with print—the indefinable part that comes through with voice tone, manner and tempo. The video training makes it much easier to follow along in experience.
I want to say that I don’t consider myself a spiritual teacher, but rather another person on the path, someone “in process.” I am continuing to use this practice daily myself, because it is the most dependably transformative practice I know of. It’s made a tremendous difference for me, and at the same time I know I’m in no sense “done.”
JS: Do you see this method as something that will also be used beyond spiritual communities?
CA: I’m finding that people with a spiritual background have a very easy and natural connection to it. But another group of people who connect with the Wholeness Process are the many of us who are leading stressed-out lives and who need to find an effective way to deal with stress, sleep and relationship issues. That’s what they want, and the method does those things. Then, even if they weren’t counting on it, the Process leads on into something unexpected. We could call that spiritual evolution.
JS: Or perhaps psycho-spiritual evolution.
CA: Yes, I think that would be more accurate. People get what they want and our communities are blessed too, because we emerge capable of living out of greater wisdom. The world benefits too.
◊ Connirae Andreas PhD is a senior developer of NLP psychotherapy. Among her many original contributions to the field is the extraordinary Core Transformation process. If you purchase the Wholeness Process 8-hr video training here, half your cost will support the operating expenses of Ecobuddhism.org. We thank Dr Andreas for her generosity. You can watch a newly released interview with her about the Process here.