Note: For the complete lessons,
with additions, see the AYP
Easy Lessons for Ecstatic Living Books.
Lesson 356 – How to Recognize Relational
Date: August 18, 2009
New Members: It is recommended you read from the beginning of the web archive, as previous
lessons are prerequisite to this one. The first lesson is, "Why
Q: How can I tell if
I am in relational self-inquiry versus the
non-relational kind? It seems to me I am witnessing my thoughts, but I have
also had the impression that it is mind watching mind. How can
I tell when it is the silent witness watching the
mind – or relational, as you call it?
A: A good way to recognize relational self-inquiry is in noticing what it is
not. If there is strain, expectation, intellectualizing,
judgment, frustration, headache, etc., those would be signs of
non-relational self-inquiry, and it is best to lighten up (self-pace) in
those instances. With the rise of inner silence (witness), those symptoms
will be less present, and we will simply be noticing thoughts and feelings
to be objects in our awareness, no longer classifying them or hanging on to
them, no longer seeing them as extensions of our self, or as "baggage" to be
carried around. They will be seen to be outside our sense of self. If
inquiry is increasingly joyful and luminous, through both "good times" and
"bad times," we can be sure it is becoming relational. That is, released in
stillness (the witness).
For a progression of stages in self-inquiry, see Lesson
350. It is a long lesson, but one of the clearer ones so far on the
various stages and styles of self-inquiry.
The term "relational" was coined to identify the relationship between
abiding inner silence (the witness) and thoughts. That relationship
consummates with the natural release (letting go) of thoughts in stillness,
the blending of one into the other, which is also samyama. It is the basis
of effective self-inquiry, divine outpouring, stillness in action,
spontaneous siddhis (small and large), and freedom from the ups and downs of
this world, even as we remain active in it.
Prior to the rise of inner silence as an abiding presence, this relationship
cannot occur. Then it is thoughts interacting with thoughts with the
aforementioned problematic symptoms. The term for that is "non-relational,"
meaning thoughts not occurring in relationship to stillness. See
Lesson 325 for more on relational and non-relational
The reason why these terms have been developed and emphasized in the lessons
on self-inquiry, is to clarify the essential point that self-inquiry is not
a viable practice without at least the beginnings of the witness stage. It
is not difficult to cultivate in deep meditation, but this is often ignored
in neo-advaita teachings. I say "neo-advaita" because if we dig a bit we
will find that the great advaita and jnana yoga teachers clearly recognized
the role of the witness, bhakti, and yoga practices. Modern neo-advaita is
prone to strip it all down to the bare logic and expect that to be an
effective "stand-alone" approach for everyone at every point on the path.
Clearly it is not.
So "relational" and "non-relational" have been born in an attempt to make as
clear as possible the distinction between self-inquiry with witness and
self-inquiry without witness. The experiences of many in the AYP community
of practitioners have verified the development of this dynamic through daily
yoga practices, with our inquiries moving steadily from non-relational to
relational. Whatever we may choose to call it, the shift is quite
noticeable. Many are delving into self-inquiry these days with pretty good
results, whereas, a few years ago it was, well, non-relational, and of less
relevance. That is changing as more and more practitioners are finding
abiding inner silence coming up in their lives. This is why we have been
focusing more on self-inquiry at this stage in the AYP lessons.
It would have made little sense in the beginning. All things in their
own good time.
As with any term that indicates a stage or milestone, we don't want to be
turning "relational" and "non-relational" into have and have-not
labels. That is not their purpose. The purpose is to inspire the continued
favoring of daily deep meditation (and samyama) when self-inquiry is not yet
gaining traction. If there were no clear guidance offered on this, there may
be a tendency to beat our head against the wall for a long time in
thought-based only self-inquiry, and/or succumb to
frustration and drop spiritual practices altogether. We'd like to avoid such
scenarios, and so point to a more practical approach with clear
navigation milestones we can notice along the way.
Then we can pace our practices accordingly for best results.
The recent addition of a powerful self-inquiry sutra to core samyama
practice in Lesson 351 is also for the purpose of
helping smooth the transition from non-relational to relational inquiry.
This can be included as soon as we are able to undertake core samyama
practice, and it does not carry the risks of outright non-relational
self-inquiry, even if the presence of our abiding witness is at an early
The guru is in you.
Note: For detailed discussion on the practical
utilization of self-inquiry, and on how to avoid ineffective uses of
self-inquiry, see the
and the Liberation book.