Let’s dig into the tendency to make meaning of what is appearing. When peeling the proverbial nonduality onion we often see duality as a concept to be hacked, dissolved, erased, believing duality is the problem. Most, if not all of us, see nonduality as a goal, a state, and a finish line to cross or acquire on the path to removing or dissolving duality and awakening to realize Truth, right? I did.
We seldom see the concepts of nonduality and duality for what they actually are and our beliefs may lead some of us towards other concepts like unity or oneness.
The organic nature of our minds is to grasp and make meaning out of what we sense…but this does not mean we need to beat up ourselves as we inquire and challenge the belief of personal selfhood. You already are what you are seeking…there really is no bad guy in the seeker story. As Bart says..the ego gets a bum rap.
It’s hard for an imaginary being that believes itself to be tangible and lasting to find relevance, meaning, and continuity where none has ever, ever, existed. Non-duality is not not-duality and a belief in unicity or oneness is simply another concept and belief in separation.
There are some teachers and spiritual preachers weaving duality and non-duality into a feel-good new-age oneness tonic that promises to dissolve the friction and pain of feeling separate and suffering while leaving the personal self in tact. Aren’t we all seeking and looking for deeper meaning in our lives, an end to personal suffering, and a bypass around death when the body ceases? I was, and you? I didn’t want to be imaginary or impersonal even though I knew intellectually the personal self was only a perpetual belief habituated by my long-held beliefs and convictions.
I danced with oneness while I attended The Unity Church from 2005 until 2010 before I realized that the oneness focus was mostly on feeling good and polishing the self to be a better self. I was sliding down the duality rabbit-hole again. Oneness feels really good and delivers a warm inclusive feeling inside our bones and “we” as “part of the oneness” still get to go to heaven and believe in reincarnation.
At the same time, a oneness philosophy usually ignores digging into the darker side of human behavior and many refer to this as spiritual bypassing. Understand this – I am not saying new-age preachers delivering a KumBaYah message of oneness are sharing the wrong message. In retrospect, oneness helped me to see all the wounds I had accumulated from religious dogma that were ready for the light of self-inquiry, especially the nature of Absolute. All is appearing perfectly as a fleeting dreamy appearance and nothing remains across the illusory concept of time.
Nonduality is not two, and is it not oneness. What is experiencing and believing in a concept of Oneness? A nondual philosophy does not leave oneness as a remainder. How do we parcel or divide one? Words and concepts are simply mental gymnastics and trying to peel, remove, or dissolve one is duality.
Language is a perfect example of this paradox. When I write these words here I am pecking letters on this keyboard. I am attempting to share a nondual concept, which is duality. Using language is duality. What more can be said? I negate…and don’t negate…every word I write or speak…this is duality and it is the perfection of this appearance. This is how we play and dance and suffer pretending to be separate so self can play with other. And all these words, written and spoken, are empty mental concepts cherished by a meaning-making brain/mind. It’s what we do as humans. Yet, there is something more to us..much more…and…much less.
Appearances are like a quick wink of energy particles prismatically refracting and flickering as photons, electrons, and bosons dissolving faster than the speed of light. Nothing of form, of you and me, reality, remains.
There is only a flash of primal formlessness, emptiness, prismatically appearing and fleeting as fullness of form…as the Universe, as bodies, and yet it is not. There is only light, vapor, and magnetism seeming to appear, and not even that. This paradox really cramps the brain and that’s how the light of knowing crawls in and lights us on fire. The brain/mind is finally surrendered and stunned into silence from the paradox of it all.
Words really are a poor choice for sharing what is not relative, and honestly, any mode of communication we use will always be “after” this fleeting brilliant moment has dissolved and will never be able to capture this perfect essence. It is just not possible to capture what is appearing now with language. Poets, writers, filmmakers, artists, and musicians surrender to Mystery to receive their amazing inspiration and gifts. Yes, drugs can also alter our perceptions and unlock the creative inspiration…so I hear 😉
So, how are we able to transmit through language what is fresh, illusory and fleeting? We really can’t since it’s already dissolved…there is no permanence, no time and space…unless you believe there is and then it’s time for inquiry.
Most non-duality seekers, and sadly, some non-duality teachers, want to completely throw out the duality concept and replace it with nonduality and oneness. And you beautiful readers who keep up with my blog will see this is impossible. Non-duality is as much a concept as is duality. And this misunderstanding happens more frequently than we like to admit in the spiritual world, and of course, this too is the unfolding perfection.
I often say you cannot mess up…do you now see why I say this? If not, read deeper into my blog. That all appearances are of a non-dual nature can only be said in duality. Duality is the nature of language, of separation, of comparing this to that. Even “the now” is a concept…a concept of a moment within the concept of time and space.
Believe me when I say I know the pain, alienation, and aloneness of the spiritual search. If you are not suffering on some level, you are not headed in the direction of Truth. This pathless path is full of darkness, pain, illness, alienation, death, deep holes, and intense psychological and emotional upheaval and suffering. Deconstruction of a personal self leaves a wake of tears and storms of the heart, mind and body. Yes, avoiding the shadow side of the personality is more comfortable, that’s why spiritual bypassing feels really good, but you will not get to the point of complete and lasting surrender unless and until there are enough burrs under your saddle.
Most seekers endure their painful beliefs for so long that they sink into a dark sorrow and pain. Perhaps later they become ready for the purging fires of self inquiry. If so, they begin exploring all the aspects of a personal self and suffering until they begin to see burning and dying as a relief. An unrelenting emotional, psychological, and perhaps even physical pain, along with discomfort, loss, calamity, anxiety, trauma, abuse…these are the flames sending you to your knees in inquiry and surrender.
And when you finally surrender, moment to moment, completely on your knees, something unspeakable and akin to Grace knows you are so close to the edge of insanity and pain that perhaps your incessant mental processes are ready to actually let go and free-fall in to the black void of oblivion. Nothing of you remains.
Peering into Infinite Blackness
Frankly, and this is a tough paragraph for most to read, if you have any doubts, then you are not ready to let go and accept that the personal self is like a mirage in the desert. You must be willing to let go of everything, including what you believe you are.
You must surrender and die to the personal self. Surrendering your personal self is the ultimate life and death decision.
This surrender feels very personal and scary to a personal self peering into the Void. This surrender is not a warm and fuzzy blanket of Heaven waiting to embrace you with angels and your dearly departed kinfolks on the other side. This surrender is an acute and prickly hot fear, terror even, that you will meet when leaning into and glimpsing the infinite depth and width of the void of what-you-know-not and cannot imagine.
When you finally surrender every last concept belief of humanity, time, space, location, all of it, and all hopes of an afterlife, and a lasting personal you, then Grace seems to push/pull the imaginary you into a position of seeing from a different lens, a new perspective, but one that’s always been present and claimed by a personal you as you.
The pathless path is lonely for a good reason…it’s full of thorns, boulders, holes, and intense suffering. You have to be “all in.” How will you know if you are all in? Looking retrospectively, (is this even possible? No.) I offer these indications and you may relate to some, none, or all:
- you are consumed with knowing who and what you are above all else and you:
- have a library of nonduality books and that’s all you read and study
- are self-inquiring hourly, sometimes, every ten minutes, or every minute if you are experiencing intense emotions
- attending retreats and satsangs and inquiry groups as often as possible
- you are frustrated, tired, jealous of others you perceive are “closer to the goal” than you. Good inquiry material here…is there a goal? Who wants a goal and why?
- are fascinated with where thoughts come from and how they assemble into stories about life
- are more isolated from family and friends so you can study how your mind and senses create life
- welcome scary thoughts and situations just so you can practice inquiry and see what is noticing
- you care less for the formalities of life, preferring instead to simply be and notice what is
- take up praying for the first time and/or remember praying is necessary to get out of your “own” way
- welcome death of the body so the intense mental and emotional suffering will cease, and then notice that you care less whether you really live or die once deciding death is preferable
I imagined death and the end of the spiritual search to feel like reaching the point of ultimate and final surrender, noticing the breath, and releasing all hope and desire that another would draw itself into me. When Grace swept the personal identity to the side to allow a fuller perception of what is appearing, I noticed I’ve always “been lived.”
This was amazing to notice and fascinating to feel within the body…how I was being fed, peed, and pooped, walked, and slept just like a toddler, with no conviction of “being a personal self” to claim these body functions as mine though the appearance was clearly within and around this body. How humbling and yet arrogant of me to believe I, as a character, had any role in creating and birthing this moment. And yet, I as Absolute, look upon and play within this dream of duality as the Anita character.
Slowly, I felt like I was rewired or calibrated on some odd physical level. I had an emotional flashback of painful life events reveal the impersonality of what I thought of as “my life.” I was gifted with an deep knowing that I as a character had never made a mistake or messed up, even when I believed I did. I was being lived, mistakes, bad decisions, and screw-ups included.
There were many tears shed while awakening to what is and what is not. Backing away from untruth leaves what simply is…a shining and shimmering perfection most of us label as duality, life, reality. There was no fanfare, no parades, no mountaintop grandeur…only a Grace-filled nearly impossible shift or pivot to seeing and knowing beyond the mind what has always been…and never not here, now, as this that is.
This Grace-filled understanding revealed that all the “bad actions” I had taken in “my” life were actually this Absolute Stillness unfolding itself as the duality, as the Anita character. There was a radical forgiveness flowing through the body. I, as personal and impersonal I, was transfixed as wonder, peace, tranquility, perplexity, and disequilibrium passed through this Anita body.
Grace/Absolute/Void/God/ is whispering and swirling as this fleeting appearance, as this fleeting Anita body, birthing this fleeting Cosmos, this moment, as this body to know itself as form and formless. And there is utter aloneness and shock at the rawness of this revelation.
These is only this…here…now…appearing as form, and it’s negation. Non-duality and duality are the fleeting imaginary dance of playing in a relative world as self and other.
Life is but a dream and it feels exquisitely real, this fleeting breath, this fleeting moment, these lightening fast sensory impulses, this fleeting body here, now, appearing as this perfectly vibrant alive stillness, and yet also as Void.