What does it mean when it’s said that you are not separate? That you are not (compelling appearances to the contrary) apart from anything in momentary experience: another person, the immediate scene, what you are doing, observing. At no distance from the vastness that some call divinity.
What does it mean that the appearance of duality is illusory? What can it possibly mean that there is, in fact, no “you”?
This shocking matter-of-fact is among the things that become vivid, upon radical awakening. It is not to be understood by the ordinary mind. And what is the possible usefulness of contemplating this in advance of its having become obvious?
You are each moment, just as it fleetingly is. Living at last.
Which is what you are being invited to do.
* * * * *
Spirituality is commonly turned to as a way to distance oneself — to escape something, either life or your painful interior. Spirituality can be used like a drug or any other distancing mode. Meditation, spiritual beliefs, and earnest practices mean to push away the pain of existence. It may seem that you need to “heal.” (As if the self that can suffer needs to heal in order for the truth to finally be known.)
All of which reinforces the illusion that you are apart from reality — both the unmanageable outer and the messy inner. Something seems to need fixing, in order for peace to arrive. Discipline appears necessary. Some kind of change needs to be made.
It all creates the impression of separation, outer and inner. Parts of you are walled off from other parts (the ugly from the spiritual, the things you avoid feeling). You continue to judge the now, to prefer one version over another.
* * * * *
What does it mean — what does it actually feel like — when the appearance of separation is gone?
Whatever is happening right now (which “you” are aware of via consciousness) feels real. Nothing else does. You are not at any distance from what is perceived, whether that is “out there” — the wind, the parent screaming at the child, the smell of food cooking — or whether it is inside.
What might be inside? The sensation, perhaps, of feeling in a rush. Aching sorrow over a loss. The mind processing the recent news of a diagnosis. The pleasure of warm water passing over the skin in the shower. Delight in the revisiting of an exchange with a loved one. Or the pain of recalling another sort of exchange. Each thing fully allowed, saturating awareness. No distancing from any of it.
A thousand, thousand oh-so-human movements that seem to have made the (apparently separate) “self” what it is. Only now, with not a drop of it resisted or mentally handled, it feels simply like life-being-life. Because conscious awareness makes no attempt to distance itself from any of it (painful or joyful), the sense of unity, of radical aliveness, is what is most pronounced — more than any particular movement “within” consciousness. What’s absent is the familiar impression of a there being a self-experiencing-things.
What “you” are, each moment, is the same as wherever attention is just now. It is all about the now. Anything else that might tap you on the shoulder, looking for attention, is recognized to be the activity of the mind. You do not become lost in it. You simply recognize it as a thought, pointing to some distant “reality,” one not presently experience-able.
If in the middle of a given now — which is all there ever is, all that is real — you were to go looking for a self, no “you” would be found. All that would be discernible would be the awareness of the “content” of the moment. Which is, of course, in constant flux. No stability anywhere, neither a “you” nor life. All is flowing. Not predictable (let alone controllable).
Which is, of course, in no way resisted. (In order for resistance to occur, there must be a self to do the resisting.)
* * * * *
So . . . you are saying just now . . . what is one to do, in the meantime? What constitutes the authentic spiritual life? In the longing to come at last to rest in the real, what might bear fruit? (Why is the writer of this essay bothering to say all of this?)
Here is what not to do: try to “get there.” Allow yourself to rest from that fruitless effort. And from the effort to fix yourself, either to heal psychologically or to discipline yourself into a quiet mind. To construct another wall between awareness and the ugly or painful parts of yourself.
Instead, go for this. Any moment you become aware of what is presently happening (around you or within), notice what you are doing to create the impression of being apart. Judging, avoiding painful feelings, denying, comparing.
It is not about trying to stop yourself from doing these things. It is to see — to feel — that they are happening. Allow conscious awareness to recognize the distancing effect of this “handling” of momentary life.
Here is what else is fruitful. Omit no opportunity to ask the question What is real? Right now, what is actually occurring, within and without? What is there that is prior to all mental filters? Notice what it feels like, in the body, to simply, fully allow each piece of momentary reality to be as it is.
To not separate yourself from any of it, whether it’s inside or in the immediate scene.
Allow awareness to penetrate any momentary impulse to manage or to protect/separate yourself from what’s occurring, either within or “out there.” (For this too — this walling-off impulse — is real, in the moment!)
That in you that is aware of what’s happening in this moment — simply aware, without mental filters or any movement to change any of it — is the truth of what “you” are. All the rest of it — the memory of suffering you’ve experienced, the mess the world is in, the beliefs you’ve allowed to define you — is not directly available to consciousness but requires the engagement of the mind. Omit no opportunity to explore the truth of this.
* * * * *
When consciousness is fully attuned to the now, to the real, the sensation is of porousness. Whatever is happening — discomfort in the body, a breaking heart, cars rushing past on a street corner — is felt to be within. Or . . . are you within it? There is no felt difference, no boundary. Simply, your awareness is not apart from whatever is in the momentary picture.
The more intimate awareness becomes with what-is — including both observable, immediate reality and the complicated reality of what is within, yielding to whatever is there — the less distance can be felt between “you” and reality.
You are life: this nugget of it. Painful or glorious. It is fully allowed, felt. Then it’s gone. Something else is happening. You are each moment, just as it fleetingly is. Living at last. None of it being about you.