HSEP28: The Failure and Gift of Non-Duality
This is an interest topic to explore, for me personally because people often refer to me as a teacher of non-duality. While I don't agree 🙊, I completely understand why that conclusion could be surmised. Yes, I talk about the wholeness in all things, I speak about separation being illusory, I make reference to everything being connected, and these are all wonderful, important, and profound pointers.
Why do I not consider myself to be a Non-Duality teacher? Well, firstly, I don't consider myself to be a teacher; even though, yes, it totally looks that way in appearances. However, if a cloud takes the shape of a rabbit, it doesn't mean the cloud is a rabbit. Just sayin'.
Secondly, I don't see the concept of 'Non-Duality' as – the answer to anything. I don't feel that if you understood what Non-Duality is, from an educational or intellectual standpoint, that it would equal any amount of added value for your lived experience.
Like all concepts, spiritual and otherwise, they point to a reality that is so far beyond the concept itself. Often what happens, in the teaching of concepts, they stay in the mind and then the ego finds ways to use them to protect itself from the truth of reality. I know this from both personal experience and dealing with others who have innocently and mistakenly identified with the concepts and not assimilated the real heart of the message.
What is Non-Duality?
- Technically: Non-duality is a concept in Eastern philosophy, spirituality, and psychology that refers to the idea that the duality of self and other, subject and object, are ultimately illusory and that the universe is ultimately one undivided and unchanging reality. This is frequently described as the realization that the self and the world are not separate, but are interconnected and interdependent. Non-duality also suggests that the separation between mind and body, self and other, is an illusion, and that all things are ultimately one. The concept of non-duality is central to many Eastern spiritual traditions, including Advaita Vedanta, Zen Buddhism, and Taoism.
- More Simply: Non-duality is a concept that talks about the idea that everything is connected and there is no separation between different things or experiences. It suggests that things we see as separate, like good and bad, or self and others, are actually part of one big whole. In other words, non-duality means seeing everything as one and not as separate pieces. It's kind of like seeing the world as one big puzzle where all the pieces fit together. This can change the way we see and experience the world and can bring a sense of oneness and interconnectedness.
Even though I would playfully agree with what these descriptions are implying about self and reality, there are also 1,000 traps hidden in these words that can take you in the opposite direction. Meaning, you can end up creating and experiencing more separation simply by believing in the concept of no-separation.
What I find important to bring clarity to, that also touches every other dogma or ideology, is first and foremost that the truth of reality (what IS) cannot be defined with language; it cannot be spoken about. If I describe what a tree is, it says less than .0001% of what the tree actually is. Even if I wrote 100 books attempting to define a tree, it fails, completely, at capturing the reality of what it is.
To describe the tree, serves only one purpose, and that is to invite you to investigate the miracle of what it is and discover your own connection with it; which will also beyond your ability to adequately articulate. We describe things, not to define the truth or reality of what they are, but so that we can communicate with one another; so we can play together. This has nothing to do with defining reality, this has nothing to do with stating a truth about the tree; for that's impossible.
This is the biggest trap in all religions, spirituality, philosophy, and even science. I guess it could be said that the trap isn't in these things in-and-of themselves, rather, the trap is in the one who interprets these things. The trap made possible only by the assumption that the Truth (Reality) can be defined in words or symbols. Naturally, though, words and symbols are products of the imagination, and we find ourselves back in the conundrum of seeking the REAL in the UNREAL. You cannot touch the real with the unreal.
The Failure of Non-Duality
The Truth of what non-duality points toward, goes so much deeper than the mind's assumptions. The failure is in believing in your assumptions, while not allowing yourself to go deeper; because, you think… “Oh, I got it, there's no separation, cool.” And now, you wear a non-duality badge because the concept makes sense in your mind. This is… super important.
I'm not beating up on Non-Dual enthusiasts, though, by any means, there are badges worn for all traditions by people who've only scratch the surface. In fact, I would playfully suggest, if one got the message… putting on a badge or proclaiming yourself to be anything (this or that concept) would be pointless. Not saying it wouldn't happen, but there would be no energy of belief behind the temporary statement of identification. Such as… “Hi, my name is Bob.” But Bob knows he's not something called a “Bob.” The label serves only for communicating, not for defining.
The Disaster… illustrated
What does this disaster look like, practically? Well, an example would be… Bob hears that “everything is an illusion and there's no separation.” Then, Bob encounters a relationship conflict with another human being. In an effort to avoid being touched by the conflict (to protect himself), Bob tells the other person that their conflict is an illusion and is not really about Bob, because that would imply separation.
This strategy helps Bob separate himself from the other person and protect his ego from being touched by the conflict. What Bob doesn't realize is… IF there really was no separation, the conflict he's encountered with the other human, is HIS conflict. Furthermore, if everything was an illusion, then him seeing someone else seeing an illusion, is HIS illusion of seeing someone else seeing an illusion.
In contrast, the gift of Non-Duality
The concept of Non-Duality serves as a tool that invites the mind to relax and open up, for the SINCERE seeker – of what is real and true. The pointer of Non-Duality can do an excellent job in showing the mind's limitation, and inviting someone to look beyond the mind's determination to see and believe in separation.
Just as with spirituality in general, and even the original intent of religion to create a sacred space for discovery, these 'foundations' are meant to create an environment of exploration. What they are not, is a final destination where the mind get stuck in belief.
The GIFT… illustrated
Bob takes to heart the message of non-duality, and his interest is seeing what's deeply true. In Bob's exploration, he realizes that the depth of these things is so far beyond the mind. What he's recognizing is a deep humility, a deep openness that's willing to not run from his experience. It's becoming obvious to him that if there's no separation, then everything he experiences is somehow his own creation; meaning, it's by him and for him.
This attitude opens something in Bob; he opens up to Life, he opens up to conflict. If he encounters conflict with another human being, he doesn't look for spiritual language to protect himself. In fact, there is so much less thinking and way more… listening. Bob is more in touch with Life beyond the mind because he has seen the limitation of the mind and recognizes that this conflict is a heart-based opportunity, to allow him to connect with more love, compassion, and freedom.
Furthermore: In Bob's realization that there is no separation, there is also the deep seeing that he doesn't need to defend his ego, which is a something that is separate from everything else. Bob has discovered a willingness to surrender the ego and connect with the reality of LIFE.
So much more to explore here
Okay, that's a good start, as it relates to this pre-broadcast reflection.
I'll be diving more deeply into this during the second live video broadcast today, for "Holding Space for Love to Be Seen." Join the conversation by watching live on YouTube, share your comments, bring your questions, and let's HOLD SPACE together.
If you are part of the FREE inLight Connect Community, you can watch the recording here for a limited time.