That elusive oneness…
A few words about that elusive “oneness” so many people seek:
I’m often asked why we don’t feel the feeling of “oneness” with everything spoken about in certain religions. Why do we feel separate? Let’s take a look at this fascinating question.
Human beings are wired to navigate life by making distinctions. If you couldn’t make distinctions you wouldn’t know what to eat. You wouldn’t know what’s good for you or what might harm you. You wouldn’t be able to recognize your friends. You wouldn’t know whether you were too hot or too cold. You wouldn’t be able to make choices, or learn from experience.
As I once heard Alan Watts say, to be a human being you need to be able to tell chalk from cheese.
To make distinctions, at least at the level of sophistication of most human beings (even a worm can tell the difference between light and darkness), you have to create a kind of internal map of reality, which requires a nervous system that can record sensory impressions and play them back.
That map–and therefore your ability to successfully navigate life–is largely based on your ability to mentally divide the world into separate things and events. The only thing, then, that causes you to feel anything other than a constant and ongoing connection to everything else is your identification of your internal map of reality (and all those mentally created separate things and events) AS reality. To make this more personal, you could say that your identification of your idea of yourself as the real you creates a feeling of separation.
When those conceptualizations about yourself and the world fall away–something that can happen under certain circumstances (deep meditation, for instance)–you experience a feeling of unity. Some people, though, are so attached to their ideas about reality that such experiences of unity are difficult, or even impossible, to have.
Whether you feel it or not, though, your connection with everything else is there all the time. In fact, whatever you’re feeling right now IS that feeling of unity–affected by your identification with all those conceptualizations. Conceptualizations, of course, are also part of that unity. HAVING conceptualizations isn’t the problem. In fact, conceptualizations and distinctions are necessary for your moment by moment functioning and survival. Confusing those conceptualizations with the reality they represent (confusing the map with the territory), however, is delusional.
Once you’ve had a powerful experience of unity, it’s easier to just look around and see how obvious it is that everything exists in relation to everything else, that everything “goes-together”, that it’s all one, flowing thing/event, and that all the “divisions” are merely ideas about reality–useful, even essential, but not materially real.
Most “spiritual” people seem to think that having that feeling of unity is the goal. Though pleasant, even euphoric, I don’t agree that this feeling is the goal of life (of course, your goals are up to you). Until a certain point in spiritual development, though, many people do think so.
Look at it this way. You interact with the universe through your nervous system. That nervous system is designed to make distinctions–distinctions that allow you to survive and navigate your life. While you’re here it will keep doing so, even if you have a profound experience of unity consciousness. This is a good thing. Seeking to escape from distinctions (because a spiritual teacher told you that they create suffering) also means seeking to escape from being a human being. Personally, I don’t see any upside to that. I like being human. The way I see it, the idea is to be human but to do so consciously, by choice.
Though many people make up elaborate fantasies about the possibility of getting rid of suffering and gaining total control over life, being human inescapably involves a certain amount of suffering, and quite a bit of NOT being in control. You have, for instance, little or no control over the many physical forces in the universe–the sun, weather, gravity, cosmic rays, the seasons, etc. You also have little or no control over the agendas and actions of the other 6.7 billion people in the world. For this reason you often get what you don’t want or fail to get what you do want. This creates a certain amount of suffering–in some cases, a lot of suffering.
What’s more, your body is sensitive, which allows you to interact with your environment, and to feel pleasure. It also, though, causes you to feel pain.
Finally, you have no control over the fact that everything in this universe is impermanent. There is no escape from the fact that everything eventually comes to an end, is used up, or falls apart. This also creates suffering.
The perspective created by your nervous system (which is all you have) responds to these conditions as you experience them through your senses. The only variable you can control is the degree of choice you exercise regarding how your nervous system responds. To the degree that you’re aware, you have some degree of choice about how your little part of the whole feels and behaves, which people and situations you attract or become attracted to, and which meanings you attach to what happens (events are devoid of meaning until you mentally add one).
In other words, to the degree that you’re aware you can choose how you interact with everything else, and therefore exercise some choice about what suffering comes your way.
With enough awareness you choose your relationships, knowing the potential consequences, including the suffering that will ensue (as some surely will). The other person may not behave the way you’d like them to, which may cause you to suffer. And, one way or another, the relationship will eventually end.
Similarly, with enough awareness you can choose your actions. You can choose the internal representations you make (which create and sustain your feelings), and you can choose the meanings you assign to the events around you. And so on. Your actions, your internal representations, and the meanings you create each have the potential to create suffering. In fact, they WILL create suffering, some of the time. Certainly having more choice about how you enter into the world of suffering is desirable.
While all this is happening, though, you can’t be anything other than an intimately interacting, relational aspect of the ongoing thing/event that makes up the whole. Whatever you’re feeling, that feeling IS the feeling of the whole, expressed by your nervous system. The only “thing” that exists is the whole going-on-of-it-all, flowing along like water, never-ending, ever changing.
What seem to be supposedly “separate” things and events are really the result of ideas your nervous system has about the whole, nothing more. Every response, action, thought, feeling, or anything else you do, is a response to, a relationship with, a coordination interconnected action of, the whole. It IS the whole, flowing along, seen through a nervous system, a collection of cells that record and play back (inaccurately, I might add) your sensory impressions.
So there’s nothing to worry about. You’re already one with everything. You can’t, in fact, escape from it, any more than you can escape from suffering or impermanence. You can, of course, live in a mental world where you don’t notice your connection to everything else. You can confuse the map with the territory, in which case it will seem as if you live in a world of isolated, separate things and events. This adds to the suffering that is already built into being human.
If you practice being aware, noticing how your nervous system creates your experience of life, you’ll gradually develop a greater ability to choose that experience. If there is a goal, that’s it.
Though there are many methods for doing this, you might give mine a try. It involves a powerful tool that increases awareness–Holosync (see www.centerpointe.com for more information). Then, if you’re interested, I show you where to direct this increased awareness in a way that creates the maximum amount of choice about your life and how you create it. For more information about how I do that, see www.centerpointe.com/life/preview.
Above all, be well.
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