Here’s the thing. I can blog about non-duality and you can read about non-duality until the cows come home, but until there is direct experience, there is no real understanding. Oh, there may be an intellectual understanding to a certain point, but no real ‘gut’ feeling of those ‘aha’ moments that tell us we really and truly get it. Direct experience is the real teacher. Direct experience is truth because it cannot be refuted. Unfortunately, it also cannot be proven by the usual scientific standards, but that doesn’t preclude its authenticity. We need to let go of our limited views of reality. Look around. It’s time and it’s necessary.
Now, here’s the problem. You can’t go looking for direct experiences. They creep up on you at totally unexpected times. Even if you have a regular contemplation or meditation practice, there is no guarantee that you will have a ‘brick falling on your head’ type of experience. You can, certainly, but with consistent spiritual practice, the experiences tend to be cumulative and therefore culminate into a broader kind of understanding, which over time changes your views about things and you begin that wondrous, scary journey from which there is no return. Still, those ‘right between the eyes’ sort of experiences are the ones that catch our attention. But, of course, we have to be open to them.
The good news is that stories of non-dual, watershed moments are not as rare as one might think. Eckhart Tolle, in the introduction of his book, The Power of Now, describes his life up to the age of 29 as one of immense anxiety and dread “…interspersed with periods of suicidal depression.” One night, as he was suffering through his usual panic and dread, he thought, “I cannot live with myself any longer.” He suddenly realized the strangeness of that thought. He began to question who he really was. Was he “… the “I” or the “self” that the “I” cannot live with?” The duality that we all experience smacked him right between the eyes and he began to wonder if only one of them (the ‘I’ or the ‘self’) was real. His spiritual transformation occurred at that moment.
Fritjof Capra in the preface of his book the Tao of Physics, describes his non-dual experience of ‘oneness’ occurring on a beach, where he suddenly became aware of the ‘…cascades of energy coming down from outer space, in which particles were created and destroyed in rhythmic pulses…” and how his own atoms were participating in this cosmic dance. He suddenly began to see the similarities between modern physics and Eastern philosophy, which set him on the path of writing this book.
Direct experience usually leads us down a whole new path in life, as it did for Tolle and Capra. It expands our awareness and life is never the same. We begin to rise above the tedium to see the big picture. But do we really need to have direct experiences in order to experience changes in our perception?
I’m not sure what the answer to that question is, so we’re stuck in a spiritual catch-22. How do we get to a place where we can begin to perceive non-duality without direct experience? How about cultivating a bit of tolerance? Tolerance removes the obstacles that lead to compassion and kindness. That would be a huge step forward from where we are now. It requires that we lift our awareness and place it on something other than our own self-interests. When we get there, we begin thinking of ways in which we can be of service to others. Ask yourself, “Am I serving myself or am I serving others?” Service to others might just put you on the path toward non-dualism.
Every age thinks it has all the answers. We need to get over ourselves and realize that it’s time we wake up and move past the limited conceptual, man-made parameters of thought and embrace a more encompassing, compassionate view of reality in an effort to solve humanity’s problems. Einstein said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” We need a shift of consciousness – now. We can put our awareness anywhere we want, so put it where it will do the most good.