Perhaps it is time to write a few words about Christmas, and whatever meaning arises from this date for someone who is fairly enmeshed in the non-dual perspective. Could we be unconsciously celebrating our True Nature at Christmas? As I was raised a Catholic, Christmas had a sacred and magical feeling for me as a young child. I remember staring at the reflections in the globes on the Christmas tree and feeling entranced by the reflections of light.
I'm facilitating a study group around Adyashanti's latest book Resurrecting Jesus: Embodying the spirit of a Revolutionary Mystic. This book is a wonderful invitation for those of us who have drifted afar from Christian teachings to rethink the story of Jesus, reflecting on his life as a metaphor for spiritual awakening. Great myths are metaphors for deep truths, and have a way of grabbing the unconscious and paving the way for transformation of the psyche. When they are penetrated and taken in they bring new hope and a bit of understanding of the mystery of human experience. They impact how we think and act.
This book about Jesus is ground-breaking, because Adyashanti brings to it his deep realization and the depth of his years of Zen practice, blending this with a transformative recognition of love that he encountered when exploring the deeper meaning of Christ. In a world that sorely needs hope and fresh ways of understanding the true radiant source of human life this book offers a way to penetrate the experience of the early Christians, before the church fathers created a business and behavioral philosophy around it. He says churches have ignored the sacred and the true potential for understanding how all of us are the sons and daughters of God, and instead limit that potential for the divine to the man Jesus, and tend to preach politics, morality and guilt, rather than transformation. It appears they ignore the model Jesus gave us of living a radiant life that reflects our own divinity, and is anchored in truth.
The story of Jesus parallels the journey to enlightenment -- the simplicity and the gifts of the magi at his birth (we all have both), his disillusionment with organized religion, His initiation symbolized with baptism, the release of his siddhis or powers and the need for healing, the struggle with his inner demons in the desert and in the garden of Gethsemane, the surrender to his fate, forgiveness, and transcendence. Implied in his life is also the theme of an engaged spirit.
Today, as in the time of Jesus, spiritual awakening must go beyond transcendence and calls for an engaged spirituality. Those who fully awaken are reborn into a service or destiny with the world, not one defined by the ego but rather a movement from the depths that longs to be followed. Adyashanti blends the wisdom of awakening with service through his teachings and his transmission, and this book in some way catches that energy and gift so that it can be an experience for the reader and not just an intellectual study.
He urges us to clarify our "aspiration" and to reflect on our two "orders of being", the human and the divine, the form and the formless. Just as Jesus expressed his humanness and his divinity it may be possible, even essential, for more and more humans to discover this possibility, go through the shedding of our old identities, and surrender into our destinies,
I've always felt the tragedy of the death of Jesus, not because he was god but because he was human. All humans that are subjected to the betrayal and horrific suppression that he was dealt are equally caught in tragedy. Every violent death is as horrid as the death of Jesus. As we learn of people, innocent or guilty, who are slaughtered by those who are ignorant of the sacredness of life we can feel the suffering that the family and friends of Jesus must have known, and find some hope in the archetypal resurrection of this timeless story. Jesus lived the whole of life, the beauty and the trauma, just as most of us must. Can his life as myth or metaphor give us hope, and new direction for awakening out of the blind collective adherence to the mind's divisive point of view about who is valuable and who is not? This is never the perspective of an awakened heart.
If Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and all the rest of us alike began to see the truth of who we are, just as Jesus did, who would be left to cause such harm as crucifixion? Or murder families? Or drop bombs?
The challenge is that all of us must crucify our blind adherence to separation, collective belief systems and conditioned reflexes before we can be awake as a species. It may never happen, certainly not in our lifetimes. But if we as individuals can play our small part in the whole perhaps in time the collective field will transform just as the inspiration of Jesus must have intended. Ignorance may always exist but so does the potential for transformation and resurrection.
I awaken as the sun pours through my east-facing windows every morning and I am drenched in light. I return to my body and stretch, and feel gratitude for the beauty I enjoy as I look out the window over my small town ringed by mountains. I awaken with quietness and openness inside, wondering what the day will bring.
Awakening spiritually is much the same -- coming into a sense of lightness, openness, spaciousness, where thoughts do not interfere with the simple beingness of life -- the I am is experienced as a felt sense rather than a belief, the entering of this moment. As the mind lets go of expectations, desires, and the need to judge oneself and others, all the billions of neurons bouncing around in our head become calm, aware, responsive to the amazing experience of right now. Our senses brighten. As the heart awakens the body becomes soft and relaxed, melting sometimes into wonder at the beauty all around us, the miracle of existing at all. We know our self to be an expansive spirit in a body, using this form to dance and move in the play of life. As the gut awakens the knot in the belly that wants control unravels itself and we are available to change our fear to curiousity, and notice that life unfolds outside of our control, and we are capable of meeting it as it is.
I am 72 now . When I was 20, 30 even 40 and 50 I could not imagine being happy at this age. Old people looked -- well, old. I thought it would be very depressing to give up feeling pretty, being part of the movement and adventure of life that absorbs us when we are young, having lots of energy and moving through the world as if I was "somebody". And it is true there are challenges in aging. Sometimes my feet are unstable. I fell flat on my face off a ledge a couple of week ago and looked for a few days as if I had been in a bar-room brawl. (Frankly, I felt mainly intense gratitude that nothing was broken or permanently damaged.) All of my family in the generations above mine have passed on and many friends as well. Nearly every week someone I care for is reported in a battle with cancer or a heart problem. There is always the knowing that at any time the axe will fall for myself or my husband. But somehow all of this is just absorbed into the weave of living, and in its tragedy there is a beauty, just as in the bright day there is a compensatory dark night with its stillness and solitude. I can be sorrowful for what is not here now or grateful that I am still here now. Which will bring me peace and happiness?
So much of a life today is driven by the demands of an intense and commercial society. Energy is pulled in many directions and the longing to have not only what we need, but everything we want, consumes the majority of westerners, while the struggle in much of the world is simply to stay alive. Humans are in constant turmoil internally, trying to change things, acquire something, gain recognition or achieve goals. And then they are surprised to find they are not happy and the world is not at peace. This is the drivenness of thought, of the part of mind that fears to relax, to let go, to explore just being. We have lost the grace of simply being alive, the appreciation of the natural beauty and wonder in the world that can only be seen when we "Stop". Millions of us cannot even enter the stillness of sleep anymore because the mind will never stop.
If you are seeking peace and beauty in your life create a way intuitively to heal yourself. Put something beautiful in every room to remind you to be present, or find a spot where you can sit in stillness or walk in beauty. Learn true meditation, a simple sitting without efforting and letting things be as they are. Play music that distracts and sooths your spirit. Do something you love each day. Let go of toxic situations in your life and then do not carry them around in your thoughts once they are gone. Create your own series of koans or inner questions that cannot be answered with mind but take you to a deeper place, a place of Truth, i..e "Isn't this only a thought -- a random neuron firing? Is it true?" "What is wholeness?" "Who am I without thought?" "Can I love without attachment?" "What do I know that no one ever taught me?" Find your own, because the portal to awakening is deeply within you. And along this path you will discover peace, joy and appreciation in the very simplicity of living itself.
Non-Duality is a way of experiencing life that is beyond the holding of any belief about it. It points toward a liberation of the attachment to a separate "me" and this brings psychological freedom and peace. When consciousness gives up duality as a way of looking at the world it feels alive by simply Being, as opposed to being caught in the complexity of "thinking". There is an intuitive recognition that underneath all appearances there is One spacious consciousness that contains all of life and that each of us at the core is that spacious consciousness. When consciousness awakens one sees directly that the human sense of separateness and uniqueness is an identification with the body and conditioning that limits understanding of what we truly are.
Most of us can understand upon reflection the inter-connectedness of all things. We can see that without air, water, the trees and many other gifts of nature we could not exist as a species, and we can see that all of humanity shares the same needs and the same connectedness as part of nature. Our bodies are natural expressions of life. As Kahil Gibran once expressed poetically "Our children are life's longing for itself". So our existence is this expression of life as human, and our uniqueness is part of the unfolding of nature's many variant ways, greatly colored by our unique heritage, conditioning and energetic styles, intelligence, inclinations, talents, etc. How natural it is for us to identify as "This".
But non-duality is not about an understanding of our position in the world, even of our interdependence. It is an invitation to a direct intuitive remembrance of ourselves as this essence of life, before all the experiences and conditioning were attached and our thoughts became the apparent managers of our lives. It implies that as soon as thought and mind become active, all is divided, all appears to be dual -- birth and death, awake and asleep, myself and another, light and dark, like and dislike, good and evil -- all are the conclusions of the independent mind, which finds its way in life through division. To be enlightened is to be undivided, while still living with the paradox of division.
The mind cannot understand non-division. It assumes that the gathering and organizing of facts or memories or experiences is essential for navigation in the world. And to some degree this is true -- the rules for the world of form require certain understandings of boundaries (e.g. I cannot physically fly off of a building, I cannot ingest poison if I want to stay embodied, I can learn to drive and operate machinery, I can set up time in days and months and years, etc.) Non-dual teachings however, are not about the world of form. They are about the wholeness inherent in the absolute, in that which precedes and follows form, and which is the essence itself that allows form to appear. They point to Oneness, wholeness, awareness, presence, consciousness, beauty, love... all as the essential Truth of existence. Our deepest source within, our own Awareness, already knows Itself to be This. But we are so distracted by the world of form, and the content of mind, that most people most of the time never feel or touch intimately what they really are. Non-dual teachings, or in some cases the presence of an awakened teacher, exist in order to disturb or startle the thought patterns out of their complacency and delusion long enough for the true nature to be remembered.
Although many non-dual teachers appear to be saying that thought must stop or will stop if one is enlightened, this is not a fact to be feared or used to imply one becomes helpless and limited upon waking up to reality. What a waste of potential that would be!
These expressions are pointers beyond the limitations of thought, much as pointing to the moon does not mean the abandonment of the earth. To reach outer space astronauts have to leap out of the environment of earth -- have to be willing to live in the vastness of open space and trust their survival. To awaken to our true nature we have to similarly reach deeper than mind, into the empty-of-thought openness that is pure awareness, before thought-forms enter the stream. So it is no-mind as we perceive beyond mind. It has been called the dissolution of mind, but it is closer to a transparency, a seeing through the illusory, transient, conditioned and generally irrational nature of thought. As we recognize our own impermanence, and how we have been attached to ourselves as a unique but transient character formed by belief and experience, we take ourselves and others less seriously, so we become less compulsive and ego-driven. The ego has no power unless it believes all of its thoughts. The ego is the movement of attachment, and it gradually falls away when the Truth is seen and lived. When thoughts and even feelings are seen as energies moving through a system rather than "who I am", we cannot easily sustain a belief in the separate self.
Why should people invite themselves into a process leading to a lack of identification with the separate self? At first glance this would seem psychologically and emotionally unhealthy. During some stages of awakening it can certainly be frightening and disorienting, and one must persevere through the fear. But many people feel driven to make this journey, and others fall into the realization spontaneously. It is a longing to know our natural state of Being, a longing to know our "source" and end the sense of alienation in an ego-driven world. It is sometimes felt as a longing to know if there is a god, and of what nature it is. It is also the only way ultimately to feel at peace with life and death, and to end the inner turmoil that comes with division and the search to know what matters, what is real. When we clearly see the separate self as a simply a dance of energies in a creative movement of nature, and we allow what we experience to flow through without struggle, our lives become more free and more immediate. Living in the moment brings more joy than planning for the future or dwelling on the past. Life becomes more simple and more intimate and more relaxed.
If everything I write or other non-dual teachings offer are simply taken as beliefs, they are just as sticky as any other belief, just as liable to trap you in mind, just as lacking in Truth. They are no more useful than a picture of ice cream is able to satisfy your craving for it.
In the end non-dual teachings, or sitting in silence with a teacher, are aimed at driving you inward to question and discover your own realization of Truth, beyond your mind and beliefs and assumptions and feelings, in the stillness there, discovering within yourself who you are.