I am offering this post as a comfort for times of discontentment and difficulty. I am sharing my understandings for what I feel I know, to a large extent, reality to be. If you find yourself relating to these descriptions, then take comfort. You have been brushing with reality, or ultimate reality, and you may not have even known it.
This post presupposes an underlying layer of the universe which helps make up all of its parts, its possibilities, its every conception conceived of or yet to be conceived. You may call it truth, reality, God, or simply the universe even.
Does there exist an unchanging background to all we see and experience, can experience? Does it provide value to speculate on this, think about it, or come up with reasons for seeking such an understanding in the first place?
Let me share my understanding of what this reality may be, or is even. Then I may elaborate on the value of this, or let this come to you through your own considerations.
If we conceive of an ultimate reality, one which underlies all we experience, then for me I have not found a better explanation for this than in Hindu thought and philosophy, namely, in Advaita Vedanta, as put forth by Swami Vivekananda, in alignment with his teacher, Sri Ramakrishna.
What follows has been shaped largely by their understandings.
First, let us take up the consideration of this world, where we experience the phenomena of the senses, this world which we may consider to be our most easily understood version of reality.
Vedanta calls this a world of duality, a reality of duality, not ultimate reality, which I will refer to later.
We know everything in the context of at least one other thing. We see because one thing is next to another. If it were not, how could we see it to begin with, because then we would experience seeing only one thing?
We smell something in the absence of that smell in what came before, and another smell, or the lack of that first smell, occurs in what comes after.
Whether you speak of before or after in an experience of time, or in an experience of any of the five senses, there has to be a different experience before and after the experience occurring, or else there would be no experience at all to begin with.
Take the example of touching someone's arm: there is a moment of time before you are touching and experiencing this person's arm; there is the experience of touching this person's arm; and then there is the experience after you have touched this person's arm when you are no longer touching it. You need the experience of not touching it to begin with to experience the actual touching of it at all.
This illustrates how an experience of before and after sets up these two types of experiences, the experience of touching, and not touching, and how the experience of touching cannot exist without the experience of not touching before it.
All experiences depend on this duality, if you will, of time-related experiencing. We cannot have one experience without the experience of its absence as well, or without another and different experience being experienced right before or after the experience we are referring to.
We experience phenomena because there are different ones to experience, not just because there is no experience and then there is one. We know black because we know other colors besides black. We need just one other color to be experienced to be able to experience seeing the color black. If there were no other color to be experienced, ever, then we would not experience black, because there would be no understanding of color to begin with, and we would not be able to experience seeing anything different.
If you think about any one of the five senses and any possible experience of it, you will find that any single experience of that sense depends on the absence of that experience, or the experience of something different with that same sense right before that experience.
This then becomes the explanation of living in a world of duality, a reality in which nothing alone can said to be all-pervasive or eternal, in which nothing can be experienced which does not rely on another experience to begin with.
Where does it all come from though? Does this seem a valid question? What would an ultimate reality underneath all reality be like?
If an ultimate reality were to be speculated, it would seem to me to be not dependent on any other. No other experience should be required for it to be there.
In other words, ultimate reality is non-dual, without duality.
Qualities you may experience when reaching this understanding: your sense of self disappears, you are dissolving experience away from a separation of yourself and that which is experienced, one form of duality--you are beginning to lose a sense of separate identity as you approach this ultimate experience of reality underlying it all; your sense of time disappears, you are experiencing reality not dependent on another, where no sequencing of before or after is required since you are approaching the one experience all-pervasive, by definition one without a second, no time required for two or dual experiences; your sense of worldly concern vanishes, you experience that which allows all reality to be, where you are not present and time no longer matters, or exists--in your experiencing of this, ironically when your sense of self is not there, you are not separate from anything or anyone, you experience truth underlying and informing all existence, existence that ever was, will be, or is.
Meditation helps bring you to this understanding, and if you take notice of or recollect past meditations, you may find these qualities having been there or started to emerge.
Devotion to your own understanding of your higher power, or God, or even some general sense of the universe, which we may emotionally feel a connection to within ourselves, devotion can play a role in bringing us to these experiences of dissolving into something greater than ourselves, beyond us.
Reasoning, as briefly begun above, or even in the realms of science, quantum physics coming to mind, our minds are our pathways to these experiences of such an understanding as well.
I believe in these experiences. I have had these experiences.
I imagine that you at some point have come across these experiences in your own life too.
These are what set us on a different path of living life.
These are what give us glimpses of ourselves beyond the everyday world, of limited duality.
I think the value in all of this, you can come to explore.
I know the value in all of this informs the work I do.
May they ever be of comfort and of curiosity, such non-dual experiencing for you.
I consider this a follow-up to my previous post, where I spoke of darkness and light being a key to fuller understanding of oneself. They are the negative and positive aspects of and range of experiences of oneself, both within and without us, or outside of us.
When darkness occurs, when we experience what may be called a negative experience, we may be quick to shut off and shut down the memory and recollection of what happened. Much of this may be natural for psychological reasons, for containing a sense of self in the face of a perceived or real threat to what happened.
I spoke of embracing the mystery of life, allowing it to unfold naturally, or more naturally, as a way to work with the darkness of experiences, and by inference, the darkness of oneself.
When a negative experience occurs, part of us will always or naturally be led to wanting to understand more fully what happened, and to know why, what are the reasons it occurred.
We can come to understanding ourselves in relation to what occurred, but to understand beyond this, I might suggest the approach of embracing the mystery of life, of embracing the mystery of what occurred.
For me, and for I believe the experiential reality of others, life seems to expand and resonate more richly, be full of more light, and begin to be full of possibilities again, if we are able to allow the unknown of life, the unknown about why anything might have occurred, if we are able to get in the spirit, allow the spirit, of the vastness of the universe to be with us, as if looking at the night stars, away from city lights, into the seemingly infinite blackness of the starscape before us, where we feel small, but somehow comforted, knowing our place in the universe in this way, feeling content within ourselves, allowing a resonating and perhaps vibrating sense of energy within and with the universe, ourselves feeling peaceful and curious, perhaps spiritual and connected, not without alignment with what we see, feeling a part of this vastness, full of its space and perhaps uncommon beauty.
Darkness, in ourselves, in events that occur, contains a natural beauty, but only in the context of letting go into the unknown, into the unknown of why anything might have occurred, into the unknown where answers are not forthcoming, but we are able to tap into an understanding beyond the event, larger than the event itself, where we may get our self-referential answers of understanding, where we may feel embraced by a loving universe, the comfort and nurturing presence of it being felt as there, being felt as always there.
We are embraced in the vastness of the universe in these moments.
This we can know.
Some may align more, or try to, with the cold light of truth.
I feel it is time to speak of the love of the unknown of the darkness, however, of the love of the ongoing mystery of life, where we can feel out the answers, come to an understanding, where what we can know may never be enough for a rational and searching mind, but we can rest easy and at peace in knowing ourselves in the context of this larger scale of understanding.
We are embraced in the universe, in the night, peace, and darkness of it, in the unknown of it, where the answers of whether we are supported or not, of whether we have a place in it or not, become revealed as the mystery unfolds.
We do have a place in it, each and every one of us, but this does not come from knowing all the answers.
We must proceed unknowingly, trustingly, allowing the ever enveloping mystery of life, of the universe, to unfold. We will not know a love, on both this intimate and vastness of scale, if we do not.
Embracing the mystery of life, we allow the universe to unfold.
Everything is so green. That's what I remember thinking about a month ago now, how the winter that did not seem to let go gave way to what perhaps has been a brief spring--summer seemingly here now, although not officially yet.
If you think of experience and the personal perspective of reality to be based on a quality of awareness or consciousness, then seeing the transition from the quietness, perhaps even message of death, of winter, seeing that transition into life again, with almost a vibrancy of lush greenness in the world, from trees and plants of all kinds, this experiencing of reality can be seen to have different flavors, spring and summer being an opening, an inviting, to an understanding of expression, and giving, and a sense of the freedom of experiencing life.
Underneath what may be of concern, what may be psychologically apparent, or seemingly permanent, we all get glimpses of this consciousness, the flavors and different forms of beauty of it, whether that be the inward understandings more readily apparent in winter, or the more connective and expansive natural tendencies we might have as life returns in all its vibrant greenness to the earth during the months where the seasons are warming up.
Grateful for this time of year, may it unlock and allow us to see an expansive consciousness or awareness, opening us to the possibilities of spring, and the all but present experiencing of summer now.
Authentically connecting with others occurs when we feel safe enough to do so, and it certainly becomes a risk to be vulnerable.
We may develop personas or masks or other forms of defense about anyone actually seeing us and connecting. But, that is what we want and desire, to feel loved, and that loving connection, on a basic human level.
Here are wise words from an actor who grew up over twelve years portraying his character, both on screen and off. The words which follow his video are from author Isabel Faith Abbott, and recount her beautiful experiences in connecting with others in such an authentic way.
Isabel Faith Abbott
(Facebook timeline posting, November 2, 2016):
"I spent four hours at the airport today. There were raging storms outside and everything grounded; no taking flight. There was nowhere to go so we were just here.
I was met so completely by one who loves me and cracked open in a way unanticipated. I watched as all these humans who do not know one another gathered close to pass time and crowd toward screens to watch the World Series. I sat in the chapel with one other person and I cried and cried. For all the reasons. The most heartbreaking intimacy and privacy, to be alone together, while below we could hear the cheers from a team beating the odds. Airports are one of my favorite places. As they are a space between. No one at home so everyone belonging.
I don't know how any of us make it through really. It is all so strange to me, and beautiful. How terribly difficult it is. How we need each other. To connect. Only connect. Not promises or platitudes. Just these human bodies who in this night happened to collide here together, lines intersecting into unexpected angles.
As there was lots of time, I did what I sometimes do with an extra hour in public space. I set out a sign: 'Separate and Together. Be seen, no words needed, four minutes of uninterrupted eye contact, (because we are both human and it helps something real to only connect)'. And I sat there, no real need or agenda.
And what happened, as is often the case, fed me and delighted me and held out a hand of what is possible when we don't try to figure anything out and just stay in the strange mystery of all of us here in this space on an unexpectedly warm night in November. I sat and wordlessly looked into the eyes of many different humans. They would come up and usually laugh uncomfortably and then sit down and I would set a timer. How vulnerable and unfinished and lost we are, how afraid and complicated and beautiful. We laughed. We cried. We said not a thing and instead lived in that place where no one knows what comes next. It is quiet and real and magnificent.
Tonight was a really good night to be here alive, human, paused in the passing through."
Mark Newlon, feeling the embrace of the sacred feminine daily!
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