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.
Mark Newlon, feeling the embrace of the sacred feminine daily!
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