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Sharing the insights I discover as I explore and experience the mystery that is our reality. Join me in my journey and share yours.




Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Knowing Nonduality





Some things can't be truly known or realized by means of the intellect but  must be known through direct experience. Consider the phenomenon of being in love.  You might try explaining to a friend what this condition feels like. The butterflies in your stomach, the tingling sensations of spontaneous goosebumps as he who holds your affection touches your skin. The longing for your partner when he isn't with you.


You can try explaining all of these sensations and feelings to others in hopes that they will be able to "get it". That they will be able to truly understand what you mean when you speak of your being in love. But try as you might, they never really will "get it" unless they decide to plunge into the tides of human experience and taste that reality for themselves.


Language is very limiting. Especially towards such profound and abstract experiences like being in love. That is why every culture blooms with song and prose using elaborate and sensual imagery in hopes to capture the sentiments associated with this profound condition. Metaphors and symbolism are used to express the full power of desire, the taste of union when our hearts melt into our lover's. We can find songs both ancient and newly conceived that attempt to capture this state in such a way that those hearing can relate. Sometimes it's the instrumental pieces that contain no lyrics at all that express it in a way where words fail. Without words that can mislead they put forth  haunting melodies capturing heartache and loss, thunderous crescendos revealing climax, light and playful notes strung together to have our senses view the merry tango of souls courting one another. It's almost like we feel we are there...almost...

And so too, it is with the spiritual experience. There comes a time when words simply fall short. When one who has experienced a particular state of consciousness or spiritual reality will attempt to share that account with another but find his audience looking back at him with a vacant or bewildered expression. When a concept seems too "big" for the mind to wrap itself around and understand by means of the intellect.

This can especially be the case when it comes to those who have had their soul's palate be whet with the foretaste of nonduality and still more for those who have dived far enough below the ego's multi-layered garments to shake them off entirely, leaving the eternal core within naked and exposed, blazing with a light that outshines a thousand suns.


I am currently reading "Introducing Ken Wilber: Concepts for an Evolving World" by Lew Howard.  In his chapter on nonduality, Howard  notes that reading descriptions of nondual awareness can often seem like a paradox to those who haven't experienced this state of awareness themselves.  He echos Wilber's emphasis that those that have journeyed through the laboratory of the consciousness, personally unwrapping their own layers of ego and exploring the Self within, have left us with descriptions.  Seekers from all of the world's religions have sought the Self that lies buried at the core of our consciousness and their experiences can illuminate the path before us but we still have to walk down it ourselves. Their descriptions provide a layout of the land, of the different layers, stages and states of consciousness that must be traversed. To see this land for ourselves we must set out on our own journey into the mind via the method of meditation.

To get an idea of what one experiences in a nondual state, this is one of Wilber's descriptions of what it's like. Just as a note, the term Witness that Wilber uses is synonymous with Self:


"Everything continues to arise moment to moment—the entire Kosmos continues to arise moment to moment—but there is nobody watching the display, there is just the display, a spontaneous and luminous gesture of great perfection. The pure Emptiness of the Witness turns out to be one with every Form that is witnessed, and that is one of the basic meanings of “nonduality.”
 …the real world is given to you once, immediately—it is one feeling, it has one taste, it is utterly full in the one taste, it is not severed into seer and seen, subject and object, fragment and fragment. … Real experience, before you slice it up, does not contain that duality—real experience, reality itself, is ‘nondual.’ You are still you, and the mountain is still the mountain but you and the mountain are two sides of one and the same experience, which is the one and only reality at that moment.”
~ Ken Wilber, as quoted in, Introducing Ken Wilber:Concepts for an Evolving World (Kindle Locations 4703-4706). AuthorHouse. Kindle Edition.

If this doesn't make sense to you don't be disappointed! To most of us it doesn't. It takes training of the mind and a determination towards the spiritual discipline of meditation to begin to experience such a state of consciousness. To really understand the nondual state one has to realize it experientially and not just try to grasp what it is about through means of one's mind. "The Self cannot be known through study of the scriptures, nor through intellect, Nor through hearing discourses about it it...The Self cannot be known by anyone who desists not from unrighteous ways, controls not the senses, stills not the mind, and practices not meditation." (Katha Upanishad 2.23a-24a)

It was my intention to share one of the meditations I have enjoyed incorporating into my spiritual practices that has helped me disidentify with my ego and begin to taste the nondual state. I feel because of it's length it would make this post too long so I will share it in the next post. There are many paths to the same destination.  Wilber notes that seekers from all of the different religions in the form of their mystics have developed ways of meditating which aid individuals  ascribing to those religions in experiencing such a state of oneness with God/universe/reality (whatever is one's perspective!).   One just has to pick which path calls out to them and pursue it with passion and dedication.

Thoughts? I'd love to hear them! Please leave them in the Comments Section. Thank you!

35 comments:

  1. Lovely. Thank you for sharing that.

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    1. You're welcome. Glad you enjoyed it! :)

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  2. Great post, Jessica!

    It's like the Tao Te Ching says...we can talk all we want about truth, but it's not real truth. Real is living, real is experiencing. Awareness can be conceptualized and discussed, but unless you're really doing it, you can't really understand it or appreciate it.

    There's nothing wrong with talking about nonduality, of course, because communicating it to others can help them, if they're open to the idea, but this post is a reminder for me to forget about the concepts, and get with the experience :D

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    1. Very good point JR...Dialogue can definitely be fruitful when discussing abstract concepts like nonduality. But when it comes to actually realizing this reality, or any other reality really, it's necessary to take the leap ourselves into experience and away from the intellect.

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  3. “When one who has experienced a particular state of consciousness or spiritual reality will attempt to share that account with another but find his audience looking back at him with a vacant or bewildered expression.” This line brought a chuckle to my soul. And don’t I know the ineffable!

    A mystical occurrence during a spiritual retreat… when I later tried to tell a pastor what happened, how even a dogwood tree communicated with me, I could tell he was trying hard to hide his thoughts of “Where did this Crazy woman come from?” He smiled politely and said, “No, I’ve never experienced anything like that.” Trying so hard to conceal his real thoughts ;-) So I learned not to share too much, as folks who don’t understand will deem you CRAZY.
    Check you tomorrow, friend.

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    1. Oh I've certainly got more than one of those looks before! I can totally relate. :) Thanks for stopping by and sharing Debra. I look forward to your return visit! ~blessings

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  4. I agree that there are concepts out there that are just too `big` to articulate in words. Sometimes we just have to peel them off layer by layer to get to the core.

    Great post Jessica!

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  5. I got the message again today that my now and your now, Rumi’s now and Meister Eckhart’s now, are the same now. What a wonderfully complicated confusion! I never need to know the end. I can’t ever point to, “this is my ignorance, and over there is where I had a spiritual experience.”

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    1. For sure...now is now. :) Thanks for stopping by Ed...hope you've been well. ~ blessings

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  6. It makes me think of music. There are experiences I've felt that would take pages of books to explain, but are clearly expressed in a line of song. Thank you for sharing this bit with us. There are a lot of things in this world that we just know but can't understand, and it's quite healthy to remind ourselves of this paradox. :)

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    1. So true Nikki...music is a wonderful medium of helping to express the seemingly inexpressible! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

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  7. Hi Jessica:
    A few things you said here interested me:
    --There comes a time when words simply fall short. When one who has experienced a particular state of consciousness or spiritual reality will attempt to share that account with another but find his audience looking back at him with a vacant or bewildered expression.
    This has happened to me on several occasions. What with my worldview being different then many others I've run into quite a few people who have challenged my opinions on various matters. My Dad and I have gotten into some heated discussions on several occasions. I've learned now not to being up some of my beliefs when I visit him on Martha's Vineyard now.

    --Seekers from all of the world's religions have sought the Self that lies buried at the core of our consciousness and their experiences can illuminate the path before us but we still have to walk down it ourselves.
    I've found the best way to find peace, to find my spirit is through quiet time. Typically before I drift off to sleep I reflect on my day and spend some time meditating. Meditation is an amazing experience and it not only helps keep me centered but relaxes me so I can sleep more deeply.
    --
    Chris

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    1. Chris...It definitely can be challenging when one doesn't "get" you...when talking about any kind of experience you wish to convey. But when you are challenged and perhaps criticized for profound spiritual experiences, that can be more than challenging...That's why it's so great to find people who will just listen, receptively without judgment and with interest. I felt really blessed to be able to finally meet with you and Cathy...you are two people I felt very open to sharing things with...Thank you for being that kind of friend! :)

      I definitely value the power and opportunity quiet time brings! A rare gem for me these days...having two young kids that are always seeking attention. But when I do find it, and am still awake to enjoy it, I value it greatly. It brings peace and focus.

      ~ Take care :)

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  8. Feeling and knowing are pretty much what life is about as far as I'm concerned. No one can truly explain their feelings on anything, especially if the other person has never experienced what they speak about. Like trying to explain rain to a person who has never seen or felt it. Great post dear Melissa, <3<3<3

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    1. Great point Jan...Thanks for stopping by. :) Btw...I think you are getting me and my soul sis Melissa mixed up! ;)

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  9. I am intrigued and look forward to hearing more. It only becomes more and more clear how little we understand about each other's experiences with every passing year.

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    1. So true...It's hard enough to understand our own experiences sometimes! Thanks for stopping by Rachel, I look forward to sharing more with you. :)

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  10. I wonder when I look at a mountain is it looking back at me in awe? I find nondual as nonsensical. But I find the way it's going is good just not there yet.

    "Are we there yet? Are we there yet?"

    "No! It is nondual and you are being nonsensical in thinking we are when you know we are not!"

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    1. Thanks A for stopping by...Trying to wrap my mind around your comment! ;) Maybe I need to drink more coffee this morning! lol...Nondual can seem nonsensical to those who haven't experienced it...Ah..but the things some do in the name for love can seem quite the same...but for those of us that have found ourselves in that condition understand full well the motivations behind the acts! :)

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  11. Forgot to put...

    A

    so you know it was I who was being a real duality type :)

    A again

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  12. I am grateful that each of us has a path of our own and that there is no pressure to "be" like others. I have confidence in my path, my daily living, knowing that I'm in sync with my life. I didn't quite grasp the duality concept but I've learned long ago not to blow my mind on such things. The more one obsesses and worries about spiritual matters the murkier the water gets. Best to let the water settle in order to see more clearly.
    Lovely post Jessica!

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    1. "Best to let the water settle in order to see more clearly."

      That is so true Leah! When we strain our eyes and minds to see things it's often the times when we miss exactly what we are aiming at trying to see or understand. When we just simply let ourselves be, that's when everything starts coming together more and understanding dawns in our awareness. We are no longer looking in the direction of where we perceive our desired object rests...Instead when we relax the muscles of our eyes (or mind depending on what we are talking about) we begin to see the entire landscape and that which we are looking for arises naturally.

      When it comes to nonduality, nobody can really "try" for this state, it just happens. After some time of meditation, and learning to be fully aware in the present, to be an observer to one's thoughts, emotions and all that arises, one just has a realization that there is no separation between subject and object. All is one. It makes no sense most likely for those who haven't experienced it...And that's okay. This is what this post was about...It's something that can only really be understood through experience, not through trying to wrap our minds around. Just like being in love.

      Thanks for stopping by. :)

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    2. @Leah: Your comment reminds me of a favorite quote by Lao Tzu, “Muddy water, let stand, becomes clear.”

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    3. Great quote Linda...Thanks! :)

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  13. I feel a spirituality when there is real engagement in a conversation or when you get lost in music or art. I love feeling another person and bearing witness to their being.

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    1. Margaret...Thank you for sharing your reflections...Those are great examples of meaningful spiritual experiences... I appreciate you stopping by. :)

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  14. I remember when an important Spiritual teacher told me, "Linda, you need to stop talking about it and start meditating everyday. Not some days. Or most days. Every day." Everything changed. That's what your post reminds me of. XO

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    1. I definitely can notice a difference when I am more regular in my practices. I find myself a lot more centered in the present moment. Life doesn't always cooperate but consistency is vital to progress when it comes to spiritual pursuits...and really all other areas as well! Thanks for stopping by Linda...I always appreciate your thoughts and reactions. :)

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  15. Yes, Jessica, words don't capture that feeling of oneness with the Other where we simply "are". So filled . . . so filled . . .
    Thank you for this insightful and inspiring post to urge everyone into discovering the non-duality and be open to the path upon which their souls are leading them.
    Blessings to you!

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    1. That sense of oneness is beautiful, isn't it. :) Thank you Martha for stopping by!

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  16. You know I slept a whole lot while O'Murchu shared his thoughts LOL...

    I got myself an SD to share my soul's deepest secrets. Sadly, not even he could understand everything. He could only be there to guide the motions of my Spirit.

    This post led me to think of JR's guest post here. When you share something that to my mind I cannot understand fully, I allow my heart to read and everything becomes simpler. I guess because most of the time, we use our heads when we speak of God. I guess 'knowing' is more profound that that...

    I think I understood Ken's words of nonduality through St. Francis of Assisi's experience of contemplation. It is both a grace and a gift to achieve such unity. And if we do, everything in this world will make sense :)

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    1. *more profound than that :P

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    2. I always love your reflections Melissa, thanks for sharing them. Contemplative prayer is one means in which this experience can be brought about. We are fortunate to have along history of men and women that through their words of wisdom can inspire and help guide us down the path of contemplation-like St. Francis, Teresa of Avila...and Thomas Merton, one of my favorites. :)

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    3. This blog is very interesting.
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