Sunday, April 25, 2010
“Just learn how to see, and you will know whatever it is that you need to see”. Recently, I have encountered a new way of thinking. Of course, the IDEA of “enlightenment” I’ve heard before, but never has it been explained to me like this. It’s a concept of expanding consciousness, of moving beyond what we would refer to as intellectual thinking or simply incorporating the rational mind to examine the world according to your personal condition (environment, place of birth, life experiences, etc).
Richard Rohr, the great spiritualistic teacher, is the one who has brought non-dualistic thinking into my field of vision. The quote in the above paragraph is his, and it comes from his book The Naked Now. I am writing this blog as a beginning and as a BEGINNER to what I hope will be a lifetime journey of looking at the world in a completely different way. Now, this is not some personal organized religious conversion I’m experiencing. When it comes to that god, I am an atheist. I can not believe in a man made god and its right or wrong, do this don’t do that, heaven or hell dualistic dogma. Truth is truth no matter where it may be found. Rohr talks about that at great length, and does not leave out any of the world’s ideologies in his search.
“One truth, many expressions”. If we would all be honest with ourselves, what most of us are looking for in life is our own way to express the truth, more so than the truth itself. Most of us have a basic idea of what is right and what is wrong. However, the INTELLECT, the rational mind, the left brain, can play many tricks on us through the process of interpretation. The truth becomes so convoluted in a globalized society that before you know it, everyone has their own ego-based version of the path, and anyone else be damned if they attempt to mess with it. Rohr points out that throughout history, this has gotten us absolutely nowhere. It is dualistic thinking. It becomes “I’m right and you’re wrong, and there is no negotiating”.
I was able to attend a retreat this weekend where I heard Rohr speak, and, in many ways, I have heard his ideas before, as we all have. The reason is that there is a common thread through world thinking and thinkers of THE truth. The question then becomes: How do we perceive the truth? What lens do we use to attempt to see it and why? Is it to satisfy some part of our own ego? Rohr answers that oftentimes that is the case. This can just as easily apply to people who believe they’re being radical and courageous by stepping out from the mainstream. Not that this is wrong, in fact it is encouraged as it becomes the way we change our world. However, contrarian thinking can be an ego trip just as much as it can for our mainstream newsertainment personalities who enjoy being in the spotlight.
So what exactly do we mean when we refer to “non-dualistic thinking”? I will be the first to say I don’t have all the answers to that. If I did have all the answers, then I wouldn’t even be on the PATH to non-dualistic thought. Once you feel you KNOW everything about this way of thinking, you probably haven’t even begun. I DO know some basic starting points that I learned from the book and Rohr’s speech.
Non-dualistic thought is not only a new way of being open-minded, it becomes the highest level of consciousness that you can attain. It is the ability to see with what Rohr calls the “third eye”. (The Indian or Hindu “Bindi” is perhaps the most well known symbol of this level of enlightenment). It enables us to think beyond “either/or” dualities. It’s the humility to admit you’re wrong, to be willing to change, to examine the viewpoint and take the good from that of the other. It’s a win/win way of thought vs. “survival of the fittest”. It’s not “us vs. them”, but WE. In the end, it’s love, justice, empathy, compassion, equality.
This non-dualistic way of thinking often comes to us in certain situations in life. Without a previous awareness, we may not even know we’re experiencing it. I felt it during my car accident when I had peace amidst the chaos after opening my eyes, realizing my leg was shattered and that I was upside down and bleeding profusely. I have experienced it recently though other times of suffering with my divorce a couple of years ago, an uncertain future in my lifelong radio career, and shaky finances as a result. Some of the most creative work mankind has produced is a result of adversity. This is what happens when we think non-dualistically. We just BECOME. WE ARE. We act as nature intended us to act, in the NOW and not through the filter of pre-conceived notions. In fact, it can often happen in times of great love or great suffering. It becomes a moment(s) of clarity, although it is fleeting if you try to make it solid and something that you can grasp with the intellectual side of your mind…your left brain.
Now, this is not to say that by moving our consciousness forward that we are to give up all rational thought. No, rational thought is quite necessary to get us to the place of this level of consciousness. We NEED to bounce back to our rational mind to allow the entry of the raw data that we then process with our non-dualistic way of thought. You can’t take a situation requiring justice, such as Israel/Palestine, and not know the basic rational facts surrounding the situation. Where non-dualistic thought can start is by acquiring your facts from different sources. Blindly following one person or ideology for your interpretation is dualistic. You have already decided that what you see is the “right way”. You are not open to other potentially applicable information.
Non-dualistic thinking by nature involves change. One of the hardest things a person can do after much intellectual experience is to begin again on a different path. However, a non-dualistic mind will go to any length to acquire the truth. The third eye sees that our primary mission on this earth is love. If some system of thought begins to repress, oppress, or step on the other, then our intellectualism has become dualistic. We must re-examine, and if necessary, start over.
My path to non-dualism is beginning and will be a constant journey throughout my life. I have many questions. For example, how do we not take sides and become dualistic in what seems like an obvious case of injustice in places such as Palestine? I think one way of looking at it is to say: “is there an absence of love”? Obviously, in the case of Palestine there is an extreme lack of love and justice. However, we can practice non-dualism by realizing that all of humanity is valuable. The Israelis are every bit as human as the Palestinians. The much HARDER process is enacting non-dualistic thought in the real world. This particular Middle Eastern situation is exemplary because while YOU may hope to obtain a win/win for all involved, both sides are firmly entrenched in their position. However, that doesn’t mean that you stop thinking in terms of love for all vs. love for one side. No one “wins” in that scenario. What happens is that the ongoing cycle of violence and hate that is so much a part of dualistic thought continues. As a human race, we have never grasped the idea of non-dualistic thought. If we had, there would be no war and no bigotry, homophobia, racism, oppression or sexism.
Rohr and other great spiritualists like him have warned us about becoming TOO wrapped up in “having a cause”. If you’re not careful, that “cause”, however justified it might be, can become oppressive when you’re trying to avoid oppression. Obviously, this can grate an activist like me. But what Rohr is referring to is “taking sides” and therefore refusing to show love for all. Great love is non-dualistic. It is an important statement for all of us to remember as we begin.
Non-dualism can be found in all the advanced teachings of the world’s great traditions. The problem is that it becomes so easy to revert to dualistic thought when someone challenges you. I have quite often been guilty of this. The ego suddenly re-appears, the third eye closes, and the battle begins. There is no good to come of these kinds of situations. Until we learn to see with the third eye, to practice non-dualistic thought and balance it with our rational mind, we will never experience true peace and true love. I hope you decide to attempt the journey. I’m right at the start along with you.