Having explained some of the relationship between dualism and non-dualism, what they look like, and how they pan out in the real world, now I’d like to look at ways in which we can sophisticate and increase functioning using non-dual philosophy and through getting into non-dual states of consciousness.
As Lao Tzu points out in the Tao Te Ching, if you want to understand others, you must first understand yourself, and so I think it will be most useful if we begin with ourselves. Most of us are perpetually distracted at this point in time and space, Earth in 2016, so it seems reasonable to engage in behaviors which will slow down the drama, pull the vibrations down to a comfortable frequency and allow us to take stock of ourselves and our surroundings. Basic awareness without significant cognitive processing or abstracting seems to allow for this reflective state, and the best way I’ve found to get into such a state is listening meditation.
You can approach a listening meditation by simply sitting comfortably and allowing your ears to hear whatever sounds they wish to hear, and by letting your breath go as it wills. There is really nothing you can do to bring this state about, rather, it is in the absence of trying that it presents itself.
Taking conscious breaths in situations of stress tends to defuse the sort of wobbly and hesitant action that arises out of the resulting emotional turmoil. One can become conscious of the breath in an infinity of ways, but two useful methods are to watch the breath as it passes over the end of the nostrils, and to watch the movement of the diaphragm just under the rib cage, which rises and falls with each breath.
From here, the goal is ever-increasing awareness. To come into a state of clear apprehension of that which is, internally and externally. Since we pay so much attention to the outside or external world and so little to the inner landscapes, it seems fruitful to devote slightly more time to exploring how your experience feels to you, from the inside. What are the qualities of your feeling, or your perception, your seeing, tasting and hearing themselves? What are the qualities of your emotional movements? Your mental movements? What are they in relation to? Are there distinct patterns? Is there strain or tension?
In this way, so on and so forth, one can wordlessly direct attention to these aspects of being, allowing the experience and the understanding and all other desired outcomes to simply arise from the attention itself being focused or held on the chosen point.
This is a form of focusing not unlike the Yogic systems of chakras, wherein one’s attention is directed to centers or clusters of nervous activity in the body, where mantras (repetitious chanting of phrases and syllables) are done along with visualization and deep breathing. Other forms of Yogic breathing exercises such as Pranayama can help one get the feel for concentration and intensely focused states of mind.
It may be worth pulling back for a moment to discuss human potential. I am of the opinion that the potential of every human nervous system to become sensitive, focused and intelligent is, in fact, infinite. All limitations, bar the gross physical (disease, mutation, disfigurement), are self-imposed, meaning that they are directly related to the process of identification.
The mind constructs a sentence such as “I am introverted” or “I am not extroverted”, and then identifies with this sentence, this linguistic, symbolic representation of a wordless and unspeakable experience. Then, experience is sorted into the categories of “Agrees with above sentence” or “Does not agree with above sentence”. Those experiences which are seen as reinforcing the proposition are felt as “good” or “normal” experiences, and those which do not conform to it are felt as “bad” or “strange.”
Through this process, we delineate a character which we then come to assume to be our innermost, fundamental self. But, when one sees the process by which this structure is hastily erected, it becomes laughable that one could in fact get at oneself purely through abstracting and sorting experience into labelled boxes. So, we must see that this identification process, when taken seriously, is the same thing as limiting oneself, as stopping oneself from growing by placing arbitrary walls in place of that growth.
So then, the ground of growth is mental relaxation of the process of identification, of the constant naming and sorting of experience. From this basis of no-thought, or wu-shin as the Chinese put it, we can begin to feel non-verbally into the qualities of our experience as described in the techniques listed above. This simple looking, an act of awareness similar to that which the Sufi people of Islam call “deep listening”, appears to me to be the beginning of genuine intelligence and wisdom. Without this basic ability to observe non-verbally, one is like a buoy tossed about on the waves of ideology, symbolism and representation, restricted to trading others’ explanations and falling prey to the blind spots of their authors.
In coming to this feeling of no-mind, one can come to sense deeply that this clarity and emptiness is, in fact, characteristic of all beings, and that it underlies all the apparent restlessness of the ordinary mind. In this way, one may see through the dramatic constructs of the ego and character, the personality, into the spaciousness that lies just behind. It is this that we must see in the eyes of the policemen who disperse our rallies, and it is this that we must feel deeply in our experiences of bankers, politicians, war-makers, the hatefully religious, and the bigoted everywhere.
We have spent decades appealing to these beings on the level of personality and character, but it should be obvious that what we represent as hippies, beats, doofers, ravers, lovers, freaks and weirdos is the very antithesis, the very death, of the character structures of the straights, the squares, bank tellers, insurance salesmen, generals, prime ministers and so on, and that they are rightly terrified of losing what they assume to be themselves into this apparently chaotic movement.
So then, to expect to change through personality the personality itself appears to be for the most part a dead-end. We may try simply drawing the attention of those we deem as squares to the fact of their own existences, to the feeling of awareness itself, without couching it in the language and aesthetic of the counterculture. We are often far too obvious in the way that we pattern, and although this is freedom of expression, freedom of expression is not in and of itself necessarily a positive. Murder is an expression of freedom, and though I am in no way comparing the two, the principle is the same: without wisdom, what is expressed freely is likely to be in some way damaging.
The question we must ask ourselves is this; can we put aside our affectations, our particular comforts, our aesthetic sensibilities, in favor of opening the lines of communication between ourselves as freaks and ourselves as the straight-edge and work-conscious other? I believe we can, and if there is any lesson we may learn from the sixties it is that our visibility was in no small part our downfall. We were so busy being us, to paraphrase Ram Dass, that we became obvious to them, and that set up another dualism that we simply couldn’t undo, the results of which ended in Reaganomics and the upsurge of thoughtless consumerism that characterized the eighties and nineties.
We must then recognize that the same process of identification that we described taking place within the self is also taking place in the larger self of culture and human interaction, and that the same rules apply: to the extent that I identify, I keep myself and others stuck in the dramatic modes of being to which I and they have become accustomed. We may say that action that originates from concepts, as opposed to action that originates from awareness, is inherently frustrating and self-perpetuating. As long as I know the world mainly in terms of my ideas about it, I will be drawn into frustration and recurring behaviors which are ultimately unfulfilled.
Now, there is a quick method to getting rid of most of the impediments around realizing or sensing or feeling or coming into an experience of the world as a unity, to seeing that emptiness is precisely form and form precisely emptiness. I think we have established a good case for the merit of such a state of consciousness, but most people are asking, “well, how do I get it?”
The thing to understand is that there is nothing to understand, and no-one here to understand it. The you that you take yourself to be is necessarily symbolic, as the way that you know it is through talking about it, to yourself, inside your head. It is a representation of a reality which you cannot deviate from, and it is awareness of this very inescapable presence that dissolves the apparently sticky ego.
The you that is reading this sentence is not the same you that reads the next. The you that reads this sentence is not the same you that read the last one. Simply put, what are you experiencing right now? What is it when you don’t bother to name it? Listen to that suchness, the being-ness of the world around you, within you and without you.
This emptiness of self is perhaps the seed of compassion. When one is clear, there is room for another to dwell, to come into your self, to have relationship, whereas when one is full of their self, there is only enough room for that self to dwell.
In a certain sense, enlightenment is the only game in town. You are already in the state of nirvana, in fact there is nothing you can do to deviate from it. To become profoundly aware of this is the coming of awareness to the present moment, and the awareness of this present moment is nirvana.
It is important to recognize that this is not an achievement, or a form of success, or something that can be had, held or attained, for the simple fact that there is nothing to be had, and no one to have it. One can deepen this awareness with practice and meditative action, to the extent that one doesn’t take the practices and methods seriously, or assume that there is a permanent or consistent “I” doing them or benefiting from them.
I hope that the above is in some sense useful to anyone wondering about whether or not there is some practical aspect to the philosophies of the East, as to whether these things are really useful alternatives to the ego-based, conceptual, planning modes of action and thought espoused by the commercial West and its pseudo-charitable institutions. I certainly believe there is, and that these modes are in fact far better suited to the type of universe we are inhabiting now, and hopefully will continue to do so in the future.
Comments and questions are encouraged, thank-you for your time. 🙂