A few thoughts about Non Duality
I recently cranked out another chapter in my newest book, which, by the bye, is coming out by July of next year, this chapter concerning Non Duality.
It’s, to me anyway, and odd little concept, and easily misunderstood.
Let’s begin with duality.
A way of thinking of duality is that one only knows something as it is compared to its opposite — sort of ‘this’ / ‘not this.’
For example, take height. Short and tall are relative concepts. In other words, there is no characteristic ‘tall’ that is a part of what is being described. To put this another way, Michael Jordan is tall - compared to the ‘national average,’ and to those shorter than he is. He is short compared to people taller than he.
This flies in the face of the deep western desire to label things — to come up with a rigid list — and (most important! — a permanent list.
Thus, in duality, there are ONLY opposites — good OR bad, right OR wrong, tall OR short.
Non duality is not at all interested in lists. Non dual thinking is that all things are everything, all the extremes and everything else in between.
Westerners try to sneak around the concept of non duality by saying, “I’m not a blank and white thinker. After all, things are really shades of gray.”
Many people I know tend to see themselves as ‘free thinkers.’ In a sense, they are fixated on ‘free thinking’ just as firmly as someone who thinks there is only one answer. Example; atheists have just as much faith in their belief as do the ‘theists’ they are criticizing.
on the other hand, (he writes with a smirk) is about loosening ones grip on one note being. Life becomes a dance. You notice that you are judging, labelling, boxing things up, and you have a breath and let go of the definitions. In this letting go process, your experience expands, and you see that whatever is going on has many aspects, all equally true.
Now, to western minds, that can sound an awful lot like “anything goes.” And in a sense, it is, as anything is how things are.
The other day, I was watching a friend get her shorts in a knot over office politics. She was upsetting herself, and she really wanted everyone else to ‘see the light.’
In other words, to see it her way.
I was thinking that they probably felt the same about her view.
This Leads to Several Approaches
- One approach to this is to fight to get others to accept your view as right.
- Another approach is to complain and give up.
- A third approach is to accept that ‘everything goes, and here I go.’ Non duality accepts that this is the way it is. Different views, each seen as ‘right’ by the holder. I choose to act as I choose to act, without reference to lists or to the behaviour of others.
Or, as Gandhi put it,
“You must be the change you want to see in the world.”
Far too often, all we hear are lectures about what’s wrong, bad, stupid. I would much rather see an example of elegant, full bodied, dedicated, and clear living.
Gandhi again: “Always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed. Always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well.”
Notice that the three harmonious states (thought, word, deed) are personal. Purifying your thoughts is non-dual thinking — not right, not wrong, but rather, ‘thought.’
The Tao — Embracing the Non-Duality
Here’s the first line of the Tao te Ching:
1. The Way (the Tao) that can be followed is not the eternal Way.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the origin of heaven and earth
While naming is the origin of the myriad things.
Therefore, always desireless, you see the mystery
Ever desiring, you see the manifestations.
These two are the same—
When they appear they are named differently.
This sameness is the mystery,
Mystery within mystery;
The door to all marvels.
The Dao differentiates between naming and being. Notice, however, that there is no sense that one state is better than the other.
What’s being said is this: The Tao (we might think ‘cosmic, creative, unseen energy) is that which brings the universe about. This universe has substance, but lacks definition. Naming (labelling, judging) brings about ‘thing-ness’ — stuff exists, as soon as it is labeled, as separate items.
Example: A baby has no separateness and identity until a parent pokes it and says, “You are Susie!” In western thought, differentiation from parent is a key task of infancy. This is done by labeling, “me, not me.”
When we are desireless, we see the energy’s flow everywhere. When we desire, we fixate on the thing we desire, and the essence of ‘all else’ goes background.
Here’s the joke (the mystery.) When we name or desire, nothing essential has changed. Essence (the Tao) is there all the time, like Muzak in an elevator. When we drop the naming and desiring, we fall into the essence.
It’s a game. That’s all.
I mentioned a few issues ago the “Complaint Free World Campaign.” The book and bracelets arrived last week. The idea is simple. If you complain, gossip, or criticize out loud, you move your purple bracelet to the other arm. The goal is to go 21 days without complaining.
My favourite moment so far: I was working on the computer and something happened, and I complained out loud to the computer!
Anyway, I’m finding that I’m down to one or two ‘slips’ a day. At this rate, I’m guessing 3 months to get to 21 days in a row.
Now, here’s the part I interest myself over. Yesterday, I found myself writing snippy, abrupt e‑mails, something I don’t do much. I notice, today, I’m feeling hard-done-by. Annoyed. At the same time, I’m feeling much more at peace, as I study and write about stuff I like, as I hang out with Dar during the snowstorm. It’s almost as if my ‘ego’ is noticing this additional ‘calm,’ and is tossing in more drama.
So far, I have held these experiences together, at the same time, and just let them be. I am unaware of judging what I am doing. On the other hand, I am labelling what I am doing. One is one thing, the other is the other, and this is what I am doing. Until I choose something else.
You are not a ‘one way, one note’ being. You are whoever and whatever you choose, whatever and whoever you turn your attention to. And at the same time, you are also everything else you are — this stuff is simply ‘in the background.’
Perhaps the best seasonal gift you can give yourself is to appreciate the mystery, and dedicate yourself to harmony of thought, word, and deed.
It’s certainly One Way…