The biography of your senses

Call it non-duality, call it Advaita, call it whatever you want. If the present is all we ever have, why do we feel so lonely?

BY SMADAR DE LANGE — Three top tropes of the New Age are “interconnectedness”, “oneness” and the general notion that ‘reality’ has different ‘levels’, or frames — say, like a video game or the TV series Lost. The buzzwords are sign-posts: they point to a reality that is not ordinarily perceived in the realm of our work-a-day world.

The perennial question, What is reality? — what a concept — dogs us because we humans have always resided on a plane of interconnectedness and non-duality, yet we experience isolation and separateness as facts of life. But loneliness and the pangs you feel, say, after a break-up do not imply that oneness isn’t the prevailing baseline of your existence.

Think of your experience of separateness like the settings on your phone or TV remote. Loneliness and abandonment are content loaded by an arbitrary set of inputs, the biography of our senses and psychological inputs.

Having said that, the true grit of our daily perceptions does not make them less real — one might even say that the opposite is true.

But in the consensual reality we share in our day-to-day office space, our perception is partial. The whole of what you can perceive is constantly streaming into you through a wider spectrum. This is what spiritual teachers call, “non-duality”.

Byron Katie explains the phrase at book-length in a practically-unknown title called, Losing the Moon.

The premise of non-duality is that there is no need to strive towards achievement of reaching a place which is different from where one already is.

In fact, “achievement” takes one further away from being at one with one’s birth-right, the experiencing of the realm of non-duality.

The biggest obstacle that stands between one’s experience of separateness and interconnectedness is one’s own mind — an instrument designed mostly for survival tasks.

That’s the main reason there is such a huge marketplace of techniques, magazines, videos — and let it be said, websites — applied to working with the mind.

Madhyamika tradition (Mahayana Buddhism) generated many of the techniques that have informed some of the clearest minds. One approach involves working with opposites, a practice designed to free one from the domination of the mind.

Byron Katie, a modern non-dualist, also works with the techniques of opposites: She calls it a turnaround.

Using the turnaround technique, you dig under a feeling or thought-form that arises in the mind such as, “I am angry at you” — and discover that its opposite might be equally true in a turnaround variation such as, “you are angry at me” and “my thought is angry at myself”.

Krishnamurti, one of the great spiritual teachers of the 20th century, also emphasized the concept of opposites.

He explained that the root of one concept, thought or feeling lay in its mirror opposite. Thus, the opposites are connected and depend upon each other.

When one wants to be free from one opposite, the path to freedom would not be the other opposite but seeing through the opposites — seeing that all is bound by a common fabric of intelligence and knowingness.

The phrase evoked most often by non-dual teachers and practitioners = what is. It invites us to be at peace with a deep acceptance to what is — being in the experience without the interpretations the mind applies to what happens.

Another practice for slicing through paradoxes and polar opposites is allowing a fierce clarity that sees things as they are, free of preconceptions, beliefs and ideas.

One of Katie’s seminal phrases in the book, Losing the Moon is: “I believe nothing about you — that is love”.

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In relationships, when one sees the other with no preconceptions, ideas and beliefs — that is true love.

Smadar is a gifted intuitive and somatic therapist who has 14 years of training in transpersonal psychology and spiritual advancement. She is currently completing her doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology at Santa Barbara’s Pacifica Graduate Institute.

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