This article was inspired by the Advaita sage Rameshi Balsekar after a visit to his home in Mumbai.
I will never forget the compassion which radiated from this man; his teachings on duality and impermanence will be forever with me.
As spiritual seekers, so often we are told: gaining mastery over our ego will promise liberation and promotion into the ‘oneness division’. What a lovely idea, but can we crack the safe of spirituality, and drink from the fountain of enlightenment, in practical terms?
The good news is: it doesn’t matter if it’s your first or millionth step down the path of self discovery, liberation can be yours…
The very moment you think about duality, you inevitably fall slave to its grip. Why, because when ‘you’ think about ‘something’ you immediately enter into a subject object relationship. First there is your thoughts and feelings and then there is the subject matter. It is this dual way of looking at things which creates the concept of duality. As human beings: with a name, identity, body and a mind, it can be very difficult to accept anything less than a dual existence. But, what is this ego we are constantly trying to sleigh anyway? It can all get very confusing. Without a ‘me’, where would ‘I’ be, is a question which may spring to mind? And how frustrating for you: to spend your time, attempting to dissolve that very part of you which hopes to embrace a state of none existence. Are you with me?
Yet, in daily living, it is possible to bathe in a state of bliss; transcendence is something you can experience on a regular and reoccurring basis. You do not have to wait until you are encompassed by a Golden Buddha or until you find yourself permanently surrounded by the warm, hazy glow of luminosity. Such states, nice as they sound, remain elusive for most of us. So, it is nice to know that whatever you have been seeking is already within you. It was there even before you began looking. Call it: Soul Consciousness, Buddha Nature, Coming Home or whatever you like. You already are what you seek! The veil of duality is immediately lifted the moment you realise this for yourself – albeit for a split second. Each titbit of realisation like this, those ‘Aha’ moments, are like road signs pointing you in the right direction. Pretty soon, through earnest practice and inquiry, you will notice such moments pave the way to your own personal nirvana. As small and insignificant as they may seem, every moment that you fill with acceptance welcomes your intrinsic nature – your Buddha Nature .
The irony in all of this, is that the moment you catch yourself in a state of blissful acceptance you actually slip back into duality: there is you, and there is the experience ‘you’ are experiencing – bliss or whatever might be the case. The challenge is for us to remain aware of the natural beauty in each given moment and yet, at the same time, not want it to have ‘ownership’ of it. The secret is to release each moment with the same intention with which you received it – in total innocence. I know you would like more of ‘the good’; you want to squeeze every last drop out of it. Unfortunately, it is this kind of attachment which is the hardest of all to release. You may have elevated yourself spiritually: you have become none hoarding or seek to serve others before yourself. But being able to welcome whatever life throws at you, good, bad or indifferent, this is the acid test. Every moment you are able to remove yourself from the equation; you balance the scales of duality in favour of oneness. A way to gain such an unbiased approach, to daily living, is to practice yoga and meditation. It is here, whilst observing your thoughts rise and fall into insignificance that you can appreciate the emptiness on which they appear. This is far more rewarding than the confusion of a busy dualistic mind. Pretty soon you will notice your thoughts are like leaves floating on the river – they come and go. Through practice, the tendency to want to turn each leaf and see if it has a silver lining will lessen. As your practice spills over, into your daily life, the way you look at things will inevitably change. Once you experience this wakefulness, your hold on life – and the hold on yourself – will become significantly reduced.
Now you can begin the real work of letting go: first by letting go of all things ‘good’. This is recommended, before letting go of things that you might consider ‘bad’. Why, because day-to-day situations that appear compromising or difficult are not as easy to drop, not without practice. However, we can let go of ‘the good things’ much easier; we can loosen our grip on them, so to speak. Try it, when you find yourself in a happy uplifted mood, let it settle back down to where it came from; you may notice a far greater sense of peace replaces your excitement. This is a substantial quality for us to embody and one which transfers into deep compassion. Before long, you will be able to apply your skilful thinking to more difficult and compromising situations. Soon, the transient nature of life birth and death will morph into your very own field of awareness. You will become at one with the ups and downs of the world and begin to accept them as simply ‘happenings’– like leaves floating on the river of life. Here, duality is diluted and ceases to leave you in the mist – so to speak. As you begin to link each liberating moment, your thirst for self knowledge will become ever-more quenched thanks to the nectar of enlightenment.
Getting into the Spirit of things
Mention the idea of becoming more spiritual and most will head for the nearest exit. The fear of being coaxed into some kind of a religious cult will have them suddenly remember an appointment they almost forgot. Little do they realise that awakening our spiritual side can bring about a total new lease of life. Being more spiritual teaches us to remain separate from the day to day challenges we face. Even atheists must see this as beneficial.
This does not mean signing up to some sort of religion. Neither is it necessary for you to study, worship or even pray to get to become more spiritual. In fact, it takes very little effort at all. However, you must first accept that it is your fear of the unknown which has kept you from exploring this. Without doing so we become attached to the individual needs of the mind and body, and cannot imagine that there is anything outside of this.
So, how do you access your spiritual side?
When you fully accept yourself, along with your flaws, something new comes into play. This is your spiritual side. Here, something else witnesses this ‘you’ which you have been so concerned about all your life.
We are not just the mind and body. Think about it, you might say, “my mind is working overtime” or “my body is hurting”. This suggests that there is a separation of some kind – there is you and then there is the body. So, if something actually witnesses the topic in question, then there has to be something else! By becoming aware of this witness, you can bring harmony to any moment, by simply remaining separate.
The inner harmony generated, by accepting whatever the moment brings, can have a tremendous impact on your outside world too. Having made peace with yourself, you find it much easier to accept others as they are – warts, and all. By stepping out of your judgment role, in this way, you remove the need to control others. Here, you will notice that people respond different to your new found openness.
The ultimate confirmation – that your spirit is truly alive – is when you are able to celebrate the same transformation in others. When a human being becomes united with another in such a way, all single mindedness and selfishness is transcended. This is the true meaning of spirituality. Perhaps the idea of the whole equaling more than the sum of its parts is a good example of this.
However, words alone cannot awaken your spiritual side; just as reading a holiday brochure cannot give you the experience of visiting a new country. Only through action can you move beyond your individual neediness and witness unity. This is the path of spiritual enlightenment.
May you travel light in your endeavours...
It has been said that meditation is not what you think. However, closing the mind off, from the bombardment of thoughts we subject ourselves to daily, is not easy. The very moment you ask the mind not to do something, it defiantly does the opposite, for example: try not to think of a pink elephant. I rest my case.
The first secret of meditation is to allow things to be as they are. First we must allow the thoughts to be there. It is only by observing a busy mind that we can discover the occasional pockets of quiet. Such moments of mindfulness can be practiced whilst walking, especially amongst nature. First, ground yourself, by dropping your attention down towards your feet; then make a conscious connection to the stability of whole your body.
As you walk, become aware of what you are stepping on: what will be the repercussion of your tracks? Notice the fragility of Mother Nature and yet how strong she is. Here you are training your mind to focus on what you choose rather than what it is subjected to. In a sense, you are meditating. The next stage is not to follow your train of thoughts. You may notice something that grabs your attention, like a pile of rubbish. You wonder, who could have been so ignorant and want to litter the countryside? You want to act on this thought; you wonder why some people couldn’t care less about the environment? Before long you have worked yourself into a frenzy over something which you have no control. Your mediation is shattered.
Contrary to this, during walking meditation, you observe your thoughts and stop them from flowering into any form of story. Here you observe each thought come and go, but you do not become emotionally engaged. This does not mean that you don’t care about what you see; here you are practicing none action, as opposed to action. Such a shift in your consciousness teaches you to disengage from your minds habitual cycles. It creates space, where the mind can begin to de-clutter. Above all, it is a way of developing a powerful skill which you can call upon later in your daily activities. By becoming in control of your mind, instead of it controlling you, who knows what you might start to witness.
Oh, and finally, if you do feel the urge to bathe in the bliss of walking meditation, please make sure you’re not crossing the road when doing so.