Our experience of life is subjective: we observe through our senses; we process and interpret the sensory feedback through the archives of our past experiences, teachings and concepts; we judge each experience as good, bad or benign; and we react to attract more of what we like and less of what we don’t like. The challenge is that we live in a world of duality; a world of paradoxes. In fact, we spend half of every day in light and half in dark. What a perfect reflection of this duality. We are completely trained to see and measure our lives and the world around us in terms of a fixed scale of right and wrong, especially the things that are most important to us. The easiest way to see how polarized you are on any particular issue is to measure how much latitude you allow alternate beliefs. The more imbued your dogma, the less room there is for shades of gray: its black or white, which means vast swaths of life are excluded from your experience.
We tend to live in absolutes. I’m sure you could easily come up with half a dozen personal ‘absolutes’ in this moment: ‘killing is never justified’; ‘democracy is the only viable form of government’; ‘I have an innate right to bear arms’; ‘organized religion damages the soul’; ‘marijuana is a dangerous gateway drug’; and ‘chem-trails are evidence of Government control’. Now look at the opposite point-of-view to each of these ‘absolutes’. Regardless of your perspective and no matter how vehemently you hold your view, there are literally millions who are equally committed to the opposite! How can we reconcile the polarities in our world and our relationships and within ourselves to find a deep and abiding inner peace in the midst of such dramatic outer conflict?
The result of living in ‘absolutes’ is that life is rife with conflict. When you contradict my experience or perspective it undermines my belief in myself as someone smart, confident and valued. So, of course, I need to defend myself, which really means defending my position, so I challenge your experience and your perspective, to prove you wrong so that I can be right. The stakes are high because if I am wrong I am not worthy. If I am unworthy I am unlovable. If I am unlovable I am alone. If I am alone I may as well die! At the core of our conflicts is our existential essence because we define ourselves as the collection of our images and beliefs. If they are invalidated, we are invalidated. My ‘absolutes’ define me as a human being; they are a critical part of ‘me’ such that if I surrender them, I will cease to exist! Think about how many times you have been unwilling to compromise; where you have sacrificed relationships and love and happiness to be ‘right’. At some level all of the conflicts in our life and in the world around us are a reflection of this difference in perceptions and the dis-ease that arises within us when we are seemingly out of step with our community, our friends, our family or ourselves. And yet, the simultaneous existence of different perspectives and opinions, even those that are opposite, are simply part of the unfolding of life on this plane of duality, through these vehicles of apparently independent, individual will.
So what role does ‘will’ play in the daily drama unfolding within and around us? Do we choose our ‘absolutes’ or are they chosen for us? One of the great conundrums of all time is the tug between free will and fate. If life is the former, then I am in control. I have dominion over my thoughts, feelings, beliefs and behavior. I am the master of my domain. I adopt my beliefs and perspectives based upon a mix of analysis, experience, intelligence and gut reaction. This is obviously a very appealing viewpoint when things are going well in your life: it’s all because of you, your brains and your hard work. You can feel proud of who you are and what you have accomplished. And yet, how often does life unfold in ways you never planned? We have all experienced amazing synchronicities and heart-wrenching tragedies that defy logic and suggest something bigger than ourselves is afoot, guiding us from moment to moment. Most people have had dramatic experiences of free will where your hand was indelibly on the steering wheel of your life and other times when you were carried unconsciously to a date with destiny. So which is it, because surely in this world of duality and absolutes such opposites cannot co-exist?
Interestingly quantum physicists have discovered that the act of observation changes the nature of what is observed. So when you actively observe an energy stream it is a particle; and yet, when you look away, the particle becomes a wave! It’s as if both potentialities co-exist simultaneously and your experience, as the subject, will depend upon where your attention falls. Imagine for a moment that you were in the midst of a rainbow. You would be surrounded by all of the colors of the rainbow, and yet if you look left you may have the experience of blue, whereas if you looked right you may see red. So which experience is “right”? Is one more valid or real than the other? Imagine now that you and I are both in the middle of the rainbow together. As I look right I am totally convinced that the world is red. However you are looking left and you are equally convinced that the world is blue. You can see how these different perceptions can quickly escalate into the conflict and polarity that we see within and around us. However, perhaps you can also see how multiple ‘realities’ can co-exist.
As you allow this awareness of multiple, contemporaneous realities to grow within you, your personal ‘absolutes’ begin to soften. An ‘allowing’ arises that makes it okay for someone to have a different view from you without threatening your identity or image. You may even find yourself standing in the shoes of the other to better understand their perspective, which is the birth of empathy. Inner spaciousness is created that can accommodate different views, and as this happens you’ll notice that dramas fall away, hurts will heal and relationships will flourish. With practice and mindfulness fewer and fewer ‘absolutes’ will inhabit your reality which means your reality has expanded to embrace more of ‘what is’, until ALL of your ‘absolutes’ ultimately dissolve into nothingness and you transcend this ‘reality’ altogether.
Life is a journey. There are rarely quick fixes and quantum shifts (except when there are). Rather, we ebb and flow through a multi-layered experience and the flavor of each experience will depend upon our awareness in that moment. At the apex (it seems) is the knowingness that ALL IS ONE. There is no other. From here, surrender is complete; there are no ‘absolutes’, there is just pure ‘is-ness’, pure ‘being’. This is unity consciousness where duality is dissolved and all paradoxes collapse into themselves. And yet few of us ever really connect to this vibration in a sustained way, so we suffer. We suffer because we resist where we are; who we are; and what's happening to us. Ironically we blame fate for our bad luck and we blame ourselves for our poor choices, making equal use of destiny and free will to desperately escape our discomfort. We all want the deep inner peace that comes from surrendering to the flow of life, so long as we can preserve our identity and our ‘absolutes’. How do we continue to exist in the comfort-zone we are acclimated to AND lose ourselves in the void? We don’t; we can’t. The ‘you’ that is seeking is the ‘you’ that is being sought. Another paradox!
While most spiritual seekers aspire to achieve some abiding peak state we call ‘awakening’ or ‘enlightenment’, do we actually have the skills, the tools or the teachers to give us that presence? Notwithstanding free will, is there any amount of clear intent and right effort that can deliver us from the jail of our ignorance? ‘Seeking’ simply happens and whether the ‘seeking’ is just another attempt to escape our suffering, no different from drinking or drugs or sex (albeit in a more socially acceptable manner), or whether it’s the yearning for some long lost connection to Source, is irrelevant. Like so many other compulsions that arise in us, ‘seeking’ is hardwired into our DNA and there is no force in nature that can release you from it until you wake up one-day and its gone, or transformed. The same is true of our ‘absolutes’; there they are, bold and beautiful and seemingly immovable, until one day they shift or soften or dissolve. Is it our will that drives our transformation? Or, was it our destiny to transform? Does it really matter whether it’s one or the other? What can I do to facilitate or accelerate the unfolding?
Every moment we spend ‘seeking’ is a moment lost to ‘being’; every deeply held ‘absolute’ disconnects us from the vast array of human dynamics that we are here to experience. The invitation is to do the unthinkable and stop aspiring to be this or do that; stop judging everything and trying to change ourselves and the world around us; and to simply embrace where and who we are in this moment, without a goal or objective. To sit, quietly, with full attention on what’s happening within us, recognizing that sometimes we will be more successful than other times and knowing that its not about some projected destination on the horizon, but rather, its ALL about the journey. With practice you will begin to experience the vastness that is you; the depth of your ‘beingness’; and the peace that lies beyond the din of the mind’s ceaseless activity. Be gentle with yourself as you work to reorient your point of attention from outside to inside. Remember how impossible it was to tie shoelaces as a child and how natural and effortless it is now.
It is human nature to strive; until our programming changes and we relax into ourselves, and in a flash everything changes…not because of your efforts but despite them! As you grasp this last paradox you will open more and more to the Light that you are and the gifts that you bring. This highest truth of you will simply arise, and as it does, you see the entire Universe there, in the palm of your hand; you will know you are everything and nothing because the ‘you’ that was searching will have dissolved into the ‘You’ that is sought…