Fourth Way Spiritual Practice
We Are: The Illusion of Separateness
We live alone within our personal shell. We relate to people as if appearances were real, as if the ultimate truth dictates that I am here and you are there and an impenetrable wall separates us.
When I look at another person I see the outside. I see a body clearly separate from mine. But when I look at myself, I see the inside, I see my awareness, my consciousness. I know, rationally, that you have awareness, consciousness in you just as I do, that you have hopes and dreams, knowledge and fears just as I do. But when I look at you, I do not see all this. I know the whole glory and catastrophe of being a human resides there in you, but I don’t see it. And so I assume and act as if consciousness is mine alone, as if consciousness stops at my skin. My perception does not show me your consciousness. You remain hollow to me, just an animated body, not real in the way that I am. How can I bridge this gap between us? How can I operate from the reality that I know must be true despite the limitations of my perception? How can I see you to be as real as I am?
The source of this illusion of separateness lies in the illusion of the ego. Relaxing with friends or family we may lower our inner barriers. In the underlying context of awareness, in the silent pool of consciousness we discover spaciousness without limits. Beneath our thoughts, beneath our emotions, we let go into simple awareness, into consciousness, the field in which we live and experience, the very substance of experience. Consciousness knows no boundaries, does not end at our skin. Space embraces us all, as does consciousness. Space penetrates all and walls cannot limit it. Likewise, our bodies do not define the limits of consciousness.
To rest in awareness, in consciousness, we drop our shell of separation, our false identity and enter the larger world, the great present. As we drain this moat of egoism, we see others in a new way: just people, neither more nor less than ourselves. Sharing in consciousness, knowing that others experience a full inner world just as we do, we begin to bridge the gap. We become simultaneously an entire universe in ourselves and just “one of the guys.” The “guys” become one in consciousness, even though we continue to experience this peculiar fact of life: that we directly know only our own thoughts, emotions, sensations, and not anyone else’s.
The more we enter into the stillness of simple awareness, the more we drop our fences of separation and identity in the consciousness that we share. This brings us to the first level of unity among people: unity in consciousness. Prior to this level, we can speak of cooperation and relationship but not unity.
Will offers a field for another kind of unity: shared intention and common purpose. The levels of unity under commonality of will depend on the depth and breadth of the sharing: from family, to community, to nation, to all humanity, to all life, to the Great Purpose of the Universe. We all enter into shared purpose with others in many types of communities: the corporation, the school, the sports team, the orchestra, the worship community, the political party, the military unit, the construction crew, the city, state, or nation. In all such cases of associated intention, we act in a coordinated fashion as part of a unit larger than our individual self. The result can be true and deep fellowship along with a sense of fulfillment. Shared intention, at its most effective, does not entail loss of individuality, but rather our fully individualized and unique participation in a greater whole.
We know in our hearts that our aim for a meaningful life depends on becoming fully ourselves while transcending ourselves. Both unity in consciousness and unity in will enrich and transform us with a spirit that eventually approaches Love.
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