Embracing the fullness of life

"Gazing with sheer awareness, into sheer awareness, into sheer awareness, habitual abstract structures melt into the fruitful springtime of enlightenment.

            --Tilopa's Song to Naropa

The ultimate truth is actually quite simple: Consciousness (aka emptiness or Spirit) is the source and essence of what is. Nothing exists outside of consciousness. That which is experiencing and that which is experienced, subject and object, self and other, are nothing but Spirit. As the Upanishads put it, the manifest world is an apparition, consciousness alone is real. Consciousness is the world! Or in the words of the Heart Sutra, form is emptiness, emptiness is form. 

Now this may seem like just an abstract conceptual formulation, but genuine spiritual awakening involves the experiential recognition of this fundamental truth. Not only is Spirit radiating forth through and as every being and thing, but who I really am is nothing but the very same spirit or consciousness taking human form. This is the essence of self-realization.

A the same time that we recognize and abide in this inherent oneness and completeness, we mustn't forget that the unity that we are welcomes all multiplicity within its limitless embrace. Spirit doesn't dwell pristine and apart from manifestation, it expresses itself in a myriad of forms, regardless of our preferences. No matter how much we may despise them, the despot and the psychopath are just as much consciousness as the enlightened saint or sage; they're just oblivious to their true nature.

Even more close to home and relevant to our daily lives, the "dark thought, the shame, the malice," in Rumi's words, are just as essentially perfect and sacred as the compassion and the bliss. Our true nature doesn't discriminate or reject, but welcomes them all without judgment or reservation. When we abide in and as awakened awareness, unconditional presence, we give utmost permission for everything to be as it is. In this unconditional embrace, the veil of judgment and resistance that divides us and creates so much internal conflict and suffering falls away, and we see life as consciousness sees itself: inherently perfect and complete. (Of course, this welcoming doesn't prevent us from making changes as we feel moved to do in everyday life.)

This nondual view flies in the face of our analytical, hypercritical culture, which is constantly assessing, rating, and categorizing experience according to some predetermined standard. We're taught that we need to look and act and feel a certain way in order to measure up. Even so-called spiritual approaches may teach that some emotions are better than others and should be cultivated, while others need to be avoided and suppressed. 

This dualistic perspective informs our conditioning and permeates our approach to life at every level, from cradle to grave; we're constantly picking and choosing, grasping and pushing away, and rarely do we stop and open to the way it is right now, just as it is. if we aspire to spiritual awakening, it can be helpful to immerse ourselves in the nondual perspective through teachings, dialogue, meditation, self-inquiry--and, if possible, contact with a teacher. Otherwise, the pull of judgment and separation may be so compelling that we just keep snapping back into old dualistic patterns of thought.