‘Non-duality‘ refers to the experiencing of reality as it truly is: completely devoid of any separation whatsoever. Fundamentally this means living from the embodied understanding that awareness or consciousness, our primary experience, is not located in a particular place but rather extends infinitely and eternally. Only objects can be located, and awareness is not objective. It is what our reality is made of; the one and only aspect that cannot ever be removed from experience. We have simply become so intoxicated by the world of objective reality that we have overlooked our primary nature! And consequently most of us have lost the inherent lasting happiness that comes hand in hand with knowing who we really are and embodying this realization. The mind tricks us by thinking that it is in command of a separate entity with a separate awareness apparently located in our body, even though our very experience is that awareness has no borders or limits. Our problems arise when we think that the mind is telling us the truth about reality. We forget that the mind is by definition limited by its own limitations, and most of us are blind to the unconscious ways in which it projects these limitations onto its understanding of reality. When we see that the mind cannot be trusted to find the essence of reality as it truly is, we look elsewhere. We look to the one aspect of experience that does not come and go: awareness. We don’t look to something we are aware of, as that is the realm of duality, a place which can never offer lasting peace; we look instead to the non-objective experience of being aware. We cannot literally find it because to find it would be to presume that it is missing! Instead we may ask our self ‘am I aware’ and go to the simple experience that precedes our honest answer of ‘yes’. You’ll see that the experience of awareness is very real. Through enquiring into the nature of this very awareness that is currently knowing your every experience, you will find that it is ever present and closer even than your breath. Ask yourself (awareness) if the awareness being experienced has any boundaries or edges? Ask yourself (awareness) if you have ever experienced your absence? Ask yourself (awareness) if you can find or locate any separate ‘person’ who is experiencing this awareness? With practice you’ll see that it is awareness that is making this exploration, and that all of what we call life is simply consciousness at rest and in motion, filtered through the mind’s inherent limitations of time and space. In time you’ll come to live and breathe the truth of who you are.
When the recognition of our true nature stabilizes into our life, our suffering dissipates, for there is no longer a personal attachment to what happens. Life is still felt and experienced deeply, but no longer does this happen on behalf of a separate entity. It is no longer claimed by an illusory ego. Since consciousness itself is understood and felt to be the only being present, love simply extends itself out to include all. Nothing could be more important than this because in gradually releasing the tension of ego, the desperation to get what we think we want from life ceases. We gradually let go of the fear of death through seeing that the one who seemingly dies was never separate. Those who are met through this recognition may sense a deeper truth within their own hearts – that we are all intimately connected. All that separate selves really desire in life is the cessation of suffering; in other words all we really seek through all that we do is the presence of happiness. Happiness is the freedom from tensions (including the ego) that our mind has created out of a false belief that we are separate, that our consciousness is separate and limited. In time and with some perseverance, you’ll come to see that the formless practice of non-duality is the ultimate creator of peace.
Non-duality relies on personal investigation; it is an embodied understanding and recognition, not an experience, although in some cases awakening to one’s true nature is accompanied by (usually) pleasurable, even blissful sensations of the bodymind. Listening to and being in the presence of teachers who have come to this understanding and are skilled in their communication of it is certainly useful and can help us to avoid the subtle traps that can often come with a glimpse of ‘true seeing’. When looking for a teacher it is essential that we do not use them as another object that we look to for happiness. If a teacher commonly receives this objectification from his or her students then his or her integrity in relation to teaching may be questioned, for it is a not only a teacher’s responsibility be constantly point the student to their infinite and eternal nature, but also his or her responsibility to completely undo the aspect of ego that wishes to be recognised. Students and teachers alike have all been well practiced in objectifying our happiness so we have to be careful! A good teacher will guide you to an experiential understanding of the nature of reality, encourage you to investigate it for yourself, and will address the fact that our bodies and minds are made up of tensions that have been created from decades of believing in our separation. A good teacher will understand that the simple recognition of our true nature is only in very rare cases enough to eliminate suffering and that we have to take time to practice surrendering these tensions to our new found embodied understanding of our true identity. In other words to eliminate suffering through this method we must look to the body. When we ask our self with full integrity “on whose behalf is this discomfort being felt?” and when we genuinely look inside our self for an answer to that question, our discomfort will either partially or fully dissolve, for we will see that really there is no actual entity within our self. Physical pain may still reside, but without the layer of personal attachment to that pain, the pain tends to weaken its hold. When we get the taste of reality as it truly is, it is vitally important for us to nurture that taste. This is absolutely essential for the energy of ego to be dissolved. If we are more private then our study and investigation will naturally be more private, while If we are more community minded then it is good to seek out retreats or regular satsangs (such as those listed below), simple gatherings where we can explore the truth together. My highly skilled teacher Rupert Spira has countless hours of retreat recordings available via his website (rupertspira.com) and Youtube.