Duality can appear in our lives in many different forms. There is of course the most basic dualism, that of feeling ourselves to be a separate self – me and everything I’m aware of. But it can take place on many levels. We perceive duality in lots of forms many of which are quite overt and obvious. But more subtle ones can revolve around deeper questions about truth and reality.
If you ask yourself, ‘What is the meaning of life?’ to one who still experiences separation a number of different answers arise from complex fantasies about increasing vibrations, planetary evolution or personal growth, to more nihilistic assumptions that life has no meaning, that there is nothing more than physical processes at work following inexorable laws.
But for one who exists in a non-dualistic state the answer is neither of these. Both viewpoints are seen as thoughts arising in the mind, and as with all thoughts they are limited and only a reflection of what is. For one who experiences non-dualism then the question simply has no meaning.
Thoughts by their very nature are partial reflections of what is. As soon as a thought forms, that of which it is about has changed. Why? Because everything is in a constant state of change. Change is inherent in manifestation. Movement is form.
So each and every thought cannot by its very nature be ‘true’, any more than picture can be that which it portrays.
Each thought is partial and as our minds cannot take in all at once, we take in only part. Recreating a part of reality in model form can reinforce, almost unconsciously the position that that which is observed is separate. As it is partial or incomplete it also gives rise by nature of this to further thoughts, further questions.
And so the labyrinth is built. A labyrinth of thought, each avenue of enquiry leading to another and then another. There is no end to it because it is constructed by the mind as it is explored. But as we know from the Minoans, there is something lurking within the labyrinth. We can pursue this path of information, conceptualisation and theoretical introspection but we don’t know for how long do we?
So dualism can be reinforced by the process of exploration if that process involves thought. From our earliest childhood these thoughts have built up into patterns, assumptions, beliefs, theories some of which are held in great value as can be the perception of the mind which conceived them. But as long as there is the inclination to believe that there is a seeker and that which is sought, a knower and that which can be known, dualism is present.
So what is the answer to this conundrum?
The simple answer lies in seeing rather than in thinking. Seeing as in simply experiencing without thought. Let’s consider an example to show how this works.
When we sit in meditation we can sit quietly and be completely relaxed. Or at least we think we’re relaxed. Then as we scan our bodies we find that we’re actually not. We notice that there is a slight tension in the muscles around the eyes. We’ve been holding these muscles tense for some time, but have been completely unaware of doing so. We’ve been putting energy into maintaining this tension without being aware of it. But when we become aware of it the muscles relax don’t they? We don’t have to think, ‘Relax!’ they just do it. Just by seeing clearly that it is one way, that there is an act of maintaining, that tension, that holding, drops.
That’s how direct experience works. We can believe completely that there is no separate ‘I’, can understand that everything is simply arising and passing away and yet not be aware we are still actively holding on. Where we are still maintaining self-view we haven’t yet seen, we simply haven’t focused awareness on it.
To do so we don’t need to think. No further theory or rationale can assist us. We simply have to be in awareness and look. When it is seen it is dropped, or sometimes when it is seen it is noted we might even feel reluctant to drop it if we have not fully accepted that it is simply a view, a thought and therefore not real. Either way this is how we become aware of attachment.
But if we approach this with the right attitude, knowing that, ‘All that is mine, beloved and pleasing will become otherwise, will become separated from me.’ then it is not about having to let go – we all have to let go – it’s simply about when. So why wait?