Non-duality: is it worth it?

Someone asked me yesterday, ‘Is it worth it?’ We had been discussing non-duality and got to part about dropping everything along the way, seeing through attachments, beliefs, identity. I’d been blunt, there was no point sugar coating it but it’s not easy stuff to take on board, hence the question, I guess.

I really didn’t know how to answer. Luckily someone stepped in for me and saved me the trouble: “It’s not that it’s all blissed out happiness but I wouldn’t go back.” That was her remark and I couldn’t help but agree. It struck me that I really should have a better prepared answer for this question because it is an important one. But it’s also not straightforward.

The first and most obvious problem is that if you paint a picture of all the good bits, even if you could frame it all in words, you create in the other the sense of a seeker who can find this. All that will happen is that they end up making a goal out of what is in essence a letting go of all goals.

The other main problem is that language just hasn’t evolved to cope with the experiences that non-duality brings. All I could say is to ask the questioner to reflect on what we’re discussing here. We’re talking about no separation; not just between subject and object but between experiencing and the source of all. That’s not put-into-wordsable; at least not for me. It is sublime. It’s the seeing through and dissolving of all identities in the Source (my word-de-jour for that which has no name). I mean, how do you describe that?


And actually the question has other nuances as well. It really depends upon your focus. Yes, we lose a lot of our baggage and more drops away over time. With no sense of a personal self we lose much of that which has the potential to cause us suffering. But if you’ve been conditioned to a certain type of lifestyle, if you’re a go-getter, an out and out materialist, then this dropping away can itself can be the cause of suffering and confusion.

When nothing has any meaning anymore because all meanings are seen through as thoughts that reflect a viewpoint rather than reality we can feel anchorless and adrift. How you can you have a personal agenda if there’s no person here? You can see the problem. Suddenly your ‘life’s journey’ is nothing more than the story of a fictional character. A fictional character who’s just been killed off in the third act. Now you sit watching the empty stage wondering what’s going to happen next; if anything. It’s hard to get much more anchorless than that.

So what do we do? There is only one thing, we ground ourselves fully in the moment; in just this. How is this right now – no stories, no fantasies, no worries, no dreams, just now?

That might seem out of control for someone who’s used to endlessly planning for what lies ahead, but are any of these plans worth it? Do they ever happen the way we thought they would? What if all of our carefully laid strategies aren’t really necessary? What if instead of helping us prepare they in fact limit our responsiveness by pre-judging the situation before we actually experience it? What if we let them go and try it a different way?

We can only ever act in the moment. If we anchor ourselves in the moment, in front of us are all of the options and choices that we can access, that doesn’t change. So what are they? What feels right? What do we see? Without the script, just ad-libbing, looking closely at what’s right here. It’s not even that hard, it’s actually what we do a lot of the time without realising it.

So then looking happens, choices happen, actions occur, and life moves on. And that’s it. Somehow it all seems to take care of itself. We start to see that this highly controlled life we thought we were living; in which we thought everything through a thousand times before taking a step isn’t really what was happening at all. What’s actually been happening is that thought was chattering on about everything that could possibly go wrong; we were obsessing over all of these future scenarios, then choices arose and we acted and then retrospectively justified all of those choices and responses with another littany of thought chatter.

We never really were in control, we just clung onto the illusion that we were because the alternative either never occurred or perhaps if it did it seemed too awful to contemplate.


So what does letting go look like? Well, it happens choicelessly. When we see clearly, when we realise how it is, letting go takes place, we don’t make it happen (the thought that we could is just another of illusion of control). From the outside we remain the functional normal citizens we always were (assuming we were) but then appearances rarely tell us the full story do they? Because what’s actually happening is that we’re riding the maelstrom. We’ve taken off the armour, and we’re standing naked in front of the storm in the full acceptance that whatever this moment brings is what it brings. And the degree to which we see clearly conditions our response to whatever that is.

And that’s it. There is no plan, no agenda, no life story, no journey, no path, no great scheme we’re following, no divine guidance, nothing. Just this. Just this moment.  It might not be as interesting as the story we’ve been telling ourselves but this isn’t about stories this is about truth. It just is this way, and why should that conform to our preferences or anyone else’s?

So, if stories can be better then why wouldn’t you go back? Because they aren’t real, they aren’t true and they all fall apart eventually. We enter this life with nothing, we leave with nothing and what we gain along the way we lose again in the end. That’s life isn’t it?

If you’re ready to wake up then tune into this, as it is right now. See it, see all of what can be seen. Bring nothing to the moment, expect nothing from it. Create no one and nothing within it. Simply allow seeing to happen. This is letting go. This is freedom. Simple beautiful freedom.

Even when the world falls apart you’ll see the shape of a cloud or a patch of sunlight and love it and they might all think you mad for that, but let them. You won’t buy into their stories because you can’t. And they might think you have something they don’t and they’ll want it but you can’t give it. Because you’re holding nothing and they want everything. You smile because you see it, you see they already have everything, but they don’t realise it. The universe already has the universe, you can’t add anything to it or take anything away. It’s just not a personal thing.

10 thoughts on “Non-duality: is it worth it?

  1. Excellent! I would say it absolutely worth it, and once you tasted it there is no way to go back. Not because you don’t want, but you just can’t, it doesn’t make sense anymore. But interestingly, it is not the character who decides to pursue it, the drive for it either there or not, it comes from the depth of our being. In reality, we don’t have a choice in this matter…

  2. Hmm, you ain’t selling it to me – quite. Seems to me you are talking about your experience, as a Buddhist, of enlightenment, so you are experiencing it – still – in a certain context and language. I knew a man, a Kabbalist, who actually worked beyond the labels and was, I am sure, enlightened, and being with him took me to a different kind of place to your posts (much as I enjoy them!)
    Even with all that you describe having happened, seeing it all as selfless play, there are choices about how to be and what to do which you haven’t – so far – written about.

    • Ha! Well said Lynne. You’re absolutely right, I’m not selling it, but not for the reason you might think. As long as we think there’s a ‘me’ who can see ‘this’ then we going to get stuck and stay stuck. We might have insights and some peak moments along the way, but we’re essentially stuck. So we have to set aside all thoughts about a goal, a state, a final achievement – these are all barriers. Instead we focus on seeing clearly; not to find the hidden or discover something new, just to be present with this with full clarity; no attempt to escape it or avoid it at all.

      Now what happens with non-duality is there is no experience of self. Nothing to relate to or point to relate from. All is seen as essentially being the Source, never separated from it, that is the defining characteristic of all. And that includes this human experience too. It’s just so far beyond words but that’s okay because the words don’t really help. Use them as pointers, then engage in looking. Scratch away at the surface of how things appear to be, chip away at the foundations, the very building blocks of all assumptions and concepts until it all crumbles.

      And don’t forget love. I think my next post must be about love because it really is what’s left.

  3. Two questions:
    How does enlightenment feel to a Christian, a non-religious-not-even-Buddhist person or a Hindu or a Moslem? (Anyone out there fit the bill?) Do they perhaps call it something else? Certainly they would have a different context to express themselves in.
    How can there be love if there is no self to do the loving? Where does the love come from?

    • Hi Lyn, most of the people I know who have experienced the shift/awakened have come to it from a non-religious route. It is not the property of any religion or tradition and in fact one of the things I think we have to do is rescue it from all of these, free it from mystic psycho-babble and realise it’s something that happens as part of this human experience that requires no foundation in spirituality or religion. In fact Eckhart Tolle is one example of a whole group of people who arrive at non-duality through an entirely non-spiritual route via psychological discomfort or trauma and there is at least one book on this (I’ve been told, although I haven’t read it).

      When it happens to people unexpectedly it can leave them very confused and at a loss. It can take time to reorientate into a new way of being and that process can take years. Along the way there is help and support available from others who have shifted/awakened and people tend to gravitate to the ones that resonate with them most strongly.

      As for your second question. It’s just my take on it but here goes: love is really the experience where subject and object merge, where there is no barrier between self and other, where oneness is recognised and felt. We can experience love before the shift but this tends to be focused on a perceived person or thing. After the shift it’s just present, more like a light that shines on all equally. A light can’t discriminate between what it shines on although not all surfaces reflect its glow the same way. It’s like that.

      How can it happen with no self present? Well, there never was a self present, just the appearance or belief in one. This process isn’t about getting rid of ‘self’ it’s about seeing ‘self’ is a mode of thought/point of view. A very deeply ingrained one but still just a side effect of the way perception and mind works in dividing up this human experience into things. Like I say, scratch beneath the surface and you won’t find a self. Can you point at it? Which cell is it located in? Which cells is it not located in? Where would it stop and start? Doesn’t make sense does it? Because the sense of self, when you look closely doesn’t make sense because it isn’t real.

      Wish you could come to one of our group meetings and get right into this with us, we have lots of great explorations and discussions around this.

  4. Yes some people who claim to be enlightened do seem rather confused and at a loss – and some people who would never claim enlightenment seem warm, loving and wise making me feel that often things are not quite what they seem and we are not quite what we think we are. Maybe I will come to one of your meetings one day – I am a bit argumentative but in a good way, I hope. I like to work things our for myself and never believe anything until I have experienced it. When I read your posts, I always think: ‘yes, but…’ xxx

    • I think ‘yes,but…’ is a very good response. This isn’t about a belief system, there’s nothing to believe. This is about looking and seeing with clarity; seeing in this moment how it is. ‘Yes, but…’ shows you’re looking and engaging in your own inquiry. If the words here or from other sources fit and seem to help then make use of them, if not then set them aside, but really this is about YOUR looking; what do you see? Then go further, shine a light into every corner, overturn every assumption. Why? Because that’s what makes us a better ‘looker’. And when we become more skilled at looking/inquiring in this way, that’s when we start to see clearly and when awakening can happen. So keep working it out for yourself, that’s the path. You’re always most welcome at any of our meetings, which take the form of a shared discussion or exploration, but if you’re in the North East at all and want to grab a coffee just let me know, I’d be very happy to.

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