HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated February 28, 2010 12:00 AM
As I go about doing my chores and obligations and relish my joys and pleasures, I can so easily lose my center and be taken over by the compelling call of the material world. Life can give you every argument as to why you should commit to working hard, making more money, having this and that consumer item, having such and such marvelous experiences here or in another part of the world, owning things of “value,” committing to this ideal or belief, etc. It can make me feel life, as it is, is wanting.
Throw in the fact that election season is here and it is almost impossible for many of us to turn away from the noise of the campaign and not get hooked by the partisan nature of it. We look at other people as either with us and our candidate, or not. It’s “them” vs. “us.” No doubt, all this can shake our equilibrium.
One of the things I keep reminding myself is one realization that I have experienced many times and which has become part of my spiritual practice. This is the truth often spoken of in practically all religions and many mystical writings. I am talking about the experience of “Oneness.” We are One.
I dare say, I have had experiences of it. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say, I have been awake to it many times on different occasions.
Oneness is perennially there to be experienced by anyone. It is the blending of subject and object. To put it more practically, it is the experience of losing one’s ego identity and melding with the rest of life. It is when you and the rest of life and all of its details are a singular experience.
It is really quite hard to express it since, as Ken Wilber correctly points out, if you can talk about it, then it has become a third person (“it”) or an object, and therefore, a separate thing, not anymore the Oneness. Attempts to completely capture the experience immediately reduce it to a concept, and so it stops being the Oneness. It stops being so simply because Oneness is not an “it.” Oneness is everything.
Oneness is indescribable, though it can be experienced. But since we have to live with words, let us try to get close to describing it even if we do not succeed in capturing it. To simplify, think of what it’s like to lose yourself completely in the act of great lovemaking where two become not just physically united, but totally “one” in all aspects. It is so intimate an experience that boundaries can vanish. Reality is experienced as “special.” One might even say that the participants “disappear.” The doer and the act have become one. There is only the wave of this experience arising in the endless field of everything.
Oneness can show itself in the most mundane experiences. When I experienced Oneness the first few times, I suspended disbelief and imagined that the world and all its sentient beings could, in fact, be enlightened or experience the Oneness as well. I was always looking for signs everywhere. I saw the Internet, for example, as a physical manifestation of the Oneness experience everyone wanted to have.
In pop music, certain lyrics grab me and excite me when I sense the feel of the Oneness in them, such as the opening line of John Lennon’s I Am the Walrus which goes, “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.” Michael Jackson’s We Are the World describes my own relationship with all that is. The Stylistics’ song, You Are Everything (and Everything Is You, seems to me to be operating within the reality of Oneness as well.
As a consequence of my epiphanies, I have a mindset that believes that the awakening people have experienced is always confirmed or reciprocated by the experience of the world becoming “awakened” itself. We become One consciousness with everything, just as a drop in the ocean is one with the entire sea in its wetness.
How does this play out in everyday life? My experience is that it opens me up to other people more easily in terms of listening to them, showing understanding and compassion. I am them. When the consciousness is strong, I am able to live moments when I know I am personally steering the experience of Oneness itself in the choices I make and the things I do. And it is a sacred, blessed feeling to even just be alive. “Being” itself is all there is.
But one might ask, and rightly so, how anyone can feel good about the rottenness of the state of the world? This is a valid, practical question. The answer is complex, and maybe not even logical. First of all, awakening, consciousness and all that is not about feeling good or bad, or whatever. It is a simple but radical recognition that one is alive. In fact, there is no “one” to speak of. There is only the aliveness. The feelings felt at any moment — fear, anger, love, or whatever else, are incidental and have nothing to do with all this.
In a true consciousness state, I can see my essence and know that I am not my feelings, my thoughts, my personal qualities, my worldly possessions and properties. All these are transient and temporary. The still point, the silent watcher, or the one that experiences everything — that’s me. And I am eternal. I am all moments, awakened or not.
There is a paradox here, and that is while all this temporal stuff and you are part of the Oneness, they are also not you. What you are is consciousness, and that is the totality of the experience itself.
Thus, when you cry for Haiti, you cry for yourself. When you feel for your country, you feel for a larger collective that is you. And this extends to all of humanity, even to all of life.
In this election season, where passions are escalating daily, how does the enlightened mind treat its political adversaries? The answer will seem unenlightened and it is this: In the way that it must do. One must still campaign and try to win and work as hard as one can to achieve one’s goals. But the enlightened consciousness reminds us that despite all the demonizing of “the enemy,” and the elevation to sainthood bestowed on our own candidate, this is a transient phenomenon arising in the field of consciousness itself. Essentially, it does not touch nor sully the awakened mind. The phenomena we are dealing with and all the meanings we attach to them are essentially “made up” to be experienced. After we are through with the elections, we move on to the next experience.
On the Larry King Show a few days back, the Dalai Lama was asked if he loved the Chinese authorities who were cruel to Tibet, his homeland. He candidly answered that though the hardliners can be irritating, he loved them just the same.
Consciousness is not about changing things but coming to terms with them as they are. Strangely enough, the moment you do, the thing you want to change but cannot often seems to suddenly have the capacity to do so. I have experienced this many times. Maybe my belief that I did not already have something was preventing me from having it.
But even if nothing changes, a more important thing has happened. We have changed! We no longer need to have what is not ours because, in truth, we already have it. We are everything, and everything is already us. Our “enemies” are our fellow sentient beings. Actually, they are us.
Whether we win or lose, nothing changes, although it will seem like everything has changed. That is the irony of consciousness. It watches, and experiences its own multi-layered reality and complexity.
* * *
LAST CALL: I will be giving a workshop on Basic Photography on March 6, 2010. This will be a hands-on experiential approach which will cover basic knowledge of the SLR camera and its functions, techniques on lighting for outdoors, indoors and including studio lighting, composition, the use of different lenses, portraiture and landscape techniques, motion or action photography, and a whole lot more.
This is a one-day workshop only from 1 to 7 p.m. We will proceed immediately to shooting pictures as we discuss photographic theories. I will work with a limited number of students only.
Requirements are: you must have an DSLR digital camera capable of manual settings. The workshop is Saturday, March 6, 1 to 7 p.m. at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC. The cost is P3,500.
Please call 426-5375, 0916-8554303 (ask for Ollie) or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org for questions and reservations.