Nonduality and the Release of Control, Conformity and Convention
For Alice, an inner sense of security depends on the people around her. She needs them to conform to a certain code of behavior in order for her to feel safe. Her partner must kiss her before she goes to work (regardless of whether he feels like it or not); the children must sit at the table and show appreciation for the food (regardless of whether they are actually enjoying it); and others – from shop keepers, to cleaners, to colleagues – must show her respect, regardless of what they are feeling inside. The world, however, is a rebellious, nasty place. It constantly insults her with disobedience, and because of this, she feels weak, threatened, unseen and constantly under threat.
Alice’s perception of reality is actually the 21st century civilized norm. It assumes that the individual has the power to dictate experience on others. It sees the creative power of consciousness, and creates for itself a tight shell of isolation, where the world ‘out there’ – is full of nasty surprises and murderous freedom.
One morning, Alice explodes on her partner. “But I gave you a kiss!” protested her shocked partner. “Yes,” Alice snapped back, “But you didn’t mean it.”
In a psychological universe where we believe we can dictate content with form, or grasp the soul of ‘the other’ by locking it in a box of fixed behaviors, we will always be defeated. As our teacher Bob Moore once said, “Love is a force that cannot be controlled. You can only blend with it.”
Controlling Thought forms (Consciousness)
On the level of the dialectical mind, our thoughts are forms born out of an impetus of feeling. Most often, this sentient impulse is fear. Fear says: “beware” and the mind tries to find the threat in order to make safe. Fear says: “not good” and the mind finds all the negative aspects of the object in perception in order to justify the feeling. Fear says “pain” and the mind gets to work finding elaborate tactics to avoid the pain, including denial, distraction and/or destruction of the ‘other’.
Our thoughts are sources in our feelings and emotions. As such, the agenda to be free of the endless torture of a busy mind must allow a falling out of conscious control of thoughts into the ocean of sentience. Feelings and emotions, in all their subtle shades, come in many flavors, forming a kind of soul to the thought form, energizing it and determining direction.
We can try and ‘think’ ourselves into loving another person, for example, but if the love is not arising spontaneously out of the magic of connection, the project will fail, sooner or later.
Within the first moment of a thought (for example, when we think of another person), there is clear, nondual perception. Then, our discriminating mind sets in and judges – good, bad, like, dislike, want, don’t want – when this splitting begins, we have lost clarity, and an opportunity to flower in this moment as a fully embodied human being.
Within the silence of mind we are liberated from the control of our thoughts.
Emotional Conformity (Awareness)
When we allow ourselves to attend to our feelings and emotions – beyond and before the formulation of thought – we expand from consciousness to awareness and move into a deeper layer of causality.
Feeling our feelings is not a mechanical act. It is pure sensitivity, which refines and clarifies the more we use it. Be curious, move slowly and with softness. What is the flavor of this feeling? It’s painful, but how is it painful? Is it active or frozen? Does it have a color, a taste? Is it only the feeling we thought it was, or are there other emotions around it too?
At first we might just meet anger, followed by fear, followed by pain. The art is not to let the story take up the cause. Caring for these energetic forms of feeling and emotion beneath our thoughts – giving them time, space and our loving presence – is essential. As we let the movement of feelings live in our awareness, they can unfold to deeper and increasingly familiar background atmospheres of how it feels to be alive.
Within the stillness of heart we are free from the conformity of our felt sense.
Physical Convention (Emptiness)
In the evolutionary play between mind and heart, we are blessed with the nondual container of the body. Whether we are entangled in our thoughts or gasping through the pain of emotional attachment, the body stays. As such, the body offers the first and most undeniable tool to coming to peace. When the thoughts become senseless and destructive, bring the attention to the feet on the ground, to the inbreath and outbreath, blessing this moment of life. When feelings seem to sweep is away like an incoming tide. Breath though them, attending to the miracle of the physical sensation of breath. Even if only for a few seconds, this can set the feelings free to move where they need to go.
The body is not a dead thing, nor is it the enemy. Our cells tell the collective history of the whole universe. The oxygen moving through our lungs and carried through our blood is pure energy – neutral and free of the burden of the shape and size of any form, be it physical, emotional or mental. The more we can learn to rest in the rhythms of the body, which are naturally attuned to the rhythms of the whole physical dimension, the more we come to peace. The more we come to peace, the less we are afraid of life, including physical life and physical death.
We have a miraculous and unique opportunity to experience being consciously aware in physical form, as an inseparable part of physical manifestatoin. Let’s not reject it before enjoying each shade of its living experience. In becoming one with the body, we also move a layer deeper to the causal core of emotions and feelings. Even in the cells of our body, our genes are affected by the defeats and suffering of our ancestors. It is for us to set them free.
Stress triggers fear and anger. It arrives out of the experience of separation from the universe outside of ourselves. This came about out of an instinctive drive towards individual survival. It’s triggers are peppered throughout the most subtle layers of our living body to protect us, yet when stress becomes the underlying engine of all our endeavours (even when no physical threat is present), it becomes tremendously destructive towards the whole.
The more we are able to relax into stress, relax around stress, to find comfort regardless of stress, the less we are caught in a perpetual cycle of self-defeat, in body, feeling and thought.
Within the emptiness of the body, we are liberated from the convention of death.
Sooner of later Alice is going to surrender to the world that is appearing within her consciousness, without censorship and control. Life itself will demand it. The dictatorship of the mind, like all dictatorships, will fail, as the pure energy of life takes back the form for the sake of the whole. Softly, silently and sometimes with the most ferocious love, she will bring Alice home.