Before Copernicus, it was inconceivable
to most people that the planet Earth
was not the center of the universe.
It was also fashionable to assume that the affairs of humanity were the overriding concern of an all-powerful, watchful Creator who had curiously decided to make some mortal and quite fallible beings in His own image — for reasons unknown. (For as the English songwriter David Knopfler has mused, “If God could make angels, why in hell make man?”)
Most of us have no problem with the Copernican view nowadays, but virtually all of us still believe that we are at the center of our own existence. In fact, that idea is where our entire sense of self comes from – along with a seemingly insurmountable tide of problems. As A Course in Miracles (ACIM) describes our predicament:
“No one could solve all the problems the world appears to hold. They seem to be on so many levels, in such varying forms and with such varied content, that they confront you with an impossible situation. Dismay and depression are inevitable as you regard them. Some spring up unexpectedly, just as you think you have resolved the previous ones. Others remain unsolved under a cloud of denial, and rise to haunt you from time to time, only to be hidden again but still unsolved.
“All this complexity is but a desperate attempt not to recognize the problem, and therefore not to let it be resolved. If you could recognize that your only problem is separation, no matter what form it takes, you could accept the answer because you would see its relevance. Perceiving the underlying constancy in all the problems that seem to confront you, you would understand that you have the means to solve them all. And you would use the means, because you recognize the problem.”
The rise of “nondual” spirituality is a modern Copernican revolution of the psyche.
More and more people are participating in it, whether they recognize it or not. Yoga, Zen Buddhism, ACIM, and other paths that point our awareness toward the unreality of the personal, self-centered ego are reminding us that we are indivisible from the vast universe around us, rather than separated from it by our apparent enclosure in bodies that seem to be born, to suffer, and to die.
As the Course points out, it’s our all-too-convincing sense of separation from the vast whole of the universe that creates all our problems, including loneliness, illness, war, environmental degradation, you name it. When our existence is characterized by duality – resulting in the struggle to preserve our individual existence against the hostile or uncaring forces of an overwhelming universe – then we are indeed doomed to feeling overwhelmed.
But in different ways, every nondual path points toward the same goal: the attainment of a level of consciousness that surpasses our habitual separation, and recognizes our unity with all that is. Whether you call “all that is” the universe, or God, or Big Mind doesn’t matter; what matters is the experience of recognizing your unity rather than your separation.
When you stretch and breathe in yoga, or take a seat for zazen, or practice the Workbook lessons of ACIM, you are deliberately invoking the experience of self-surrender and thus the attainment of unity. And that raises the all-important question:
Can you actually get there from here?
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