What is the belief most widely held in today’s world; the belief that underlies all other beliefs? It is the notion that we are separate. We believe that we are separate from everyone and everything around us. We even feel separate from ourself. We split within and relentlessly judge and compare ourself, convinced that something is missing in ourself and in our lives. We wish to be different, other than as we are which is a movement grounded in self-hatred. Moreover, because of this, we do not open-heartedly love ourself, or for that matter anyone else. Instead, our love is filled with judgement and fear.
A woman I know recently remarked that she learned to “do unto others as she did unto herself.” So she hated everyone around her because she hated herself.
The Signposts of Separation
We relentlessly defend against anyone, including ourself, who threatens our precious separative self-image. This is because, as it is so apply stated in the Upanishads, ‘wherever there is another, there is fear.’ When we project separation we fear that we can be attacked and hurt by every ‘so-called’ separate other, including ourself. To see the truth of this we simply need to bear witness to the warfare that is unfolding on this planet on any given day, no less how much warfare is going on within any given family, relationship or within ourself at any given moment.
Because of our separative stance, we constantly seek approval while avoiding rejection, all the while inwardly feeling abandoned. We suffer and all of our suffering is derived from our feeling separate. Suffering, judgment, anxiety, fear and our feeling of abandonment co-arise with separation. These attitudes are the signposts that indicate separation is present.
So why do we tolerate living in such a state of mind where we are held hostage by our thoughts and imprisoned by our judgments? For one thing, we may never have heard about life outside this prison. And for another, we are so deeply wedded to what is familiar that we do not realize that the prison door has always been unlocked from the inside. We feel safe living within the known limits of our self-generated worldview, even if it is full of conflict.
You may have seen the movie The Truman Story where the main character has been raised since early childhood within an enormous artificial biosphere. Truman lives in a totally fictitious town peopled by actors. His daily life is secretly watched by millions of TV viewers. His radio and newspaper, as well as all of the people around him, discourage him from exploring beyond the town’s limits. As he pieces together various hints, he realizes that things are not as they appear and he attempts a desperate escape by sailboat. The biosphere’s creator, a megalomaniacal TV producer, manipulates the weather to prevent Truman’s escape and nearly drowns Truman in the process.
Truman does survive and, apparently free on the open sea, is astonished to sail into the well-disguised limit of the biosphere. He climbs up to an exit door and then dialogues with the disembodied voice of the producer who, risking the loss of his enormously popular TV show, begs Truman to stay in this safe world. True-man’s passion for the truth allows him to step into the unknown, despite the fierce resistance of the megalomaniacal mind. The Truman Story may well be the meta-story we are all living.
If you project yourself into The Truman Story you will see that you live in the prison of your worldview. The megalomaniacal TV producer is your ego-mind that reinforces the myth of you as a limited and separate self. The yearning you feel for freedom is that intuition that is most authentic in you, which is always pointing to the exit that will heal your sense of separation and suffering.
Recently, a friend commented while we gazed in each other’s eyes in silent presence, “This is so intimate and vast, and so frightening. Yet this is what I have longed for my entire life.” We were falling together into the boundless, intimate spaciousness that is our native ground of being where our familiar landmarks of separation dissolve into the experience of unitive presence. Real intimacy is not based on separation but rather on unitive presence. Unitive intimacy heals our sense of feeling separate and shows us the true form of our own face, which may be unfamiliar to many of us. Nevertheless, it is our birthright. And somewhere deep inside we know this is true.
Have you ever sat before another-a friend, a lover, a child-and just gazed into their eyes; not staring, simply looking without purpose, falling into their presence, which is your presence as well? Rumi says about this:
Being closer and closer is the desire
of the body. Don’t wish for union!
There’s closeness beyond even that.
Why would God want a second God?
Fall in love in such a way that it
frees you from any connecting.
Love is the soul’s light, the taste of morning,
no me, no we, no claim of being anything.
These words are the smoke the fire gives off
as it absolves its defects, as eyes in silence,
tears, face. Love cannot be said.
-Rumi, The Glance, Coleman Barks
Presence is fathomless, vast and spacious like the clear sky on a cloudless day. Presence holds and allows for everything without judgment of what should or should not be present. When we gaze into the eyes of another, without expectation, we are mirrors that open each other into ourselves to reveal the unitive presence that we are always being before the mind arises and makes the difference of separation. Again, from Rumi:
I see my beauty in you. I am
a mirror that cannot close its eyes
to your longing. My eyes wet with yours
in the early light. These thousands of worlds
that rise from nowhere, how does your face
contain them all? I’m a fly in your honey,
then closer, a moth caught in your flame’s allure,
then empty sky stretched out in homage.
-Rumi, The Glance, Coleman Barks
Refusing Keeps Us Separate
We yearn to be free of our separativeness and suffering. We yearn to be different, better. Nevertheless, our attempts at self-improvement are tantamount to our rearranging the furniture on the Titanic. Self-improvement makes us feel better, enables us to communicate more clearly and develop deeper, more intimate relationships. However, when all is said and done, we still feel that something vital at the core of our being has not been touched. We still yearn for something we have not been able to apprehend.
We struggle never full comprehending the root of the problem. We wish to be other than we are and we wish life to be other than it is. But our wishes deny the reality of what is actually happening. We attempt to escape reality rarely conceding that reality never goes away. Our refusing what is, our attempt at changing the world around us or ourself, is the root problem that keeps us stuck in suffering and separation.
Refusing is the fabric that separation is woven out of. We create separation when we refuse, reject or believe that our experience should be other than it is. Refusing gives rise to our experience of separation and to our sense of suffering.
Separation drives all our longings to be loved, to be accepted and to be free. We hunger for love but continually revel in self-hatred. We long for acceptance yet struggle with self-judgment, imagining we should be different from how we are. We judge ourself as being unworthy, all the while feeling that there is some deeper understanding that will heal us, but this understanding always seems to remain just out of our grasp. Hafiz says:
Everyone you see, you are saying to them, “Love me.”
Of course, you do not do this aloud;
otherwise, someone would call the police.
Still though, think about this,
This great pull in us to connect.
Why not become the one who lives
with a full moon in each eye that is always saying,
with that sweet moon language,
what every other eye in this world is dying to hear.
-Hafiz, The Gift
Welcoming is the Solution
So what can we do? What can we do in the face of our anxiety, fear and self-judgment? We can accept what is. What could be simpler? When we open to accepting each moment as it is we greet each moment in an attitude of welcoming. Welcoming acknowledges everything as an expression of life. Welcoming excludes nothing. It embraces everything. And this is love, is it not?
There is one timeless moment (movement)
that leads to permanence,
and that is the moment (movement)
that opens into welcoming.
underlying all motion,
full of love,
without hunger or hope.
Here, without effort
our waiting lover’s arms
are embracing us into
our heart’s desire.
-Richard Miller, unpublished poems
We are healed of our separation, of our suffering, the moment we live this attitude of welcoming. Welcoming isn’t something we do. It is what we are. Welcoming is the ground of our being. Welcoming returns us to being presence. Welcoming opens us to unitive presence, which is love in action, love that knows no separation. Love doesn’t reject. Loves knows no judgment. And isn’t this what we yearn for…to be a part of, to be accepted and to be loved? Derek Walcott writes:
The time will come, when,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door,
in your own mirror.
And each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, “Sit here. Relax. Eat.”
You will love again this stranger who is your Self.
So give wine. Give bread.
Give back your heart,
to this stranger who has loved you
all of your life,
whom you ignored for another,
but who has always known you by heart.
Take down the love letters from your bookshelf,
the photographs and the desperate notes.
Peel your self-image from the mirror.
Sit, here and feast on your life.
Fall in love again with your Self and with all of life.
-Derek Walcott, Sea Grapes, 1976
When we live in welcoming the mind that separates grows silent. We live in the wonderment of always being vulnerable. Here, the mind admits, “It doesn’t know anything.” We feel ourself as a ground of being that expresses itself through the heart as joyfulness, peace and a presence that bypasses all conceptual understanding.
Paradoxically, our desire to achieve unitive presence takes us away from being who we actually are. Our desires to be recognized, admired, to be somebody, take us away from ourself. Unitive presence is not an object that we can obtain. It is who we are. And because of this fact it is always calling us home to itself, beckoning us to live this attitude of welcoming. Our desires are fulfilled as we relinquish trying to obtain it as a prize and simply open into being the presence that we are.
Being presence is not a prescription for changing ourself. Presence is who we are. When we are established in being presence we live in the realization that each moment spontaneously gives rise to the appropriate response without any need of mediation by a conceptual separate me. Here we live free and joyously in the understanding that we are unitive presence always expressing itself from the heart as welcoming, as love. This is meditation. This is peace. This is our homecoming. This is the fulfillment of Yoga.