WHAT IS NONDUALITY?

Nonduality as pure consciousness and light – the absence of darkness

Have you ever been so immersed in an activity that time seemingly stood still? Have you ever felt the boundary between yourself and others slip away such that you feel a deep sense of oneness with others? If so, you have experienced an elusive state of mind called nonduality. 

In this blog, we explore the topic of nonduality. We begin by discussing ordinary states of consciousness. We then turn to meditative states of consciousness. Finally, we discuss nonduality, ending with new insights into this mysterious topic.

ORDINARY CONSCIOUSNESS

Ordinary consciousness consists of rumination and negative emotions

To understand nonduality, we must first understand our ordinary state of consciousness. This state of mind is the automatic thoughts and sensations most of us experience on a nearly constant basis. It is actually a state of unconsciousness, as awareness is not normally present.  

As an example, think of the times that you scroll the internet, scanning news articles. Or the times when you mindlessly are watching television. Without awareness, we become victims to whatever stimuli happens to come our way, whether internally or externally generated. 

Many equate their automatic thoughts and feelings with who they really are. They may not have experienced the state of mind that comes from separating from this default state of consciousness. We cover this state next.

MEDITATIVE CONSCIOUSNESS

Meditative consciousness brings in the power of self-awareness

There is a state of mind that lies beyond the ordinary consciousness we are used to. It can be called meditative consciousness. This state occurs when we observe our thoughts and feelings in a nonjudgmental way. In doing so, we neither suppress them, nor get wrapped up into them. In essence, we become an observer of ourselves. 

To get a feel for what this state of mind is, place your attention (and, if you wish, your hand) on your heart. Begin to count your heart beats. Prior to doing so, you were probably unaware of the sensation of your heart beat. When doing this exercise, you become aware of this sensation. A part of you becomes the observer of the heart beat, while another part of you is the sensation itself.

If you have never experienced this meditative state, it can be quite a surprise to realize that it exists. You can place your attention on anything you want, and you will notice the same idea. Whatever you place your attention on becomes the object of attention, and the aspect of you that is observing becomes the observer, or subject. Thus we have subject-object duality. As we further discussed in a past blog, this observer mind may have causal influence over matter, as is evidenced by meditators being able to change their brain. 

While the meditative state is quite intriguing, there is an even deeper state of mind. We next turn to this even more advanced state of mind – nonduality.

NONDUALITY

Nonduality as the experience of oneness

Now that we have discussed ordinary consciousness and meditative consciousness, we can turn to nonduality. There is a nice progression here – in ordinary consciousness, awareness is not present. In meditative consciousness, awareness becomes present, but attention is focused on an object, resulting in duality. In a nondual state of mind, the observer mind and the object under observation merge into one! Thus, duality is eliminated and we achieve the so-called nondual state of mind, or nonduality. 

Let’s take a concrete example. When we observe our heartbeat, we notice that there is an observer of the heartbeat, and the heartbeat itself. In the nondual state, the observer becomes the heart beat itself! Instead of experiencing the heartbeat as external to oneself, in the nondual state, we experience whatever phenomena we are paying attention to as ourselves. The boundary between subject and object dissolves into oneness. 

More colloquially, the nondual experience occurs when you are totally immersed in whatever activity you are engaged in. Some people refer to it as the flow state or the state of oneness. Time seems to stand still. Spatial barriers may also dissolve.

While you may have experienced this kind of state from time to time, what is the nature of this experience? We next turn to a new idea – that nonduality is actually a state of pure love.

NONDUALITY AS UNIVERSAL LOVE

Nonduality is the experience of universal love

What is nonduality really? Although we have discussed that nonduality involves the merging of the observer mind with what is observed, what is this state exactly? We believe that it is the experience of pure universal or unconditional love. 

To see this, we need to understand the nature of awareness itself. As we become aware of something, we have noted that there is an emergence of an observer mind. In our experience, this observer mind is actually pure love. In other words, the act of awareness is an act of love itself. 

When the object of awareness becomes a part of awareness – the state of nonduality – the result is the experience of pure unconditional love. This happens because the nondual experiencer recognizes that his awareness, which is pure love, and the object of the awareness are one and the same. So, if awareness is pure love, and the object of awareness is of the same essence as awareness itself, the object must also be pure love! Thus, the nondual state is really a state of pure unconditional love. 

HOW TO HAVE NONDUAL EXPERIENCES

You can have a nondual experience by becoming immersed in any activity

So now that we have a better understanding of nonduality, how do we cultivate these experiences? There are a few steps that you can follow to increase the chances of having a oneness experience. They are: cultivate a meditative practice and develop compassion for the object of your meditative practice.

First, it is important to develop a meditative practice. You need not engage in formal meditation, but finding an activity that you enjoy is a good start. From there, when practicing the activity or meditation, notice when your mind is wandering away from what you are doing. For example, if you are playing a sport, say tennis, notice when your attention moves away from the action of watching the ball, for example. When it does, gently bring your focus back to paying attention to the ball. You may begin to feel a state of flow after awhile, where you tune out all other stimuli and are absorbed in the activity. 

Next, to enhance the ability to get into a nondual state, you can practice developing a sense of compassion for yourself and the activity you are flowing with. For example, when meditating on some stimuli, say your heartbeat, practice developing compassion for the object of your meditation, in this case, your heartbeat. As we have noted, the observer mind is really pure love, so developing compassion for the thing you are focusing on will connect the observer mind (which is pure love) to the thing you are observing. At the extreme, the subject and object both merge into pure love or union.

In summary, you can cultivate the ability to have nondual experiences. By choosing activities you enjoy, and developing the ability to concentrate, you can begin to merge with that activity. By adding in the feeling of love, you can deepen your enjoyment and appreciation for whatever thing interests you.

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