Life is Not Personal

. . . What I am trying to say is that life is not personal. The same force that sustains the bluet, the pine tree, the box turtle and the moose sustains us. More, it sustains us all equally, so that a blade of grass truly does encompass as much of life as you or I.

This is what we don’t want to accept, because it is the death of specialness. It is the end of the separate self with its dreams and memories and stories and goals. It is not that that self dissolves or ends – it simply becomes a part of the flux, no better or worse than any other part.

And we rebel against that! It is so clear: life is both a trout, the brook the trout lurks in, and the man who studies the brook thinking about God. How could it be otherwise? How could the man be better or more important? How could he become better? He can’t. He just is, like the fish and the brook. That’s what life means. That’s what life is.

I am not saying that we can’t carry our story with us, but I am suggesting that the story might not be so attractive once we settle into life as it is. It might not be so necessary. We can pick it up and put it down the way we do a favorite song or book. Either way, life goes on.

It’s okay to smile and eat cookies and listen to 1980’s arena rock and start painting again or taking dance lessons and all the rest of it, whatever it is for you. Have fun. Be fun, too.

The names for our acceptance of this truth – life is not personal – run the gamut from awakening to internal decolonization. It is a common idea across the religion/philosophy/psychology spectrum. The question isn’t what we call it or how or where we encounter it. The question is do we see it, and if not why not, and if so, how are we bringing it into application?

It turns out there are levels or gradations to the nondual experience. It really is a sort of ascension or progression. Yes, at the end we see there was no journey but before we reach no-spiritual-journey, we go on a spiritual journey. The intellect often gets there first: it understands nonduality. But then the rest of us – body, soul, mind, narrative – lumbers along catching up. It happens differently for all of us.

Paradoxically, it feels very personal, the discovery that life is not personal.

On the other hand – and this is sort of a new insight for me, a new possibility – it can also be fun. The intellect says, “we’ll be in Boston in two hours,” and so you can just relax and breathe and enjoy the ride. What else is there to do? Hence Roland Barthes, hence paragraphs, hence guitars, hence sleeping on sheets, and so forth . . .

In the meantime, honesty and kindness seem to be good standards for the road. Honesty doesn’t have to translate into action; it’s just nice to be clear. I think this, I feel that. And kindness is nice, too. By this I just mean the usual drill: share your stuff, help old people, listen to kids, and if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. It’s only complicated if we want it to be.

Be serious about awakening, which as I am presently framing it is a question of giving attention to the whole of your life, out of which said attention awareness will surely and naturally arise. But it’s okay to smile and eat cookies and listen to 1980’s arena rock and start painting or taking dance lessons and all the rest of it. Have fun. Be fun, too. It makes the time pass quicker.

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