Nonduality and the Nature of Desire

Yet ask: where does an object go and what does it do when it is not appearing in the unified flow of subjective experience?

When we look into nonduality – conceptually, experientially, poetically, et cetera – one of the first insights is that Being presents itself as unified to a center that is stable.

There are no gaps in experience and you are always present unto it.

For some reason, this is not instantly clear to everyone. It can take a while – giving attention, studying, practicing – to become aware of it. And then, after one has become aware of it, there seems to be a tendency to become fundamental and conservative with respect to it. That is, we consider it THE answer and protect it accordingly.

That is a simplification, of course. Lots of folks who make contact with the felt sense of unified subjective experience go on with great subtlety and care. Lots of folks recognize it as the beginning of a dialogue, rather than the solution to a problem or a mystery.

raspberry bush ascending unto Heaven . . .

Imagine you are climbing a mountain. With great effort and skill you claw your way to the summit and . . . discover that you have reached the base at which you began. You have executed a loop rather than an ascension. You thought you were going in a line – making progress, improving, advancing, closing in on a goal – and instead you were going in a circle.

Perhaps “awakening” as such is like that. One realizes the loop. The nature of the loop is that it does not have a beginning or an end. Even calling it “the loop” betrays an intention to declare the inquiry into ongoingness over. Errors abound! For there are no mountains, no Buddhas, no angels, and no sacred texts. There isn’t even an altar on which to declare the Loop a God.

What I am calling the “Loop” here, others might call a “self.” Yet others might call it “Christ Mind.” Or “Present Moment Awareness.” Or “I Am that I Am.”

gazing up through the apple tree . . .

The name is not the thing that is named. But naming things is helpful because it allows us to communicate – to be in dialogue, as I like to say – and we do want to be in dialogue. We very much desire sharing. It is almost like the other exists in order that we might be known unto them, as if the collective were an infinite sea of longing forever meeting itself in salty undulation.

Give attention to this desire, this longing. What does it want? How does it make itself clear? Is it separate from what it wants? What, if anything, can you find beyond the specific objects to which it is directed – the desire for this person, this school of thought, this activity, this tradition?

At the beginning of this post (this post), I asked where objects are and what they do when they do not appear in the present unified flow of subjective experience. Maple trees, Ursa Major, the small of your lover’s back . . .

Notice that in order to ask that question, I have presupposed the existence of space and time (i.e., things wait somewhere). What is the relationship between desire and this presupposition? Is the one possible without the other? Does the one owe the other its existence? Does the one want the other?

In the spirit of dialogue, I offer a final thought with respect to those – possibly unanswerable but certainly fun and interesting – questions.

There is in experience a sense of order, and this order appears to be purposeful. Without it, I cannot bake bread, throw a baseball with my son, muck a pasture with my daughters, walk with Chrisoula through the village, or even write this sentence.

It is almost as if, in the absence of order, love would have no means to know itself or show itself.

Thus . . .

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  1. Hi Sean. Thank you for the wonderful article. At the beginning you said “Yet ask: where does an object go and what does it do when it is not appearing in the unified flow of subjective experience?” This is like asking where do the waves of ocean go after becoming waves? Where do light waves go after it is turned off? Where do sound waves go when it is turned off? We see birth (rise) and death (de-cease) of everything in the finite world. Everything including body, mind, experiences, memories, thoughts, desires, sensations, and perceptions, and objects are temporary or impermanent. Desires are also temporary, come and go, rise and de-cease.

    However, there is “something” (as you said “the name is not the thing that is named”) that is not temporary. It is “something” that always remain the same, unchanged, undisturbed, and it is “within” us. That “something” is also the same “substance” within all objects.

    As a concession to the finite mind, there are two types of desires. One type is a desire that arises comes from “lack of object” in the individual’s experience. The individual who experienced lack of an object tends to pursue or chase after the desired object. This is the reason to psychological suffering. The second type is that it comes from happiness or love that emanates from within. This second type of desire is the reason for “sharing.” Have you seen happy or loving people that love to “share” wonderful conversations or things.

    At the end of your article, you said “There is in experience a sense of order, and this order appears to be purposeful.” Would you be so kind to explain or describe your experience of “sense of order” that “appears to be purposeful?” Thank you and with love.

    1. Thank you for your note, Robert.

      I’m suggesting objects don’t exist in a public way; not that they rise and fall (or are born and die et cetera). I am also suggesting – more in posts other than this one – that such distinctions in existence don’t actually matter (fun and interesting as they are). You don’t need any ontology at all, much less the correct one, to know love 🙂

      In terms of the order that appears purposeful, why can’t I breathe underwater unaided?

      ~ Sean

      1. Sean,

        Thank you for your reply. With respect to the order that appears purposeful question, it is the something as asking why did Pure Consciousness, Awareness, or God “create” or take shape in the form of our finite minds/bodies/world? Is it because Infinite Consciousness, Awareness wants to see, hear, taste, feel, sense, and perceive (without any objective qualities) through the finite minds/bodies? Likewise, why does or what is the purpose for the dreamer to have dreams (dream characters and drama)?

        Thank you and with love,

        1. Thanks, Robert.

          I’m struggling a bit with your neo-advaitic semantics (you may have another name for it) which I’ve never found very helpful. Too often its capacity for obfuscation seems to be the point, leading inevitably to “I get it and you don’t.” Keep it simple 🙂

          My point – to which I don’t think you are actually responding – is that one doesn’t need ontology – or watered-down religious language posing as ontology (which includes ACIM of course) – to remember love, be happy, et cetera.

          ~ Sean

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