by Michael W. Taft
Nondual awareness is just so… lovely. The most beautiful part of the nondual experience is how it encompasses all things. As the name itself suggest, there are not two things anywhere, but simply one, vast, spacious YES of the universe.
Nonduality is the awareness that says Yes to all things; says Yes even to No, even to no-thing. It’s a direct experience of the already-perfect-and-pure-ness of the entire universe. Because there are “not-two” it has no opposite, it bears no contradiction, it has no enemies or problems.
As beautiful and powerful as nondual experience is, like all spiritual awakenings, it has some unskillful expressions that can lead to unnecessary difficulties in regular old duality—your life. It can even end up derailing your further awakening.
Missteps in the Infinite
One big misstep is the infamous “spiritual bypass.” Spiritual bypassing means to pretend none of your real world problems—or anybody else’s problems—are real because nonduality has shown you that the world isn’t real. Luckily spiritual bypassing is pretty well known, and there are many resources to help you identify it and overcome it.
A second misstep in living nonduality in our lives is much less commonly addressed—and yet I think it is just as big of a trap, if not bigger, than spiritual bypassing. I call it “nondual fundamentalism” and it means getting stuck on nondual philosophy as the only truth. In nondual fundamentalism, you understand the viewpoint of nonduality from personal experience, and it’s clear to you that this viewpoint is valid and true. The universe is One. So far so good. The trouble comes when you believe that this truth is the only truth, the one, real, genuine, all-the-way Truth. When you think it is the only viewpoint, and that it describes Deep Reality.
Why is that a problem? Well, for one, the minute you say that one truth is bigger or better than other truths, you’ve left nonduality behind and are firmly in the world of dualism. That’s a contradiction, but it wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the second thing.
Being attached to one truth, to one viewpoint, to one reality tunnel is extremely limiting. There are infinite viewpoints, and many of them are beautiful and wonderful. And all of them contain some important piece of the truth of it all. Getting stuck in the nondual view of the world means you cannot experience any of these other ways of being.
One Awakening, or Limitless Awakening?
Furthermore, being attached to the nondual view of the universe limits your awakening. Each viewpoint has its own awakenings that naturally arise from it. As you tap into one viewpoint after another, you notice a limitless unfolding of new awakenings, new liberations, new enlightenments. Your mind becomes radically open, endlessly curious, supple and subtle. Instead of constantly feeling that you have to defend your viewpoint of the Truth, your mind can related to new and different reality tunnels, and see them for the vehicles to further awakening that they represent.
The nondual viewpoint is so beautiful and joyous that it’s very easy to get stuck in this subtle-but-significant form of egoic attachment; this sense of “I know the one Truth.” Overcoming this trap only requires noticing the grasping and constriction around the viewpoint.
One very common form of nondual fundamentalism is when every conversation you have about anything eventually comes around to the nondual viewpoint. You just can’t go a day without telling somebody about the truth of the world, and sharing the good news of nonduality. If you notice this behavior in yourself, ask yourself why it’s so important to talk about.
Of course, we want to share our beliefs, and the things which have helped us in life, and that’s a compassionate expression. And yet, as you look closely, you will notice a compulsion there as well.The need to take a stance. The need to be right.
Once you become aware of the stance you’re defending, it will self-liberate very quickly. You will realize that there was never anything to defend. Never any truth that was somehow the capstone of all other truths. And voilà, you find a deeper freedom.
What Michael Taft is discussing here is an aspect of metarationality. Listen to a podcast with Michael Taft and David Chapman about metarationality.
photo by Gerald Tan