The Path of the Non-Dual Shaman:
Part One: Non-duality
The mystical worldview of Non-duality and Shamanism introduces two fundamental shifts of perspective.
This blog post explores the first of these perspectives: non-duality.
The non-dual perspective says that everything is one. This is not new to you, no doubt, and on some level of course we all know that everything is somehow connected to everything else. But on a day to day basis this means nothing unless you can actually sense this reality. Then it may help you a bit.
The genius of the non-dual perspective is quite simple.
It goes like this:
You know you are awake, because you are reading this. You also know that you are you, and not someone else across the room. These are self evident in your experience. This is not an argument, it is just the fact of your experience. There is a distinct sense of yourself being here reading this right now. And as I am writing this, I also have a distinct sense of me being here writing this, and so does everyone else who will ever read this. We will call this, as we often do, individual awareness.
You are aware and awake. If you were not, you would be asleep or unconscious in some fashion.
Now, here is nondual insight:
The awareness that you are using, right now, to read this sentence, is exactly the same as the awareness in me, and everyone else reading this or who ever will read this.
Note: It is not our thoughts and personality, only our awareness that is identical. And there is a big difference between your pure, empty, open awareness and your thoughts, feelings and personality.
It is really utterly simple, and obvious after a moment's reflection. So obvious that the mind simply rejects it outright.
Another way of saying it is that you already contain and have 100% of spirit; 100% of the radical awakened enlightened mind of the God, Buddha, whoever you like, inside you right now and It is reading this and aware of this thought here, right now, that is flowing through your awareness.
I know, it seems too simple. God, enlightenment, etc., is supposed to be far away, hard to achieve etc. Nope, it is not. It is right here, right now, witnessing your mind reading this. It is just a thought that spirit is far away. And, that very thought is moving through awareness like all the other thoughts you have ever had or ever will, leaving no mark whatsoever on your pure, untarnished, open, immortal awareness.
But so what? Right?
Well this is why you should care.
Because when you were very young, at maybe 1 year old, you knew this. Then, as your personality grew and your ability to think and name things developed you, in a sense, took possession of your awareness and claimed it as your own. Sort of like a grab for the ultimate cookie, you said, “this is mine. I am me. I am called (Insert Name).” This is “my” awareness.
That grab is all right and good for a toddler, for it appears to help you develop into a healthy adult. But the premise here is that an idea that you made up when you were about 1 or 2 years old is very useful for forming an identity and a sense of self, but can become a quite cumbersome idea much later in life, especially if it is fundamentally not true.
This “awareness is mine and only mine,” is a useful lie, so to speak. However, the cookie of awareness belongs to us all, everyone, and your sense of being aware is identical to everyone else's.
In-other-words the thing you treasure most, your awakeness, is the same awakeness in your friend and your enemy, your dog and, in fact, the sky and all about you as well. It is as if the Force that they describe in Star Wars is a real thing, but that it is also awake and aware.
When that spacious open awakeness is there and infused in the body, mind and soul of a human being, it also develops this great thing we call a personality with desires and dreams and all the myriad and wonderful uniqueness of every single human being. There is, literally, a kind of infinite variety in human beings, and beings in general, all founded on a uniform and utterly identical, pure, open awareness that permeates all things.
Isn't this just what I said at the outset that all things are one?
Yes. But, now you know that the oneness that is all things is actually you; the you that is reading this now and not some hidden or distant awareness that must be found, or recovered or was lost. Nope, this is it, right here, right now. It is simple, easy, and in fact is often referred to as your “natural state”.
All those times you have spaced out and had no thoughts but were still there, that is it, just that. Utterly and ridiculously common, like the air we breathe, or if we were fish it would be like water we swim in, breath and finally are made of.
Who notices the water if you are fish, right? No one. Or the air if you are human. It is there, but we just don’t see it because we are it.
So, here is your practice for today, for right now.
What we just read are called “pointing out instructions” in Tibetan Buddhism. And they mean just what they say. This entire section was a simple way to explain and point out to you what is already there.
Now, what to do with this insight...
What you do is gently cultivate your awareness of awareness itself. Here are some things you can do to help that.
Look at the sky and the vastness of it. Just explore and open to the spaciousness of the sky and sense Awareness all about you.
Sit at the edge of a body of water and do the same thing.
Next time you and a close friend do some nondual sharing.
This means look into your friend’s eyes and start by seeing them as a person, as you know them.
Then look deeper, past their uniqueness to the distinct sense of presence that they are there with you.
Just look and see what is there while they do the same back. At first it can be sort of uncomfortable, but if you move past that you can discover a kind of simple connection in which the awareness in you is looking at awareness in them.
It can be a little freaky at first because you are suddenly very close, very intimate, but that is only because you are the same awareness.
It can make some folks run away at first because of how they are constructed. No worries, find another friend.
The truth is everyone has actually already done this before many times. It often happens when two babies who are just about at the crawling stage run into each other. They can see that they are sharing the same thing in terms of awareness and so they each recognize the awareness that is looking out through the eyes of the other. So, you have already done this thousands of times as a child, you just may not remember it right away. But the patterns are there in your brain, already laid down (unless you were raised in a cave with no other mammals).
Try it with someone who is willing. Then take some time and just rest in that space together. Then after that, talk a little but about what that's like.
What is it like to share this essential self that you are with another?
How does it feel?
What part of you is able to relax, or be at peace in the natural state?
This is always the important Shamanic question.
What does this do for me or anyone else?
It is a very good and essential question.
For some folks maybe it does nothing, at first. For others it may be obvious and they have always known this. Whatever the case, the point of cultivating the natural state is that in that state you are totally complete. There is nothing to do, nowhere to go, nothing else that needs to be known or done. It is in a basic sense a kind of very subtle, healthy bliss.
This resting in the natural state with others can be deeply rejuvenating and restful. It does not solve your problems, any more than a bath solves your problems, but it does clean off the endless agendas, plans and intentions to do and know, avoid or attract something. It is as if you can just settle into that contented moment after you have received a gift, or eaten your favorite food. You just are complete. It is as if you have skipped the quest and gone straight to the treasure at the end. It is a very useful tool in the tool box of life, because it is actually the note in the box that says,
“You are done, put down the tools and chill.”
So, cultivating this natural state is also called developing the View. It is the view from the end of the quest. It is the view you already had before you set out on the quest. In Tibetan Buddhism, it is the idea that you begin at the end and get the highest, most advanced and most refined spiritual teachings (read most simple) at the very start.
Just begin at the end. Then you can see it and cultivate it. If you are ripe and ready for that view, you will value it, at least a little bit. But if you don't, no worries, there is no rush, just keep on living your life until you do.
The results of practicing “resting in the natural state” are that, over time, you become more and more aware of awareness.
And how does this help?
Well...ever felt alone, abandoned, insecure, overwhelmed, desperate, betrayed, confused?
No doubt you will feel all those things again someday as they are very human occurrences. Nonduality will not make the feelings stop coming, or go away. But when they do come at you, you will have an ally with you. You will have this awareness that permeates the field of your universe.
It is very much like again the Force in Star Wars as I mentioned earlier, except that as far as I know and have seen, folks can’t levitate things with it. And even though that is a very cool part of the Force, the coolest part of all is the deep stability that Yoda and the Jedi master’s seem to have in the midst of the chaos of those movies.
That is it folks.
You cultivate awareness because the natural state is the profound ground upon which all reality exists. In fact, reality as we know it is a manifestation of awareness, a kind of ornament of beauty and terror that has arisen right out of this ordinary ground of being.
If you could have been trained in the Force or magic as a child, wouldn’t you have chosen that? If it could have helped you in the madness that is middle school, for goodness sake, wouldn't you? Of course you would have. So why not now?
In Tibetan Buddhism, the realization of the view is called the “ultimate medicine.” This is because the ultimate medicine corrects the basic misperception of our mind. It is that misperception that is often driving us to seek an endless assortment of things to satisfy our deep hunger for being complete.
-->The view satisfies that hunger.
You will still need to go to the doctor to get medicines for your body and a counselor for your mind and heart. But, this ground level distortion can be corrected and when it is engaged with and cultivated.
Awareness begins to support its own cultivation of the view.
Awareness wants to be found out.
Awareness wants to be recognized by itself in you and in others.
Awareness wants to return to the home of its own ground that it never really left.
One last exercise:
After having done a little nondual sharing with your friend. Go and try it in the mirror and look past or through yourself to awareness.
Notice that Awareness is actually seeing you through you and you are seeing it back. That is how close you are to it. So close that it is, in fact, You. It is the You that is reading this right now. As it is the same You that wrote this very sentence.
To help you cultivate Awareness of awareness, wear an object (ring, bracelet, etc.), which, when you notice it, you are reminded to become aware of your awareness noticing the object. The object can be anything you assign this particular significance to. Doing this on a regular basis will help you deepen your natural state of awareness-ing (being actively aware of awareness).
This blog series is not just about your natural state; not just about cultivating your awareness of awareness. That is only part of the story. But, it is the foundation on which the rest of it resides.
Stay tuned for the next post in this series… “The Shamanic World.”