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Oneness is a concept that, for all its simplicity, is still lost on many of us Westerners. As human beings, there’s a natural disposition to process life in a dualistic way. We look at things as black and white, this or that. Even the gateways through which we perceive our world are in pairs, other than the tongue. We have two ears, two eyes, two nostrils, and pairs of appendages by which to touch, move around in, or manipulate our environment. The Universe itself seems to be set up on a system that relies on cause and effect, in and out, front and back, visible and invisible. It’s this system of belief that makes way for drama in life.
Ancient wisdom and traditions of the world often point to oneness as the way of transcendence. But how do you find the unity within and build on that unity to create oneness in your life and with the world around you? We can begin by looking at some of the dualisms in life.
The Self vs. Everything Else
One of the fundamental misunderstandings that we learn from society is the idea that we’re somehow separate from the universe. There’s an underlying concept in Western society that suggests we are strangers here—that we were born into this world as visitors. This establishes a foundation of dualism that permeates everything else we do. In a very basic way, we all carry the perception of being alone. The dynamic consciousness that is you is at first limited to understanding itself as only the self within the body. This creates a feeling of being separate from your environment and ultimately your world. No one shares your inner world, therefore it must be separate from the rest of what you perceive, right?
In many traditions of the East, the ability to see past this inner-outer dualism leads to enlightenment. It is an important building block toward the union that brings health.
To start on the path to understanding your self as a whole being, you must expand your awareness of how you perceive thoughts, sensations, images, and feelings. Begin with some simple exercises:
1) Pay more attention to your inner world and how it interacts with your outer experiences.
- When you hear certain noises, what thoughts arise?
- When you see certain sights or people, what thoughts accompany those visuals?
- When coming into contact with others, what thoughts come to mind—about yourself or about the other person or people?
Meditation helps to fine-tune your attention to detail. The purpose of bringing more awareness to your inner world is so you can see how your thoughts affect and/or are affected by your outer world. This is the foundation of transcending the dualism. When you can see that one and the other go hand in hand, you’re not merely reacting to an outer environment, you are creating the entire experience.
2) Notice coincidences in your life.
Synchronicity involves the coming together of seemingly unrelated occurrences in life in beneficial or enlightening ways. The importance of this, as it relates to oneness, is the ability to watch the invisible hand guiding your life. When you pay attention to these occurrences, especially with an attitude of thankfulness, they not only increase in your life, but also begin to reveal a purpose or plan. When you learn to recognize these moments of synchronicity, life will feel more like a fluid process and less like random events linked together by time. Eventually, your role and purpose in the grand scheme of things starts to take shape.
I vs. Them
This idea separates those things with which you identify from the people, places, or things to which you do not identify. This is a hardwired survival mechanism in humans and it's not a bad thing. But it is something that must be transcended to reach oneness. Here are three things to consider that can help you along the path toward transcending this dualism.
1) I am me because they are them.
All around us, we perceive everything in terms of their relation to something else. Typically the known is used to assign value, character, and emotion to the unknown.
Self-acceptance leads to acceptance of others. Part of this acceptance comes from recognizing the relationship you have to that which you think is not part of you. Just as “front” wouldn’t mean “front” if there were no back, you wouldn’t be you if there was not that which is not you.
2) That which I don’t like in others is my own projection of unwanted aspects of myself.
The concept of projecting unwanted characteristics onto others is nothing new. The trick is to build awareness of when you’re doing this in your life. Think of that annoying family member or coworker and give some consideration to your similarities. For example, an overly chatty person at work who gets on your nerves may be a reflection of your unmet desire to be more expressive. In this example, loving your own chatty person within can help assuage your annoyance with the other person.
3) I am more like them than I thought.
Try to see the common ground with others. Look for the unity, not the dividing principle. If you spend time meditating on this, you’ll find most enemies are only enemies until you find something you share in common. Even in circumstances where people remain distanced from you, a mutual respect often still arises. Look at situations of conflict or dislike as opportunities for growth. This awareness helps to bridge the gap between the self and your environment.
Ultimately, to arrive at true oneness, a person needs to do a lot of inner work and self-reflection. The goal of realizing oneness is not easily attained and no one who claims to have it is truly all the way there themselves. Do not place too much pressure or expectation into understanding your oneness with the world. In fact, doing so will only hinder your quest. Know that you are already one with the universe. It’s just a matter of retraining yourself, not reaching some lofty goal.