MORE THAN TWENTY YEARS AGO, my (second) wife and I divorced, after ten years of marriage. We both had looked forward to our years ahead with each other and had planned for a comfortable retirement. I was in my early forties when we married, and I focused my attention on a career as an insurance agent so that we might further our goals. In so doing, I put aside what had been a primary interest prior to my marriage and this career: the “spiritual pursuit” for enlightenment.
After we divorced, I recognized that I had some unfinished business: it revolved around “the meaning of life,” which is at the bottom of the spiritual pursuit, to which I returned.
As soon as our house was sold, I took my share of the equity and bought a fully-equipped camper van. I parked it on the property of an absentee friend in the redwood forest near where I had been living in Northern California. I lived there in virtual solitude: reading, contemplating, taking walks for hours in the forest. At the end of three years, something suddenly fell into place. The spiritual quest resolutely came to an end. I discovered the actuality that is inescapable.
The inseparability of all things, which has been referred to persistently by mystic sages for 3,500 years of our written history, is commonly spoken of as “oneness” (or Oneness). There is an aspect of this oneness that is apparent to most attentive minds, but the aspect that seems to give many of us difficulty has to do with our personal, individual relationship to this oneness. This aspect had now become clarified for me.
It was not that something was added to my fund of knowledge; it was that I saw the truth in what was already actually present but I had overlooked or ignored. The situation was similar to one of those “optical illusions,” which you have probably encountered: what appears to be, say, a black candlestick and its holder is displayed against a white background. But in addition to this apparent picture is a picture that is not so apparent. If the white portion is viewed as the foreground and the black portion seen to be its background, an entirely different picture emerges: the outline of two matching profiles whose noses nearly touch.
My relationship to the whole of existence was now revealed in a radically different light. If you were to view a fish in an aquarium, for instance, directly head on, what you would perceive would be remarkably different from what you would perceive if you shifted your perspective to observe it broadside. It would not be a different fish—and nothing would have been added to it—but your perception of it would now be thoroughly different.
This radical and sudden shift in perspective was received like good news by me. Where before there had been confusion and perplexity concerning my relationship to the whole of existence, now there was a calming clarity. A profound resolution calmed the uneasy questing that had punctuated my prior years. Better still, the resolution stayed with me; it has not since been apart from my general awareness.
I hoped to share the good news, particularly with those I knew who had quested concurrently with myself. I knew from my own experience that a certain element of this unitive understanding is communicable from one mind to another; the analogy is sometimes given of a flame leaping from one torch to another torch. Probably a more apt analogy is that of a center-fielder making a throw to home plate: if the catcher is not fully attentive, there is nothing within the center-fielder’s power that will complete the transmission. But the fact that the transmission may rarely be received is not a reason for inaction.
There is a certain reasonableness, or even “logic,” to the unitive understanding—up to a point. However there is a point beyond which logical progression will not take you. At that point, only an intuitive connection can be made. However, once the tumblers have fallen into place, it matters not that a hairpin replaced a key.
The essence of the unitive understanding is that it is liberating; the marvel of it is that it is basically effortless. Its liberation is a consequence of the non-attachment it engenders. This is not a detaching of piece from piece, item by item. It is an across-the-board release of attachment, which even includes non-attachment to the continuity of one’s life. This dispelling of attachment is, in the same moment, the dispelling of correlated fear—and that is dynamic liberation.
And, so, it is not that one first removes fear; removes attachments; and then the unitive revelation falls into place: it is that the latter is coincident with the former. This is the true marvel of the unitive realization, the effortlessness of the deconstruction.