Layers of Reality

April 17, 2024

We grow up thinking that this physical world is all there is. Oh yeah, maybe there’s those places called Heaven and Hell that some of those religions talk about, but those domains are not typically experienced in our everyday life. Though some would claim that Hell is a 9-to-5 desk job and Heaven is a weekend at the beach. And to tell the truth, I’m not sure I disagree with them.

So, there is physical reality. It’s tangible, enticing, chaotic and present every morning when we wake up. But something deep down inside us says that there should be more. Because we live in a physical world, we think that “more” means a better job, a better spouse, a better house, whatever. But even after we get all these things, the sense of “more” persists. What could be more than what society tells us is supposed to make us happy? This leads to an existential crisis. What more could there be?

Our pull toward awakening happens when we have a realization that there might be more than just physical reality. That “something” niggles at us from below the surface of our day-to-day life. At first, it’s just an inkling. A ghost of an idea that seems to appear, but instantly disappears when we try to look at it. And then, one day, we overhear someone talking about consciousness or enlightenment  or awakening, and even though we’ve heard these words bandied about before, for the first time something registers deep within our being, “What’s that I just heard?” A. H Almaas, co-founder of the Diamond Approach, calls this the Enlightenment Drive. It is that time when the animalistic survival drive present in all animals on Earth gives way to the drive for enlightenment.

Our attention is now drawn to concepts and potential truths that exist beyond our standard way of thinking about the world. We begin to read about “spirituality” and “awareness” and the “present moment” and “the Now.” Something within us has been activated and we feel the need to seek. We’re not sure what we’re seeking, but a month ago we would have called it a bunch of hogwash. Now it has meaning.

This doesn’t mean that the physical reality we are and have been experiencing has anything wrong with it. It works just fine. And yet, something intangible is beginning to be felt. Some might think they need to find a formal religion or tradition to help them navigate this new terrain that has opened in front of them. “Those guys have been around for millennia. They should know what I need.” Others rush to the “New Age” movement and the world of “spirituality” where the rigidity of dogma is not so prevalent, at least seemingly so. But we will do anything to explore this new layer of reality that appears to be coming forward in our lives. There is a stirring deep with us that wants to know its true nature and when the Enlightenment Drive kicks in it’s hard to resist the pull of that inward journey.

What is found as we begin this exploration, is that Reality extends well beyond what we thought it was. It contains layers of energy and experiences not found with the eyes open to just the outside world. We begin to experience subtle states of consciousness that some would call transcendent and there may be times when our sense of who we are expands to include all of existence. We might even feel a sense that we are all there is and what that is IS timeless, indestructible, and infinite, in a word, we experience our underlying existence as a nondual state where everything is unchanging and unchangeable.

For a time, we immerse ourselves in nondual experiences. We meditate. We clarify our minds. We do yoga and pranayama. We begin to be able discern specific subtle states below the surface of the physical world. And we realize that there’s a reason they call it the Infinite. It goes on and on and on. Of course it would. How could the Infinite be anything less than infinite? There is no way that we could ever experience all there is to experience, but we want to. We get drawn into ecstatic states. We get obsessed with trying to reach the ultimate state of samadhi or perfect equanimity of being. The mind will begin to insist that everything other than nondual reality is just an illusion. It’s not. We’ve left the physical world behind to reside in the clear realms of Unity and Spaciousness. However, when we’re exclusively in the Mind, we’re not connected to the Heart and Body. These are dimensions of Reality that are just as real as the nondual. We’ve become dissociated from the real world. And it is real.

Some are starting to realize that the world we live in, Duality, and that layer of unchanging awareness, Nonduality, are simply alternate ways of experiencing the Totality of existence. That neither of them is right and neither of them is wrong. They are just layers of Reality that can be experienced, but there are other layers beyond and between them. What this means is that Duality is on the same level of the playing field as Nonduality and that either of them can be used to have experiences of Totality. This upends the standard way of looking as the Nondual state as the goal of the journey. It’s not. It’s just another way the Totality can be experience and Totality, Life, Reality is constantly unfolding in this moment and there is no one way that can encompass all of it at once.

When we begin to hold that paradox of the Dual/Nondual as a “both/and” rather than an “either/or” we begin to experience our wholeness. The dissociative Nondual experience is resolved, and we experience our sacred nature with physical and transcendent co-existing and inseparable. When we can stably hold that paradox, we are ready to go deeper still and begin to experience our uniquely singular expression within the seamlessness of Life. A. H. Almaas uses the phrase “Organ of Perception” while Bill Plotkin (SoulCraft) uses the phrase “Ecological Niche”. We begin to experience ourselves as a unique function of Life and a profound understanding of what “Soul” means descends upon us. We find that we are completely interdependent with all of existence and that our unique function is an essential expression within the tapestry of Life. And maybe, one day we’ll realize there is no goal to Life, it is simply arising in the moment in the exquisite play of creation and stillness reveling in the ecstasy of Being, and “I” am just one of an infinite number of points of view that enables Life to experience itself playing.

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