We live simultaneously in two worlds. We live with our feet planted in one world that is made up of solid and separate objects that appear to exist independently of us. This is a world of duality in which we live informed by secondhand concepts that we take to be real, which are stored in our bodymind as feelings, emotions, thoughts, beliefs, memories, and images.
For instance, we were told a long time ago that we were born, that we have a body, that we are male or female, and that we will die. We have unquestionably accepted the legitimacy of these second-hand beliefs as true, based upon the authoritative testimony of our ancestors, and may never have questioned their validity. But many of us, down through the ages, have questioned the authenticity of these beliefs and have been astonished by what we have uncovered when we have finally experienced ourselves through firsthand knowing.
When we inquire with sincere innocence into the beliefs we hold to be true and respond with total honesty, without depending upon our memory—which is based on secondhand information—we open into the delight, wonder, and astonishment at the answers we come upon to such simple questions as "How old do I really feel? Is my experience really that I have a body? What gender do I really feel myself to be? What is my true name? What is my true face?"
These simple questions can move us beyond our secondhand concepts and the world of duality into experiencing a quite different reality that is not governed by the mind’s past, but by this present moment, which is the realm of the heart. When we live in and from the heart, memory continues to function, but the mind no longer informs our experience. Instead the heart informs the mind.
When we live informed by the heart, we discover that we are living in a parallel universe to the world of duality. Here, we live in a world of nondual loving Presence, in which all objects are realized and perceived to be non-separate projections of our own indivisible nondual Presence. In the world of the heart, we experience the end of striving to become something other than we already are. Here, being is enough. Here, we find the heart’s rest as we live in accepting and welcoming ourselves as we are. It is a relief to finally realize that we don’t have to be different. In the heart’s world, we are always being loved for who we are, not who we "should" be.
In a world of duality, we strive to be more loving, kind, generous, and compassionate. But in the world of the heart, we discover our natural ground of being in which we are love itself. We uncover that our very nature is loving, kind, generous, and compassionate. These are the essential aspects of our being. When we live in the heart we don’t experience separation.
Here, there is only our Self and everyone we see is realized to be "I." And when all we see is our Self, who is there to hurt? Who, then, is there to tell a lie to, to be unkind to? There is only our Self. Living in the heart brings an end to violence and deception. When we live in and from the heart, we live in our essential compassion and love that moves us to help our neighbor, because we see that our neighbor is our Self.
It can be disorienting, at first, when everyone we see is our Self. It can be unsettling to contemplate that our striving to change ourselves is actually taking us away from being happy. Striving keeps us bound to our unhappiness. Striving is always for a future goal that lies forever "out there." When we stop striving and simply are, the mind grows quiet and we come to rest. It is important to note that in being, we do not become lethargic. The heart is divinely willful. Doing continues, but no longer from the attitude of trying to change ourselves. Simply stated, being is enough.
The nature of the mind is to split that which is one into two. This is its inherent tendency. There’s nothing wrong with this. It is just the way the mind functions. Without the mind we would not be able to conceptualize a cup to drink from, visualize a chair to sit in, or experience a separate "other" with which to have an intimate relationship. Our ability to live in the world of mind allows us to function as an individual and manipulate a world of separate objects.
But separation comes with a hefty price tag. Separation and fear co-arise. They are not disparate movements. When we live only from the perspective of being a separate individual, we experience our life filled with suffering, anxiety, and fear. And while we may try all kinds of remedial action, trying to bring an end to suffering, anxiety, and fear without solving the accompanying problem of separation is tantamount to rearranging the furniture on the Titanic. While any change may look good for a while, it provides no lasting resolution to the problem at hand. In order to bring an end to suffering, we must resolve the dilemma of feeling separate.
Our ability to bring an end to suffering depends on our capacity to examine our lives. No external or internal repair ultimately works. Our ability to live in this world of duality, while welcoming its various movements of sensation, feeling, emotion, and thought, provides the gateway we are looking for to enter this other wondrous world of loving Presence where we feel always whole, healed, and healthy.
When we accept ourselves as we are, when we unflinchingly realize that our suffering rises out of feeling alienated and separate from our Self, we become vulnerable, open, and respectful of everything we feel and think and do. We no longer blame others, but see the expectations that are clouding our vision. We no longer judge others for the way we feel, but experience our longing to connect and share intimately with ourselves and with others.
To live our humanness is to experience joy and suffering. To live from our heart is to enter the domain of peace and loving-kindness and the timeless reality of transcendent being. To live our Presence and our humanness are not separate movements. They are one. We must understand that any attempt to rid ourselves of our humanness in order to become enlightened gives rise to suffering. What we fundamentally are is not dependent upon changing circumstances.
However, exploring what does come and go opens us to experiencing our underlying, changeless, heartfelt Presence in which all coming and going arises. Separation heals when our hearts are open to what is. By feeling the places in ourselves we have judged, compassion and loving-kindness naturally arise. Paradox operates at every turn.
Being open to ourselves with deep trust and reverence facilitates healing. While we must be willing to face ourselves by ourselves, community is a vital component in healing into the loving heart. Our wounds are the entry points for love, which takes us beyond separation and suffering. Community facilitates healing by supporting our moving into, rather than away from, our experiences of separation.
In community, as with our Self, we do not analyze or attempt to change. Instead our stories of limitation and separation are welcomed. In welcoming, there is no prescription for being other than we are. And when we are open without expectation, what is welcomed ultimately empties into its underlying nature, which is unbounded, loving Presence—the open, vulnerable heart.
Love will never be found in the past or the future, which is the mind. Love is alive only in this present moment. When we awaken into the heart, we awaken to this present moment—to the now. While altars may be set with many adornments, the true altar is the heart that is tender, vulnerable, open, and welcoming. The heart that is on fire can’t wait. The heart—your heart, my heart—truly craves an intimacy that heals all separation. And it wants it now. The heart knows the truth that it needs to tell in order to open into the precious and loving Presence that we truly are. Why postpone what is inevitable, which is our full opening into the waiting arms of the heart, which is always our nearest.