Are you in an existential daze, questioning your purpose on our little space ball?
Are you aggressively meditating, seeking to up your spiritual game to zen-like levels?
If the answer is yes and yes, why not try nondualism on for size?
Many have said it’s the shortcut to ultimate enlightenment and everything.
And if humans like anything, it’s instant results with little to no effort expended.
So if you want to bypass countless hours wearing baggy yoga pants at silent meditation retreats, non duality might just be your jam.
Sound good? Well, we better explain what it is I suppose.
What is Nonduality?
Nonduality is a state of consciousness in which there is no separation between the observer and the observed.
Everything is experienced as one.
It means there’s no difference between the inner and outer worlds, with one just as real as the other.
Is that where your body ends? Or is it where the Universe, with an uppercase ‘U’ begins?
This realization can be incredibly liberating, meaning we’re not bound by our thoughts and emotions, but instead are free to be whoever we want to be.
We can let go of our fears and doubts and simply experience life in the present moment.
That’s because you’re a dualist and if we were standing in a public square of condemnation right now, I’d expose you as the mindfulness pariah you are!
But seeing as I’m actually a chilled-out meditation entertainer, I’ll let you off and instead, we’ll have a serene chat about this splendidly simple technique.
But if you are coming from a dualistic worldview, which is more than likely seeing as that’s what we’re generally raised on as small humans, we better compare differences between the two philosophies, before diving into the meat and bones of how to practice it.
Nonduality vs Duality
- The belief that there is only one reality, and that duality is an illusion.
- A philosophy that was developed in India, which teaches that the self is one with the universe.
- A concept that there is no separation between the individual and the cosmos.
- Also known as Advaita Vedanta, which means “non-dualism.”
- The belief that there are two realities, and that nonduality is an illusion.
- A philosophy that was developed in Europe, which proposes that the self is separate from the universe.
- A concept that there is a separation between the individual and the cosmos.
- a concept (in its modern version) that can be traced back to René Descartes, who was its most famous proponent.
The Effects of These Worldviews
Dualistic thinking is rooted in separateness – often the “I” that we perceive to be at the center of our experience feels lacking – in time, money, relationships etc.
Thinking is the vehicle by which these lacks make themselves known. We obsess over that past regret and we feverishly plan for a better future.
Nondualism is centered around feeling a kind of unicity or oneness.
It’s based on a feeling that we are really one with and interconnected with everything around us and therefore we feel whole and fully content just as we are in the present moment.
Nondual meditation is a form of mindfulness that does not involve any focus on the breath or any specific object of concentration.
Instead, the practitioner allows all thoughts and sensations to arise and pass away without judgment or attachment.
This practice can be done while seated, standing, or walking, and it can be practiced for any length of time.
The goal of nondual meditation is to eventually experience a state of complete openness and awareness in which the individual is fully present in the moment without any separation between themselves and the rest of the world.
This state is often described as blissful, peaceful, and serene.
While there is no one definitive way to practice nondual meditation, here are some general meditation tips for beginners.
In my experience, if you don’t have experience with meditation, you might struggle with some of the more advanced types of nondual meditation.
- It is important to find a comfortable position where you can relax your body and mind.
- Once you are settled, allow your attention to rest on whatever arises in the present moment without judgment or attachment.
- Simply observe the thoughts and sensations as they come and go without trying to control them or make them go away
If you find your mind wandering off, simply bring your attention back to the present moment and continue observing whatever is happening.
It may take some time for beginners to develop the ability to stay focused for long periods of time, but with practice, it is possible to achieve profound levels of peace and stillness.
Once you’ve mastered the basics of meditation, it’s time to move onto a more specific practice – I recommend the following when you’re meditating.
During your practice, can you turn your attention back in on itself, and try to locate the ‘you’ that is experiencing the sounds and sensations?
In other words, can you find a controller directing the experience?
This exercise will reveal an absence of a separate ‘you’ at the center of everything.
Instead, it will reveal a boundaryless spaciousness at the heart of a nondual experience.
Once you’ve become comfortable with that, I recommend checking out The Headless Way, by Douglass Harding.
For full instruction, consult the Headless Way website, where you can find all of the Experiments, or exercises taking you through each step of the process.
Warning: Some of the terminology in the Headless Way might be a bit confusing at first, but should resolve upon direct contact with the experience itself.
Another option is to subscribe to the Waking Up app (paid), by Sam Harris, who has a particular focus on the nondual approach to contemplative practice.
How to Experience It
Non-duality cannot be experienced through any one sense alone, but rather through the totality of all the senses together.
One must be completely open and receptive in order to allow non-duality to manifest.
This can be done by spending time in nature, being around animals, or simply focusing on your breath.
When the mind is quiet and still, the true nature of reality will reveal itself.
In order to practice nonduality in everyday life, it is important to be aware of the interconnectedness of all things.
There are many ways to do this, but some examples include being mindful of your words and actions, being compassionate and understanding towards others, and seeing the beauty in everything.
It is also important to let go of your ego and any attachments you may have, which can be done by recognizing when you are caught up in your thoughts and emotions, and practicing mindfulness and presence.
Finally, it is important to stay open-minded and humble, and to remember that there is always more to learn about nonduality and the nature of reality.
Here are some of the foremost nonduality teachers and my favorite quotes, including links to their websites:
- Rupert Spira – “In reality, which means in our actual experience, all experience is one seamless substance. The duality between the inside self and the outside object, world or other is never actually experienced. It is always imagined.”
- Jeff Foster – “This moment is not life waiting to happen, goals waiting to be achieved, words waiting to be spoken, connections waiting to be made, regrets waiting to evaporate, aliveness waiting to be felt, enlightenment waiting to be gained. No. Nothing is waiting. This is it. This moment is life.”
- Jean Klein – “When you understand something and live it without being stuck to the formulation, what you have understood dissolves in your openness. In this silence change takes place of its own accord, the problem is resolved and duality ends. You are left in your glory where no one has understood and nothing has been understood.”
- Joan Tollifson – “Unlike seeking, which is result-oriented and rooted in a sense of dissatisfaction and incompleteness, this kind of meditative inquiry is rooted in curiosity, interest and love. Much as a lover explores the beloved, this nondual, nonconceptual inquiry is an act of love and devotion. Much as a child explores the world with open curiosity and wonder, this kind of inquiry is a form of play and self-discovery.”
To discover more teachings on the topic, check out these best books on nonduality.
Arguments Against Nonduality
Arguments against the concept of nonduality typically focus on the idea that duality is an inherent part of reality.
The argument goes that if reality were nondual, then there would be no distinction between things, and thus no experience.
Additionally, some argue that the concept of nonduality promotes a sense of detachment from the world, which can lead to apathy and inaction.
I also feel that some people get confused by the teachings on the topic. I certainly have and often continue to do so!
Many practitioners use annoyingly vague language when describing the concept as they say the experience transcends the duality of language – not that useful when you’re trying to learn more about an esoteric topic!
This wide interpretation of the concept means that many meditators remain confused during their practice, unsure if there’s a hidden technique or whether they’ve experienced it already and just haven’t realized!
Furthermore, some gurus paint nonduality as a kind of permanent awakening, when in reality it seems like more of a transient experience that, like much of our mental chatter, comes and goes.
Nonduality is a concept that can be difficult to understand, but it is based on the idea that there is no separation between things.
This means that everything is connected, and that we are all part of the same whole.
Nonduality can be experienced through meditation and mindfulness, and it is also possible to practice it in everyday life.
Start with the meditations outlined above and let me know how you get on!