Driving through the Arizona desert, I'm in the passenger seat staring out at the mountains slowly streaming by, trying to recall how it felt to merge with my surroundings back when becoming one with everything meant disappearing, meant swiping myself out of the picture and dissolving into thin air, becoming nothing and everything. Well, everything except for me, except for somebody. Only in hindsight can I say that most of the time when following those pseudo non-dual pointers, I was not actually becoming one with everything, I was disappearing into it and there's a world of difference between the two.
But, in wanting to vividly describe it so that I can help others find a new way to experience oneness without dissolving, without losing themselves, I have to dip into my own absence again, to re-visit it experientially. Fearing that the re-entry gate might get jammed again, I hesitate before making my exit. It takes some effort, but pulling off the old self-swipe, my sense of identity, of somebody-ness, vanishes into thin air. Like so many times before, having once identified with the character of "Jessica" already feels like a memory of a distant dream, and the elbow resting against the window belongs to no one. My absence right now doesn't feel exquisite like it did before, or enlightening, but extraordinarily hollow, stultifying. Nonetheless, here it is again, along with the familiar tug of grief and muscle clenching that visits me when I remember with full clarity and feel the full weight of how much I lost in the abyss of self-effacing spirituality. Yes, I did find some rare jewels in no man's land that I carry with me, but I hope to god I never find myself stuck there again. I've gotten what I left for, so swiping myself back in, I return.
With a swell of relief, I summon my soul and psyche back to where they belong, as integral parts of this scene. How grateful I am for a new way to experience oneness - a oneness that includes me in it. To those self-abandoning, faux-enlightened "gurus" who call this my fictitious ego's attempt to "have it's cake and eat it too," I say to you that it's delicious. A real someone, this limited but real ego me, gets to be present to savor a oneness of diversity, a cosmic unity that we couldn’t even know, that wouldn’t even be had the "undifferentiated, impersonal ground of being" not evolved into this interconnected web of inseparably separate, and wondrously different, little me's.
How sweet it feels, this full-blooded, heart-bursting buoyancy, this thick and warm intimacy with the mountain range riding alongside me. I smile, knowing I'm living that marvelous paradox that Tim pointed out, that whatever I'm communing with, I am also one with. Oneness only because there is relationship, and relationship only because there is more than one thing. Within this intimacy there's a wellspring of kindness towards my bruised and aching heart, making my sorrow feel like a privilege because it means I got to live for more than one day. When I feel intimate with all things, I can cradle my sorrow, and when it dances with joy, I feel utterly alive! I can set a place at the table for pain because it won't threaten my oneness with the mountains, our intimacy is too primal to be that conditional.
Drawing the world closer to me, it feels like I'm enfolding everything I see in an open embrace, taking the entire scene into me without it negating me. Nothing to negate here but negation itself. Looking out at the mountains now, we're woven together seamlessly and yet paradoxically without physical distance lost between us. This kind of oneness doesn't tell me to "drop the burden of being a person and become nobody." It doesn’t falsely believe I must dissolve myself into it.
If I could, I'd run through the desert laughing and crying, my heart exploding and hair dancing in the wind. Drunk with aliveness and steadied on my feet by the presence of the One as "the ten thousand things". And there is more than "just seeing happening" without a seer, there's both a seer and what's seen that need each other in order to be, and the miracle of my eyes through which to perceive. The cherry on the cake is that I no longer have to use air quotations to call them mine because with nothing to desecrate or deny, everything is re-confirmed, re-sanctified. And this little me who isn't all of me, but knows her place within the whole of everything, is grateful to feel not just profoundly wanted, but utterly necessary.