The Way Out
May 10th, 2018
A human being is a part of the whole, called by us “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
How do we face the fact that the world is being devastated, and that we, as a species, are responsible?
We are destroying ourselves, and by most accounts, it’s probably too late to save what’s left. The apocalypse is not soon to come. It’s already here.
There is a way out. I think it’s the only way. The good news is, it can not only save us, it can reverse what we’ve done. There is no limit to what it can do.
We have achieved this state of self-destruction not through the power of technology but through our capacity for denial. Our most powerful tool, or weapon, has been the willful ignorance of suffering: in other words, our suppression of empathy.
It’s so easy to hurt others
when you can’t feel pain
Hall & Oates, “Rich Girl”
Empathy is somewhat of a misnomer. It’s not just the ability to feel what others are feeling; it’s the capacity to feel at all. Without empathy, we don’t feel pain.
The ability to feel is profoundly important because unlike our thoughts, our feelings don’t lie. There is a single profound truth about the world that is the only thing that can save us. That’s because getting that fact wrong is how we got here in the first place. Every single human problem is due to one thing, and correcting this foundational error is the essence of all religion. It’s the only way out. And that one truth is this:
We Are One. There no self and other. There no “us” and “them.” In fact, there is no “here” and “there” either, no “then” and “now.” There is only everything, just One Thing. You can call the one thing “The Universe” or “God” or whatever you want. It doesn’t matter what you think about it. What matters is how you feel.
This truth of our unity is ultimately empowering because it means that we are — or rather, I am — ultimately free. As One, as God, we can not only change the future, we can also change the past. When you “get” this truth, you see that “past” and “future” are just part of the illusion, just part of a dream.
Nisargadatta: Each moment contains the whole of the past and creates the whole of the future.
Question: But past and future exist?
Nisargadatta: In the mind only. Time is in the mind, space is in the mind. The law of cause and effect is also a way of thinking. In reality all is here and now and all is one. Multiplicity and diversity are in the mind only.
Imagine being able to erase all the suffering in the past: to rewrite history. It’s not so hard to do. Pretend you’re writing a novel. In the novel, there’s a timeline. No one in the story is controlling what happens to them or even what they do. It’s the author that controls everything. The author can change the plot at any point in the story.
We are not stuck in the book of our lives. All of reality has an “undo” command. It’s all in our hands.
There comes a time when our eyes are opened and we come to realize that mercy is infinite. We need only await it with confidence and receive it with gratitude. Mercy imposes no conditions. And lo! Everything we have chosen has been granted to us. And everything we rejected has also been granted. Yes, we even get back what we rejected.
This is the way life really is. It’s that simple. We just have to really believe it. And really believing it means experiencing it, which means feeling it. You can’t just choose to believe it; you can only choose not to. And that denial is what civilization rests on. It’s the engine of our self-destruction.
The more of us who realize this truth, the more we can live in harmony. If we all were to experience the world as it truly is, no one would think they have to hurt someone else to get what they want. Rather, what we would want would be very different. There would be no one “else.” There would be no “we.”
This worldview is not only profound, it’s foundational. And we have it completely backwards. So let me go over it again.
As a species, we have what psychologists call a Narcissitic Personality Disorder. We’ve become individualistic. We’ve developed egos. We have gone “from me to we.” We do this by shutting down empathy, or rather, our feelings.
Granted, we still feel anger and fear. We even feel love, because love is just caring, except that all that love, all that caring, is now focused on our ego. That’s narcissism.
Becoming egotistical is not something that individually, we choose to do. It comes from social and even biological conditioning. It also varies by person and ethnicity. We’re not a single, uniform culture. But we’re getting there quickly.
Individualism also varies by species. Some animals are social, others are not. Either way, there does appear, in nature, to be competition. But there’s just as much cooperation to be seen, if not more.
In any case, I wouldn’t go looking to nature to decide what’s natural because we would only be seeing it through our eyes. Just because several individuals or groups are going for the same thing — for example, trees reaching for the light — doesn’t mean they are competing for it, that is, wanting it for themselves, not others. When you run, are your two legs racing each other?
When living things do clearly seem to fight or sabotage one another, competition is harder to deny. But it doesn’t matter; we need not follow their example. We can and have to evolve beyond it. The r/evolutionary step is to see everything as a system with one goal. It means realizing that we aren’t here to make any part of the universe happy. Anything we think is separate is an illusion anyway.
This is where we are at. We are experiencing a birth. We can make this great transition or we can resist it and die in the womb.
I’m not talking about adopting any particular political or belief system. What matters is your sense of identity. Ask yourself, is there anyone that I am not? If I am everything, is there anything I am not responsible for?
Your answers don’t matter. You don’t have to understand it. All that matters is, do you care about everything equally? Every insect, every rock, every distant star? If you do, you’re enlightened. If not, here’s what you can do.
To engender “unity consciousness,” that is, to feel and experience the world beyond the ego, four tools that have worked for me are Nonviolent Communication, Somatic Experiencing, Family Constellations, and psychedelics. There are free resources online, and there are practitioners worldwide that can help.
There’s no rush. There is no hurry. There’s always time for a miracle. The coral reefs can flourish once again. Every extinct amphibian can return. Our loved ones who died from opiate addiction or cancer can lead healthy, happy lives. We can wake up and none of this will have ever happened. Can you believe it? Is anything too hard for God?
Believe it; it’s the only way. It’s the only way to live. Because the way out is the way in.