Enlightenment is being able to simultaneously experience unity and individuality without experiencing any conflict.– Adyashanti, Mt. Madonna Silent Retreat February 2019
Yes, this fits my experience as well. I notice I balk a bit at the word enlightenment because of it’s baggage and the associations some have about it. But it is appropriate in some situations and it’s also appropriate in that there is a sense of illumination – metaphorically because reality is illuminated and literally since the energy system tends to light up within an awakening and experiencing light may be a side-effect of the initial awakening.
And there are many ways to talk about the unity and individuality. When oneness notices itself, it also notices itself as this unique individual human being functioning in the world. It notices this human self as local and temporary part of itself.
When there is no experience of conflict between oneness and who we are, it’s because there are – generally speaking – no identifications as one or the other preventing the mind from fluidly noticing itself as both and both as one. It may be that there actually are identifications here but they are more in the background or dormant, or it may be that they have been seen through or have worn out.
I suspect I know why Adya felt he needed to address this topic. Sometimes, we can experience a conflict between the two, between who and what we are. And that always comes from identifications as one or the other, and ideas that they are somehow separate or in conflict with each other. That too can be part of the process. The wrestling helps us get more familiar with the dynamics of being both oneness and a human being in the world.
Although I have rarely experienced a conflict between what and who I am, I have gone through a few phases in this dynamic of being oneness and a human being in the world.
In the initial awakening phase – which didn’t feel like an awakening at all – “I” was absorbed into a witness. I was fifteen and what I experienced myself to be was absorbed into witnessing – witnessing all content of experience equally, whether it was the outer world or this human self or what happened within this human self. This happened without any forewarning and felt like something had gone terribly wrong. I visited several doctors and specialists to try to figure out what was going on. The whole world, including this human self, felt very far away.
After a year in this weird state, a more full blown oneness revealed itself. Again, it happened suddenly and without any forewarning. All without exception was revealed as God. This human self was revealed as a local part of God and any identification as this human self was revealed as the play of God. The ultimate and real identity of everything, including this guy here, was the divine. Everything is part of the oneness.
There was a long honeymoon phase, followed by a phase where my attention went mostly to sustainability and social justice work (informed by oneness), and the last several years have been a process of deeper work for aligning more parts of my human self more consciously with the oneness. Parts of me that were still living in separation consciousness have come to the surface so they can realign, wake up in their own way, and be included in my human self and the oneness more consciously.
When I look back, I see that each of these phases have lasted about a decade. I sometimes feel my process is very slow, but it’s all not only guided by the divine, but it is part of the divine, and it is the divine.
Note: It’s sometimes fun to write about something from different angles. When I say “it’s guided by the divine” it’s the divine as second or third person. When I say it’s “part of the divine” it’s closer to oneness and it highlights that the divine is far more than this speck of a human self. And when I say it IS the divine, that’s accurate as well. Each one gives a slightly different angle to it and together they create a more rich and full image.