We don’t normally question whether we as individuals each have our own separate existence. It seems obvious that we do. The world, its trees and houses, it’s mountains and rivers are separate too. But let’s consider a question: could all life actually be one thing? Could it be that we are not separate beings, and actually but tiny parts of a whole?
The people of our city who drive on the same streets as we do, and go to the same stores, who are served by the same public servants—are we all part of one life?
The people in Syria, who seem far away, whose streets are bombed, whose stores have no goods, whose cousins may have turned against them, or who may be dead—do we share one life with them?
And life is more the people. The oak tree was here long before us, and the squirrel, and the salmon. Are we somehow one with the plants and animals that came before us?
What of the large and the distant? Proxima Centauri, the nearest star to our sun, 24 trillion miles away? What of our great galaxy? And what of the nearest galaxy to ours, 12 million trillion miles away?
Are all these aspects of life part of us? Are we part of them?
It feels unnatural to ask such questions.
Maybe that’s because we are normally so be impressed with our separateness. And no wonder—from the age of about two we gradually discovered ourselves as beings separate from other people. We learned to assert ourselves and we came to understand our personal desires. We got our own jobs and we cared for our own families. So the sense of having and directing our individual lives seems—and is—natural. It’s part of our evolution as humans. Without our sense of separateness, we would still be infants.
But we have this other thing—this mind with which we can imagine the whole. This too must be a part of our evolution. It gives us a glimpse into a much larger reality. It makes us want to know how it is all connected. It humbles us too, to see a great whole of which we are just a tiny part.
Yet, the tiny part we play may have an astonishing significance. It has been said that we are the universe becoming conscious of itself. If so, shouldn’t we honor this role by increasing our knowledge and our compassion regarding the whole?
Let’s ponder this: could our lives be a sort of dance, where each of us is actually two partners? One half of each person dancing with his or her other half. A dance in which we sometimes follow the lead of our individual self, and at other times follow the lead of the greater self.
At times our work, our family, our uniqueness lead in this dance of life. Other times, our powerful sense of the whole takes the lead—our awareness of our wonderful world, its varied peoples, the stars, even the universe. Maybe now is the time for our unique selves to take fewer turns leading and for our self that is aware of the whole to lead the dance more often. Perhaps this is our spiritual evolution—learning to balance our two worlds—dancing…dancing…dancing…into the larger life—the life of all.
(This piece is adapted from a meditation I spoke at C3 — West Michigan’s Inclusive Spiritual Community.)by