One of the things that has come out of my awakening is the embodied realisation that there is no single source of truth. This is very important if we want to hold nuanced and mature spiritual beliefs.
Minds have a habit of taking our experience and creating fixed perceptions and ideas about it. This includes the desire for a final truth that we can agree on.
In contrast, the heart has access to a connection with the mind, the body, the soul and the environment, because its natural state is one of interconnection.
When we are more connected to our hearts and less stuck in our minds we can take into account the different ways of processing and experiencing the world – from our perceptions to our sensate experience to our intuitive understanding.
Limitations of Truth
Each of these aspects of experience was taken to their absolute limit or conclusion through my experience. I assumed that one of them would provide some source of absolute truth that held up to testing in the real world and still made sense. It didn’t work.
Instead it completely deconstructed all the fixed perceptions in my mind and landed me in a state of presence where there is no such thing as truth.
In a lot of meditation teaching awareness is held as a special quality that holds the truth of our experience. It is a special quality in a way, in that for most people this is the primary lens through which they spend their whole lives making sense of the world.
But from the perspective of the Universe or the collective, experience clearly doesn’t arise in awareness. If a house falls over and there’s no-one there to see it, it still falls over. This is not happening in awareness. The truth, to have any kind of meaning has to be something that we can agree on to some degree of certainty between us.
The Five Elements of Experience
Awareness cannot be split off from the rest of reality. These 5 elements of experience are either all causes and conditions or all equally special. It doesn’t really matter which way you look at it. The five things are:
- A story
- Physical matter
You cannot boil it down to one thing being the primary source, they all play a role in you being here and now, being able to be having the experience you are having.
What Does This Mean for Awakening?
Lots of people choose one of these things and say that it holds the ultimate truth and therefore has the answer to all our questions and problems.
- Some people say you just need to purify your mind to end suffering
- Other believe in the power of love
- Psychotherapists believe in reframing your story until you find happiness
- Scientists and rationalists believe we will find the answers in physical matter
- Nihilists and hedonists believe it all boils down to nothing.
The problem comes because people ignore the other factors in order to confirm their preexisting beliefs.
So people who claim to be fully awakened tend to be people who have really nice lives. Instead of acknowledging this, they focus on how ‘they’ have made changes to their awareness through mindfulness meditation as the cause of their insight and happiness.
To enter into a mature discussion about the positive benefits that spirituality, or any kind of personal development, can have, we have to be able to understand that a human being and a society is an eco system.
Each element can be awakened to a very extreme degree in us, but this isn’t the answer to a fulfilling life in which we can be present. We need to have some kind of balance between all these things in order to be happy, healthy and functioning individuals.
But to find truly meaningful connections with ourselves, our environments, our lives and each other, then we need to work together as an eco system to support each other’s existence and growth.
We cannot separate ourselves off from the rest of the world. Our awakening and wellbeing relies on the experience of other people around us.
Most spiritual leaders feel good about themselves because they have a lot of people who respect, admire and listen to them. Not because they have found some secret to life.
Things like truth, beauty, meaning, wellness, peace and love arise from our connections and relationships with things, not from our separate worlds. These are the things that provide any kind of lasting satisfaction in life.
Spirituality needs to incorporate ways of strengthening and valuing these connections. We are not islands.
We need to create environments in which people are respected, welcomed, loved, valued and seen, without them needing to have a certain degree of status.
It is true that we also need to be able to give ourselves these things and be open to receiving them, which we can practice with meditation and therapy.
But we also need to be seen in this way by others and to see others like this for it to have any lasting and real effects on our lives. This needs to happen collectively in environments that are designed to support this way of being between people.