One of the things that has come out of my awakening is the embodied expression of there being no single source of truth. This is very important to grok 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, including the desire for a final truth that we can agree on.
In contrast, the heart connects to a wider range of experience 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, for example.
Limitations of Truth
Through my pain-staking spiritual awakening process, many aspects of experience were taken to their absolute limit. I assumed throughout this that something somewhere 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, as well as in my body and belief-system, and landed me in a state of presence where there is not really such a thing as a fixed truth in the way it is normally experienced.
The Elements of Experience
In a lot of meditation teaching, particularly Buddhist practices, awareness or the mind 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 the mind and awareness is the primary lens through which they spend their whole lives making sense of the world.
But it is not the only lens nor more fundamentally important than any of the others – like matter or meaning.
I have found it incredibly useful and experientially true to split human reality into these 4 parts:
- Body, matter & energy
- Heart & love
- Mind & awareness
- Soul & the ineffable
The important thing here is that 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.
Awareness cannot be split off from the rest of reality. Either all aspects of experience are causes and conditions or all are equally specially. It doesn’t really matter which way you look at it.
The only thing that would be able to describe the whole system in one thing, is the entirety of the system itself.
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.
- Scientists and rationalists believe we will find the answers in physical matter
- Others believe in the power of love
- Some people say you just need to purify your mind to end suffering
- Psychotherapists believe in reframing your story until you find happiness
- 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.
An example of this is people who claim to be fully awakened focusing on how ‘they’ have made changes to their awareness through mindfulness meditation as the cause of their insight and happiness and ignoring the fact that they tend to be people who have really nice lives.
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.
A lot of the reason spiritual leaders feel good about themselves is 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.