One of the things that has come out of my awakening is the embodied realisation that there is no single source of truth.
This arose when my experience was permanently flipped inside out – my experience was deconstructed so thoroughly by the process I went through that rather than it arising in the mind and awareness it now arises in the heart.
The heart has access to a connection with the mind, the body, the soul and the environment, too, because its natural state is one of interconnection.
This means that I am able to flip the primary lens with which I experience the world, from awareness to sensate experience to intuitive understanding to Universal love to oneness with the environment, pretty much at will. It’s not really my will, but we won’t worry about that.
Through this process, each of these experiences was taken to their conclusion through me to see whether they could provide some source of absolute truth that actually held up to testing in the real world and still made sense. It didn’t work. All of them required the others to be a certain way or for me to ignore large swathes of common sense for them to provide any kind of stable answer or experience.
In a lot of Buddhist teachings, experience is split into causes and conditions and awareness. 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 with which they spend their whole lives experiencing 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. That’s basically what science is. If you look at experience scientifically, I.e. what can we agree is true between us, then it becomes clear that experience isn’t arising in awareness.
You’re probably sat on a chair while you’re reading this. Up until now you probably weren’t aware of the fact that you were sat on a chair while you were reading, but an outside observer would confirm this. Even if an outside observer wasn’t watching, just because you weren’t aware of it, doesn’t mean that this isn’t a huge part of what is shaping your experience.
In fact people have done studies where if you sit people on a wobbly chair they will report that their life situation (jobs, relationships, housing etc.) as being less stable than those who are sat on a stable chair…. even if they aren’t aware that their chair was wobbly. If the wobble is too imperceptibly small for our brains to become aware of it, our physical reality still shapes our experience to an insane degree.
The Five Elements of Experience
Awareness cannot be split of 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.
Buddhists say you just need to clear up your awareness to end suffering, New Agers and healers 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 and 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 – I.e. the other factors are in place but they choose to ignore that as the main factor of why they have been able to awaken their experience. Instead 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, 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.