…the only real choice we have to make in this life is whether to argue with the image in the mirror or to love it with every fiber of our being. ~Bradley
God has such a lovely sense of humor.
When I was a kid, I was raised as a Catholic and spent a lot of time reading about Jesus. I really liked what he said, but couldn’t wrap my head around how it was being interpreted and explained. So much of what the church, and its people, said and did was completely incongruent with the teachings of Jesus. I tried to understand, but it just didn’t add up.
When I left home to join the military, I also left the church behind and decided to become an atheist. Why? Because none of what was being said made any real sense to me. If there was a God, wouldn’t that God be self-evident? Wouldn’t we all see God the same way? Why all of the different religions and beliefs, and wars between them? How could a ‘loving God’ allow for such devastation of his own creation?
For a long time I scoffed at the very notion of God and delved into science instead. All that I could see was the hypocrisy of religion and the insincerity of its followers. I had no interest in anything even remotely spiritual – because it was all just more of the same; hollow beliefs in flimsy ideas that could not stand up under the scrutiny of logic; one belief warring with another belief, using methods that were the very antithesis of every belief system.
After several years, I came across Buddhism – which was great because it actually DID make sense to me, and it DIDN’T require God. Of course, I had no understanding of what Buddhism was really teaching back then, and I was very selective about which parts of it I adopted, but it didn’t matter. Buddhism wasn’t at war with anyone or trying to convince anyone of anything. It actually looked and felt peaceful. People were making a real effort to live in accord with its principles in a rational and logical way. I stuck with it for a while and became ‘Buddhist’.
Years later, after Buddhism had largely shifted into the background of my experience, I was going through an existential crisis of monumental importance, and something new began to emerge. It wasn’t anything that I had read about, studied, or practiced. It was a series of very clear insights into the workings of my own mind that eventually blossomed into recognition of myself as awareness itself; as always and only awareness. I had no model for this realization and didn’t know what to do with it or how to process it though, so things became quite intense for a while.
About six to eight months or so into this experience of awakening, I started to become familiar with something called ‘non-duality’. Finally, for the first time in my entire life, something made complete and total sense and was in direct alignment with every aspect of my own direct experience. I had indeed discovered God to be Self-evident, but not in a way that the mind could understand. What became apparent was that ‘God’ is just a word used to point to the ineffable aspect of ‘what is’. One might equate it to an all-pervading intelligence, wisdom, love, and presence that has no center, border, boundary, or limit; something that cannot be quantified, qualified, or defined; something that is no-‘thing’ at all, and yet every-‘thing’ is it! This is the living essence of non-duality.
Participating in non-dual dialogue and community was great at first, but as my own understanding continued to deepen, clarify, and simplify itself, it was becoming even more and more apparent to me that non-duality was also problematic at its core. One group of people would spend time trying to convince another group of people how to be ‘correctly non-dual’. There were a plethora or arguments and judgments, criticisms and negativities. It was the same kind of war that happens in all religious contexts – just on a smaller, more subtle scale. This insight demonstrated a key difference between having an intellectual grasp of non-duality, which is of the more dismissive variety, vs. having the direct realization of that which is completely inclusive and sees only itself in all things.
It is this last point that is of profound importance, and why I began my article by acknowledging what a lovely sense of humor God really has. Imagine standing in front of a mirror and arguing with yourself about who is right and who is wrong. Now juxtapose this against the idea of standing in front of that same mirror, staring at yourself with eyes of complete loving-acceptance. Which of these two sounds like real peace to you? From this perspective, one might say that the only real choice we have to make in this life is whether to argue with the image in the mirror or to love it with every fiber of our being.
Just remember that everyone and everything is you – that you are everyone and everything; seamless, whole, and undivided. There is no separation. The world, the mirror, the image in the mirror, and the one who is seeing this image, are all one and the same. So again, the question is, will you spend your time arguing with yourself, or loving every aspect of who and what you truly are? It doesn’t really matter to me. As far as I’m concerned, you can’t get it wrong. I’m just standing here, looking in the mirror, peacefully observing with eyes of profound love.
~From the Heart of Bradley