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Not Two

Non-Dual Thinking

Not Two
Friday, July 3, 2015

We in the West are naturally educated in dualistic thinking, so much so that we call it “thinking.” We think being able to make distinctions is what it means to be intelligent or rational. Most of our college professors love to make distinctions for us and teach us how to do the same. We have lost the older tradition that there are some things previous to—and even more important than—the making of distinctions. In fact, the distinguishing of everything from other things is part of the problem! Distinctions are largely made in the mind, with words, and that has many positive and necessary aspects. But it also carries a bit of untruth because you would do well to first see the similarities and deep identities of things before you make distinctions between them. I like to say you must always begin with “yes” rather than with “no.”

Even ancient religion saw that its job was to introduce people to an alternative way of thinking. We now call the practice of that other way of thinking meditation or contemplation. Contemplation is meeting reality in its most simple and immediate form. The only way to do that is to get rid of your mental grids of judging, critiquing, and comparing. Every major religion, at its more mature levels, is trying to give you some kind of method to compartmentalize this dualistic mind. You do not fully process the moment by judging it, analyzing it, differentiating it; you must use a different processor. You must first respect anything for being exactly what it is, as it is. Like a clean mirror, you just reflect it back without any added distortions or filters. Then you can see things in their primal unity, as both “one” and yet still “distinct.” What a miracle this is! [1]

The East is better at this than we are, as we’ll see in later meditations on Hinduism and Buddhism. Mark Nepo explains the non-dual brilliance of an ancient Chinese saying, “Not Two” [2]:

Almost fourteen hundred years ago, Seng-ts’an, one of the first Chinese sages we know of, offered this brief retort to those who pestered him for advice—“To reach Accord, just say, ‘Not Two!’”

This reply is as pertinent as it is mysterious. To make sense of it, we need to understand what isn’t said: that everything that divides and separates removes us from what is sacred, and so weakens our chances for joy.

How can this be? Well, to understand this, we must open ourselves to an even deeper truth: that everything—you and I and the people we mistrust and even the things we fear—everything at heart follows the same beat of life pulsing beneath all the distractions and preferences we can create.

Once divided from the common beat of life, we are cut off from the abundance and strength of life, the way an organ cut out of the body dies. So, to find peace, to live peace, we need to keep restoring our original Oneness. We need to experience that ancient and central beat which we share with everything that exists.

Gateway to Silence:
God is all in all.

[1] Adapted from Richard Rohr, Silent Compassion: Finding God in Contemplation (Franciscan Media: 2014), 61-62.
[2] Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening (Conari Press: 2011), 25-26.

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