Week Twenty-One Summary and Practice
Sunday, May 23—Friday, May 28, 2021
What has been “unveiled,” especially this past year with the pandemic, is that we really are one.
All we have to do is discover our own gift, even if it is just one thing, and use it for the good of all.
Spare me perfection. Give me instead the wholeness that comes from embracing the full reality of who I am, just as I am. —David Benner
To be in unity with the Spirit is to be in unity with one’s fellow people. Not to be in unity with one’s fellow people is thereby not to be in unity with the Spirit. The pragmatic test of one’s unity with the Spirit is found in the unity with one’s fellow people. —Howard Thurman
There is a stereotype of mystics seeking to escape the world, concerned only with the ecstasy of their own experience of union with the Divine; yet in that union is a doorway that opens out into everything and everyone. —Liza J. Rankow
We sometimes think that affirming oneness means refraining from taking a stand on issues of importance. Instead, clear-headed dualistic thinking must precede any further movement into nondual responses, especially about issues that people want to avoid.
Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh (b. 1926) has offered the world much wisdom through his personal example and teaching. Here he offers a meditation about a piece of paper to illustrate the mysterious interconnection of all things which he calls “interbeing”:
If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are. “Interbeing” is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix “inter-” with the verb “to be,” we have a new verb, inter-be.
If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. Without sunshine, the forest cannot grow. In fact, nothing can grow without sunshine. And so, we know that the sunshine is also in this sheet of paper. The paper and the sunshine inter-are. And if we continue to look, we can see the logger who cut the tree and brought it to the mill to be transformed into paper. And we see wheat. We know that the logger cannot exist without his daily bread, and therefore the wheat that became his bread is also in this sheet of paper. The logger’s father and mother are in it too. When we look in this way, we see that without all of these things, this sheet of paper cannot exist.
Looking even more deeply, we can see ourselves in this sheet of paper too. This is not difficult to see, because when we look at a sheet of paper, it is part of our perception. Your mind is in here and mine is also. So we can say that everything is in here with this sheet of paper. We cannot point out one thing that is not here—time, space, the earth, the rain, the minerals in the soil, the sunshine, the cloud, the river, the heat. Everything co-exists with this sheet of paper. That is why I think the word inter-be should be in the dictionary. “To be” is to inter-be. We cannot just be by ourselves alone. We have to inter-be with every other thing. This sheet of paper is, because everything else is.
Suppose we try to return one of the elements to its source. . . . Without non-paper elements, like mind, logger, sunshine and so on, there will be no paper. As thin as this sheet of paper is, it contains everything in the universe in it.
Experience a version of this practice through video and sound.
Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life, ed. Arnold Kotler (Bantam Books: 1991), 95–96.
Image credit: Chaokun Wang, Landscape 山水 (detail), 2017, photograph, Wikiart.
Image inspiration: We are connected in ways we cannot begin to understand. One small water molecule sits in relationship to billions of others and is, in fact, part of an ocean. It lives in relationship to the tide, the winds, the heat, the rain, its own hydrologic cycle. And so it is with all of us, the humans, together and connected.