Recently, I was speaking with a close friend of mine by phone. We usually check in with each other each morning and, prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus, we would get together several times a week to walk or have breakfast. Since that hasn’t been possible, we haven’t seen each other in probably two and a half weeks. And so we called each other and began to update one another on what we had heard locally, nationally and internationally about the course of the pandemic. Somewhere in the midst of our conversation, my friend asked me, “How do you see non-duality? How do you see it at a time like this?”
I paused for a moment and then what came through was that non-duality is the experience of having two hands that are big enough to hold everything that’s going on without any conditions, without feeling the need to want one thing over another, but just being able to hold all of it. In other words, we can feel both the pleasure that might be experienced in one moment, and the pain and sorrow that may be felt in another, all at the same time.
These past weeks, one can feel the storm going on in the world right now. People are getting sick, many people are dying both young and old. And there is pain that is felt by family members and friends in relation to that. People are suffering economically, they’re frightened. They’re asking themselves: Am I going to be able to pay my bills? Is my business going to be able to stay afloat? How will I take care of my children? I am aware of this because my heart feels all of it. It just feels every bit of it.
I found myself crying as I saw an interview the other day on television, where a very beautiful gentleman had just lost his two sisters. I found myself in tears, feeling the loss that he was experiencing. During our conversation, my friend asked how I was feeling. And it’s interesting, because I don’t think I’ve ever felt a greater sense of serenity, peace and spaciousness as I’m feeling now.
I’m aware of all that’s going on, including the fears that come up that instantly catch my attention. And at the same time, I feel so at peace. I don’t even know how to describe it. It’s like each of us is being given the opportunity to awaken deeply to a level of stillness and equanimity within the storm, which is what’s happening in our lives all day long.
We’re all asking how we can quiet the mind, stop the worry and reduce our stress. When we’re overwhelmed, we usually want to stop the world and get off. Well, here’s an amazing opportunity that life is giving us. We don’t have to stop the world, the world has stopped. Now, we just need to allow ourselves to pause and experience “the peace that passeth all understanding”.
In our everyday lives, we are constantly presented with decisions to be made. But this is a moment when we needn’t have any preferences. As the Third Zen Patriarch said, “The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences”. This is a time when one can feel everything: the pain, the loss, the sadness, the fear, the anxiety, the trepidation, the upheaval and the absolute sense of peace and contentment. All of which are occurring in each moment.
If we can find the peace that we all feel when we get under the covers at night and rest our head on the pillow, we can breathe a sigh of relief, “Thank God, I’m Home.” If we can just allow ourselves to rest in between the tranquility and turmoil that are always present in life, then we can have a direct experience of awakening. Or what I call delightenment – being able to walk through life in the middle, with everything that’s going on, and still feel our inseparable connection with God, our sense of knowing that all is well.
Written by Jacob Israel Liberman