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One and Many, Advaita in Everyday Experience

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Someone wrote a follow up question to the blog post entitled, Is the Brain the Source of Consciousness?
But how can there only be one experiencer if there are multiple experiences? Surely there must be multiple experiencers for there to be multiple simultaneous experiences happening in tandem, otherwise who is experiencing the other person's experience? I know I'm not - I'm only experiencing this human experience centred around one human being's sense perceptions and cognative faculties. I have never witnessed another person's experience - so how can we be One and the same?
The idea of the universe being One all-inclusive Consciousness suggests maybe we're all like different leaves on one tree - seemingly separate forms that come and go, yet only one living being. But then wouldn't the tree would be the experiencer? The leaves wouldn't have separate experiences, since they aren't separate, there's only one tree. But humans and all living forms have separate experiences.
If we are all one, wouldn't it be like there was a multiplayer game where all the different characters in the game were played by one player all at once? Surely there would only be one player - one expeiencer - who was simultaneously aware of every separate character's separate experience in the game, one person looking at all the screens at once?
And here is my reply:
Once again you ask good questions.  And it is one of the deepest mysteries: How can one thing also be many things? It would appear that these apparent individual selves are here for a purpose, maybe just to have individual experiences. Imagine what it would be like if you as an individual was experiencing everything that exists and that has ever existed. That would tend to get in the way of your ability to have and focus on an individual experience.
And yet you as an individual may still essentially have the potential to experience yourself as everything, since ultimately that is what you are. A candle has the potential to shine in all directions, but sometimes for our own purposes we put it in a reflecting holder and aim the light in one direction. But the candle has not lost its potential to once again shine in all directions.
As to how consciousness possibly manages to be one and many at the same time, I would invite you to read the fairy tale about Being at the end of my free ebook, Beyond No Self available here. It suggests that we are all duplicates or clones if you will of the infinite Self. And since infinite Being is made of pure space, all these infinite infinities can fit in the same space when they are one space. And yet any one of the many infinite Beings (that are really one Being) can also contract into a smaller experience of itself within that infinite space just for the joy and wonder of the experiences that provides.


So from one perspective we could experience it all, and then from another perspective we could experience just an individual reality. And yet we have always had and will always have the potential to shift from one perspective to another.  And it is not an all or nothing proposition; we also may at times have a bigger or smaller range of experience. Have you ever sensed what another person was thinking or feeling? What was the boundary of your awareness in that experience?
It turns out it is not better to have an expanded experience of awareness, it is just different. And since this infinite aware Being that you are is also eternal, it has a lot of time to fill. So it loves to try different perspectives and experiences, and is even willing to try on perspectives that last a lifetime or many lifetimes. It has nothing to lose since it cannot lose the capacity or potential to once again expand into a more limitless perspective.
The truth is not limited to our ability to understand and conceptualize it. So two seemingly opposite things can both be true. Perhaps an individual expression of infinite Being experiences a limited range of awareness and yet at the same time, there is a greater dimension of the same Being that is experiencing all of it. And both are true, and both perspectives are always here and available in every moment, along with an infinite variety of perspectives in between these two extremes. There is not a right perspective or a wrong perspective for awareness to take. It seems to want to try them all.
Hope this helps, and there is another article on here called "What is Advaita or Nonduality?" that explores oneness experientially.


What Happens When We Die?

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Q: If I feel oneness, will I still feel that sense of oneness after my death? Do Buddha, Ramana, or Jesus still feel the oneness as they would have felt it when they were alive?

A: This is a good question, although no one can really answer it until they die. There are some mysteries that are meant to be mysteries. When it comes to something like death, what we don’t know will always be more than what we do know. Not knowing something can actually be very rich and exciting.

So far, based on my experience with living, my guess is that there is no formula for what happens when we die. Just as everyone’s experience of life is unique, it seems likely that everyone’s experience of death would also be unique. Some people might dissolve back into the oneness without any trace of individuality remaining. Others might have an expanded sense of their true nature but with a sense of identity as someone who is experiencing the vastness of Being. And others might retain a strong sense of individual existence, which might suggest that they would reincarnate again to satisfy their remaining karma or individual desires.

We all eventually get to find out what happens when we die. In the meantime, we have the mystery of what is going to happen before we die! Will I fall in love today? Will I be happy or sad today? Will I realize my true nature today? There are endless small mysteries to be discovered every day and even some big mysteries. Your question is a good one because it shows curiosity. Since life and death are so unpredictable and unknowable, your curiosity can serve you much better than any answer to your questions. It can be very surprising to discover that questions are almost always more satisfying than answers.

Experience versus Knowing

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Someone used the contact form on here to send me the following question:

I can't begin to thank you for your free ebooks and writings.  Your message just sings so beautifully to me.  It answers the questions in the perfect order even before I can ask the questions.  Last week while reading your latest ebook, it was seen with incredible ease that the thoughts in my head were not who I am and now, I know as fact that only presence exists.  I can't even go to my mind without something coming up and keeping me in the moment.  Thoughts still arise, but very few "I" thoughts, and those dissipate in a split second.  I do have a question regarding "who I am".  I have of course investigated this and read about this.  I know as fact now that I am not my thoughts or body.  I know "intellectually" that I am Presence Awareness.  I say intellectually because I don't yet sense it as fact.  I wonder if part of me still sees it (Awareness) as an object of some sort?  I have felt/experinced glimpses of it in past - a complete feeling that everything was One and connected (air, people, trees, birds, etc), but that only felt like a passing experience.

Do you have any additional pointers I could read?

And here is my response:

This is a very good question, as many people have grasped the Oneness and their true nature as Awareness intellectually, but are concerned that it is not a common or ongoing experience for them, and so the sense of knowing still seems tenuous or vague. It also seems that there is often a gap between an intellectual knowing and a more grounded, whole being kind of knowing. And the bridge between these two is very simply repeated experiences of the bigger truth. We tend to only really know something that we have experienced a lot.

Everyone has different amounts of experience that is required for that knowing to be felt in an ongoing way. A simple example is asking how many times doing something it would take for you to really know that you now know how to perform some new skill like flying an airplane. If you piloted an airplane once for 2 minutes, would you feel that you know how to fly an airplane? Hopefully not! But if you had flown solo many times, then you would probably start to have an ongoing sense that you know how to fly an airplane.

So it does boil down to having lots of experiences of Oneness and Presence. That is what finally shifts someone's inner sense of knowing. At a certain point the sense of knowing shifts from being an intellectual knowing to a deeper knowing "in your bones". In the case of the knowing of Presence or Oneness, this shift can happen from several repeated experiences of Presence or very occasionally it can happen from one very strong or long lasting experience of the Oneness of Being. And of course everyone wants to have a single big experience that does the trick, but from my many conversations with people undergoing the shift, I have observed that it more often happens gradually or in a series of experiences.

There is one more point I would share with you. The important thing is the shift to a deep sense of inner knowing of the truth. The experiences of Oneness are wonderful and are of great service to this shift, but the experiences are not really that important in and of themselves. Like every other experience, the experience of Presence comes and goes. And any effort to get or keep these experiences will cause you to suffer pretty much in the same way as efforting to get or keep any other ordinary experience...