(An excerpt from the book, Everything Is Included)
The biggest spiritual truth is the truth of oneness. Everything that exists is part of a wholeness, a unified field that underlies reality. This is a radical concept because it seems to contradict our direct experience, where it appears that there are many different and separate things. Your body seems separate from my body, from the chair, and from everything else. And yet, two things can be very different without being separate. Your thumb is clearly different from your little finger, but are they separate? Or are they both also part of something bigger: your hand? Can’t the same be said about any two parts of your body? They are different but not separate.
What about two things that seem so clearly separated in space, such as two bodies on different sides of the room? How can they be part of one thing when one can clearly see the space between them? While they are obviously not connected in the same way that two fingers on the same hand are, could they be connected in more subtle ways?
Right now, every object near you is affecting you. There are several different forms of energy flowing between you and every other nearby object, including light, heat, gravity, sound, and electricity. In addition, molecules are escaping from your body and the nearby objects, even solid inanimate objects. These molecules circulate in the space between you and every object and also land on and even enter your body. With every breath, you are breathing in some of the furniture and walls and other people in the room right now. In fact, in every breath is at least one atom that was also at one time inhaled by any other person you can name in history. There is even evidence that every single atom affects every other atom no matter how far apart they are. If that is the case, where does your body actually stop and the apparent other objects or bodies begin?
What about the space itself that you and other objects appear in? Where does space stop and your body begin? Is there still space where your body is located? As subatomic physics has shown, even physical objects are 99.9999% space, and the subatomic particles themselves are actually just clouds of probabilities. Are there really any boundaries in this infinite sea of space that we and everything else exist in?
All of this is pretty conceptual, and while it is all true, it still seems to contradict our direct experience, where for most practical purposes, you and I and everything else still seem so different that we also appear separate. Yet it is also true that fundamentally there is just one continuous field of energy, space, and matter in which we all exist. These are not contradictory truths but complementary truths. As mystics and lovers and true scientists have found throughout the ages, it is also possible to directly experience our oneness.
Without having to experience oneness with everything in this moment, can you at least experience a sense of connectedness or intimacy with something else or someone else? If you can taste the oneness you have with a lover or beloved pet or something that you find beautiful or inspiring, can you also sense a more subtle sense of connection with other objects or people? An even more profound way we are all connected is in our consciousness itself. There is really only one Being here, and we are all it!
What would it mean if underlying all of the apparent differences in our world, there is also an all-inclusive oneness? How would that change our view of our place in this world and our role in human life? Could it open our hearts and minds and allow a more kind, compassionate, and loving view of ourselves and everyone else? Oneness connects us all. We are all affecting each other in every moment, and recognizing this truth to whatever degree we can is transformative.
What if you treated everyone as a lover or a friend? What if you felt a bond with every living thing that transcended your individuality without denying or rejecting the infinite differences that also make up our world? Sometimes the perspective of oneness has been used to deny or reject other more relative truths, such as the existence of an individual self, but this makes no sense. A true understanding of oneness includes everything and leaves nothing out.
One of the reasons we resist the perspective of oneness is that we are attached to the more subtle forms of separation, such as the separation between right and wrong or true and false. We hold onto a subtle sense of separation to protect our sense of being right or our belief that something is true and something else is false. But what if, just as there is only one underlying reality, there is only truth? Many so-called opposites are really just different amounts of one thing: light and dark are just different amounts of light; heat and cold are just different amounts of heat; and wetness and dryness are just different amounts of water. Similarly, there are different amounts of truth.
Everything that exists is part of the truth, part of what is. This is not to deny that there can be extreme differences. Bright daylight is profoundly different than a cloudy, moonless night in the desert. The wetness of the ocean is profoundly different than the dusty dryness during a drought. But they are all part of a spectrum. Truth is the same way. The biggest truth is the truth of oneness, and yet there are many smaller, relative truths that are still true, including the truth that your thumb is different from your little finger, and your body is different from everyone else's.
Just as there are extremes on these spectrums that are dangerous or even deadly (too little heat or water can kill you), there are truths that are so narrow and incomplete that they are tragically dangerous or hurtful. Just as we have a word for darkness, we have a word for truths that are that small: we call them lies or label them as false. The perspective that some things are false is useful for navigating the world, but it also remains true that every lie has some truth and reality to it. Some truths exist only as a thought in someone's mind, but a thought is still a kind of reality, just not much of a reality. A fictional story has some truth to it, but not much. Practically speaking, there can be so little truth in a thought as to be worthless or even dangerous if it is believed to be truer than it is.
Recognizing the bigger truth that all there is, is oneness or truth or light or love doesn’t negate or eliminate the danger or potential damage of a more narrow truth. However, it does change our approach to the smaller truth: it puts it in perspective. If you think a small truth or a sense of separation is fundamentally bad or wrong, there is a tendency to reject it or even try to attack or destroy it. In contrast, if there is a recognition that everyone is part of one thing and everyone's truth is part of the bigger truth, then you would naturally approach other beings and other beliefs with more compassion and acceptance.
This doesn’t mean you need to subject yourself to the hurtful or dangerous actions of someone holding a narrow perspective or someone holding a limited and prejudicial belief that incites violence. You can still protect yourself and others from those actions and any violence. Even the need to protect yourself is included in the whole truth. But in seeing the underlying oneness of everyone and every truth, you can also understand that the real cause of that danger and violence is the limited understanding, not some fundamentally wrong or evil nature that is opposite to the truth. The response this understanding naturally evokes in us can be imbued with compassion and clarity about what needs to be healed or made whole and more complete in ourselves and in others.
Oneness is not just a profound, underlying reality that we can experience for ourselves. It is a perspective that can transform the world and bring more love, light, compassion, and truth to the whole world. In every moment, we can notice how much oneness, how much truth, and how much love and compassion we are experiencing in ourselves or in another. If it is a lot, then what a gift life is giving us in that moment! If it is limited or contracted, then that is an opportunity to open our heart, our minds, and our awareness to discover what else is true in this moment. How separate am I really from the person in front of me? Is there anything about his or her perspective that can actually expand or enlighten my own? How can I possibly give some understanding, acceptance, or love and compassion in this moment in a way that can actually touch that person and bring more of an experience of our fundamental oneness and the bigger truth of the situation into this interaction?
Everything is included in this oneness that is pointed to by all spiritual teachers and leaders. In embracing everything with an attitude of its essential worth and value, we can sometimes go beyond the illusions of separation, right and wrong, and true and false to a simple resting in the beauty and mystery of all of reality.
-from Everything Is Included by Nirmala