Photo credit: NASA
This audio recording was created at our April 23, 2019 group meditation. The talk begins at 37:30. Have fun listening!
This video recording was created at our April 23, 2019 group meditation. Enjoy!
We Are All One: The Story of Nothing (and Everything)
Enjoy a 30-minute bare awareness meditation and the story of nothing (and everything!) This class is part of our Creating the Beloved Community free training series. Read these tips to get the most out of this video: https://www.boundlessloveproject.org/news/2019/3/14/tips-for-watching-a-live-stream-or-recorded-video Check out other classes in this series here: https://www.boundlessloveproject.org/creating-the-beloved-community Read and print your own copy of the Beloved Community Pledge here: https://www.boundlessloveproject.org/news/2019/2/26/the-beloved-community-pledge This video was recorded April 23, 2019 at the Boundless Love Project's Group Meditation.Posted by Boundless Love Project on Tuesday, April 23, 2019
VIDEO OPTION: The content of this article was shared and video-recorded at a recent group meditation. The video starts with a guided meditation, but if you wish to only hear the talk, scroll to minute 39:00. Please click the icon to turn on the sound and push play. Then sit or lie down in a comfortable, energizing position; close your eyes; and listen with an open heart and mind. Enjoy!
The following is a transcript of the talk.
The Story of Nothing (and Everything!)
Last week I shared with you Peace Pilgrim's awakening experience that lead to her permanently feel at one with all life. As she put it, she knew:
...a oneness with the rest of creation. The creatures that walk the earth and the growing things of the earth. The air, the water, the earth itself. And, most wonderful of all, a oneness with that which permeates all and binds all together and gives life to all. A oneness with that which many would call God. I have never felt separate since.
Wisdom teachers from all wisdom traditions have told us that there is only one thing in the universeand that we and everything else are it. Tonight you will hear a story to help explain this unusual idea.
Introduction to This Week's Speech
These past few weeks, we have been contemplating the training: RECOGNIZE the inherent worth and value of all life, and TREAT both friend and foe with courtesy, dignity, and respect. This training encourages us to live with unconditional love towards all life. We have talked about how vital it is to get the mental attitude and view correct. When the mind is grounded in truth and love, loving and skillful actions flow effortlessly from them. But when the mind is lost in falsehoods and the states of greed and aversion, it takes work to treat others with love and compassion.
Thus, for the past few group meditations, we have offered two ways to connect with unconditional love. The first is moving through the world non-conceptually. We practice doing this by "seeing like a smart phone." This encourages us to "reject what we think and believe what we see." When we successfully do this, the mind is free of falsehoods and we may rest in our fundamental state of boundless, unconditional love.
The second way is by accepting what numerous wisdom teachers from various wisdom traditions have been telling us all along: we are all one. Rather than seeing ourselves as a separate, individual being, we recognize that everything that we see, hear, and experience is also us.
From an egoic view, this makes no sense. We practiced leaning into this idea by pretending that everyone and everything we saw is us. This week I will share with you a fable to help us delve into this "we are all one" idea a little more.
A Caveat About This Story
But before I share this story, let me remind you, to please not believe it. If you have been coming here long enough, you know that these teachings are not about adopting new beliefs. Instead, we mindfully test different attitudes and views to see which ones help us live with more love, peace, joy, and ease. It is a very scientific process.
However, through this research we do, we start to see clearly that the more beliefs we have, the further from the truth we stray. This is why thirteenth-century German wisdom teacher Eckhart von Hochheim said, “The soul does not grow by addition but by subtraction.” The fewer stories we believe, the closer we get to our true nature.
Thus, don't believe this fable. Because this story is conveyed in words, we know that it is not the full truth. Thankfully, the truth or falsehood of this story is not the point. The point of this story is to consider another viewpoint which may help you loosen up and let go of the beliefs that you cling to tightly. The fewer beliefs we have, the more spacious our minds will be, and the easier it is to let in the light.
Although you need not believe the story, please listen with an open mind and heart.
With that caveat out of the way, let me tell you The Story of Nothing (and Everything!).
In the Beginning...
Before the universe existed, there was Nothing; absolutely Nothing. This Nothingness, was very curious and wanted to know itself. But how can Nothingness know Nothingness when there is nothing to know? It cannot.
Both awareness and objects arise at the same time. Think about it: When we are in deep, dreamless sleep, we are not aware, because there is no object for us to be aware of. When there is no object, there is no awareness. The two things arise together. Therefore, Nothingness could not know itself while there was only Nothingness.
The Big Bang
But Nothingness was alive, curious, and eager to know what it was. Thus, out of Nothing, Nothingness created everything!
Nothingness only had itself to create with. So everything it created was actually made of itself. Thus, all of the objects of the universe were formed from Nothing. Once objects arose, awareness arose. Awareness also comes from Nothingness. Since Nothing was the key ingredient to everything, everything was also aware. It also means that the fundamental nature of everything is aware Nothingness.
Scientists call this moment in time where Nothingness created everything "The Big Bang."
Today's best science actually points to the fact that all forms are made of Nothing. What we think of as solid matter, scientists have shown to be molecules vibrating and moving at high speeds in vast amounts of space. What's more, the tiny molecules in all that space are made up of atoms. When scientists look inside of an atom, they find mostly Nothingness, and some tiny wave-particles called protons, neutrons, and electrons. And what are they made of? They are just waves and energy. There is nothing solid, permanent, and still. The deeper scientists look into matter, the less they find anything that we would think of as “matter.”
Thus, there is no solid matter in "matter." Matter is actually 100% nothingness. Matter, as we know it, contains an energy, a force, and an intelligence of some kind. We can feel it, experience it, and know it. Yet at the same time, matter is also Nothing.
But let's get back to our story. From Nothing, the material universe was made and formed. Now that forms existed, that curious Nothingness could finally be aware of something and thus better understand itself, from which all these things were created.
Fast forward roughly 12 to 14 billion years. Such expanses of time are no big deal to Nothing, who is eternal, uncreated, indestructible, and undying. As we have also seen, Nothing is curious, aware, and alive. In addition, Nothing is also creative!
Thus in those 12 to 14 billion years, Nothing made out of itself our planet earth and all that was on it. Nothing made a great diversity of life. There were fishes, mammals, birds, trees, and flowers of all kinds. There were waters, sky, mountains, and many other language-free life forms, including humans. All of this life was still Nothingness trying to know itself.
Another aspect of Nothingness, is that it is "all knowing." Many of us interpret "all knowing" to mean that entity knows everything. But what I mean when I say that Nothing is "all knowing" is that all knowing comes from Nothing, and is Nothing still trying to know itself. Thus animal knowing, plant knowing, human knowing, are just many different forms of Nothing trying to know itself. The diversity of life that existed was not many different lives, but only one life. Each life form was another point of awareness that Nothing could use to better know itself.
If the "body" of Nothing is represented by everything, we could think of each life form in that body as a "nerve ending" providing Nothing with more information to better understand itself. Of course, just as in our body, where different nerve endings only know what they know, these life forms, even though they are actually part of Nothing, did not know what all the other life forms around them knew. What did it matter that these nerve endings know what all the other nerve endings knew, when the one thing that existed, Nothingness, knew all, and knew that all that existed was itself?
Moreover, each life form, each "nerve ending," lived in harmony with the truth of reality as it is. All of our minds were open, spacious, and empty of thoughts, just like the Nothingness which created us and which we were.
Our spacious minds were free of the falsehoods of futuring, pasting, judgment, fixed-view, and self-view. Thus our minds were also free of the mental states of greed and aversion as we know them today. These painful mental states arose as byproducts of the falsehoods in the mind, so they did not exist because our minds only knew open, spacious truth directly through our senses. If the body was injured, pain arose, but we did not suffer mentally.
All life was free of the thoughts that divided life up into this and that. We were free of thoughts that measured and compared life. We were free of thoughts that judged life. We were free of should of, would of, and could of thoughts. We were free of thoughts about what is right and what is wrong.
Consequently, we were in touch with our inner love at all times. We were peaceful, loving, compassionate, and joyful. In the Judeo-Islamic-Christian traditions, this time period of human history was called the Garden of Eden. It was also referred to as Paradise because during it, we lived free of mental suffering.
All life was one life. We were one with all things. Yet this understanding arose on an unconscious level. The curious Nothingness that we were, still wanted to know itself deeper. It wanted to know itself consciously. To know itself consciously, the Nothingness required another stage in its development.
The Nothingness used the human parts of itself to create many different languages. Our human minds, conditioned for all existence to trust the information from our senses as truthful, tended to assume that our thoughts were truthful as well. Thus our conditioning created the my-thoughts-are-true bias of the mind.
However, it turned out that many human thoughts were not true. Our thoughts were filled with very subtle half-truths, distortions, and outright lies. These falsehoods took on a life of their own. Many layers of falsehoods were built on top of each other driving us further and further away from the truth. We can call these collections of falsehoods found in each human the "ego," although many wisdom traditions speak of them as "demons" or "the devil."
The Judeo-Islamic-Christian tradition calls this period of time when humanity developed language and fell into delusion "the fall." No longer did we live in Paradise.
The Lie of Separation
The biggest lie we collectively came to believe during the fall was that we are a separate, lone individual consisting of a body, thoughts, and feelings. Because we believed this falsehood, it became our cultural truth, even though it was a lie. Now we experienced a lot of mental suffering. We believed the falsehoods of futuring, pasting, judgment, fixed-view, and self-view. As we believed these falsehoods, greed and aversion arose as new mental states in the mind, created by the ego to help perpetuate its false views of the world.
Thankfully, the Nothingness that created all life is also the source of all love. Nothing deeply loves every part of itself, every part of all forms. Therefore, Nothing loves all of its human "nerve endings" and has wired our bodies to guide us back the truth of our unity with all life. Thus, whenever we think and believe a falsehood, an unpleasant emotion arises in the torso such as fear, anger, stress, and confusion, or the brain feels a sense of tightness, clinging, rigidity, and narrowness. These emotional warning bells of the body show up to alert us to the fact that we are believing a falsehood and moving away from the truth. Like a high-stakes game of "hotter-colder," the more untrue and unloving our believed thoughts, the more intense the emotional and mental feelings become.
However, the cunning and wily ego, that collection of falsehoods in our mind, took on a life of its own. It created strategies to help itself thrive! If people understood that their emotional and mental states were guiding them back to truth and love, that would mean the death of the ego. Thus, the ego created a false story about these mental and emotional states.
The ego assured us, "My dear, if you want to understand your emotions, look to the external world. Believe me, emotions and mental states are here to tell you when others have mistreated you, or they exist to motivate you to attain greatness. Emotions give you the energy and resolve to punish the bad guys and achieve your goals. These emotions will guide you to be happy."
On the surface level of awareness, this story of the ego seems to be true. But the ego keeps you distracted in externals so you don't look too closely at the story. For if you look more closely at it, you will discover the ego's nefarious and impossible conclusion.
"Yes, my dears, emotions help you find happiness," Says the ego maniacally out of your earshot. "And all you have to do to be happy, is control everything in your external environment. Muwahahaha!"
Given the reality that all forms continually move, change, and transform, the egoic goal of trying to control our external environment leaves us perpetually lost and suffering from the mental states of greed, aversion, and delusion.
Because of the my-thoughts-are-true bias, as a culture, we have bought into this egoic story. As a result, we don't use our emotions and mental states as a compass to alert us to when we believe a delusion. Instead, we use are emotions to justify harming ourselves and others in a vain effort to control our experience.
Thus the ego had led us all into a perpetual state of suffering. Without realizing it, we are conditioned to run nonstop in a futile effort to control our external environment, which can't be controlled. We vacillate between the egoic forces of greed and aversion, and endure nearly constant states of fear, anger, disappointment, overwhelm, and frustration.
In focusing on our external environment, where happiness cannot be found, we also neglect our inner environment where we can find the egoic falsehoods, root them out, and discover our true self and true happiness.
Our ego keeps us distracted on all of the external objects: our cars, our bodies, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the homes we live in, the roles we play, the money we make. The ego tells us the zest of life is in the stuff we do, achieve, create, and obtain.
Yet, the Nothingness in us, or our "soul" as many wisdom traditions call it, gently and quietly directs us to look elsewhere. To the soul, the content is not as important as the container. Look at the space that holds all objects in our visual field. That is Nothing. The same goes internally. Notice the spacious, empty, flexible, and loving nature of the mind and heart. The thoughts and emotions--or the content of these things -- is not what is important. Look at the spacious and empty containers of the mind and heart that holds these objects of thoughts and sensations.
Empty awareness cannot look back at itself, just as the eye cannot see an eye directly. Nothingness needs all of these objects of form, so it can better understand the container of Nothingness that holds all of these forms.
The Present Moment
Fast forward several thousand years to today. Most of humanity lives most of our lives through our ego.
When we listen to our deluded thoughts, we are slaves to our conditioning. If we had unfortunate conditioning, we behave unskillfully, harming ourselves and others. Thus when we read the news, we see prejudices of all kinds, environment destruction, human-created climate change, wars, hunger, murder, suicide, and the violent acts of terror that happened recently at Mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand and churches and hotels in Sri Lanka.
All of these human "nerve endings" are believing their false stories, seeing enemies all around them, and lashing out with disrespect, hatred, and violence, completely oblivious to the fact that we are all one. In truth, we are all Nothing. All of this violence and personal suffering is to encourage us to look deeper, to know ourselves, to come out of our delusions, and see our true nature so that our true nature can know itself.
The Nothingness sees all of this violence, but because it knows what is going on, it rests in peace. Nothingness knows the truth that is the opening line in the book, A Course in Miracles: "Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God."
To our deluded selves, there are real consequences to our actions, but Nothing knows that we cannot be harmed. Nothing knows we are eternal and undying. Nothing knows that we are Nothing, that we are itself. Furthermore, Nothing is willing to suffer to know itself in all of its glory.
We think it is us who is suffering, but really it is Nothingness who suffers. Unfortunately, we still believe the lie. We are still not seeing the truth clearly.
Will we humans wake up to our true nature before we destroy ourselves and the planet? We don't know. But if we all die in a blaze of glory, Nothingness can always start again. What's trillions of years to create a new universe when you are eternal?
Coming Home to Your True Self
Of course, the aware, loving, creative, eternal Nothingness that created us, and is us, is still trying to know itself consciously. And every time one of us human becomes enlightened, the Nothingness gets to know itself consciously.
Through mindfulness we can learn that all forms are conditioned, temporary, unsatisfying, and impersonal. These forms include our bodies, thoughts, sensations, emotions, mental states, achievements, intentions and so one. All of these things are the false self. If nothing that is conditioned, temporary, and impersonal is us, then what is left? Who or what are we?
We are what is unconditioned, eternal, and satisfying. We are Nothing. That is our true self. Through direct sense experience and a letting go of our delusions, we can know ourselves indirectly, and then directly. When that happens, we awaken. Nothing is knowing Nothingness on a conscious level. When we live with this understanding permanently, we are never separated from this truth, and we are fully awake.
The Shadow Side
Now I told you at the beginning to not believe this story. Why? Because this story, like all stories, contains a shadow side. There are many egoic and unskillful ways to interpret this story.
• One interpretation can lead to apathy and hedonism: "Nothing can be harmed, so why bother being skillful? I'm going to do whatever I want!"
• Another interpretation can lead to arrogance: "I am Nothingness, which is clearly what everyone calls God, thus everybody better start treating me like God. "
• Another interpretation can lead to judgment: "Nothing is willing to let me and those I love suffer for its greedy purposes! Nothing is awful and callous and I hate it."
• Another interpretation can lead to aversion and lethargy: "That's it? That's all life is about? Nothing trying to "know itself"? What a stupid waste of time."
• Another interpretation can lead to greed: "I want my suffering to be over. I want to be enlightened right now! I know I am Nothing! Why isn't this working?"
• Another interpretation can lead to overwhelm and denial: "Holy crap, I am Nothing! This can't be true! I can't live like this!"
All of these interpretations of the story are not to be believed. If you heard any of these messages in the story, you were not hearing it in the way it was intended. Don't listen to any of these egoic interpretations of the story, they are all false.
Of course if all of those ways don’t count, how can one interpret it? Interpret the story in a way that allows you to live fearlessly, lovingly, joyfully, compassionately, mindfully, kindly, wisely, and creatively. That is how it is intended to be understood.
What Now? Your Mindfulness Mission
This brings us to this week's Mindfulness Mission.
1. Try the story on and see what the world looks like through its lens. What if your true self is just the kind, loving, compassionate, joyful, eternal, creative awareness? Does seeing life in through this lens benefit you? Does it help you relate with more peace and ease to everything you need to do? Does it allow your love to shine through? Are you more willing to compassionately feel your unpleasant feelings? Do you feel more connected to those around you? Does it help you recondition the body so it is more loving, peaceful, and joyful? Explore and find out.
2. Also notice ways in which the story does not serve you. When this happens, how is the ego active? Is the ego arising as a story of greed leading to hedonism, arrogance, or striving? Is the ego arising as a story of aversion leading to judgment, apathy, lethargy, overwhelm, or denial? Pay attention. Learn from what you notice.
3. Finally, continue to "see like a smart phone" to sort out what is a thought or story, from what is reality. To experience who we truly are, we need to stop believing all of the mistaken stories we believe about who we think we are.
But because we don't control our thoughts, and our minds have a my-thoughts-are-true bias, this can be difficult. Thus, we need to do the work. Through mindful and critical examination of our thoughts, we can see how they are untrue, unhelpful, and unskillful. Seeing them as false and unhelpful, we stop believing them when they arise.
We don't need to make our thoughts stop, we simply have to choose to no longer believe them or take them seriously.
We Are All One
Thankfully, those humans who have come to know Nothing, have known it to be love, thus they merge with love. As Peace Pilgrim said, "I now know myself to be a part of the infinite cosmos, not separate from other souls or God. My illusory self is dead; the real self controls the garment of clay and uses it for God's work."
Thus, we are all one. Will we live from this reality and experience this truth? Or will we continue to believe our limited and false mental stories about who we are? Next week, we will look at these stories of self and see the falsehood in them, so we can discover our selfless nature. Please join us for this.
To close, we paraphrase a closing blessing from Peace Pilgrim:
Benevolent love surrounds and protects us. Know your true nature to be love. You are love's beautiful child, always in love's hands. Accept love's protection and there really is nothing to fear.
Know that you are not the clay garment of your body. Know that you are not the self-centered egoic nature which needlessly governs your life. Know that you are the life-centered, loving nature. You are unconditional love. You are awareness. You are spacious nothingness. Eternal and indestructible. Identify with the real you.
Now, with the knowledge that we are love's perfect children, eternal and indestructible, let us go our separate ways in love, but always remain together in spirit.