In my studies of mindfulness across many different spiritual traditions, including Christian contemplation, Hindu Vedanta and Yoga, as well as Vipassana, Dzogchen and Zen Buddhist traditions, I discovered the jewel of advanced spirituality – nondual awareness.
This higher state of consciousness is at the core of every single spiritual tradition I have studied. This is confirmed through scholarship by Wayne Teasdale, Carl McColman, Andrew Newberg, and originally Aldous Huxley.
What is Nondual Awareness?
Nondual awareness is actually the goal of all meditation, but unfortunately many teachers and resources do not make that clear.
Many meditation apps and teachers promote focusing on the breath, doing body scans, etc, which is useful for bringing oneself fully into the moment. But after that, there’s not a lot of teaching of what to do.
If you want to find God, hang out in the space between your thoughts.Alan Cohen
Put simply, nondual awareness is an elevated state of consciousness, where our sense of self dissolves and our awareness becomes infinite.
Usually, we have a dualistic perception of reality. We think we have a self, and then we view everything outside of us as separate from that self. Thus the duality. Or, we think we are consciousness, but everything outside of us is only matter. Another duality.
But in nondual awareness, we let all concepts of self, ego, thought, desire, attachment, and emotion dissolve, and we become one with all things. We sense that we become one with the universe, with nature, and even with other people. We recognize that all things are a reflection of universal consciousness, and we are connected to that consciousness.
Just think of the consciousness present in trees. They are pretty smart, right? They have DNA programming, they exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen, and communicate with each other through fungal networks.
The energy and consciousness that animates trees, is a universal consciousness that also animates us. We are all connected.
How is Nondual Awareness At the Core of All Religions & Traditions?
“The potential for human wholeness – or in other frames of reference, enlightenment, salvation, transformation, blessedness, nirvana – is present in every human person.”Wayne Teasdale
Nondual awareness is a somewhat technical term that is called many different things by different spiritual traditions, including:
- Salvation (freedom from the sins of self, or ego)
- Satori (in the Zen tradition)
- Nirvana (the absence of attachment)
- Boundless / Infinite Awareness
- The Presence of God (the peace that surpasses/transcends all understanding)
Rupert Spira is one of my favorite nondual teachers, and has many excellent resources about nonduality.
“Non-duality is the recognition that underlying the multiplicity and diversity of experience there is a single, infinite and indivisible reality, whose nature is pure consciousness, from which all objects and selves derive their apparently independent existence. The recognition of this reality is not only the source of lasting happiness within all people; it is the foundation of peace between individuals, communities and nations, and it must be the basis for any sustainable relationship with the environment.”Rupert Spira
How Do You Attain Nondual Awareness?
At the core of nonduality is an inquiry into self, or into the nature of the mind. Even the Greeks had it right when they preached to “Know thyself”, even though Greek philosophy remained analytical and dualistic in nature, never quite reaching the nondual wisdom of the East (as far as I know).
From the Hindu Advaita Vedanta School
There are many ways to reach this state of open awareness, but the simplest way is what’s taught (again) by Rupert Spira. We do this by asking “Am I aware?”. This gets us in touch with our pure, peaceful awareness. From there we can rest or abide in our awareness, and let that awareness expand into the infinite.
From the Vipassana Buddhism School
We can also get there with a Vipassana Buddhism-style method, by focusing on the breath and letting that go, labeling thoughts as “thought” and letting them go, or noticing the sounds, smells and sights around you, then letting those go.
The breath, thoughts, and our sense all serve as tools to help us get into the generous present moment. Then once we let those go, we rest in what’s left, which is pure, nondual awareness.
From the Zen Buddhism School
Shunryu Suzuki taught in his book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind that when we start to sit for zazen (meditation), you are already accessing your universal nature (or nondual consciousness).
It is quite easy to access nondual awareness, and there are many methods of “getting there”. But we get there simply by being here. Fully, completely here. Even when starting to sit for meditation.
“The highest meditation is simply to be.”Rupert Spira