As I sat down to write about the meaning of non-duality I discovered that there is some underlying resistance that I need to explore first. This resistance showed up initially as frustration and a feeling of inauthenticity. As I began to unpack these feelings, I discovered that there were actually several layers of resistance to explore. Through the exploration of these different layers of resistance I discovered some insights about my relationship to non-duality as it is defined in different places and how it may relate to some current issues on my own psycho-spiritual path.

The first layer of resistance that came up is one that I am familiar with to some degree and is not limited to writing about non-duality but it would still serve to explore it here. This first layer deals with authenticity, in that, I feel inauthentic when I write about lofty spiritual ideals or attainments like non-duality and awakening. A part of me does not believe that I have the authority to write about such topics and yet at the same time, another part wants to claim that authority. I think that this conflict of trying to be true to what I know (little as it may seem) while at the same time wanting, even needing, to claim some form of spiritual authority is at the root of this feeling of inauthenticity. The feeling is only magnified by my association of letting go of desires with spiritual practice. The result of this conflict is that I find it difficult to even describe my experience and my progress, as that too, appears to be laying claim to something that I have no right to claim.

Another layer of resistance appears to be more specific to some non-dual teachings that I’ve absorbed over time. One way that non-duality is presented is “we are all one”. I’ve often chafed at this claim but I’ve not taken the time to explore this particular bit of resistance. I seem to hear in this claim of oneness an almost moral directive that is telling me that there is some way I need to be or something that I need to recognize. Not only do I not see things this way but I also feel that this claim of oneness is denying my own individuality. In my own exploration I’ve found that the Theravadan Buddhist tradition speaks to me largely because it leaves enough room for me to find my own way. Theravada does not deal much with metaphysics and many Western teachers consider metaphysical issues, such as rebirth, to be irrelevant to the practice. This claim, that we are all one, however, appears to leave very little room for me.

I have found that I can relate better to other definitions of non-duality. For example the phrase “not two, not one; both one and two” appears to leave more room for my own personal being. Somewhere in between not two and yet, not one, I can find enough room to be. I find this definition of non-duality to be very similar to Jung’s description of individuation when one discovers that one is a human being among other human beings – moved by the same archetypes – and yet one is a unique expression of human being, never before seen and not to be seen again. Unique, yet similar. Separate, yet intrinsically connected.

The need to find a way to be connected, yet separate has come up in my life and in my practice many times. It has been my experience in the past that in order to feel connected I must give up my separateness. This usually comes at the price of being untrue to a part of myself that cannot be accommodated in a certain relationship or situation. Shutting out a part of myself only works for a while; eventually it leads frustration and anger. When the anger and frustration can no longer be contained, the only option I appear to have left, is to leave. This is a pattern that I recognize from a very young age.

Over the last few years I’ve started to find different ways that I can be in relationship while being authentic to myself. This means that even in situations where my whole self cannot be included, I do that by conscious choice. This requires being willing to touch uncomfortable places in order to figure out what part of me is being left out. It means being willing to communicate my needs, preferences and boundaries so that I can feel comfortable including myself in a situation. This is still a practice and I sometimes find myself frustrated for an unknown reason, just as I did when I first sat down to write this paper, but by stopping and unpacking those feelings I can find new insight. It seems to me, that a deeper understanding of non-duality, as well as related practices, would be helpful in this process of finding a way to be connected, yet separate.