Brisbane – February 2008
Separation occurs every time we think Me first or Mine first. Simple as that. Separation occurs every time we think that we are cuter, sexier, smarter, richer, gentler, more religious, more understanding more … more … more than our sister, our colleague, our neighbour – more than the person in the queue in front of us and more than the stranger we love to hate.
Separation occurs whenever we think we are more deserving [of something or other] than someone else.
Separation occurs when we think that as long as we act for the benefit of our children, our family, our friends, we can push someone, anyone, out of the way to obtain whatever it is we are after.
Though separation happens everywhere in its ugliest forms, for most of us separation is made most graphic on the news. Sometimes it comes in the images of looters in the aftermath of disaster. Sometimes it comes in images of otherwise ‘nice’ people pushing and shoving each other out of the way, trampling each other to grab, to horde, what they think they need to survive – they want it for themselves and for their family – they want it at the expense of someone else’s family. It comes in images of bullying and ostracizing.
Separation is favouring one child over another, in the home, in a team or in the classroom.
Separation is ‘forgetting’ our parents and other relatives who would otherwise enjoy and benefit from our presence while we have ‘all the time in the world for our ‘chosen ones’.
Separation is finding racism offensive but turning a blind eye to anti-Semitism. Separation: taking one look at someone and, on face value, deciding we can’t possibly “connect”, so we actively, if unwittingly, activate the feeling of difference – the feeling of separation.
Separation: thinking that our emotions are not connected to our gut and that our gut is not connected to our mind.
Separation: thinking we exist independently of our planet and the universe.
Separation finding reasons to favour ‘types’ of refugees over others.
Separation: thinking we are good and righteous because we care for our loved ones whilst donating to a cause, but shutting down our heart energy as we pass the grungy homeless tucked away in a bus shelter near where we live.
An adjunct to Proverbs 15:17 which states: Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fatted ox and hatred with it, is a parable given to me by Moriya, my spiritual teacher from Jerusalem. It offers a great shortcut to understanding universal love and the concept of non-separation.
Once upon a time, there was a rich merchant who wanted to amend his karma by preparing a feast for the local poor. He had a couple of his best ox slaughtered. He despatched some servants to the market and others to find flowers with which to adorn the great hall where he would entertain the wretches. He also brought in a group of fine musicians.
As evening drew near, he surveyed all that he had brought forth and felt puffed up with pride. Only a truly rich man could produce such a feast. Only a truly good man would bother going through so much trouble for the town’s wretches. During the dinner, however, as he looked about the splendour he had bestowed on the wretches, he began to resent the dirty, uncouth folk who had invaded his great hall like an army of rats. His mind began a tally of the money they had cost him. Why, he thought, I could have gone through the same trouble but invite my dearest friends instead? Or I could have entertained my equals, or even the creditors, whom I need to maintain in high esteem, instead of wasting it all on such hapless creatures who are so cursed by God that they are unable to help even themselves.
And these thoughts created such a disturbance in his mind that, by the end of the dinner, he could no longer stand the sight of these paupers drinking his wine, licking their lips and finding merriment in the sounds of his music. All of a sudden, he stood up. With sonorous claps of his hands, he muted the musicians. His guards returned the paupers to the streets.
At its simplest interpretation, the moral of this tale is simply that it is preferable to give someone a simple meal, even a dinner of ‘herbs’, but treat them with LOVE, therefore respect than to go beyond our comfort zones and resent them for what they stand for which, in the short and long term, can have no other outcome than duplicate resentment on their part.
An added layer of interpretation could focus on those who receive for they, too, obey their own motives. Given the choice between a banquet of sweetmeats at the table of a host who will treat them, at best, with polite indifference but from which they will walk away dispirited but full in the stomach or sitting in front of a simple plate of pasta at a table where they will be treated with compassionate respect, which would they choose?
The latter would be the wiser choice, but not everyone is able to choose wisely.
Not everyone’s intentions are pure. And so, there is still more to squeeze out of this parable: On face value, alone, we do not know for sure which of the characters in the parable is the better person.
The banquet-giver seeks love, respect and acceptance by “giving to charity.’
The receiver accepts the offerings, but gives nothing in return – nothing tangible, that is. Although it might be unintentional, what the receiver does for the one who truly wants to give and assist, be that in a financial, artistic, emotional or spiritual area, is give us the opportunity to practice universal love. In exchange, if such a person were able to accept and replenish their own heart-energy while, themselves, practising flowing and letting go of the past resentments, to just be in the present-moment, they, too, might find themselves in the position of feeling love and compassion and respect.
It is the search for love through overt acts that are disconnected from pure heart energy that create a type of resentment that can easily turn into hatred. Political squabbling aside, the international arena is one where we can observe that, generally speaking, financial but mostly impersonal AID to third world nations has not, over the past fifty years, generated much pro-west gratitude and respect although billions and billions of dollar-equivalent, from many countries, have been ‘donated’ to relieve plight-stricken countries.
Karl Marx may have been right when he said that, “What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers.” But, in the spirit of the topic at hand, he totally missed the point when he thought that its fall and the victory of the proletariat alone would yield a society fair to all. Karl Marx, it is safe to assume, did not factor in the destructive drag of separation and conditional love.
One main step to editing some of our karma in this lifetime is to not separate ourselves from anyone. Though we might see ourselves as individuals, the difference between us is only skin-deep and truly minimal. When we think of it, there are only so many ways anyone can react to any stimulus and I suspect that at various moments in our many lives – past and present – our reactions have been tainted by most of the colours on the palette: from petty and nasty to generous and heroic.
The bottom line, as I see it, is that we are neither better nor worse nor any more ‘unique’ than any one pixel is from all other pixels that make up one huge panoramic billboard. We are neither more nor less unique than all the other drops that make up the oceans. It is therefore most unfortunate that so many children are brought up in the notion that they are individual and unique and special. It is wonderful that each child is indeed so dear to each of their parents, however, as tiny little pixels amongst 6.6 billon others, they are not unique and neither are we.
As an aside, it would be a very useful thing for parents who teach moral values to their children to also teach them the link between good thoughts and the genuinely good intentions behind ‘good’ actions. The sooner a child learns his or her direct input to their own karma, the better because simply being ‘nice’ and well-behaved and a good student and doing the parents proud is really not what this is about.
When it comes to non-separation, what seems to happen is that we forget that we are ‘only’ souls in disguise. By that I mean that we are only the vehicle, the host, for our souls, right?
Truth is, this is another concept that I have not yet integrated. I understand it with my mind, but it is not one I can readily apply to my perception of people around me. The idiot in the car in front is still an idiot in the car in front.
Remember that we interpret things differently, you, me and everyone else in between. And we, mere actors, are taking our roles way too seriously. We forget that we are only play acting on a world stage defined, therefore limited, by our perception of it. So … our brain is full of ideas, most of them trivial and well beyond their use-by-date: some by a moment or two; some by a week or two; some by a decade or two; some by a hell of a lot longer. If food, they would be too toxic to keep on our pantry shelves, yet we do not regard them as too toxic to guide the face behind the mask as we surf, sink, swim – and dunk or drown the other – through the peaks and troughs of our daily life.
Understanding all of this is easy enough for me, but I still have massive problems implementing the concept of universal love and of non-separation, as discussed so far. The hard edge that is tattooed in my energy field, the one that slides in the minute I lose my focus on the moment, the one that blinds me to the awareness that the ‘other’ is not separate from me, is linked to the obscure insecurity that keeps me from basking contentedly in the pleasant life that I do have. It keeps me from just being. It keeps me from being at peace with myself and it keeps me from hearing my soul’s whispers. Hence the need to practice, practice, practice.
A graphic way to remember that separation is not a logical par-for-the-course is to remember that our human body is made of a myriad of things like high glam ones such as atoms and synapses, arteries and blood, organs and muscles. It is also made up of less glam components such as bone, cartilage, water, bowels, fat and skin.
Though clearly our society certainly favours muscles over fatty tissues, we cannot separate, we cannot pick and choose, the bits of karma we like and the bits we’d like to spit out.
Understanding non-separation is to understand that, just as we cannot be whole and healthy while missing even a fraction of our components, let alone separating muscle from fat, neither can we separate ourselves from anyone else, not even people we would normally not choose to be near. There is no healthy way to separate fat from sinew or atoms from bowels. Not while we are alive.
The good news is that when it comes to universal love, we don’t actually have to go out of our way to ‘act’ good or physically touch anyone. The concept of equality is well entrenched in the constitution of most countries, but at best that equality only takes into account our physical and intellectual potentials.
Non-separation understands that rich or poor, dumb or bright, honest or criminal, karmically, we have all been there and done that, not only in greater or smaller ways in this life time but in spectacular ways, time and time again, in our previous lives. To understand the concept of non-separation, it helps to see this lifetime as just another patch on the huge tapestry that each of our previous incarnations has woven for itself, with our soul onboard.
It is essential to admit that over the millennia our soul has not always inhabited such a reasonably well-balanced, harmless body, as she does in this lifetime.
When I am serious about my practice of non-separation, I try to imagine myself and my students as so many pixels all interlocked with each other. Indeed, we are all inter-dependent on each other in the classroom and in the playground. We know how inter-dependent we truly are the minute a school tragedy flares up.
The same inter-dependence becomes very graphic the moment a bomb goes off somewhere, a train derails or large fires scorched populated areas. As a victim, if only of a fainting spell, we are on the whole ever so grateful when a passer-by gives us a helping hand and sees us to safety.
It is an unusual person who, in a weakened state, refuses the help of that stranger who peeved her a few moments earlier. A more mundane awareness of non-separation is helpful in the classroom, my learning ground, my testing ground. I need to remind myself that my interaction with my students is symbiotic. Should all my students decide en masse to become self-disciplined and active learners – a wish in my less enlightened moments – how would I test my own developmental processes and hone my skills? Where would my challenge lie?
Our differences are only skin-deep, most of us already know that, but since we ALL have a soul at the helm and since we ALL have an energy field, we impact on each other in ways we cannot imagine. I have come to believe that we are as unique and different as cookies on a slab once the cookie-cutter has done its thing.
What universal love requires mostly is for us to alter our personal ‘energy’, not necessarily our behaviour.
Similarly, when we ‘go out of our way’ to do a good deed but resent the hell out of it – we do not score points – bad energy. When it is an ulterior motive that prompts us to do whatever for someone else, again no point scored – bad energy. Where does that leave the selfless person who cares for a dependant, perhaps an elderly parent or a disabled child, but does so perfunctorily because only out of duty?
Whether it is in regards to our crap boss or dude who gave us the finger or the bitch who did … whatever, non-separation is about practising feeling energetically neutral.
No spikes of adrenaline. No repressed anger.
If we respond in kind, a finger for a finger … tsk, tsk – more points in the red.
Besides, we all know how arguments can escalate out of nowhere.