Excerpted from “Full Circle Enlightenment,” December 5, 2019 ~ Pacific Grove, CA
We have a certain idea of causality: “This happened because of that.” Or “I am the way I am because I was born in this particular family, in this particular culture, and raised in this particular way.” That does have a reality. It’s only an infinitesimally small part of the picture, but it’s the way we tend to live life.
We have this view of how things are caused—the reason anything is the way it is. Take a grain of sand, for example. Conventionally we’d say a grain of sand is there because ocean waves stir up the water, bash against rocks or rub against them at the bottom of the ocean, and particles collide. Occasionally little particles break off and wash up on the shore, and then you have sand. That’s all well and good; there’s obviously a truthfulness to it. But that hardly tells the story.
What does it take for there to be a grain of sand? It takes an earth. It takes colliding tectonic plates, currents, water, wind, exploding stars to make little hurling rocks like earth go into space, and huge suns for them to orbit around and be warm enough so life can form. All of those things depend on other things to exist. It would be an infinite regress to connect all the dots, but basically, without an entire cosmos, there would not be a single grain of sand. So our conventional idea that “this causes that” is rather silly. Actually, the cause of any one event is every other thing that has ever happened throughout all of space and time. Some of the effects are so subtle, so slight, so infinitesimal, that one could not possibly measure them or track them.
This is what interconnectedness really means. It’s not a fanciful spiritual idea. Even people who believe in interconnectedness usually think of it within certain narrow confines. They fail to get the immensity of the interconnectedness of existence. This is part of what spiritual practice is meant to help open our minds to. It doesn’t actually matter beforehand whether you believe it or don’t believe it. It’s best to live as a living, breathing question mark until something is extraordinarily clear.
It also takes a cosmos to create a single human being. Literally every moment is the product, the outcome, of an infinite variety of causes and effects throughout all of space and time. This moment is the outcome of innumerable, untraceable influences. The way that everything “inter-is” is unfathomable. When you really see this, it’s an immense thing to take in, to understand with your blood, bones, and marrow, not just your mind. It’s the release of a tremendous amount of energy. It certainly changes the way one sees the world, oneself, and each other. Then mountains and rivers are no longer mountains and rivers. A mountain includes all of space and time—each thing does, actually—a river, a squirrel scampering across the forest floor, whatever it is. Then our own idea of ourselves as something separate is toast. It cannot survive that seeing.
In spirituality, often there is a suggestion that we look for or come to our truer identity, a truer sense of being. Maybe all of a sudden one day there’s a shift, and we sense ourselves to be something more like awareness. It’s much, much freer to be awareness, to be consciousness, than to be some little idea floating around in consciousness. It’s more expansive. It’s generally filled with more positive feeling. We may think, “Ok, that’s it. I’ve got this whole thing nailed down. I’ve come to a preferable identity now.” That’s good—I’m not discounting that. But there’s more to the story than that.
“The interconnectedness thing” does away with so much blame: “Why did you do that to me?” “Because of everything that ever happened in all of existence.” That’s on a cosmic level. On a human level, even if you know that, it’s entirely appropriate to say, “I’m sorry for doing that to you.” You and I are not isolated pieces—we’re the happening of all that interconnectedness. That opens up an immense number of possibilities and ups the scale of responsibility immensely.
In the end, it’s as if you have one foot in eternity and the other foot in the relative world. In eternity it’s all connected sameness and it’s perfect, even with all of its absolute horror and disaster, as well as its beauty. There’s something that is perfect about it—not as a philosophical statement, but as an experience of being. We think of the Absolute as the unchanging, the undying, the unborn. I call it the domain of pure potentiality at the Ground of being. It’s true and it’s real.
The other side of the Absolute is that this is it, showing up like this. Therefore you, me, the world, and all that’s happening here takes on cosmic value, an infinite significance and unimaginable value in each being. A theistic way of saying that is not to believe, or hope, or anticipate, but to actually see that everything is the face of God. What happens if you really see that? How are you going to move in a world where everything is God? Where sometimes God is clear and sometimes God is confused? Sometimes God shows up in an infinite variety of ways.
Then that true nature has awoken in the human domain. Now mountains are mountains again and rivers are rivers, and they are not—they’re both. It’s like coming full circle. You’re back in ordinary life, right where you started. But of course, the journey changes the experience of it. Now ordinary life and the face of God are the same thing. The whole idea is to be unlimited. It means you can experience yourself as pure consciousness, and you can experience yourself to be an ordinary little sentient being. You can experience yourself to be the totality, and you can experience yourself to be a part of it. But you don’t have to only experience yourself as part, or the totality, or pure consciousness. You can experience yourself as all that at the same time. That’s really the most beautiful thing, when that within us which tries to fixate—“I am this as opposed to that”—when there is no more this and that. You aren’t limited anymore. That’s the freedom where nothing is left out.