The Union Path Podcast - A practical spiritual podcast about truth, awareness, and walking the path of unity.
The Union Path Podcast
"No Distinction Between Self and Other"
John Coleman 0:00:20
Sometimes when we wanted to change something about ourselves, sometimes when we want to change the the kind of person we're being sometimes even we want to change the kind of person we are on the outside anyway. The most accessible doorway, the most accessible opportunity to make this change is actually through our behavior, through our action. That a lot of times, at least for me anyway, it can feel like all self change comes from thinking, comes from pondering new ideas, comes from thinking about possible options and then choosing which option seems to be the best. Deciding to act that way from now on and then just moving on with whatever I was doing. But sometimes these changes aren't quite so simple. Or sometimes the way we are is ingrained and imprinted deeply enough that simply thinking about wanting to do something different isn't quite enough. In fact, for most big or bigger changes action is required. We actually have to do something that it's not quite complete. It's not quite enough to know we want to do something we have to actually do it. That idea that if we've changed our belief around something either our belief about who we really are, the belief about who we really want to be, our beliefs around how we want to express ourselves, how we want to actually exist and be in this world oftentimes effort is required, work is required, doing something is required. And I think one of the areas we can see and benefit this the most clearly and perhaps the most profoundly is this idea of seeking union, this idea of seeking oneness, this idea of breaking out of our rigid. And well developed individuality to find more of a sense of community, more of a sense of wholeness, more of a sense of communion with all that is because I believe that in order to be truly happy, in order to be truly fulfilled, we have to break out of our individuality. It's not that we have to surrender it fully. It's not that we have to completely wash it away. We are an individual after all.
John Coleman 0:02:46
We are an individual having an individual experience. But this is kind of one of the funny paradoxes of spiritual learning, of spiritual growth that as we develop spiritually, we develop in both planes at the same time. We actually become more individuated. We gain more wisdom, we gain more knowing, we gain more awareness. Our consciousness is expanded and of course our consciousness is completely unique. There's no other individual consciousness exactly like it. No one else knows all of the things that we do. No one else believes all the things that we do either. No one else doesn't know the things that we don't know. We are a unique combination of knowing. Our consciousness is unique when compared to all other individual consciousnesses. But conversely and simultaneously as our spiritual awareness and growth continues we also find our way to more of a connection with everyone and everything else. More of a connection with what feels like or what seems like a more universal consciousness, a more shared source of knowing, a more shared source of energy. We can call this by all sorts of different names. The naming or the labeling doesn't really matter, doesn't really change what it is because we'll know what it is through our own experience, through our own relationship and relation with it.
John Coleman 0:04:27
And so one of the levels of finding our way to this sense of oneness, this sense of wholeness with everyone and everything else is through our behavior. Is through looking at our behavior and looking at how we actually act. And if there's change that we want to make, if there's a balance that seems possible when we look at some sort of imbalance in the way that we are now, oftentimes the best opportunity, the best doorway, the best gateway to make this change is through our own behavior. So this requires some amount of self awareness. We have to actually be aware of our own behavior because it can be really easy to just assume that we behave a certain way because we believe we behave a certain way. But we won't really know until we've actually paid attention. We won't actually know until we've given our awareness to what we actually do till we've really taken the time to pay attention, to really look at how we behave, how we respond, what really motivates us, how we really feel, how we feel in our motivations, how we feel in our interactions. How balanced are we really? How does our outside life make us feel on the inside? What's that experience really like? And also what's that experience really like? Or what does it seem to be like for those around us, for those we interact with? Do we treat people as well as we think we do? Are we as giving and sharing as we think we are? How do we actually treat other people really?
John Coleman 0:06:17
Then it's important to compare and contrast this with how do we treat ourselves really? How do we treat ourselves differently than how we treat others? Are we more giving or are we more withholding? Do we share or do we hold back? Do we feel open or do we feel closed? It's interesting to look at the difference it's interesting to look at the difference of how we treat ourselves versus how we treat other people. Because if it's union we seek, if it's oneness we seek, then we need to dissolve this distinction because long as we have different standards, as long as we have different rules, as long as we have different fundamental ways that we treat others versus how we treat ourselves, then we'll always be creating separation. Then the part of us that craves union, that craves oneness, will always be at least a little bit frustrated, a little bit unsatisfied, a little incomplete because we ourselves are drawing this distinction. We're not achieving a sense of oneness because we're still locked in our individuality. We're not achieving oneness because we're still too locked in our own individuality. And again, it's a paradoxical or the very least highly nuanced thing of how do we maintain our individuality. In fact, continue to develop a more deep or more rich sense of our individuality while also connecting with this idea of oneness, with this idea of membership and inclusion and equality with everyone and everything else. And again, like a lot of spiritual truth or at least spiritual truths when we first hear them they can sound like a paradox. Maybe they can just sound like nonsense. Say, wait a minute, I'm supposed to be this highly developed individualized person but at the same time, I'm actually just a part of a collective.
John Coleman 0:08:25
And the deeper I go into my individuality I just find myself more a part of a greater whole that the deeper I go. On one sense, I lose my individuality. Yet the wisdom and the knowing that I draw from this depth actually makes me more of an individual. It doesn't make any sense. Yeah, it doesn't. But at least in my experience at least it's my belief. That's how things work. It doesn't actually have to make sense if we've experienced it. And it's true because our minds can't really hold to completely conflicting ideas as true at the same time because our experience in physical reality it's usually one of a binary choice. It's either up or down. It's hot or cold. It's black or white. But when we get into a lot of these spiritual lessons and spiritual learnings we break that pattern, we break that binary and often bring in a third force, a third factor, a third thing to consider at the very least. Oftentimes spiritual growth and spiritual learning really amounts to being able to hold two ideas at the same time of not making a distinction between either or of accepting the truth of it actually being both. It's not a this or that.
John Coleman 0:09:57
It's a this and that and that. As we learn and grow, we find there might even be more. I think this is also fine. The further we go down the spiritual path, the more absurd it can be to try to control, to try to plan, to try to predict because we become aware that there are so many more variables at play than we ever thought. There's so much more going on than we ever thought. It's not as simple as just this or just that. That the deeper we go, the more complex things seem to get the more our simple rules for always doing this and never doing that seem to bend if not outright break. But this is the path we're on. This is the learning we're currently receiving. And this is why this path and this learning requires expansion, requires openness. We can't really go into it and experience it fully with a limited understanding that we currently have. We have to allow ourselves to be expanded. We have to allow ourselves to grow. This isn't just gaining knowledge. This isn't just memorizing a bunch of facts or verses or words or stories.
John Coleman 0:11:17
This is actually evolution. This is actually growth. This is actually becoming more than what we were before. And when we're walking the path of oneness we're walking the path of unity and we start to pay attention to our behavior. We start to bring more self awareness to how we actually are more self awareness to our behavior and our experience. And I think we can realize or I think it becomes reasonably obvious anyway that if it's oneness we really seek then the distinction between self and other becomes unnecessary. We don't have to treat other people differently than we treat ourselves. In fact, I think you could make the argument that in many circumstances that's the desired approach to never create that distinction to always treat others as well as you would treat yourself and vice versa. Because, again, any sort of imbalance when we notice we treat others differently than we treat ourselves is conflict, is separation, is a frustration and an obstacle for union for oneness, for a sense of belonging to and with the greater whole, the greater whole of existence, the greater whole of creation, the greater whole of life. Because we may find that we're much nicer to ourselves, we're much more giving to ourselves, we're much more accommodating to ourselves. We're much more understanding of ourselves than we are of other people. We could notice this through being overly judgmental. We could notice this through rejecting other people's desires and preferences while simultaneously preferencing our own desires and preferences. We can reject what anyone else thinks just offhand because it's not what we think doesn't match our idea of what something is. Of course there's lots of nonsense out there and not every opinion is of equal usefulness or quality but it's really in our knee jerk responses that we can kind of spot these patterns.
John Coleman 0:13:43
It's really in our default behavior in our default reactions and responses that we can learn a little something about ourselves. We can learn how we tend to treat people. We can notice ourselves being overly critical of other people. We can notice ourselves not treating other people with respect and dignity and grace. Or conversely we may notice the opposite. We may notice we're constantly treating other people better than we treat ourselves. We're far more understanding. We're far more giving we're far more accommodating. We're far more generous. And whichever side of this imbalance we find in ourselves both are equally worth reconciling both are equally worth doing something about because as long as we're creating this distinction between us and other we'll always be living in that gap we'll be living in the gap between I and they and never really getting to the union of. We would never really be able to find the solidarity of the whole. We'll never have the experience that when we go down to the deepest level inside of us, the deepest level of I am we actually find everyone else. We find everyone else's I am. Because there is no distinction because we get far enough, we get deep enough where there's no distinction between self and other necessary there is no need for words like they, we, them. It's all, I There only is I.
John Coleman 0:15:46
But from a higher level, from a more practical, less philosophical level I believe we can just live a much more pleasant and comfortable life not living in this distinction between self and other. And obviously this sort of lesson goes back a long way. I mean everybody knows the golden rule, right? But it extends to ourselves as well. Treat others in the way that we would like to be treated as well as treat ourselves the way that we treat others. Living life to benefit of all involved, ourselves included. Not cutting ourselves out of that union, cutting ourselves out of that oneness either through the elevation and preference of our own ideas and feelings and beliefs and preferences but not doing that with other people either. In as many ways as we can we want to knock all pedestals down. We want to hold ourselves on the ground and hold others on the ground as well. Live in a world of equality, live in a world of equals live in a world as peers, as human beings and of course again everyone has their own individual expression. Everyone has their own individuality but we don't have to artificially create distinction especially in our behavior. Of course this also doesn't mean surrendering our discernment in our common sense. Sometimes kindness spent on the unkind ends up just creating harm. Sometimes the most kind thing we can actually do is just detach, is just separate because again we're looking for kindness for all involved. We're thinking holistically we're thinking from a sense of union, from a sense of commonality including the other and ourself equally and using this as an exercise, using this as a practice to break down this distinction of finding the balance, finding the balance in our treatment between self and other.
John Coleman 0:18:18
Because ultimately I think that's what we're really after. I think that's why many of us, perhaps most of us start on the spiritual path in the first place because we've created these distinctions a little too much. We've gotten a little too lost in our own individuality. We crave that wholeness. We crave that union, that community, that being part of a greater whole. Because I think part of us on some level knows that's what we actually are, we are already part of a greater whole. And that part of us perhaps is a little heartsick or at the very least, a little tired of denying that, a little tired of living in the false reality that all there is, is the individual. That all that matters are individual achievements and attainments. That all that matters is our lives when looked at from purely an individual perspective. And again, it's not that we need to completely explode or destroy our individuality. We are all unique individuals. That's a great source of our beauty. That's a great source of what makes human beings so interesting. We're all so different. Of course, the deeper we go, the more similar we get.
John Coleman 0:19:42
But on the outside, that's one of the sublime treasures of life. To experience and appreciate people's, individuality people's, uniqueness, the expression of their unique gifts, the expression of their unique consciousnesses, the expression of their unique beings. And that we can go through life experiencing, appreciating and cherishing both, both the individual as well as the collective, both the single and the all. We can do this within ourselves too. We can appreciate and grow our own individuality while at the same time growing more towards a sense of union, more towards a sense of oneness with all that is. And the beauty of life is experienced in the balance. The beauty of life is experienced in both of these, in the juxtaposition between collective and individual. And we live a rich, rewarding life by learning and allowing to live in both, by growing both at the same time and one way of thinking about it, growing up and down. That if we were a plant or a tree growing our limbs and leaves towards the sky while having our roots descend down into the earth, we can do both. And I believe we are precisely here to do both. It's not one or the other. It's not an either or. It's a yes and yes for individual growth, individuation, expansion, expression, but also growth towards all that is growth towards union, towards unity, towards oneness with all life. And we can foster this oneness, we can encourage this oneness, we can nurture this oneness by learning how to drop the distinction or at the very least diminish the distinction between self and other. Because when we stop making this distinction so stark and so strong, when we start to blur these lines, when we start to think of self and other as truly one, then we'll truly be growing and nurturing our membership and our experience.
John Coleman 0:22:31
In the oneness of all that is that when we drop this sense of self and other and find that they're on some level anyway, on the deepest, most fundamental level, that there's only actually one, that we are it and so is everyone and everything else. The we'll find that community we're looking for, we'll find that connection we're looking for. We'll find that union we're looking for because we dropped these artificial distinctions between self and other first.