Musings on Non-Duality

March 9th, 2010

Thinking about “non-duality”. I’ll be giving a talk tomorrow on it. This is a hard thing to think and talk about since all thinking (and talking) is inherently “dual”. All ideas and words appear in a context where things have separation – the standard subject-object distinction of grammar, the yin and yang of opposites, the distinction of nouns and verbs. All languages have these separations – though some more than others.

When we communicate we use words. We don’t need to use words to think, though there are plenty of kinds of thought that do. So, when we communicate about spiritual topics, we have to use words – at least in the traditional student-listening and teacher-talking kind of interaction. So, all spiritual communication is usually constrained by the subtle net of language.

This is one of the great things about Harding’s teaching ( – it tends to be more somatic, more sensory, and more experiential. The pointing (literally) of the finger, the view through the tube, or through the card, the emptiness of space – these get around the tight constraints of language. Words can describe the exercises. There’s a subtle trap, where you just read the words, understand them at the literal level, and think you know what they’re talking about – even if you’re a bit mystified and confused!

Meditation and other more physical spiritual practices (dance, chanting, ritual) also get around the limitations of words, though it’s also replete with subtle hidden sand bars and reefs. Easwaran’s “passage meditation” is particularly word-bound, being as that’s the actual practice. It is possible to reach a state of great stillness that way (he did, I’ve come close), but there’s nothing (except chance and grace) to nudge you over the edge, that infinitely receding horizon, into complete non-dual seeing.

So, tomorrow we’ll do the experiments, as well as have a period of silent meditation.

There’s another whole area where it gets confusing, aside from the problem that you can’t think about it – that is, more or less, that the complete non-dual state, the shining clear capacity of being, the dark and bright void – that it is capacity for everything. They call this “two way seeing” sometimes, and there’s definitely a duality of sorts going on – the emptiness and the fullness, creator and creation, Brahmin and Prakriti. I see this more as one tree trunk that has sap flowing both ways – perhaps a dangerous simile, but a nice idea. (I was thinking about the World Tree this morning – how it only sort-of looks like a “tree”. How it’s more the vast multi-dimensional knot that ties together all the worlds.)


February 25th, 2010

(It’s interesting how many comments I get that are clearly spam, and the few that are not obviously spam don’t refer to the content of the post, so are probably spam.)

Anyway, I’ve started writing again. I’m working on a piece I’m tentatively calling “The Two Horns of Death”. It’s an examination of the core issue in spiritual approaches to the issue death.

On the one hand, people like the non-dualists (Advaita Vedanta, Buddhism) have the doctrine of “no soul”, or anatma, which states that there isn’t a soul to die in the first place – it’s all an illusion. But on the other hand, the shamans know that there is something, some core essence, that clearly does not die.

So, I’m weaving these two seemingly contradictory views into some sort of mashup. I’ll keep you posted…

Happy trails!

Planning an Advanced Shamanic Healing workshop

August 3rd, 2009

Anne and I are planning an Advanced Shamanic Healing workshop to begin this fall. It will be five sessions – three 2-day weekends, a 5-day retreat, and a 3-day weekend. We’re planning on meeting every two months – full details at our class announcement webpage.

(Note added later: The workshop is launched! We’ve had a very successful first weekend, and planning for the rest of the workshop is on-track. We’re scheduling a repeat for the 2010-2011 season! Contact us for details, or check the workshop website

hello world…

August 26th, 2008

This is the beginning. This is where I greet you, world. So, “Hello”! Now we can begin:

First I’ll give thanks, and express my gratitude to all of you, the people who are in my life. My wife Anne, my son Krishna and his wife Stephanie, my siblings Dan, Jim, and Jenny, and my dad Stu and his wife Carla. Also, my ex Sarah and her extended family. My clients and students, my colleagues and co-workers, friends and neighbors. Also thanks and appreciation to the various shamanic circles I’m a member of…

Then I go on and give thanks and appreciation to:

  • The earth itself, our mother, for the loan of our bodies, for all the metals, oils, and minerals we borrow from her. For the loving embrace of her gravity. Thank you earth for the gift of my life.
  • The waters; the springs, streams, rivers, and lakes; the oceans; the ice; the groundwater. The good sweet and beautiful water.
  • All those who live in the water – from the algae to the fish; the many amazing invertebrates and the great whales.
  • The plants on and in the land – for their food, fiber, medicine, and flowers; the fungi that hold the soil together.
  • The animals – four footed, six and many footed, the no and one footed.
  • The trees and wood, fruits and nuts.
  • The birds with their song and flight.
  • The air itself, and the movement of the air – the breezes and winds. The good sweet air, and breath.
  • The weather – the clear sunny days, the storms, the wind, the calm. The beautiful weather.
  • The thunders. Remember what the thunder said? Thank you thunder.
  • Lightning – thank you lightning for the gift of my life.
  • Electricity – and how we use it for information.
  • Entropy, the loss of information, and thermodynamics and combustion, and fire. Thank you fire!
  • The sun, the great fire, bringing life to the earth, and warmth, beauty, and weather.
  • The moon, giving us the tides, the months, and eclipses!
  • The planets and the solar system.
  • The stars, the beautiful stars, and the Milky Way, our home galaxy!
  • All the galaxies scattered along the cosmic web throughout the vastness of space.
  • Space itself, and the “shape of space” – our familiar three dimensions and time. There doesn’t seem to be any reason it turned out that way, but it did.
  • The sacred directions that define space, usually the familiar four cardinal directions, and above and below.
  • The spirits of the directions. Each direction has a quality or spirit that is unique.
  • All the spirits of what we call the “middle world” – including:
  • The fair folk, the faeries, the little people – the people of the Sidhe, and those that I know who live there.
  • All the other hidden worlds – there are many – including my private hidden world.
  • The deities, the gods and goddesses, who live partly in the hidden worlds and partly in ours.
  • The dragons; the dragons of the air, of the water, of the earth, of fire.
  • The abstract spirits whose only manifestation may be a symbol, a color, an odor, a subtle sound. Some of them have a special place in my heart, and in other parts of my body.
  • The spirits of the natural world – the elements, the elementals, the forces of nature, the powers.
  • The great wild spirits that roam forever free.
  • The spirits of thing, of place, of kind; the spirit of this place, this house, this yard, this neighborhood and city, this region.
  • The spirits that are the great mountain that presides over this place, and the ridges, hills, valleys, and plains, and the waters.
  • The spirits of the weather and the natural processes.
  • The many people and spirits of the lower world, and of the upper world, including many good friends and acquaintances.
  • My ancestors and blood line. It should maybe be called a fan instead of a line, since it double every generation back!
  • My forebears, ancestors of my culture and thought, including the poets and philosophers, scientists and mystics, shamans and scoundrels, saints and teachers, the illumined beings and enlightened ones.
  • Anyone I’ve forgotten! Especially these.
  • Lastly, my appreciation to the creator and creation, God immanent and transcendent, Brahman and Prakrati, this magical two-way seeing where creation and creator are one!
  • And lastly after the last, to you dear reader, who takes in these words and gives them life…

Appreciation and thanks, gratitude. The words before all else. Now we may begin.