If we look at anything deep enough, anything at all, what we will always find is something very profound, very beautiful and absolutely amazing… if we have eyes to see or ears to hear.
For example, if I look at this chair I have right in front of my eyes, if I look deep enough, I will see that the chair is nothing but wood. And if I go deeper than that, if I am focused enough, aware enough, open, alert, awake enough, when I look at the wood I have to see a tree. I mean, wood does not come out of thin air, but it comes from trees. Then, if I see a tree, I have to see a cloud, rain, because a tree cannot live without a cloud, without rain. If I see a wooden chair, I see wood, I see a tree, I see a cloud, I see rain. I can also see the logger who cut the tree. And if I see the logger I have to see the parents that gave him life. And if I look deep enough I will also see the parents of their parents and hundreds of generations that gave birth each one to the next. And all of these generations had to eat, and so I can also see the food that fed all these generations. And when I see the food I again will see the rain that made that food possible. And I will see the planet that produced the food. And of course when I see the planet I have to see the solar system, because without it the planet cannot exist. And when I see the solar system I have to see the whole Universe! So, when I see the chair, if I am alert enough, I will also see the cosmos.
Whatever we see, if we have enough depth, enough alertness, we also see the cosmos, we see the whole! There is a quote I like very much by Carl Sagan: ‘If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe’.
An aspect of this is what in our modern times we call deep ecology, but these ideas have been around for thousands of years! We can find the idea clearly stated in the Bhavagad Gita, in the Buddhist tradition, in the Indian-American tradition. And these are the ones I know about. I am sure we can find it at the heart of all traditions.
The idea of course is that everything is connected, that nothing is separated from anything else. And we can also develop the eye that can see this unity, this wholeness.
The reason why separations has to happen is because that is the way we can deal with practical life. We need to separate, and it is fine, it is correct, it is what needs to be done. This is what the baby does in order to become a person on his own right; the baby has to learn to separate from the mother, from the world. But then, in time, as we develop and mature, with more alertness and presence, we keep the separation for practical existence, but we need to bring back the oneness, the understanding that, all appearances to the contrary, nothing is separated from anything else. We have to see, to re-discover that underneath this apparent separation there is a unity that is holding, supporting and giving life to it.
And it is precisely because we don’t do that, because we are not able to see the cosmos in the chair, because we don’t realize the whole in our body, in our mind, in other people, because we are blind to the oneness, we hurt; we hurt ourselves, we hurt other people, and we hurt the planet. We do it because we are blind to the whole.
And it is true, it is not so easy to see it, it has to be pointed out to us, just like somebody pointed it out to me. What I did above in this note is just one way, one simple way to start to realize it. But there is more, and we need to keep going and develop the eyes that are able to see this oneness for themselves. And then, once this is shown, once this is seen, we need to make the effort to remember it, because it is easy to forget; we go back to our practical life, to the busyness of life, to the problems, to the worries, to the difficulties of everyday life, and we forget. Once in a while (or as often as one can) we should not just sit in a chair, but look at it deeply, and see the cosmos in it; look at other people, and not just see them as others, but see them as myself.
And there is something else. Unless we see this bigger picture, this wholeness, this oneness, we will not find the peace we are all looking for. Practical life, as important as it is, is not the solution to our problems. And it is this understanding that help us not to be so taken by the practicalities of life: that as important as the ‘getting and keeping’* that we do are, they are not the solution to our deepest desires. What are our deepest desires? Well-being, satisfaction, fulfillment, peace, meaning… especially meaning. All of these can only be found in the vision of the whole.
In the Yoga classes I teach we don’t talk so much about meaning or wholeness or fulfillment but these are ideas that always remain in the background. What we do in the classes, as we breathe and move the body is, for a moment, to step out of the practicalities, the bussiness of everyday life and into a space of silent-presence, and it is in that space, as we notice that space, that we find this connection, this oneness.
* What is it that we do most of our lives? We work very hard to get what we want and, once we get it, we work even harder to try to keep it. But it does not work, it will never work. The essence of the universe is change, and nothing remains, everything moves, everything that once came will also go. There is no peace and there will never be in ‘getting and keeping’.