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The Olympic Athlete Model of Awakening

Published on March 24, 2015, by in Uncategorized.

Awakening or spiritual realization (aka enlightenment) is variously described as the discovery that reality is singular, unitary or non-dual in nature. The prevailing belief is that such realization is a long and arduous path, one requiring years and years of intensive practice. However, there exists another, altogether different view expressed in a number of contemplative traditions that the discovery of inseparability or oneness is actually the easiest of all discoveries to make for one simple reason and that is that the world is always and already that way! Reality is not divided and never has been, period. There simply are no lines of separation, anywhere to be found.

For a moment, just look for yourself and see if this is not the case. See if you can find a seam in the universe of your experience, a clear line demarcating this from that, a boundary separating one thing from another, dividing one moment from the next. Are there any seams or lines anywhere? Or is there only this vast, undivided field of experiencing, utterly seamless, by its very nature? Look and it can be plainly seen that all there is, is inseparability. And so realizing that reality is undivided MUST be the easiest thing in the world since it is already the nature of every moment and experience, right? Nothing need be done to make reality what it is—seamlessly whole, free of even one iota of separation or division. If one wants to argue that it takes practice to realize this, then let that practice be to simply see that this is already the case, to look and see that no seams can be found anywhere, that indivisibility is simply the way things have always been, the way WE have always been!

The prevailing view suggests what I sometimes like to call the “olympic athlete” model of enlightenment. In this model, realizing the inseparable, undivided nature of life (union or “yoga”) is believed to require years of rigorous, disciplined effort and practice in much the same way that developing mastery in some other area of life does (e.g., sports, music, science, art). One is not, for example, born a virtuoso guitarist or world-class athlete. No, one must develop such capacities and mastery. But if we say enlightenment represents the realization of inseparability, well, the olympic athlete-virtuoso model really doesn’t apply for inseparability isn’t actually a skill that one must develop (like playing the piano, shooting a basketball or hitting a golf ball) but is instead, already and simply the way reality is. One can look and look and look and never recognize that they can already play the saxophone like Charley Parker or hit a golf ball like Tiger Woods. No, they must practice for many hours a day for many, many years if they are to realize such virtuosity. But when it comes to recognizing the singular, non-dual nature of reality, no skill is required. Instead, one can simply look and see that inseparability is, right now, with no practice necessary, already given, already the case, already fully, one hundred percent the way life is. The way you already are…

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