Nondual Zen Article:

Are You Incarnate?

nondual title

Are You Incarnate?
by Kathleen Sutherland

Youtube Audio version of Are You Incarnate?

I taste the ocean of the Supreme Eternal,
Filled with the ambrosial bliss of the Self.
My full of happiness,
Even from the slightest portion of the honey-sweet bliss of the Self.

The Crest-Jewel of Wisdom, Sankaracharya, Verse 490.

My husband Chris and I were watching a documentary about deep sea creatures – mysterious and strange. Some look almost demonic, with fangs and deeply frowning faces. They live in near total darkness, never touched by the rays of the sun. Only the soft fairy lights of luminescing fish reveal the shadowy contours of their world.

Chris remarked, “I hope I’m not reincarnated as a deep sea creature.” But as we reflected upon this, he realized that he already was. Who did we think those fish were? They are us. We are in these scaly bodies – animating them, living their lives. I did think that such a life would be rather difficult and gloomy. But then I realized that this wouldn’t matter if I were awake.

What a good lesson for our lives right now, right here. For me, life is often difficult, and my mood dark. But none of that matters, if I am awake – here and now.

Awaken now, and if you happen to find yourself incarnate in the sea’s depths, your experience will be only sublime and fascinating. You are the unborn, unbound and untouched. You can experience anything with equanimity and love.

Right now you are experiencing a human life. Be awake. Be what you are: the witness, the witness of the witness, infinitely regressing into pure awareness. Be awake now, and this will carry over into other lives. These might be future lives, but ultimately, there is no time. It is all happening now. Right now. There are only parallel lives, which we see all around us. These are our lives. There is only one life force coursing through them all, animating all.

You are in the sea creature’s body now. You can experience it partially through video or deep sea diving. Remembering those dour faces, round bodies, and slow, methodical movements, I feel love – love for myself. I love life so much that I will inhabit even the most inhospitable of places. I love all of what I am: the depths of the sea, the highest mountains, stars and planets. I love how I am manifesting. I am in all bodies, in all places, in all things. I am.

I will reincarnate again and again upon this earth so long as life survives. I am all things already. I will be all future things. When life ends, I will continue to move in fire, water, air and earth. And should all physical matter and energy recede into the depths of the void, then I will rest fully in seed state, in my awesome potential, and simply be.

For now I identify, in part, as Kathleen. But I also know myself as awakeness. Kathleen is just a focal pinpoint for me. When I lose sight of this greater truth, I suffer. So I practice being awake now. As Patanjali advises in the Yoga Sutras, awaken now and avoid the suffering that has not yet come.

I often wonder and marvel that somehow, some way, I ended up in a human body. Of course, I am not really in a body. I am the vastness, and cannot be confined to one locale. But my power is so great that through karma and cultural conditioning, I create the illusion and very real experience of residing in a body – a body apart from others.

We project. Because we feel separate, we see others as separate, and assume they feel the same. But investigation reveals that this is not necessarily so. Animals and small children feel more at one with their surroundings. They respond to their environment, but don’t have a clear sense of boundary between their bodies, thoughts, feelings and the world.

And many animals have a much stronger sense of collective than we humans. A worker bee probably feels himself more a part of the hive than an individual. The queen bee, by contrast, may have a greater sense of individuality. Herd animals and fish that live in schools may feel that their basic identity is the group. Such creatures become anxious, lonely and sad if kept apart from their kind. A life alone for them is not really a life.

Even among humans, the sense of degree of separation varies. Members of small tribes or communities feel a strong connection with each other, and a greater sense of being part of the whole. Boundaries are blurred. Many people, regardless of their culture, identify more strongly as a member of their family than as a separate being.

The Age of Enlightenment strengthened the sense of individuality in Western European culture, and American culture explored and developed this idea further, especially during the 1960’s. You no longer were expected to follow in your parents’ footsteps regarding either career or marriage. Each person was free to pursue their own ideals and passions. This sort of cultural conditioning has left Westerners with a very strong sense of individuality.

This heightened sense of autonomy may be rather unique to modern times, as it depends upon a certain level of prosperity. Wealth and a well developed infrastructure are needed for people to live and care for themselves independently.

Understanding this helps us to see that a strong sense of self arises from culture and conditions. It is not inherent to living beings or to the human condition, and there is nothing objectively true about it. We could just as easily identify primarily as members of our family, our tribe, community, country or species.

Allow your sense of self to soften and expand. You are not confined to a body. You breathe, you radiate heat, you see – far and wide. Where are your thoughts? Some are within, but more roam outward toward sensory objects. And most are in the dream realms of past, future and fantasy.

As an individual, you experience a sense of locality, with its unique perspective. But in truth you are looking through everyone’s eyes. You are incarnate everywhere. Enjoy others’ perspectives as well as your own, via imagination and empathy. Notice that you are also disincarnate. You are in the ether. You are the ether. In a consciousness-only model, does any place exclude you? “Wheresoever you may turn, there is the Face of Allah.” Noble Quran, Surah Al-Baqarah 2:115.

Awaken now. See the truth of who you are, and you need never fear future experience. See the truth of who you are and all current problems diminish to motes of dust. This entire life is but a mote of dust. You are the vastness, the unlimited One. Enjoy yourself fully, in every sense of the word. If physical or emotional pain subdues the flow of bliss through this particular body-mind unit at any given time, notice that happiness still abounds. Expand your sense of being. Breathe. Notice that the air around you shimmers with the energy of bliss. Notice that others are smiling. Notice the verdancy of plants and trees. Bliss – your bliss – enlivens them all. Enjoy yourself through them. You are all that the eye can see, all that the mind can imagine. And this can never be changed, for you are the unchanging. Even the darkest depths of the ocean do nothing to obscure your light, your dream, your joy – your Self.