Nondual Zen Article:

A Filtering Device

nondual title

A Filtering Device
by Kathleen Sutherland

We sometimes hear that the body/mind unit is a sensing device for the infinite. But it is really more akin to a filtering or focusing device. The infinite does not need eyes to see or ears to hear. It does not need a brain to think. On the contrary, absent a body, information flows freely and copiously—too much so for those of us accustomed to the usual incarnate limitations! Those who have had out-of-body experiences, be it spontaneously, or as the result of spiritual exploration, trauma or a near-death experience, generally report greatly enhanced perception. They may experience 360 degree vision, sharp and clear. They may bi-locate, perceiving simultaneous events in separate locations. They often experience telepathic communication. Similar experiences are also reported by those who have taken psychedelic substances, where the body and consciousness may remain united, but the mind’s filtering mechanism is temporarily suspended. Perception is enhanced way beyond the usual human capacity.

Oneness clearly does not need these bodies and their senses in order to be conscious. Rather, it seems their purpose is to cut down on the information flow, to restrict experience to a certain time and place, and thus create the illusion of a localized, individual life. The body’s mind and senses allow consciousness to hone in to a very narrow focus.

Each of us is a particular focal point of Oneness. The focus is so acute that I, as Oneness, have forgotten how vast I really am. We experience this ourselves within the relative world when we focus on anything intensely. If I really focus on a work of art, for example, especially as the creator, I may lose myself in it for awhile. I become my work, lost within its colors and lines, until the spell is broken.

This trance of Oneness, focused on its work of art—you—is generally desirable for the character. Too much information breaks down our boundaries and dissolves the story of the person, which can feel threatening. Hence the element of resistance to awakening, despite believing it is what we really want. It is indeed what we really want, but not as the character—only as our true selves.

This is why the slow dawning of a broader consciousness is more common, and often more desirable than the bright, splashy spiritual awakening. The latter can overwhelm and stir up all manner of resistance. This resistance may be to the absolute: We may tell ourselves that this glimpse of reality was just a vision; we downplay it in memory, diminishing its grandeur. We may convince ourselves that it would not be responsible nor safe to abide in this field of bliss; after all, our life is filled with practical demands. Or, by contrast, we might react to a splashy spiritual experience by rejecting the phenomenal world: “Now that I’ve tasted the absolute, I can barely abide this mundane life, and all these unconscious people.” Either of these reactions—fleeing from or exclusively embracing the absolute—keeps the character intact, identified with only a part of the whole.

The quiet awakenings are easier on the person, and still quite stunning, no matter how subtle. Oh, this is it! We see the energy and brilliance of the absolute, but we are still focused enough to stay grounded. We see more light, more vibration. We feel more love—there is so much love! And yet we don’t feel transported from the familiar. We are in the extraordinary ordinary. We can explore this at our own pace. Our minds begin to filter less and less; the focus on our personal story broadens to include so much more. We slowly let in more love, as tolerated, letting it flow through in a gradually broadening stream.

All is well. Everything is as it should be. But we will come to let that in and fully embrace it as we become ready, as our wisdom grows sufficient to process and contain the sensations and insights from our awakening. It is this “experiential understanding,” i.e., the convergence of wisdom and bliss, that creates a stable matrix for abiding in what is. They nourish each other. Experience deepens understanding, and a deeper understanding gives rise to an ever expanding experience.

You are already awake. Relax and observe the process of gaining clarity as you filter less and less, and your outlook broadens. You will also discover that you can zoom in and out. There will be times when you need or want that narrow focus on mundane life, and times when transcendence predominates. This is full awakening—embracing both the diversity of creation and the unity of it all. Static abidance in either the phenomenal world or in the absolute reinforces the character; there is still separation, duality. Full integration, embracing both the absolute and the relative, leaves the character nowhere to hide. Everywhere we look we see the face of God, whether that be in a child’s face or in the deepest, darkest void. Enjoy and explore your filtering capabilities, taking a broader or narrower view, as the situation evokes.

You are indeed an instrument of the divine. You are within the vortex of all that is, filtering information and experience according to your conditioning and clarity. There is nothing to find or attain. Just see as much or as little as you do, moment by moment. Be as big or as small as you wish. You are all that is, and this is all that is. Who could ask for more?