Nondual Zen Article:

We Are Spirit in a Spiritual World

nondual title

We Are Spirit in a Spiritual World
by Kathleen Sutherland

I had always considered the adage that we are spirit having a human experience to be a good pointer. I knew that there was no person here (only spirit), but I would acknowledge – it seemed indisputable – that I was still having the experience of being a person. But was this really true, or might it be an unquestioned presumption?

I brought the matter to inquiry. Is it really my experience that I am a Kathleen, living Kathleen's life? I came to conclude that it is an experience, but it is not a direct experience. It is an experience created by group consensus: what we are taught from birth by our culture, and then the jelling of our own ideas around these constructed individual identities. It is the experience of believing a story. Going to a movie or reading a novel draws you into the experiences of the fictional characters, certainly, but these are not your experiences. You are the witness.

We often say that although there is no person, there is a "sense" of a person. But only a few minutes of meditation reveals to me that there is only a sense of being. Period – not a sense of being a person. There is no direct sense of "Kathleen." The Kathleen experience is the product of thought and concepts layered upon the sense of being. This experience of being a separate human being is the icing on the cake - sticky and sweet, but certainly not essential. I'm just a frothy concoction!

It's interesting that a person can be described as having a big or small ego, i.e., a sense of individualized self. If we really were individuals, factually, wouldn't we all have the same sized ego? We all have various grades of ego because the ego is merely a construct of thought, and as such, it can expand or contract according to our conditioning, values, maturity, spiritual development, etc. In fact, it can even entirely disappear!

There is no direct sense of Kathleen. There are ideas and constructs of Kathleen layered upon the fundamental sense of being. I'm purely a product of thinking, not of direct perception. So, alas (says the ego), there is no direct human experience. There is direct spiritual experience, and many wonderful stories of many wonderful humans playing upon this screen. But we are never other than what we are, even in our stories and dreams. We are spirit having a spiritual experience. Only vicariously, through the magic of language and creativity (“In the beginning was the Word...”) are we able to enjoy the drama of the human experience.

I like the simplicity of that. I also like that this means we don't have to do anything to be awakeness. We don't have to get away from being human to realize our divinity because we are already that. But of course, we already knew that, didn’t we? We just need a little reminder from time to time to step outside the whirlwind of mind and notice exactly What Is, here and now: existence, awareness and peace.