Nondual Zen Article:

A Wonderful World

nondual title

A Wonderful World
by Kathleen Sutherland

I've recently come to a deeper understanding of the practice of inquiry. We are advised to keep up inquiry throughout the day. But it took me awhile to move into this because I thought inquiry meant only asking questions, such as the basic "Who am I?" and all its permutations: Who is getting out of bed in the morning? Who is eating lunch? etc.

These questions are great pointers and helpful, of course, but I couldn't badger myself with “who, who, who” all day. So I didn't, and subsequently felt like a failure at inquiry.

But I did take on the practice of observing reality carefully, and asking questions or contemplating ideas that kept me in a state of wonder, in a low-level state of awe. When I would find myself at a point of resistance (such as getting up in the morning), I would remind myself: There is only one will. And that will is mine. It is my will to walk through this day and to do what presents itself to to be done.

Throughout the day, with all the people I encountered, I would visualize the one life force that was so gracefully flowing through each of us. There are no separate beings, only one energy, one love. This has rendered me a more relaxed, friendlier and happier person in my daily interactions, which is a significant change for someone with remnants of social anxiety.

As I take my little strolls about the neighborhood, I look admiringly at the trees, squirrels, bunnies, cats, dogs and neighbors, and consider,"All is Brahman." We are all ethereal gold, expressed and morphed into an infinitude of names and forms.

When a negative mood arises, or I'm tired, or dissatisfied with whatever I'm doing, I do my best to remember that I am fulfilling My will. I remind myself that none of this touches me. All moods, all experiences are equally pleasing to Me. Then I contemplate the wonder of this because it sure feels like it touches me, like my moods matter. But this simply informs me that I'm deep into character identification. So I step away from the character and look upon the scene from the witness perspective. The actor remembers she's just playing a role--and enjoys her performance.

All these little practices could be put into question form, but Oneness isn't concerned with Jeopardy format. Oneness loves whatever works to diminish the sense of separation. So my understanding of inquiry now is basically that of exploration. I continually observe and explore the implications of only One thing going on.

The past few months I've been listening to the Advaita Vedanta teacher Swami Sarvapriananda (of the NY Vedanta society). In the YouTube talk I heard last night, he explained that the pursuit of samadhi, i.e., extraordinary spiritual states, is the yogic path, not Advaita. There is nothing wrong with such experiences, and they can help strengthen understanding of our true nature. But Advaita's approach and focus is to work with our "ordinary" state of consciousness. Through study, observation, contemplation and inquiry, we come to see Our true nature, and how extraordinary/ordinary this reality truly is.

So I'm loving my practice of inquiry. It's such a simple and elegant way to abide in awareness. Observations, new angles on questions, contemplation--all this comes naturally when we have had a drink of the nectar of immortality, and never again want to go thirsty. I'm not reaching for anything extraordinary, but through this practice, I am observing ordinary reality continually expand into what I've always known it to be: endlessly intriguing, bright and inviting, and all that I've ever wanted or needed. Reality seems to have found a way to gently move the character aside and behold its infinite glory.