Saturday, April 5, 2014

A Contemplative Mind

"In the Gloaming"
-Outside the Desert Retreat House

There are two magical times of day for me out here in my desert life - in the morning just before the sun rises and then again at the "gloaming" time, just after sunset but before the darkness falls. 

I say these are magical times because it is in these moments that I feel a remarkable sense of "at-one-ness" - a sense that everything and everyone belong together and I am part of that cosmic belonging - no barriers, no boundary, no borders, everything is "at one-with" the ONE.

Yesterday as I sat quietly "in the gloaming," I realized that before I moved to the desert, I had never before experienced such a dramatic sense of "at-oneness," and now it happens almost every day.  I was suddenly struck with a flash of insight about myself.  I am changing lenses for how I view the world. 

Now, in my later years I am looking at the world through a contemplative lens. I am growing a contemplative mind.

In the first half of my life- in those years of education, career building and family raising, I essentially viewed the the world through an "ego" lens. Like many people who have been formed in "Western" culture, my thinking and my world view was exceptionally dualistic. Everything and everyone was seen through the lens of "me" and "not me."  There was the world of "me" and then that "other" separated world outside of "me" - the natural world, the world filled with other people (friend and foe alike).  Even "God" was in that world outside of "me." 

When you see the world through a dualistic "ego" lens, you are a manager and a controller- organizing, explaining, figuring out, sometimes manipulating all those "other," "not me" parts of life to make them compliant with one's own personal agenda.  When you view the world from a dualistic ego lens, there is a lot of judging, lots of right and wrong answers, and plenty of "either-or," nice and neat explanations. 

Now in my later years, in this "second half of my life," I find that I am changing lenses. It's more than tweaking the way I used to think, I am instead adopting a whole new and different worldview. I am growing a contemplative mind.

Every day I become more and more aware that there is no "other" world that exists out there with "me" at the center of it all.  There are no answers. Every day I grow to love the paradox and the mystery in it all. 

The Buddha viewed the world through a contemplative lens. He taught that the individual "ego" is a myth, an illusion. There is no separated "ego" self that exists apart from others - all being is a web of relationship. Everything and everyone- the natural world, the world of people, the entire cosmos is "at-one-with" the ONE."  

Similarly, Jesus taught that you can't find your "true self" until you die to your "false self."  

My false self is my ego. When I sit quietly in "the gloaming" with that remarkable sense of "at-one-ness" with the ONE, I am shedding the skin of the old false self and rising to the new life of my true self. 

The ancient Taoist, Chuang Tzu, once wisely said:

The Universe and I came into being together,
and I and everything therein,
are ONE

It's took me a long time, but I think I am finally coming to understand what this means. 


  1. Thank you Paul. May I ask if you went through some kind of suffering as you went from what you were to becoming non-dualistic?

    1. Yes, birth always involves pain I guess.