THE PATH TO WHOLENESS
Episode 3: The Taoist Master, Chuang Tzu invited us home to wholeness with his famous words "Come with me to the palace of nowhere, where all the many things are one." In this episode, we'll explore why the fullness of being can seem so elusive, and we'll look at techniques from yoga, meditation, and other spiritual traditions you can use to relax into the experience of your truest essence.
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Come with me to the palace of nowhere where all the many things are one.
Welcome to Real Yoga, a podcast dedicated to helping you use yoga's ancient wisdom to unlock your life of radical happiness, connection and meaning right here, right now. I'm your host Eric Walrabenstein, and I'm glad you're here.
In many ways, we all yearn for a feeling of wholeness, of oneness, a feeling of being safe, of being enough, of being connected, of being where all the many things are one. When we pause to consider the meaning of oneness, of what the experience of oneness would feel like, we can get a sense of how it is indeed something so many of us hunger for, even if we don't think of it in the terms of oneness or wholeness. For oneness means no lack. Oneness means no enemy. Oneness means no worry, no stress, no anxiety, no anger. Just the fullness of being. These words, this teaching "come with me to the palace of nowhere where all the many things are one", these words were spoken by a great Taoist master Chang Tzu. With my apologies to any Mandarin speakers out there if I butchered that pronunciation. It's a teaching that includes both a promise of such oneness or wholeness together with a clue as to how we can get there and the exploration of both is what is on our agenda for today. We'll start with the promise where all the many things are one.
This kind of conception of oneness is present in many traditions and religions. Of course, this quote is from the Taoist tradition, but we find similar teachings in the Bhagavad Gita where it says "he who experiences unity of life sees his own self in all beings" and the book of Matthew where we find "if therefore thine eye be single (that is, without a second) thy whole body shall be full of light". These all are invitations for us to see the truth of wholeness or oneness and each include a glimpse of what that experience could mean for us, from seeing our own selves in all beings, to feeling as if our whole bodies are filled with light. But the real trick lies in understanding how to get there.
I said how to get there, but that's probably a less than skillful way to put it because oneness is the truth of what is happening right here, right now. The only question is, do we have eyes to see it? As I'm sure you're aware, this episode is entitled The Path to Wholeness, but more accurately it would be The Path Back to Wholeness, because oneness is the truth of things before the mind gets hold of them. Before the mind creates the illusion of separateness. We have to remember that the mind is a kind of dissection and categorization tool. It has learned how to break the whole of an experience up into manageable chunks. It then seeks to help us navigate through this maze of the pieces of the whole. Now, this is not to say that this is in any way a bad thing because if the mind didn't do this, we wouldn't be able to make sense of or manage our experience.
But we do want to get clear on how this separateness is added on top of what is- as one of my teachers used to put it, things as it is. A short experiment can perhaps help. It's one that can provide us a little glimpse of how the mind cleaves the one into the many things. And as a side note, if you're driving or operating any heavy machinery, do not do this exercise now. Save it for later when you're seated comfortably and safely at home. Now close your eyes and take a moment to relax. Take a breath in and release it out with a sigh. In a moment I'm going to ask you to quickly open and close your eyes like a flash or a shutter of a camera. Just open, close, just that fast. Ready, open, close, and again, open, close, and once again, open, close. And now I'll ask you-that which was seen- the image, was it one thing or many things? The answer is it was one. It was one image in the same way that a photograph is one thing.
Now I recognize that not everyone will get this at first, so if you need to try it again, please do, and maybe each time turn your head so you take a slightly different picture. But if you look closely, what you'll see is that almost as soon as the one image is received by the brain, the brain goes to work carving it up into pieces. There's a cup, there's a desk, there's a computer screen, there's a tree, and on and on. This is how the brain makes the many things, makes the illusion of separateness. Now with all of this said, we're not interested in stopping the mind from carving up the whole into manageable pieces, but we do want to see that those pieces are a manufactured perception. We do want to see how the many things, including the thing you call you are all parts of the same whole, pieces of the same unity, features of the one.
When we think of a newborn baby, we can begin to see how this habit of creating separateness has come upon us. At first, the newborn lives in a kind of awe of the experience around her. If you watch, you'll see that the baby has not yet learned where she ends and the world begins. She's not yet learned to create the many things, but then her mother holds her up in front of the mirror. "Look", she says, "that's you in the mirror. That's you". And after a few iterations of this, she begins to believe it. And of course then she's off to the races building a life based upon that lie, or at very least that partial truth. And the same is true for us all. We build lives based upon me and mine as if we were separate from the whole my thoughts, my feelings, my accomplishments, my mistakes, my worries, my happiness. We manufacture an entire world of me versus them. An entire world of self-created separateness.
If oneness is the truth, if oneness is happening right here and right now, why does it seem so difficult to experience? And quite simply it's because we're starting in the wrong place. We're starting from the fiction of the many things and here's a fact. You can't manufacture separateness, believe it to be the truth, and then somehow get back to oneness. It's true. You can't put Humpty Dumpty back together again. To get back to wholeness, to oneness, you first have to dismantle the errant belief. You have to neutralize the belief in the many things. A belief is just a pair of thoughts. There's the core thought like I am separate from you, and then there is what I call the meta thought, the thought about the thought and it goes something like this and it's true. I am separate from you and it's true. The earth is round and it's true. I'm a good person and it's true.
This is what makes a belief distinct from a thought. It's that second meta thought. Until the meta thought 'and it's true' is paired with the core thought, it's not a belief, but once two thoughts arise together we have a belief and a belief has great power over our experience.
Beliefs are a lot like lenses. We see the world through our beliefs and our beliefs color what we see. A belief that I'm not lovable colors me as somehow defective, even though I'm not. A belief that foreigners are dangerous colors, every foreigner as dangerous, even though they're not. And a belief that the world is made of the many things, colors the world as a collection of separate things, even though it isn't. And here's the important point. As long as we're looking through the lens of the many things, any additional thought of oneness or unity or wholeness will be deflected, it will just bounce off of us because it can't be experienced as true.
So long as we are looking through the lens of the mini things and because that lens of the many things is such a long held belief, it completely trumps any new thought of oneness. And this is why it's not enough to simply paint the thought of oneness on top of a deeply ingrained belief in separateness. So what to do? Well, this is where the clue in Chang Tzu's words come in.
Come with me to the palace of nowhere. And of course the question comes, what is meant by nowhere? Is it just some undisclosed location? And of course the answer is no, because that would still be somewhere. Somewhere not known to us, but still somewhere. Nowhere means not yet categorized, not processed into one of the many things by the mind. Nowhere exists before thought. And this is not the only place where we see this same kind of clue. We see it in other scriptures as well. One of the most famous is "unless ye be like children again, ye cannot enter the kingdom of heaven".
That is to say unless ye be like children. That is those who have not yet learned to cleave the whole into pieces ye cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. That is the experience of blissful oneness. So this leaves us with the question of how do we get to the palace of nowhere? How do we be like children again? And for this we have to start with the truth. And to do that we need to unmake the lie that is obscuring the truth. And this is where most people go wrong. As we've seen the lie of our separateness is a deeply ingrained belief and so long as the brain is operating, that belief is actively serving as a lens and through that lens the universe appears to be in so many pieces like Humpty Dumpty.
All of this is to say that we can't get to the perception of the truth of oneness and its glorious experience of fullness through the mind. The mind is just too convinced of its belief in the many things which is why we need to go around the mind. We need to find a way to perceive directly, not through the lens of belief, and we do this as taught in every great tradition and religion by creating an inner silence. In yoga we say stilling the fluctuations of the mind. In Islam, whoever is silent, he is saved, and in Christianity be still and know that I am God.
There are many tools that can help us to enter the palace of nowhere, to see things clearly and unprocessed by the mind and to enjoy the fullness and bliss of the truth of the one. One of the most popular and well known tools of course is meditation, but it is far from the only tool. This internal stillness, this inner peace is the singular focus of practices like prayer and chanting, the singing of hymns, devotional practice, service to others, rituals, study of scripture and on and on.
But of course the key to getting the very most from these ancient and proven practices is to understand that the goal is to create a deep and abiding inner peace to stop the mind, to suspend the errant belief, and once we do the walls around the palace crumble and the truth of oneness comes to us all on its own.
Thanks so much for listening and please accept my apologies for the snoring Chihuahua that was present in the background of parts of this episode. If you found something here that was helpful to you, please subscribe. And if you know anyone else who could benefit from the exploration of these teachings, please do let them know about the podcast. And lastly, as always, I would love to hear from you. So if you have any questions or suggestions for future episodes, head on over to my website at ericwal.com and drop me a note. Again, thanks so much. I'm wishing you a blessed day and I'll see you in the next episode.