Unity – The Invisible Presence

Remember a time, even just a fleeting moment, when you experienced a feeling of oneness with all there is? A time your cells felt thoroughly awake to the earth, the heavens, or the loved one in your arms? Remember that sense of knowing the perfection of it all?

In those moments, more common than one imagines, the fractured pieces of life unite. Self-consciousness evaporates. Your heart is unbounded, your mind crystal clear, your body light and relaxed, and your soul is wrapped in tranquility. You long to linger in that blessed state forever.

One may call it transcendence, illumination or a peak experience—an experience quite outside the daily routine. Yet it seems more real and substantial than anything you have known before. Mystics know this as "unitive consciousness". Philosophers name it the "universal logos". Spiritual masters may liken it to a glimpse of enlightenment. And physicists, such as David Bohm, know it as an expression of the "holomovement", the whole of "all that is"--an unbroken unity always in motion.

All the way back to 500 BCE the question of unity has driven deep inquiry. The philosophers Heraclitus, Plato and Aristotle believed that all things are in constant flux, yet fundamentally ordered and connected. This "universal logos" defined, ordered and balanced everything by its opposite, so that ultimately, opposites constituted a unity. For them, perfect harmony was composed of the tension of opposites. But since then western thinking has leaned heavily on the differences of opposites rather than their underlying unity. Our minds, speech and perceptions separate reality into clearly labeled boxes. And although this certainly helps manage the overwhelming "stuff" of reality, it is incomplete.

Beyond a dualistic, rationalist standard lives the heart and soul of humanity. Despite the differences between cultures, races, and genders, there flows a glue whose bond is stronger--for having been broken apart. An enlightened moment may reconnect us to this understanding. Or a relationship. Most especially, experiences of grief and compassion return us to the undeniable, felt-in-the-bones truth of our oneness.

Years ago I read a book by Paul Tillich, The Courage To Be. He wrote of how one is more intimate with the other in the absence, versus the presence, of another. When that loved person is not there with you, there are no limits to the way you experience the bond between you. But in their company limitations exist in time, context, and the judgments sparked when personalities meet.

Tillich’s words showed me the prison of my perceptions and how my personality assigns form to everything I encounter. It keeps me apart from the other and the glue that holds us together. Apart from a Source that unites us in our shared humanity.

Words cannot adequately convey the experience of unity. In the wordlessness of viewing a painting, listening to a piece of music, or walking in nature all elements seem to fit into one harmonious whole. In meditation, when the noisy mind settles down, the space in-between seems both one-pointed and eternal. Yet these are often solitary events where the dictates of the personality can be quieted. To bring the experience of unity and wholeness into comm-unity is the challenge of the ages.

Even with the multiple distractions in our lives, our inner impulse toward unity cannot be stopped. The tragedy our world suffered September 11, 2001 brought together opposing dichotomies. An entire planet mourned as one. Nations, individuals, religions and cultures linked in a compassionate embrace to comfort and support each other. We came to know the real meaning of global comm-unity. Collectively we stood in "witness consciousness" acknowledging the immense actuality of life and death, the light and dark of humanity’s experience.

But we don't need dramatic or traumatic happenings to experience unity. It is in our lives all the time. Unity is so fundamental to our being that even glimpses are powerful in framing the wider context of our lives. We're called to deal with forms, separations, polarities, "this and not that." Attending to our lives in these ways doesn't separate us from unity, but a growing awareness of unity lends deeper meaning to these activities. It gives us our inner compass. So watch for unity in your life in the "between moments," the times when you step back inwardly and take a rest. Let your deep unity with all that is be your life's companion, an invisible presence that is always there for you to help, guide, and sustain.