Sometimes you hear people say, "He's off in his own private world."
Now, this may not be such a bad thing. But few of us would want to be in a totally closed off fragment of reality, because that would be exceedingly lonely.
Comments on a recent post got me thinking about shared (or "intersubjective," as one person put it) realities, versus private realities.
In my experience, the most satisfying moments in life are when I feel connected with other people. Or with nature. Or with some other animate or inaminate entity, such as our dog -- or my newly beloved MacBook computer.
At these times I feel that the world is more one than many, more united than divided, more loving than hateful, more cooperative than competitive.
I've got a sensation of being part of something bigger than myself. In some small (or large) way, I've escaped the bounds of an ego-encapsulated existence where it's all about me, me, me.
For this to happen, there's got to be some sort of shared experience of reality going on. If the sharing is with a person, such as my wife, we both have to be tuned in to a similar sensory and cognitive wavelength.
We can't mutually resonate with the glory of a sunset if one of us has our eyes closed. We can't both have a intimate understanding if one of us isn't listening to what the other is saying with an open mind.
Applying this to spirituality, I've come to feel that my goal is to try to break down the barriers that keep me in a private world where the meaning of life is limited to what I believe it to be. I want to be inclusive rather than exclusive, a resident of a psychological habitat without many fences rather than a gated community.
I recall standing in line at a movie theater back in my true believing days. There I was, like everybody else, waiting to buy a ticket.
Suddenly I thought: Wow! I'm a disciple of a great Indian guru, a god-realized soul. I've been taught a mantra and meditation approach that will take me to the highest regions of reality. I'm so fortunate!
Now I saw my fellow movie-goers differently. I stood straighter, feeling apart from them. I was on the way to knowing the truth of the cosmos, and they weren't. Lucky me. Poor them. I enjoyed the feeling.
At the time I didn't recognize it as a feeling of superiority. But that's what it was. And it was founded on a belief system that encouraged me to split myself off from a shared reality.
I wasn't just another person in line at a movie theater. I was an initiate of a perfect satguru! I was someone who could repeat a secret mantra that mystically connected me with God! I was so cool!
This is what a dogmatic belief system can do: provide a lens through which experience is distorted, so that the believer is seen to stand on higher ground, reality-wise. Cinemagraphically, religious believers see themselves as full color people in a gray-scale world.
Reading Jon Kabat-Zinn's "Wherever You Go, There You Are" this morning, I came across some quotes that blended with my own ponderings.
We all carry around ideas and images of reality, frequently garnered from other people or from courses we have taken, books we have read, or from television, the radio, newspapers, the culture in general, which give us pictures of how things are and what is occurring. As a result, we often see our thoughts, or someone else's, instead of seeing what is right of front of us or inside of us.
...We can live in a dream reality of our own making without even a sense of the loss, the gulf, the unnecessary distance we place between ourselves and experience.
...We can all be imprisoned by incessant wanting, by a mind clouded with ideas and opinions it clings to as if they were truths.
...Perhaps ultimately, spiritual simply means experiencing wholeness and interconnectedness directly, a seeing that individuality and the totality are interwoven, that nothing is separate or extraneous.
If you see in this way, then everything becomes spiritual in its deepest sense. Doing science is spiritual. So is washing the dishes. It is the inner experience which counts. And you have to be there for it. All else is mere thinking.
At the same time, you have to be on the lookout for tendencies toward self-deception, deluded thinking, grandiosity, self-inflation, and impulses toward exploitation and cruelty directed at other beings. A lot of harm has come in all eras from people attached to one view of spiritual "truth."
...Moreover, our ideas of spirituality frequently ring with a slightly holier-than-thou resonance to the attuned ear. Narrow, literalist views of spirit often place it above the "gross," "polluted," "deluded" domain of body, mind, and matter. Falling into such views, people can use ideas of spirit to run from life.
And split themselves off from other people.