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Informed Morality

This talk is about how non-dual experience can inform our morality. It was inspired by a magazine article that painted non-duality as morally irresponsible. Non-duality is not irresponsible. In fact, it can deeply inform our morality.

What is morality? Morality defines and distinguishes between right and wrong. Our own history and belief systems are where our morals are born. It’s important to note that our morals are not universal and can vary greatly. As much as we feel “our” morals are correct, they in fact are relative. There are endless examples of clashing morals, and this is where most wars come from.

So if we describe our relationship to morality in shades, we could say that on one side, there is a person who is fully attached to right and wrong, and all the personal beliefs that support what is right and wrong for that person. On the other side, there is someone who is experiencing a non-dual state; they drop the attachment to good and bad and do not experience duality. All different levels of attachment and morality fall in between these extremes.

If we choose to experience non-duality our morals are informed. This does not mean they are lessened, or weakened. We do not now prefer bad to good. Rather, loosening our attachment to morals can bring deep wisdom. Once we see non-duality, we become less attached, and because of this we are able to deal more easily with complex moral issues.

The world is seeming more and more complex as globalization occurs, technology increases, and more choices in general become available to us. It can often be helpful to come to that complexity with the mind of “I don’t know.” Non-duality comes from place of “I don’t know,” instead of the belief based “I know how it should be” mind set. This allows us to approach complex situations in a more authentic and capable way. “I don’t know” allows for finding out. “I already know” does not. Right and wrong attachments can often be based on beliefs that are not relevant or helpful.

People who practice meditation have the opportunity to work with their beliefs as they practice. But all people see the edges of their moral value systems when things upset them. When we get upset, it’s time to get non-dual. Take a moment to focus on your breath and become still when dealing with things, this will allow for a new morality.

Referenced: Friedrich Nietzsche

The Different Meanings of To Be

I want to clarify what I mean by “to be” because it is actually more than one thing. It is both “to be – still” and also “to be – what you are.” This may be hard to stomach because these seem to be in opposition, but they are both really important. It’s actually many many layers, and facets of things to wade through. So let’s look for more language around this issue.

“To be still” implies working with the mind through concentration and space to “still” the busy mind. You might think of this as the Buddhist way of practicing meditation. It implies a lot of things: Peace, but also difficulty in finding that peace. It has a sense of carrot and stick to it: I’m not still now, and I want to be still. So time is implied. “I’m not what I want to be.” There is a part of us that is trying to grow. This is the part that realizes that need for growth. This type of practice is important. We could call this discipline.

“To be what you are” implies a looser idea, of “I’m OK” in any situation. So if you are busy, be busy. If you are still, be still. You could think of this in a more Taoist sense, or more “zen” if you will. Up is down, right is wrong, everything is OK. This sense is much less rational, but also very important. It’s being gentle with who we are. It’s also dropping expectations about what we are supposed to be. This is the state that has no conflict, even when “conflict” is there. Meaning, in this state, you are not trying to be anything but what you are. This is the awakened state. This you might call freedom.

So the discipline allows for the second freedom, in a sense. The discipline is hard, and the freedom is soft. They are two ends of a spectrum. The Buddha talked about the middle path, and this is what he meant. You can’t leave your mind too loose, it needs some discipline. It also can’t be too rigid, or you never actually sit in the space of freedom.

A mystical Christian might say that since everything is God, each moment is the expression of God right now. We should learn to be in alignment with that, and it takes forgiveness (being what you are) and a bit of discipline (learning to be still) to align with that expression.

So the practice of meditation is working with your mind to still it. But it is also the practice of forgiving, or allowing to be whatever is. You may sit and have a busy mind. That’s OK. You may sit and fall into a lot of freedom, that’s OK too. If you feel too loose, bring some discipline. If you find you’re being too rigid, loosen up. That’s the middle path.