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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

A New Kind of Judgement

There are two types of judgement or choice, and it is a mistake to make either of them bad. In this talk I will describe the two kinds of choice, introducing a new kind of judgement.

Many people in the spiritual community condemn judgement. They’ve had experiences where they saw the freedom in not judging a situation and so judgement becomes a bad thing (which really is just another judgement). In this talk I hope to clarify that judgement is important at all levels of spirituality, but that there are fundamentally two types of judgement for two types of levels or experiences.

When we judge something and condemn it, it doesn’t feel very spiritual. Most of the world is doing this most of the time. I’ll call this the level of “betterment”. We judge between good and bad and are always wanting the better of the situation. Very normal, and again, where most of the world resonates.

When we discern, or judge, to not attach to a situation, we are potentially coming from (or moving to) a non-dual or what many people think is a very spiritual place. Both of these actions use judgment. One is on the level of betterment, and one is on the level of non-duality or spirituality. This non-dual judgment is the new kind of judgment. It is the development of awareness.

What most of us are trying to accomplish in meditation, or learning our own minds, is an appreciation of what is. A non-comparative experience of is-ness. No good, no bad, just is-ness, or stillness. That type of experience is often called non-dual, and we try to experience it during meditation, and since meditation has a spiritual stigma surrounding it, we tend to equate spirituality with non-dual states of mind.

The more normal experience is on the level of betterment. The level where I prefer this smell to that smell, this feeling to that feeling, this person to that person. The first talk I did was on beliefs, and how beliefs are born from opinions. Well the level of betterment is the dance of comparing what we believe we are, with our situation; and striving toward the better aspects of that situation. An important point in this talk, and all my talks is to remember that we have the tendency to solidify our beliefs, but that it might serve us to soften our beliefs about who we are so there’s less “us” for phenomenon to bump into. This is not unhealthy dissociation, it is being aware of our ability to judge things in many different ways. I’ll discuss more on beliefs later.

I’m going to define a couple other words right now: relative and absolute. Relative is the dance between two or more things, and absolute is oneness (or potentially nothingness, but that’s another conversation). If I am comparing something to something else, or even something to myself, I am in a relativistic good-bad frame of mind. If there is no comparison, and there is only experience of what is, then I am in a non-dual, or what we might call a spiritual state of mind.

So the concept for this talk is this: if we use judgment to support a good or bad belief, or a betterment belief, meaning a qualitative stance on things, then we are not acting in a traditional spiritual fashion, but we are acting on a betterment fashion. On the other hand, If we are using judgment to choose a not belief based, not good or bad comparison, but our choice is to choose non-comparison itself; then we’re acting deeply spiritual, or deeply non-dual. That ability would be the new kind of judgement. The decision to drop comparison.

Many people are dancing in this space without much context at this point. They learn about the non-dual state of mind, and all of a sudden duality or the betterment level is bad. But, we’re not supposed to always act spiritual, or non-dual. To think about it differently, this entire life is spiritual, but many people take spiritual to mean non-dual experience only. You might start to feel that we can bring the term spiritual to both levels: non-dual and betterment; if we see that awareness or discernment are involved throughout. My betterment decisions become more spiritually based when I have the non-dual experience available to me.

The betterment level is where we can lose weight. It’s where we make more money. It’s where we can actually affect change in our lives, and other peoples lives. It’s not a bad place. We want to get better at dealing with the betterment level because it is a part of life. We just don’t want to remain lost in the betterment level only. We need both in our toolkit. If we don’t have any ability to just “be”, to just feel the situation, to move our solidified center of self out of the way, then we don’t have as many tools. The non-dual experiential side allows us to see the beauty in whatever comes up. Without that we don’t have the freedom side of things. So one is the work (betterment), and one is the freedom (non-dual experience). Most of us are just stuck in the work.

So this is a discussion on judgement, on good and bad, on beliefs, and on how all this stuff arises. The belief part is the me that comes up against the decision. The me that feels the pressure of the situation. So many teachings teach that we need to authentically feel our feelings, and I completely agree. But not many teachings mention that our feelings are relative to who we think we are, and what’s going on in the situation.

If you step on my foot, there will most probably be physical pain, but most people assume there will be tons of healthy anger there as well, and there certainly might be. However, the levels of anger depend completely on my perception of the event. If I believe you meant to do it, there will potentially be lots of anger. If I have compassion for your frustrated situation, there will potentially be less anger. If I believe it was completely an accident, there is the potential for very little anger if at any comes up at all. So the anger is not absolute, it is relative to who I believe I am and you are in that situation.

Most of us walk around with a solidified self that can’t have it’s foot stepped on. Most teachings would say that we need to include the healthy anger that comes up with all these situations. But that assumes a static unmovable self. The ability to move self, or choose (which is a new kind of judgement) what we want to attach to or believe in, allows us a deep freedom and is acting on the non-dual side of things. Learning this level of judgment allows us to have more options when that conflict arises. I can change the me that is in the situation. Fully dropping the me is to fully drop the relativistic quality of the situation (feel the feelings, choose to drop the judgement). Having these options in our toolkit is the building of awareness. Awareness is what I have called discernment in the past. It is the comparison and knowledge of where we are.

So we use the tension of the betterment level to achieve, and we use the freedom of the non-dual level to grow spiritually. The two kinds of decisions we have available to us are on two very different levels, but both are really necessary.

So normal judging is between relative things and is on the level of betterment. Judging (or choosing to experience) the level of absolute is non-dual and a new kind of judgment for most people. When we are stuck without the new kind of judgement, without the discernment of awareness, we are stuck in the betterment side of things only. That is generally a reactive and not very full experience of life. Once we learn these other tools that we have available to us, it allows us to navigate and improve within the betterment level, and it also offers the entire spectrum of non-dual experience as well.