June 2021 Dialogue

Read Ernie Part I here and Part III here.

Ernie, Part II

[abridged] Hi Annette, I don't think I will ever lose interest in non-duality because it offers such an apt mapping of human experience. On the other hand, it's easy to confuse the teaching as a kind of manual for how raw reality is to be lived. In my opinion, living our lives is not meant to be a joyless exercise in depersonalization.

I have come to meditation after years of non-duality. So I kind of already have the answer. That doesn't seem to me true of most people starting out in a mindfulness practice here [in the West]. This awareness that we fail to recognize is already, always will be, and always has been the true essence in which everything arises. Over time, a meditator will observe everything in flux, and then it becomes clear that what notices all phenomena is itself irreducible and cannot have anything to contain it or precede it.

I think for most people the best advice is to find harmony in body and mind. If you follow Sailor Bob's [Adamson] advice ("What's wrong with right now, if you don't think about it." He's totally right! Thought is the incarnation of the trouble you seek by thought to eliminate!

I think it would be a mistake for people to turn wholesale away from Christianity and the Judeo-Christian ethic. But if you read the New Testament with a non-duality understanding, you can see quite clearly that Jesus was aware of all this. I don't know how I could read those gospels fully without a non-duality perspective.

So maybe I'll close with the thought the direct path method [of non-duality] has been quite helpful to me as one more piece of evidence in building the case that I am so much bigger than my conditioned mind. The key is to become a harmonious person in mind and body, right? So much of this is about habits and patterns. Not eliminating them, but seeing them for the ephemera they are. And one of the most powerful states of mind is acceptance and gratitude. In both cases we keep the circle open. We do not close off and see the world as entirely ours to control or ours to occupy by sheer entitlement.

The body-mind in a state of grace is acknowledging the fullness and wholeness and mystery of what it is to be human. And I feel like, when I'm mindful, I accept that there is confusion, because the confusion itself is a phenomenon, and by continuing to watch everything unfold, I feel a sense of healing and recreating space. And by doing so I am participating in this world even as I see that the world is me. That is a mindset that Christianity, when seen beyond its sociological and organizational hierarchies, certainly embraces.

My response:

Thank you for sharing with me that wonderful rundown of the role of non-duality in your life.

Finally though, non-duality just didn’t ground me in anything human. I felt unmoored. And I also wasn’t up to the task of finding that freshness in every moment. I had too much baggage in my moment, and it was a lot of work to ignore it over and over. I was worn out. I finally wanted something more concrete, something that exists in time.

A lot has happened in the last month. I’m considering converting to Catholicism. It’s so different approaching this now, at age 70, after twenty years of non-duality. Being a Catholic is what I’ve always wanted, but I couldn’t find the inspiration. Too many questions, too many doubts. Too many rational arguments against. I’ve seen it all, I’ve read it all. I know all the objections, all the non-dual reading of Jesus’ words, gospel of Thomas, etc. I’ve been on the scent since I was a child, really, and my Catholic grandmother gave me a rosary. All through my non-dual years, I took long breaks and tried Christianity again — Gnosticism, Quietism, Orthodox. I attended Latin mass, I tried protestant churches. I really wanted to find faith and belief in Jesus Christ and I just couldn’t. I was always talked out of it by my mind.

My heart started changing a few years ago, after a huge trauma, and that was the missing piece. I could not find my home in Christ using just my mind. I find the gospels very challenging — crazy, even. But seeing the hearts and lives that have been changed from 33 A.D. up to the present day, something was going on, and still is. I read the church fathers, the saints, the more contemporary writers like Chesterton and Lewis. I love Merton. I see lots of YouTubes of the current proponents of the faith. Very intelligent people. I see Bishop Robert Barron (the Catholic star of the internet) argue with the new atheists and win. I love to watch the YouTubes of Jews who accept Yeshua as their Messiah. And the TV series “The Chosen” did a lot to move my heart towards Jesus.

I had the idea that Christians were just somehow suckers or something. It didn’t make sense to me, and I tried and tried. For years. But it wasn’t about sense after all. I still have a lot of questions, which I why I’m discerning now and won’t be confirmed for a year. But I’ve seen enough testimony from people now, thanks to the internet, and I’ve read enough, that I’m beginning to understand really who Jesus was. I was looking at Him the wrong way. I didn’t understand that He is really God.

I think that when I wrote you last time, I already knew I was headed for this, but was shy about just saying it straight out. I've just decided to let it take over and see what happens. So far I’m not disappointed.

Our paths have certainly been similar in many ways. This is quite the change for me. Maybe it’s just my old age, but I’m finding all this ritual and rigor to be comforting. I love the beauty of the art, music, cathedrals. I like the long tradition, the evolution of the Church, the care about keeping it right and true while the culture changes around it. And mostly, there really is a relationship with the person of Jesus. It’s just beginning, but it’s unmistakable.