Healing the Separation Between Me and Everything Else
Image by Mystic Art Design

I split the world irrevocably into two by creating an impenetrable wall Between me And everything Else. I is like a liquid in a bottle. Everything inside the bottle of the body is exclusively me. Everything outside the bottle is other than me, and the consciousness that passes as normal in the world views this separation as incontrovertible fact.

However, a division of the world into what’s me and what’s not me is not the only possible conclusion we can come to about how reality is constructed. It’s more a development of consciousness rather than an intrinsic condition, a man-made construction rather than a God-given one.

Although the creation of this wall through our evolved ability to self-identify and think thoughts sets us far apart from the other animals we share this planet with, these skills come with a price. You have to tense your body and hold back the breath in order to function as an autonomous ego, to create what the Sufi mystic Rumi referred to as the consciousness of separation. Even though you need the egoic contraction to function in society as an individual body, it still causes pain and tension that doesn’t just generate the force field of the wall. It also blocks God’s presence.

Disconnection, Alienation, Loneliness?

An exclusivity that forever separates self from other will breed compressed feelings of disconnection, alienation, loneliness. And this exclusivity doesn’t just keep feeling states of connection, inclusion, and joining with others remote; it keeps God’s palpable presence from entering the body and transforming those feelings.

It’s as though the egoic mind, for its survival, needs to remain eternally quarantined inside the head, afraid to step outside its domain, afraid to let go and let God. On its inner throne it reigns supreme, but the price we pay for laying claim to this throne, and never leaving it, is that we forfeit our direct participation in God.

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Separate AND Unified

All physical objects share two contradictory characteristics. Most obviously, they’re all unique conglomerations of matter, they all occupy their own physical space, they’re all separate from every other physical object. But, and much less obviously, they’re also all connected to an underlying ground state that permeates the entire world of objects and binds every one of them into a single piece.

From the perspective of this alternative dimension, objects are not just separate from one another, they’re also unified with everything that is. And somehow every object of the universe partakes of both these contradictory characteristics.

Mostly, however, we obsess about the perspective of separation and avoid acknowledging the underlying dimension of unification. And it’s not difficult to understand why. You can’t see this ground state. It’s invisible. You can’t measure it or quantify it in any way. The only way to know it is to feel it. And in order to feel it, you have to let go of the hold of the egoic exclusivity.

Rumi called the felt awareness of this ground state the consciousness of union, for when we dissolve the exclusively egoic perspective of body and mind, we’re given a glimpse of an alternative, more embodied consciousness that no longer feels so separate from everything but intimately joined and connected instead.

the consciousness of separation
i feel separate from god
the consciousness of union
i feel joined to god

bringing breath to awareness
and then surrendering to its potency
is as effective a transforming agent as we have
to move consciousness
from separation into union

breath is the agent of god
taking you on a journey
from multiplicity
to oneness

Merged with Everything

Underlying a world governed by separation and its unsettling feeling of disjunction—that somehow life is passing you by, like a landscape out a train window—is a deep ground state in which you and your body feel intimately merged with everything you ordinarily view as so separate.

Instead of a nagging feeling of dissociation, you find your way back down and in, letting go of the obstacles of tension and emotional history that block that descent, back into the center of your center, back to a place deep inside that experiences itself, feels itself, even if for only a little moment, as intrinsically bonded to everything that is.

The feeling of union is broadly expansive, even as large as the universe itself, while the feeling of separation is contracted, compressed, painfully claustrophobic.

And this is why it’s so important to make a distinction between the physical matter of the body and the feeling presence of the body. Physical matter can never share physical space with other objects of matter. But the body can become so surrendered to the breath that its felt presence doesn’t just come alive. It starts radiating outward, out beyond the surface of the body, far out, until you perceive yourself mingling with everything you can see, no matter how distant—the visual field simultaneously taking up residence in the place inside you that thoughts used to occupy—and the exclusivity of the you in you melts away and is replaced by the presence of God.

Lodged in egoic separation, you may banish union into exile, but you can never be wholly successful, as you can never completely expel your deepest self from yourself. The felt dimension of union is always here, always a part of you, hovering around you, tickling you, like the psychic equivalent of an amputated limb that still itches. Even though the egoic mind, for its survival, does its best to banish the unified feeling state from awareness, it can’t destroy that state.

Mind Believes in Separation

But, my mind interjects, I am separate from every other physical object in the universe of objects, all of whom are separate from one another as well. True, but this fractured vision of the world as a universe of individual, discreet objects that can never share the same physical space, as accurate as it is to describe the world of visible reality, is conceived in a mind that resists feeling the tactile sensations of the body and holds back the natural force of the breath. Separation defines the structure of physical reality, but experiential reality reveals something additional and altogether different.

Experiential reality has little to do with images and ideas, concepts and theories. It’s based not on thought but on feeling presence. It reveals its perspective through awakened sensation and breath.

To align myself with the quality of consciousness that enables me to function in the world as an individual separate from everything I perceive to exist outside myself, I unwittingly have to hold back both the river of felt sensations that wants to flow through my physical body and the breath that animates the river’s current.

Ultimately, both union and separation are real. It’s just that they’re diametrically different settings on the lens through which we view reality. To function as a whole human being means being able to operate on either setting whenever each—work or prayer—is appropriate: on the one hand able to function as a loving contributing individual in society, on the other able to dissolve oneself into the presence of God.

Breathing Through to Awareness

As I keep breathing, in and out, aware of the phenomenon of breath that I ordinarily take so for granted, the whole of my body eventually starts coming alive, a unified field of shimmering wave-like sensations, from head to foot. Grounded in this unified feeling state, I can then open my eyes.

First, I let myself see the whole of the visual field as a unified field rather than focusing on any one object to the exclusion of everything else. And then I invite the visual field to become part of me, not separate from me, to enter into me, not to stay outside. Softening the tension at the front of my body, I start falling into the visual field, dissolving myself into it, while everything I see simultaneously rushes into me, right into my center, strangely commingling, strangely merging.

Then I add sounds. The visual field is ever and always in front of me, sensations occupy the center of my felt world, and sounds enter me through my right and left sides. Sounds are like the horizontal bar that a tightrope walker uses to stabilize herself when she’s walking across a slender rope. Adding sounds to my coterminous awareness of the fields of sensation and vision stabilizes my experience of God’s unified state even further. Sensations, vision, and sound.

Expanding Beyond the Physical Body

I keep on feeling breath enter every single cell of my physical body, but my experiential body has now expanded beyond my physical body, so this afternoon I experiment with breathing not just into the cells of my physical body but into every little cell of the field of vision as well, every little cell of the field of sounds.

god is directly experienced
as the unified field
the invisible substratum of union
that underlies the world of appearances
the single source of light
out of which all the objects of the world
like holographic images
are projected

to breathe god
is to breathe into the wholeness
of the world of appearances
until i become commingled
with all the sensory fields
and enter into
the feeling state of union

I feel overcome with a vision of hope as I write this:

the practice of Breathing God
could heal not just me
but us

Breathing Oneness... Breathing God

If a Jew, a Christian, and a Muslim were to come together for even ten short days and commit to exploring this way of breathing, by the end of their time in one another’s company they would all be in so similar a condition of consciousness that any lingering enmity between them would be exposed for how foolish it is.

A Jew who successfully takes on the practice of Breathing God will uncover a feeling presence, imbued with love, that is not one iota different from that of the Christian or Muslim who is equally exploring the practice. And this only makes sense, for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam share an identical monotheistic paradigm. There’s only one God, each would say, using whatever word or utterance their religion uses for the name of God, so how could the felt consciousness of union for a Jew be any different from the felt consciousness of union that his or her Muslim and Christian brothers and sisters are experiencing?

It’s time, past time really, that we heal the enmity and separation that exists among the three great monotheistic religions, the mistrust, suspicion, and outright hatred that they sometimes hold toward one another: Christians blaming the Jews for killing Christ, Muslims in eternal bloody conflict with the invading Christian crusaders, Jews and Palestinians so deeply suspicious and resentful of each other that all they can do, most often disproportionately, is to hurt each other.

When you identify yourself not as a vessel of God, a conduit through which the presence of the unified state can be felt to flow, but become entrenched instead in your I, you have to demonize the other in order to feel more secure in the artificially elevated status of your and your immediate community’s false god, your I and the narrow beliefs I espouses.

Only one team ever wins the English Premier League. All the other teams are seen as vanquished and defeated and viewed as inferior. But God isn’t some kind of soccer pitch with teams vying for supremacy, whose fans’ allegiance can sometimes get whipped up into the passions of hooliganism. The felt presence of the unified state is not an attribute unique to you and your community and somehow superior to what your Jewish, Christian, or Muslim brothers and sisters might be feeling. It’s a universal condition.

Regardless of our affiliation with the religion of our birth or choice, even if we have no affiliation, we’re all children of the one God. We’ve all been born out of the unified state and will return there when we die. Imagine a world in which the practice of Breathing God heals not only the intense pain of our personal separation from God but the enmity among our religious siblings as well.

©2019 by Will Johnson. All Rights Reserved.
Excerpted with permission from Breathing as Spiritual Practice.
Publisher: Inner Traditions Intl. www.innertraditions.com.

Article Source

Breathing as Spiritual Practice: Experiencing the Presence of God
by Will Johnson

Breathing as Spiritual Practice: Experiencing the Presence of God by Will JohnsonThrough his own contemplative journey, Will Johnson shares his experience of striving to surrender to the fullest presence of God through each breath. As he takes the reader step-by-step through his own breathing practice, the author explains his physical and mental techniques for meditating successfully through breath and provides helpful guidelines to get the most out of meditative retreats. Johnson also offers deep reflections on how these shared practices of experiencing God through the breath transcend religious differences. (Also available as a Kindle edition.)

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About the Author

Will JohnsonWill Johnson is the founder and director of the Institute for Embodiment Training, which combines Western somatic psychotherapy with Eastern meditation practices. He is the author of several books, including Breathing through the Whole Body, The Posture of Meditation, and The Spiritual Practices of Rumi. Visit his website at http://www.embodiment.net.

Video/Presentation with Will Johnson: Relaxing in the Body of Meditation
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