I found this passage very deep. But first, a caveat. When experiences of enlightenment or realization are described, they tend to throw us off-track, into assuming these are supernatural moments. I have found that such a frame is unhelpful, for I can only understand what is natural. So my comments follow from an entirely un-supernatural perspective.
It was funny that this week, I hung out with a monk who always talks about the unity of all existence. He used a lovely metaphor to make the implications clear. Imagine a mother on a beach, watching over two children playing. One of them builds a sand castle. The other comes over and destroys it. The builder is devastated, and fights and then starts crying, asking the mother to intervene. The mother does so - she gives compassion and love, and with great interest, tries to guide both children toward better behavior. She might even scold the one who broke the sand castle. But while she is completely checked-in to the world of the children, talking to them on their terms, her perspective is much larger than those of the children, and she is not disturbed within.
I found this metaphor so fascinating on so many levels. Our usual tendency when we see other people fighting is to start throwing high philosophy at them. A mother who truly sees her children, also sees the need to speak the other's language - in other words, become one of them and then guide. It requires a lofty perspective (which mothers have all the time in such situations), but it also requires complete identification with those who are suffering, the part where the mother is "checked-in" and talks the language of the children out of great compassion.
Total dissolution should not be misinterpreted as losing oneself, as Bill so articulately points out. It is not about committing suicide. Rather, it is about opening up and seeing a much larger reality.
The funny thing about the monk who shared this story is that every time I am in his company, something happens in my heart. His purity of service inspires me to serve more and love more, and the rest of the day, I am a different person. This happens also on several occasions where something someone in CF says/does triggers a deep sense of impersonal love, and I am firmly convinced that everyone experiences this many times in their life, more so when coming in contact with people who serve selflessly. In this state, I have several observations. First, when someone is angry with me, it does not bother me at all. Rather, I feel so compassionate (and I'm not even thinking about being compassionate) and so sorry for the other person's anger. Second, the anger or confrontation never lasts for more than a few seconds. Something shifts in the other person's heart and melts it almost instantly.
Where Adyashanti's words hit gold is this - it is my blunder in thinking that this state is something I get into only through meditation and good company. An even bigger blunder is to start hankering for these completely natural experiences. My observation is that it leads to anger and impatience with people for "spoiling" my peace, and I act in ways that are regrettable. In short, I leave the real lesson in the experience of impersonal love behind, and compartmentalize personal relationships as something that I have to "deal with."
Upon deeper reflection, what I'd call "love" in the personal sense becomes almost distasteful - it has so many expectations linked with it. The impersonal love, on the other hand, makes me feel like a giant - it is as though the strength of the universe is behind me, and I can see through the other person, that their anger, their words, their actions - they are all irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. We are connected and at this moment, I feel it, and I understand what love means. The fact that I am able to write all this shows how uniquely my mind processes something that is the simplest, non-supernatural experience, and how much work lies ahead in trying to get out of my own way.
I loved Neil's opening comments. He shared the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." That triggered the other metallic rules - the Platinum Rule, "Do unto others as they would have you do unto them," and this one which hasn't been assigned a metal yet, "Do unto others as their loving mother would do unto them." In my research with public safety, a police officer told me that they are trained on the ethic, "Do unto others as you would want them to do unto your mother." These last two rules are very high standards, very admirable.
Neil also talked about mirror neurons, where we're physiologically wired to respond to each other's stimuli - we are like the same organism separated by our skin (or really, our minds). That is a fascinating notion that confirms most of what spiritual seekers have already found.
Finally, Neil talked about his biggest learning in the Phd program, which was to let go of his ego and understand that those giving feedback want the best for us. It is about practically dissolving ourselves and seeing a much larger reality. I completely echo this reflection. That has been my learning too - my research was much harder when I was trying to do it. When I gave up trying to be the actor, I received so much help - it was incredible to see how things improved so fast, and I wasn't even sweating.
Neil's reflections really helped drive home how passages like this are incredibly practical in our daily life and work.
I loved Ripa's telling of her experience with Amma (the hugging saint) in New York. She related how she spent the night waiting for her turn, falling asleep but waking up every time to see this indefatigable woman continuously hugging people with love. Finally, after receiving her hug, she was surprised to see that there was no supernatural energy behind Amma - it was Amma's presence, in a simple, natural and beautiful form. After being touched by it, walking back to her apartment, Ripa could see how the morning had turned into a beautiful morning, how the previously dirty streets now looked beautifully dirty (I believe she even felt this way about the garbage cans!) :).
Santhosh's stories are such charmers - I wish she'd write a book about her 3-year old who is also her teacher. She related a story of how her daughter fell down in the mud, and took a while to ask for help. When the call for help came, she went over. And after that, she was touched that her daughter thanked her for the help - made her wonder if she expresses gratitude that often. Something for all of us to think about.
A dramatic comment came from Dinesh uncle, where he turned the frame around in a very powerful way. He shared that the hand cannot know that what it is connected to, until it develops its own separate identity. How are we to know what we are, unless we deliberately become "not we?" This is a very powerful thought that points to the ultimate freedom that is behind life - we choose our personal relationships as a medium of learning. Only through the personal can we be encouraged to go toward the impersonal. The question may then arise - if we were in that impersonal love space to begin with, why play this whole game? Why come out of it? From's uncle's point, the answer seems to be - "it gets boring!," resonating with some of the other comments (like Bill's).
Nipun shared some deep reflections on the Buddha's comment to his disciple Ananda, that wholesome company (kalyan mitra) was very important - not 50% of the path but a 100% of it. Yet, elsewhere he did say that "I take my refuge in Dhamma" and that was more important than "Sangha" (or company/organization). There are many perspectives, and it all depends on what we're looking at.
Guri shared closing comments on her 10-day experience, where she wondered why the fish in the pond (in the retreat) were all clustered together when there was so much space, only to realize that so were all the meditators around the pond.
It was great to have Auntie sit in the circle and I hope she joins again. Moreover, although I have written only about some of the comments, there were many more insightful ones, and many contributed with silence and love, which I don't know how to capture online :).