Sense of separation

Dear Onno,

During the day, sometimes when I sit in contemplation or whenever I find the opportunity, I start exploring perception. I always keep in mind the pointer from Krishna Menon that I shared with you when we met: 

“ What is perceived is not different from perception, and perception is not different form the perceiver, therefore the perceived and the perceiver are the same”. 

I think I have gone through this a million times?? 

I sit quiet and I start exploring. If I’m in quietness and a sound appear in the field of awareness (A car, kids, a dog barking, a plane…), I feel as if the sound arises in me. Also, it feels as if the sound is the hearing itself. There is no separation. Even when I open my eyes, I can still “feel” that whatever sound appears, it appears “in me”. 

The Perceived (The sound) is not different from perception (Hearing) and perception is not different from that which knows the sound (I, Awareness, the Perceiver). 

This applies to all the sense perceptions, with the exception of Seeing. 

I look at the plant I have in front of me. I ask myself the question: “How far is the plant from seeing?” The answer is obvious: There is no separation. Sense object (plant) is one with the Perception. Then I ask: “How far is the plant from That which knows the plant?” 

Here is when the confusion arises. It doesn’t clearly feel as one. Still feels like “I am looking at the plant”. There is a subtle sense of separation. 

In her book “The Enlightenment Process”, Judith Blackstone (I bought it after you pointed me to her article) mentions: “ If we do not relax our eyes, our habitual way of looking at the world will keep us in the fragmented condition of “I” and “Other”. In order to live in the unified dimension of fundamental consciousness, we need to allow the visual images around us to exist as they really are, without defending against them.” 

The feeling of the sense of separation is still there, which is the reason why I contacted you in the first place. On the one hand the body doesn’t feel integrated in the totality of experience and I think that the experience of Seeing also contributes to this “I and other”  feeling. 

It is frustrating because I have tried every possible observation, and yet I know probably that the more I try the more I perpetuate the sense of separation. If you tell me now “Just relax and be patient” I swear it will feel like a relief, because I have this nonsense feeling that I am, with my expectation and sense the separation, the very reason why “lightning” doesn’t shine!! 

It was only with the use of Cannabis (In a few occasions during my morning meditations) when this sense of separation dissolved. Then I could experience purely as “Experiencing myself”. It was as if the entire understanding fall into place. It all made sense. The sense of being the totality of experience emerged and then dissolved. I have never been able to stabilize it, and I know that these “peak experiences” are just that, “peak experiences”. 

Oh god…. If you could just point me out in any direction I would be very, very grateful!!! 

Many thanks for your patience and understanding, 



My answer


To contemplate, explore, and understand for yourself the pointers that have been given over the years by realized masters is one of the most best and possibly fruitful ways of going about as a seeker. Inevitably it takes time, effort and perseverance - and intelligence too. Not necessarily being "smart" - but coming to understand in a very complete way the meaning that is hidden in such pointers. And you chose one of the best from Krishna Menon.

But let's have a closer look at this feeling of separation you experience when looking at an object, for example a flower. This feeling of separation is itself an object in Awareness. There is a clear, effortless, direct, and immediate (without mediation) experiencing of this feeling. And rather than "believing it to be true" (or ruminating that it is actually not true} you'd better identify with this clear Knowing which is aware of the rising and falling away of this experience of separation. 

That's my pointer 

Than, let's "go down one level". You, and the objects around you are indeed separate things.Both are - in different depths of complexity – imaginary and conceptual and dependant on language. The constant inner chattering actually prevents you from living your direct experience. It’s not that you should be completely silent – rather, if you stay close to your direct experience that inner parrot starts to shut up more and more. Inner silence is an effect of enlightenment, not a prerequisite.

When looking at the world around you the idea is not to fuse with your surrounding. Enlightenment is not an experience of unity, it is the constant experience of - no difference. As they say in Zen "not 1, not 2". It is not oneness, it is not duality. But it is awareness everywhere – the perciever, the percieving and the percieved.

Equanimity is what develops over time when looking at the world and its objects without judgement, evaluation or desire/fear. I would understand Judith Blackstone this way. And this non judgmental looking would include the objects of the mind - so being aware of feelings, thoughts, experiences, perceptions, bodily sensations, etc. Noticing without being moved. First by becoming aware that the consciousness with which objects are being perceived is different from the objects itself (becoming aware of awareness, taking the witness position). Then, and this is rare to happen, to identify completely with this awareness - because it's the Ultimate Subject - that which never can be objectified. 

When experiencing feelings of separation I would advice you to remain on the Throne of Immovable Seeing. (I made that up myself ) Rather than getting swept away by feelings of subtle failure. Whatever you are experiencing - notice that which with you are experiencing it. That's why enlightenment is always now. Because the objects you are aware of don't matter, be they feelings, perceptions, memories, desires or fantasies. They come and go, you don't.

And then maybe, one day, which is Now and now forever – the witnessing is no longer the most subtle hiding place for the sense of separation, but dissolves into that which it is witnessing. And you are gone forever, because you never were in the first place. And all that’s left is the sound of a bird, early in the morning, the rain falling on the roof, a sense of peace and a subtle smile. It was so very very easy to find this.

Hope that helps.

All the best, Onno