What is ‘oneness’ and how can we achieve it?
“Oneness is not a metaphysical idea but something so simple and ordinary. It is in every breath, in the wing-beat of every butterfly, in every piece of garbage left in the city streets. This oneness is life, life no longer experienced solely through the fragmented vision of the ego, but known within the heart, felt in the soul. This oneness is the heartbeat of life. It is creation’s recognition of its Creator. In this oneness life celebrates itself and its divine origin.”
— Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee
‘Oneness’, or ‘wholeness’, are often used interchangeably to describe at once the integration of mind, body, and spirit as well as a feeling of connection with all things external to ourselves.
It is the feeling of fullness, vastness, and completion — it is the experience of embodying our true nature, the true self that exists beyond our limited personalities, commonly referred to as our Ego.
Oneness is about embracing all aspects of ourselves fully — our shadow and our light — and realising the fullness of our potential. It is a feeling that awakens within us our deepest desires and unlocks our hidden gifts, allowing us to express ourselves freely and to connect with others.
But why do we struggle to attain this state of wholeness?
It is because our minds — our Egos — will not permit us to. Whilst our mind helps us to rationalise, organise, and create, it also serves to compartmentalise our thoughts, beliefs, and behaviours so that we separate ourselves from the fullness of existence. The result is that we often feel isolated, detached, and cut off. Our search for meaning therefore becomes a search for the reintegration of our self-divided parts.
Why does the mind do this?
Partly because the Ego is the bridge between our internal world and the external world. Its function is to ‘make sense’ of our external reality by imposing certain restrictions, such as creating our egoic identity (how the world sees us), ensuring we conform to social mores (how to world accepts us) and ensuring we do not act or think in such a way to upset the established order (how the world contains us).
Where the Ego perceives anything to be different from ourselves, then it perceives it as a potential threat. Our deep inner desires are tempered, or even repressed, in order that we are socially accepted and do not stray from the norm in our behaviours or beliefs. The Ego fashions our identity so that we learn to conform to what is socially accepted by the majority, thereby curbing our individuality and dissociating our inner and outer worlds.
But the Ego also serves to protect us. It is part of our innate survival mechanism and necessary not only for our safety but to preserving our lives.
Indeed, the only reality we have been conditioned to live in is the one dominated by the mind.
We tend to forget that we are so much more than our thoughts and our beliefs; we are so much more than the mental stories we inherit and those we create for ourselves. We forget our wholeness.
The nature and function of our conscious mind is to interpret our experience of the external world, to make sense of it, for our understanding and protection. For this reason, one function of the mind is to categorise ideas and experiences, for example, our idea of what constitutes ‘good’ and ‘bad’. This is intrinsic to our survival, for is our mind did not serve this purpose then we would not know the difference between danger and safety, for example.
However, an inherent risk in this binary thinking is that it can engender suffering, for as our minds dominate our experience of reality, polarising our experiences in such a way can leave us internally fragmented. As we grow up, we are conditioned through family, society, and our education that some parts of us — our behaviours — are ‘good’, whilst others are ‘bad’ and should be avoided. This means that we reject or repress those aspects of ourselves as ‘bad’, leaving us internally divided. The repressed or denied parts of our psyche are sometimes referred to as our ‘shadow self’ (you can find out more about the shadow self here).
A consequence of this internal fragmentation we may feel flawed, lacking, and incomplete. We may feel lonely, anxious, desolate. This is because our essence has been curtailed, our authenticity stifled, our ‘true self’ silenced. We are left with a gaping void inside and an insatiable hunger to fill it, to find meaning, purpose, wholeness. How can we fully embrace self-love and authenticity when we when we have consciously or unconsciously denied ourselves vital aspects of our being? We need to re-integrate what has been internally divided: if we are able to repress aspects of our essence, then we are also able to revive those aspects.
Integration is the opposite of fragmentation and entails reunited those aspects of ourselves that we have forgotten, repressed, or abnegated. The process of integration leads to oneness, or what is sometimes referred to as ‘enlightenment’.
Enlightenment is multifaceted concept carries different meanings in religious and spiritual circles, but it essentially means an awareness of the inseparability of all things, and a feeling of oneness with all things. ‘Enlightenment’ has connotations of a state of being that is predominantly cerebral, whereas oneness implies something more embodied, more grounded in the real. Moreover, we may be tempted to infer from the word ‘enlightenment’ only those love and light aspects of our existence at the expense of the darker, grittier aspects. But we are inseparably human and divine, yin and yang, light and shadow, and therefore it is important that in our inner work we do not bypass anything too real or too raw. The spiritual journey entails both ascending and descending. For oneness, both our light and our shadow must be integrated.
How do we experience a state of oneness?
To experience oneness takes dedication, patience, and time. We may experience fleeting moments of oneness throughout our lives, when everything seems to fit into place; but a sustained experience takes a lifetime of intense inner work. The learning, the transformation, the beauty lies in the process.
Here are four useful tools that may assist you on your journey:
1. Meditation and mindfulness
‘Thought awareness’ and ‘breathing awareness’ are types of meditation that can help us gain insight into the nature of our minds. Mindfulness is a type of meditation in which you focus on being aware of your senses, your feelings, and your environment without interpretation or judgment, and is another simple but effective means of experiencing oneness. If you are interested in mindfulness coaching, then please contact me.
2. Spending time in nature
A state of wholeness can also be attained by spending time outdoors. Simply observing nature as a passive form of mindfulness enriches the soul and clears the mind. Immersion in the natural world is also a powerful practice for grounding.
3. Inner work
There are many forms of inner work, but not all of them focus on exploring, accepting, and integrating the repressed and disowned aspects of our being. While the path of inner work can be slow, it is the deepest, most essential work you can do as part of your path towards wholeness. There are no quick fixes. In order to experience authentic integration and oneness, we must integrate the forgotten, rejected, or wilfully lost parts of ourselves and develop psychological and spiritual balance: there is no light without shadow, and therefore we must accept and honour each and every aspect of our being.
Love is the most expansive and uplifting feeling there is. When we truly love someone from the core of our being, we open our hearts and our minds to world of possibility, of freedom, where all mental constructs are obliterated and all division disintegrates. We feel open, expansive, and whole. But how can we truly love another person until we first learn to love ourselves? As we encounter the vicissitudes of life, our experiences vary from the highest highs to the lowest lows, and as a result we have a complex relationship with our inner selves.
And so how do we navigate through this journey of beautiful chaos of life? If we learn how to honour and embrace both extremes, the highs and the lows, then we can approach a state of integration, which is tantamount to self-love in its most authentic sense. Indeed, self-care is when we perhaps treat or pamper ourselves, or honour our boundaries; and self-love is when we focus on and honour all that makes us unique; but when we embrace both our humanity and our divinity, our darkness and our light, then we can experience self-compassion, self-acceptance, and integration. We must therefore learn to love ourselves in all our idiosyncrasies and foibles in order to fully open to the experience of oneness.
I encourage you to explore these tools further other, plus any other tools that promote wholeness. There are many tools available to you that lie beyond the scope of this blog. Have fun exploring!