From Unity to Separation to Unity

The spiritual journey goes from unity to separation to unity

I want to let the false narratives, the tired stories I’ve told myself about myself, to fall away. I want to touch my true nature, the core that holds my inherent goodness and connects me to the Cosmos, and let it shine.

That’s what the spiritual journey does. And when it hits the sweet spot, it takes me to a mountaintop where I can see farther and feel deeper. I am changed for having walked the miles below.

But if it’s so good, why is this journey so hard? If my spiritual desire is so strong, why am I constantly knocked off the path by the problems, challenges, and distractions of daily life?

Maybe it’s because the spiritual journey is embedded in the physical journey. Maybe we don’t walk the path to escape the woes of the physical world, maybe the physical and the spiritual are woven into the path together, interdependent vehicles that enhance each other so that our walking takes us naturally from unity, through separation, and back to unity.

We all start life in union with the world, a parcel of flesh, tiny bones, and a completely open mind. We don’t see ourselves as a separate being. All our perceptions are merged into one field of awareness. Light and warmth and our mother’s voice all appear as one. There is no “me” that things happen “to.” Things just happen. Sensations arise, but not to “me,” it’s just that the world is happy, or hungry, or angry at this moment.

As we grow, we gain another dimension of consciousness that separates us from the world. On our journey of separation, we learn that we have hands, that we can touch and hold things, that objects and people are distinct from us. We also learn that our interactions with objects and people are sometimes pleasant and sometimes painful. We learn ways to get what we want and to avoid what hurts.

On the journey of separation, protecting and promoting our separate self becomes our primary focus. Over time, our strategies become more sophisticated and our sense of separation solidifies. Our brain learns to recognize patterns and provide automatic responses, a layer of conditioning that runs constantly in the background, advancing our individual interests.

As we mature, we begin to realize that the walls we built to protect the separate self have downsides. Although our conditioning has served us in a limited way, it does not lead to fulfillment. We sense there is more. Our unitive dimension has not been replaced by our separate dimension; it is still alive below the surface and we feel drawn to it. The structures we built for the sake of separation have to be dismantled.

We want to awaken. We want to return.

But we don’t return as the merged, undifferentiated consciousness of our infancy. We return to unity by recognizing and integrating the parts of ourselves that we walled off to build our separate self, the places that were too hot to handle when we were young. Stronger now, we are ready to revisit the parts of our past where we are stuck, to harvest what is useful and discard the detritus. The signals for this work are the flashes of impatience, pettiness, greed, irritation, pain, and fear we sometimes feel.

What makes the cycle spiritual is the way we integrate our past pieces. We bring the unitive aspect of our being to our experience in the material world. Spirit into form. Heaven on earth. We increase our capacities for awareness and love; we befriend our bodies; we feel the physical energy of our emotions and hold them in tenderness; we ask forgiveness for the times we were unskillful and hurt others; we forgive those who were unskillful when they hurt us; we forgive ourselves for the unavoidable fact of our naïveté.

Often, intellectual understanding is superfluous. We get the energetic signature of the lesson, and that is enough. The more we do this spiritual work, the deeper our capacities grow for presence, peace, and fulfillment. We return not as merged beings, but as integrated beings who now experience our individual and unitive aspects together.

The spiritual journey from unity to separation to unity is not easy. It takes effort, commitment, and courage to work with the fear and resistance that come up. We are drawn through the work by the pull of the spiritual impulse, which intuits that the effort is worthwhile.

Each piece is important. Every time I pause when I feel angry and choose a higher response, every time I bring awareness and love to a situation that feels cold and dark, every time I activate the qualities of kindness and compassion, I am adding another piece to a much larger puzzle that is transforming consciousness, my own and the world’s. If I don’t bring my piece, it is lost, a wasted opportunity that the universe put in motion 14 billion years ago to see what I would do with it.

Photo by Natalya Letunova on Unsplash

2 Replies to “From Unity to Separation to Unity”

    1. Thanks, Barry. It’s a helluva ride, isn’t it? The challenges in life can get us down, and we all need a reminder now and then about why it’s important to keep on doing the work.

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