"We are all one" is a concept that nearly all great spiritual teachers share. I remember the first time I heard it — the teacher stood before me sharing these simple, beautiful words. It evoked a feeling of togetherness, like a giant global hug.
To be honest, I didn't really get what he meant at the time. Outwardly, I was nodding my head. But inside my mind, I was asking, "What the heck does he mean 'we are one'?"
Ironically, teaching the idea of oneness without relatable examples or illustrations can actually lead to feelings of separation. If a teacher emphatically says, "We are all one," we are expected — and probably even feel tempted — to agree with this comforting concept. When presented this way, it's more likely that we'll "get" this idea intellectually rather than truly feeling it.
Without a sense of what profound togetherness actually looks like or feels like, we struggle to understand on a deep level. Instead of feeling togetherness, we feel separation — in this case, probably between ourselves and the "enlightened" teacher.
Despite being such a lofty concept, oneness instinctually feels right. In nature, we can see this interconnectivity everywhere. A beautiful rose growing in the garden depends on the sun in the sky, the dirt below, and the rain that falls from the heavens.
In the context of our families, we tend to see that the happiness of each family member usually depends on the happiness of the others. Anyone who has been the parent of a moody teenager knows that one person can have an enormous effect on the family unit! The same effect tends to occur when we bring home our stress from work, right?
We can find examples of oneness even in both monumental and everyday situations. It's everywhere we look...
Remember when your first child was born? You sat in the sterile white hospital room and suddenly your world was filled with action and noise and fear and excitement? Then, heart to heart, there was only you and your child. That is oneness.
How about in a negotiation at work, the kind that truly results in a win for both sides? When you put yourself in another person's shoes and she does the same, that is oneness.
What about the rhythm and breath when you are entranced in the moment of making love to your partner? In this moment, all is lost but just the two of you and the present moment. That is oneness.
A construction crew stands back to admire the completion of a long job. Strong and independent individuals, each with a different skill and purpose, join together and become one proud unit, capable of creating something new. That is oneness.
Imagine yourself sitting at the beach, watching the waves roll to shore, thinking, observing until the moment your thoughts dissolve into the waves and time stands still. That is oneness.
These are the real-life experiences the great teachers speak of. Whether on a mountaintop, at work, at an ashram, or on the basketball court, it's the experience of feeling connected and present that is the important lesson.
We are not alone and isolated in our lives – but instead interdependent, always related to everything in the world around us. This week as we go through our individuated lives, I invite you to be aware of the connection we all share.
At work, notice how your office functions thanks to the unified efforts of so many people doing their part; and then throw some love into the process and see how it lightens the load for everyone. At home, start the day by hugging a family member, and observe how the whole ecosystem of your home fills with love. As you walk on the street outside, smile and say hi to passersby, and notice how this shifts your mood.
We can demystify the idea of "oneness," and instead make it a tool for creating love and happiness in our daily lives. It can really be as simple as that.