Non-Dual Thinking: There Are Things We Don’t Know

“Nothing is either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” ~Shakespeare

It is not possible to grasp the infinite from a position that is finite. Seems like a good place to start.

“Dual” thinking, as I understand it, is the idea that something has to be “either/or.” That it’s either good or bad. Right or wrong.

Here’s another way describing it: The concept of up and down seems to make sense from an earthly or gravitational perspective, but if you are somewhere out in space, it suddenly makes no sense at all. There is no up or down.

The list of these polar opposites goes on and on, but they all have one thing in common—they are often laced with judgment, and the need for resolution.

I find myself doing it all the time—making judgments or assumptions about the people I come into contact with on a daily basis.

The waiter who doesn’t treat me as I deserve to be treated. The inconsiderate driver who cuts me off in traffic. The rude person on the phone that is completely unreasonable. My wife who has her own way of navigating through life.

Why don’t they see things my way, the way they are?

The fact is that dual thinking has become integrated in how I process things, and it is rooted in fear—fear of what I don’t know, fear of what I don’t understand, and fear of what I can’t control. A feeling of lack. Being right seems to quiet the screaming monkeys, at least temporarily.

And when I think in black and white, I miss all the shades of grey in between. Someone has to be wrong for me to be right. My relationships have suffered because they are stuck in “defending a position” mode.

I am so concerned about being right, of making sure that my viewpoint is heard, that I miss all the magic, learning, wisdom, and connection that are waiting to be discovered.

And if my relationships are based in this “either/or” way of thinking, is it any wonder that I continue to feel separate and isolated, from myself and others?

How can dual thinking represent “truth” when something can be right for one person, but wrong for another?

Truth is simply a matter of perspective, and no one person can be the judge and jury on that.

It is a very narrow, disrespectful, arrogant, and un-evolved way of thinking that I know does not serve me, or any of us. 

Nor does it serve communities, nations, and governments. We all know what happens. One group tries to overpower another group, to “convince” them that their way is the right way. And people usually die.

Richard Rohr, Neil Donald Walsch, and some spiritual practices look at it a different way—in a non-dual, unified, both/and way.

Is it possible for something to be “both/and” at the same time? Is possible that two seemingly contradictory viewpoints can co-exist? Does there have to be a winner and loser, or can the goal be continuation, and perhaps even evolution?

Richard Rohr describes non-dual thinking as “our ability to read reality in a way that is not judgmental, in a way that is not exclusionary of the part that we don’t understand. When you don’t split everything up according to what you like and what you don’t like, you leave the moment open, you let it be what it is in itself, and you let it speak to you. Reality is not totally one, but it is not totally two, either! Stay with that necessary dilemma, and it can make you wise.”

Paradox is usually like that.

There is also a wonderful quote by Werner Erhard: “There is something I do not know, the knowing of which could change everything.”

I love this quote because it completely shifts my narrow, limited parameters and clears the way for something much bigger. I already know what I know. What I don’t know is what you know. And that is surely a much more interesting and evolved path.

If we can acknowledge that in the grand (and not so grand) scheme of things, we only have limited information, that we know only a fraction of what there is to know, and that there is an infinite amount that we don’t know, it opens up a huge world of possibility, acceptance, and understanding.

What a relief to not have to be right! How much more interesting it is to change the dialogue, from one of exclusion to one of inclusion, where other viewpoints are welcomed and respected.

When I treat others this way, I feel the shift immediately in how I am treated. And it feels good. My relationships are not characterized by defensiveness, but rather by openness and authenticity.

I know I do not have all the answers, or really any answers for that matter. There are perspectives that I cannot even fathom (or perhaps remember). I know how relaxed and unencumbered I feel when I approach life this way.

If we as a species can begin to accept this, to interact in a way that does not require a winner and a loser, then it seems to me that more unity and a higher, more evolved consciousness will emerge. And many of our earthly problems would simply disappear.

I know that our collective survival depends on it.

Photo by h.koppdelanaey

About Jonathan Lareau

Jonathan Lareau is a seeker of new ways of being and understanding. He has left a life of routine and predictability, and is discovering what comes next. Jonathan blogs at www.servingothersblog.com, a collection of struggles, observations, thoughts, questions, and the odd eureka moment.

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