You might know that for the past couple of years I have been living in the woods, in the foothills of northern California. Here, at the small spiritual community of Ananda Village, we live by the motto “Simple Living, High Thinking.” Going by the yoga teachings of simplicity and focus, we are here because, away from the unnecessary distractions of a busy life, it is easier to succeed in staying focused, working on freeing oneself from the maya (being bogged down by all the drama on the physical plane), and edging towards true freedom and lasting happiness.
Our lives serve as a counterexample for the idea that, “Your happiness comes from more, bigger, better, and newer. Getting more stuff, more things to fit in your schedule and do, more things to learn, bigger house, better neighborhood, more travels, more entertainment, more culture, higher job, more cool new stuff, more fads, etc.”
Naturally, our little community feels like a protected bubble. We feel the stark contrast in energy every time we leave it for a time, into the hustle and bustle of the larger society, or whenever we return to it.
Recently, though, I have noticed an interesting phenomenon, which my other friends have reported also: I get thoroughly inspired each time I visit the “outside world”. Here is what happens.
On my first couple of days outside, back in the wilderness which is called Los Angeles for example, I feel sorry for everyone I see. That’s because, fresh from being with a group whose primary focus is spiritual growth and what is real to the soul, it is quite surreal to come back to the society and see people so thickly wrapped up in maya: People lined up at a 7-Eleven store because the jackpot is now $400M, higher than the usual $200M and thus “more worth it to win!”; or to notice everyone obsessed with the newest sequel of whatever movie, fully knowing that come next week the only constant will be the state of obsession itself, but the object of obsession will surely be something entirely different; never a lasting satisfaction with anything; not to forget the hours and hours spent behind the thick traffic of LA.
And then something interesting happens. As I lose myself in the environment and become just another one in it, as I start hanging out with friends and family, as I spend some time working on my laptop in the cafes as I used to, I start to feel the beauty of life. I come to contact with people who are being a bright light, no matter where they are, doing whatever they’re doing: the worker at the counter in a gas station, the mechanic, the artist giving her heart and soul to her passion acting in a play, young engineers working hard to push the cutting edge technology in whatever, the elementary school teacher teaching his kids with so much love, or just a few friends having a good time over a friendly conversation at a cafe, or whatever. I start to see the humanity within it all.
It is then, after several days of being back in the thick of it all, that I start to feel sorry for my spiritual family back at Ananda Village! I feel that way as I take notice, again, of the beauty in the immense diversity in the larger society, as I notice the countless ways human beings are being of service to others. It is as though we all, on both sides, are missing something precious!
And finally I got what’s the lesson here for me. It is to teach me about the most important thing we have going for us as a humanity. And that thing is our unity. That,
WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER.
We might be aghast, thinking what horrible times we live in, with that Trump, no integrity left in the politicians, inequality, world hunger, and on and on. But no matter what hellish individual or group scenarios we all might be going through, if we look deeply enough there’s always also an underlying precious magic that’s happening: whatever we’re experiencing, we’re experiencing together.
Just an example. You might not be a fan of mainstream music industry or Hollywood, with their flashy over-the-top Golden Globes and Oscars and Grammys. But I think all of us can feel that undeniable magical something which is in there also. That special precious feeling is the undercurrent of a group of artists, and us watching them at home, getting together to celebrate our unity through humanity expressed as art. We might not all like the same art, but I think everyone feels the beauty in our human ability to transcend beyond what’s human necessity and reaching out to express what’s divine.
Yes, our unity is the most beautiful meaningful thing about us. But is my personal revelation anything new? Not really. It is as ancient as love itself. That is because another word for unity is love. Love is the realization of the truth that we are all one. And that doesn’t mean we are one just with our like-minded friends! It really means everyone and everything. And that truth doesn’t change with circumstances. We are just as much one in good times, as in bad times.
And love shouldn’t be confused with romantic love. Love is timeless, ever present, unconditioned, and not of the physical plane. It cannot come and go. it’s always there, exactly because it’s just a realization of a truth, that we’re all pigments of one cosmic dreamer. We’re one. And we’re in this together! Whatever that “this” might be. Such realization may take place equally likely in a city, in a convent, in a spiritual community, or in a city hospital, in a rural village, or on a bench in Central Park.