The Bullshit of Oneness

Yogis love to talk about oneness. I know, because I’m one of those teachers who finishes every class with the reminder that “we are all the same inside.”  This is something I think we’ve mostly forgotten and spend our lives trying to forget in order to avoid feeling too much or too intensely.

For example, sometimes when I walk around the city, I can feel the weight of all that is possible: If we’re all the same, then I could be that homeless person, that person with a disability, that person suffering nearby. Sometimes I need to forget this so I can live in the world. But how do we not shut ourselves down for the sake of self-preservation? Oneness can be freeing, but it can also be overwhelming, and full of conflict. Luckily, living in the world also means there is form and matter, separate molecules, me and you. Luckily, individualism is as real as oneness.

After all, is it possible to become so enlightened that you merge with another person? The idea of it intrigues everybody, but usually in a romantic, soulmate way that’s often idolized. But even the person you may consider a soulmate doesn’t live in your mind and certainly doesn’t live in your body. Even the Buddha was not enlightened enough to live for someone else. He couldn’t break through skin and he can’t, as a yoga instructor once remarked, “love yourself for you.”

We are too complex for that. And thank goodness for it, too. Specificity allows us to make choices, to differentiate ourselves, to set healthy boundaries, to step out from the huge overwhelming mass and decide that we want this and not that.

To not see all the possibilities can be a blessing. Just like when people have an easier time making up their minds when they have limited choices, sometimes only seeing a sliver of the pie can help us focus and move forward.

We create boundaries to keep ourselves safe and that is good; that is how we survive without falling apart in the world. But the good part of writing is that we can explore within the boundaries of ourselves. We don’t need to take drugs to become a chair or a dog or a robot. We can use our imagination. We pull it out from deep within ourselves. Because we are everything, we could be anything.

In writing, we expand outward and then draw back inward. It’s important to bounce between oneness and loneliness, to pulsate. This pulsation is life’s energy expressing itself as you in human form. In yogic terms, this pulsation is moving from the energy of Kali, the goddess who represents destruction but also limitless possibility, to the energy of Lakshmi, a more individual, specific form of abundance. We experience the dance of both forms in our lives all the time. Sometimes we need to be more open, to not turn away from seeing the big picture, and sometimes we need to get clear and specific, to remember that we are living and dying in this body as only ourselves.

I am reminded of this dynamic because last year at this time, I took an amazing course on yoga and writing. This framework offered me a practical tool for understanding my own life and cut right to the heart of my experience in a way I don’t always find in courses, in person or otherwise. If you love yoga and writing, or even one or the other, I highly recommend Writing Your Practice with Susanna Harwood Rubin.

“To allow ourselves to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.” -Thomas Merton

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