Lots of people have talked about it throughout history. That there is a basic unity to the whole thing. That even though you experience life as an individual, life itself is divinely one. A field of connectedness that supersedes and goes beyond all distinction. All individuality bowing to the greater force of what unites us.
If this moment was before July of 1996 and you had told me all of that, I would have nodded, shut my mouth and treated you like a mom or dad treats their 4 year old daughter when she wants to play make believe. I would let them have their fantasy, I might even share in the hallucination with them, but at the bottom I would KNOW it was simply not true.
Why was I so skeptical? By 1996, the main feeling I had was isolation. I was alone, living on a sailboat in a country of which I knew perhaps one or two people. I ate loneliness with my breakfast and dinner. The way I experienced people. Me and you and a huge ocean of misunderstanding in between.Actually, I was completely scared of the conversation about unity and oneness, because it almost always amounted to something smaller than what I knew to be true. I felt sure that no group in existence would fully embrace the fantastically intense and sweeping reality I experienced daily.
More than that, I was pretty certain that anybody who ever talked to me about us being together were doing so to manipulate me. To make me part of ‘their’ conception of togetherness, be it relationship, most friendships, family and most certainly country and religion.
By 1996 I was living pretty much by the code best espoused by Jiddu Krishnamurti who said:“When you call yourself an Indian or a Muslim or a Christian or a European, or anything else, you are being violent. Do you see why it is violent? Because you are separating yourself from the rest of mankind. When you separate yourself by belief, by nationality, by tradition, it breeds violence. So a man who is seeking to understand violence does not belong to any country, to any religion, to any political party or partial system; he is concerned with the total understanding of mankind.”
I wanted no part of that kind of oneness. The oneness of being part of a group. I sacrificed most every comfort to avoid it. And by 1996 that was all I understood about the term ‘oneness’. How little I understood. This was about to change in the most dramatic fashion.
About the day I met Leonard
A single hour before I was entering that subway station I had witnessed my ex-girlfriend, a truly deep love of my life, on the ground, in front of a toilet bowl, with her current boyfriend. The two of them were fighting, over a syringe of heroin.It had been the first time I was with her for about 2 years, and in that time her and her boyfriend had graduated from drinking alcohol and smoking weed and moved on to the hard stuff. It has heart breaking to see up close the person I felt so close to in such a terrible way. Gone was the calm sweetness from her eyes. And gone was all the energy and light. He looked like a zombie and she like a wild banshee. She was skeletally thin and her body twitched and her eyes had that fearful look of a junkie.
And there they were fighting over a syringe in their bathroom. She was supposedly trying to save him. I guess in her heart she really wanted to save him. She wrestled with him and got it away from him, and then she looked up at me, as if to ask what she should do now.
I hardly knew anything about heroin. I only knew that I was very scared of it. , I saw too many half dead junkies doing it in alleyways of the big cities of the world as I walked through. That was all I needed to know. But here is something else I knew. I knew that I loved this woman, who had turned into a junkie.
I told her to pour the contents of the syringe in the toilet and be done with it. I told her this was her chance and she could do it. To do it NOW!She seemed to agree and started to do it, but then hesitated. She just couldn’t. She shook her head, ‘no’. She turned to her guy and they looked at each other and started to kiss.I felt my heart drop and left them to themselves and went outside.
I sat there on their porch with a sadness indescribable. They came outside about 15 minutes later and it was clear they had come to a solution. They had shared the heroin. I was paralyzed with grief. I was too sad and weak to just get up and leave. It was like I was glued to that porch.
The the best I could do at that moment was to call a mutual friend in the neighborhood and ask him to come. He would rescue me, I thought.So he came over and the 4 of us decided to go eat some Mexican food. But at the restaurant my ex made a nasty scene and we were asked to leave. That was when I got up the nerve to make my getaway.
When I walked away from them, I could feel relief mixed with wave after wave of sadness. I had regained a little strength by the time I got to the subway station, and descended the stairs to see the departing lights of a train. It would be 15 minutes until the next train, I realized.
I looked around.
The station was completely; abandoned except for one man on the opposite end of the platform. He was sitting on a huge block of cement, cross legged with his back to me, about 50 meters away from me. Upon seeing this figure in the distance, my whole mood shifted. To this day I don’t know why, but automatically, I walked with clarity and certainty straight to him–like iron being drawn by a magnet. Like we had a previously arranged appointment I was just remembering.Without hesitation, doubt, or even a single thought, I sat down facing this stranger and without a moment’s hesitation, we immediately looked deep into each other’s eyes without saying a word. No hello, no nothing. Just looking.
He had uncommonly good posture and he smelled of a campfire. There was dirt, or camp fire soot on his face. His eyes were a picture of loving peace. He softly smiled at me and effortlessly held my gaze. We looked into each other long and long.The terrible, sad, hopeless images of the day mingled with the loving intimacy we shared.
I couldn’t make the previous experience fit what was then happening inside me. To reconcile the incongruity, I said; “Man, I wish I was where you are.”He replied instantly and simply. In a voice that was sweet and high pitched he answered;”I see nothing wrong with you.”And with that, I relaxed and we fell back into our silent dance of the eyes.
Then, all at once, it happened. This strange but agreeable feeling came over me. I was suddenly able to sense clearly about 5 centimeters in front of my body as if my awareness and identity went just beyond the body itself to the space around the body to create a field in which the body resided. For lack of better words, it was as if the body was in a bubble and I suddenly became aware that I was the whole of this bubble, including the body. I also became aware that this stranger also had a bubble, just like mine.
Then it happened.
All at once, there was an opening in each of our bubbles like a window in front of the center of our chests. Then, in a flash, everything was different. I was no longer Alan in a bubble facing this stranger in a bubble. It was 100% clear that I was the awareness of both of these two bodies facing each other.
At that moment, I knew the truth about oneness. It became clear! The simple shock of realization hit both of ‘us’ simultaneously.
This realization I am trying to describe cannot be described in words. It must be experienced. But here is my best attempt. All at once it was clear that I was not merely this individual with a body called Alan. I was more than this. The truth was suddenly and absolutely clear. I was not merely an individual Alan, but the awareness that all beings share, including the man sitting right in front of me. I was him as equally as I was me. He was me as equally as I was him.
The odd thing was that there was really NOTHING odd about it at all.
It was as obvious and natural as up is up and down is down.It was as if we always knew it deep down. (Yes, this is the case. We always know this!)
We were both crying by that time. Gone was all the terrible sadness of the day, gone was any sense of powerlessness. But best of all, gone was a primal and constant fear I never even knew existed until it was gone.
All these fears come from the false idea that you are the fragile and limited body that you inhabit. But for me, since, at that moment, I inhabited all bodies there was nothing for me to fear at all! I was more free and at peace than ever!
At that moment, naturally it would seem, the train arrived.
We grabbed each other’s hand and boarded the train.
As we entered the train it was clear that we were everyone. What was crazier was that everybody actually knew it, but nobody wanted to acknowledge it. This was hilarious. It was like having the greatest joy at the joke of acting like there were all these separate people, each reading a book or a paper or staring out the wind or whatever.
We knew it, but somehow we managed to trick ourselves out of knowing it…just for the joy of the discovery, I guess. So on with the illusion. I became Alan again. I asked his name. It was Leonard. What did he do in life? He was a computer programmer, and father of a 13 year old son. He was worried about his son. We both had a good laugh about that. His feet were cold, so I gave him my socks.Then came my stop. I got off at the Berkeley station, but he was staying on until the Richmond Station. We waved goodbye. That was the last I ever saw of Leonard.