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Silence and the Unitive Experience By Christina Donnell, Ph.D.

THERE IS AN unseemly coarseness and tumult to our times which robs the grace from the fabric of our interrelatedness. At first, it sounds completely naïve to suggest that now might be the time to embark on the ancient journey from separation to union, the journey from our own Self back to a state of Oneness. Yet that is exactly the claim that this article explores. It is a call to a deeper spiritual consciousness by which awareness becomes ‘centerless’ and the dichotomy of I-Other is transcended. 

     Much of what is noisy about our times is we are beholden to surface reality – Facebook, Twitter, news feeds, texting, busy daily life. Abandoning the surface of things takes something more than curiosity or a need for depth or solitude, it is to risk being moved: moved from the person we were to the person we may become.

SILENCE: THE HOME OF UNION

     The development of the unitive experience (or non-dual awareness) requires us to abandon surface impressions and patterns, to abandon what has become comfortable and to embrace a depth of being that asks us to enter that which is wholly unknown – the depths and dimensions of Silence. Silence was here before anything else, and it resides inside and around all things. It is the most primary phenomena in existence and the home of union. 

     Our body has an innate capacity for apprehending the Absolute and experiencing union. There is a palpable silence which is a substance – textured and layered, permeating every cell of our body. As we enter the mystery of Silence, its presence resonates throughout the fibers of our flesh, extending inwardly, and is connected to the same silence of the cosmos outwardly. Our body is the necessary meeting point where the inward stillness meets up with the immense silence of the cosmos, and the unitive experience is born. Upon entering the great layers and folds of the substance of silence, the infinite appears on its own accord inside the body and consciousness of it may be stabilized, enriched, and defined. When we find the entry into this vast stillness, our lives are irrevocably changed and a monumental transition takes place.   

     I consider the emergence of non-dual awareness an organic development. It is an interior process, disclosing what is already present inside us, rather than setting out on a path looking for something new. There is only attention and its awakening. New capacities emerge by developing dimensions of attention that go beyond usual awareness. Silence must be entered, and one must deeply participate. Participation in the Silence is the remaking of the consciousness. From here the body’s innate perceptual gift emerges.

     So, if we are going to explore unity consciousness, we simply can’t leave out the medium in which union emerges. Silence is its medium, as the painter’s medium is color and the musician’s medium is sound. In the development of unity consciousness, the medium is silence, and it is a reservoir to which we may endlessly return. There we are privileged to drink as often and deeply as we desire. Unity consciousness is indeed an organic process, and I refer to the phases of development as The Gathering, The Stillness, and The Surrender. Respectively, each denotes reaching deeper layers of the Silence and greater interior changes.

THE GATHERING

     The first phase requires quieting the surface consciousness – thoughts, images, emotions. It lifts you to a new level of perception whereby a new inflow of life is received.

      Silence is a kind of touch. To be fully with silence requires that we develop a capacity to be present to both the subtlest qualities of its touch and to the way this touch resonates our interiority. When silence announces itself, you have begun to find the way out of separation consciousness. It is the most difficult phase because most of our attention is allocated to surface consciousness.

THE STILLNESS

     In the second phase attention passes to a state characterized by intense stillness in which it rests in that reality to which it yet dares not surrender. When one comes to this point, the brain becomes very still – yet, it is highly sensitive, vigorous, fully alive. Will and imagination are silenced bringing a state of emptiness. In this state of emptiness there is a sense of a mind that has penetrated its unknown depths. The difficult terrain of emptiness is truly the fertile soil of change, yet it is deeply alarming and hard to trust, because the conditioning of everything you know so well is essentially dying into another plane of consciousness.

    The surface mind begins to surrender the strings of reality, allowing consciousness to sink into the stillness and silence from which the Absolute appears – where everything is nurtured into existence at every moment. These, you are participatory with, within the Silence. Experiences of passive union begin to occur in this phase. 

THE SURRENDER  

     In the third phase, one soaks in the Silence and energizes on those high levels of energy from a deeper reality, which are dark to the intellect, but radiant to the heart. It is a manifestation of that indivisible power of a different kind of knowing through unity. One surrenders into the deepest layers of the Silence and is merged within it. When the larger reality appears, it is given to us and we know it, as we cannot know it by the ordinary devices of thought.

     There is a turning of attention from the world of multiplicity, with which the intelligence is accustomed and able to deal, towards new powers of perception which we never knew we possessed. Instead of sharply perceiving the fragment, we apprehend, yet know not how, the solemn presence of the whole. This awareness is balanced by a great ongoing sense of expansion, of new worlds made ours, as we receive the inflow of its life. This revealed reality is apprehended by way of participation, not by observation. And this experience of the “Whole” seems to be given rather than attained.

EXPERIENCE OF THE SUBSTANCE OF ALL THAT IS

       In withdrawal from the busy, surface consciousness One sinks down to the ground of Being and the apparent Universe. Our Being experiences the ‘Substance of All that Is’. Multiplicity is resolved into Unity: a unity with which the perceiving self is merged. Here, there is an enhancement of vitality, equanimity, and joy.    

     This incredible eternity is stamped into the core of our being.  When our awareness and attention can touch here a different way of existing and serving in our world unfolds. The Self is lifted to another plane of consciousness and becomes an agent of the Absolute—an energizing center. Sometimes I liken it to a destiny of incarnating the eternal in time. For this, we humans are made. One simply needs to bring awareness down into every cell of the body, remain quiet there, and meet the Silence. You cannot understand, there is only to be it. 

     Until you have tasted the degree of this inner fulfillment, you hardly dare dream that it is possible. This fulfillment gets deeper and deeper, more and more complete; and you know, with a certainty that is born of experience. We can slip into unity consciousness with the same ease as we slip into the seamless embrace of water. Something very ancient, eternal within us, already trusts that this embrace will hold us. The source of these living waters is stamped in the very core of our being. It is the Substance of All that Is.

Christina Donnell, Ph.D. is the Director of the Winds of Change Association, an educational organization dedicated to offering programs that tend our evolving consciousness. Christina is a natural born, pragmatic mystic, spiritual teacher and public speaker. She is the author of the award-winning book, Transcendent Dreaming: Stepping Into Our Human Potential. Her latest offering is the Unitive Life audio series which is a rich foray into silence and the emergence of non-dual awareness. www.christinadonnell.com



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