Chapter 2 As The Paradigm Shifts
The dictionary defines a paradigm shift as a fundamental change in approach or underlying assumptions.
In January 1994 I experienced a brief awakening to non-duality, which could take a lifetime to try to explain. Others write and speak eloquently on the subject, and their books and talks are reminders of what I had briefly woken up to.
I found non-duality to be amazingly wonderful, and quite confusing. Some people struggle a lifetime to experience it even briefly, and yet I’ve read accounts of others who experience it spontaneously and wish for it to go away.
I eventually found people around the world who had experienced at least a temporary shift into non-duality, and some who experience it regularly. It was comforting to know others are experiencing the wonder as well as the difficulties non-duality can present.
Non-duality isn’t easy to describe in a meaningful way. It’s best experienced before being described. I’ve read a few books about it, listened to, and watched people discuss it on YouTube videos, but I don’t know of anyone who has awakened to non-duality or came to understand it through reading about it, or from listening to people talk about it. I expect many have received solace, as did I from those kinds of books, videos, and discussions after awakening to it for themselves. I already had a few books in my library that discussed awakening in some manner, but I didn’t know what they were talking about until I experienced it myself.
Stepping out of your mind, if that’s what non-duality is, produces odd sensations. There’s an inner peace about it that’s biblical. It’s beyond understanding and there’s no substitute for it. It may or may not last very long, but you won’t likely forget it, and the experience may convince you that it’s the next level of mankind’s evolution, and it will take large numbers of us to awaken to non-duality for mankind to survive as a species on earth. It’s that profound.
The term “non-duality” is in the mix, along with oneness, enlightenment, illumination, self-realization, and other labels. Once in a while I’d read a book or article that used these words, and sometimes they spoke to me about what I woke up to, and many times the book or article just fell flat. Some authors and speakers are eloquent, but I sometimes thought they could mislead people to believe the writer was permanently awake when in reality it was just as challenging for them to sustain such a state as it would be for almost everyone else.
For years before my awakening experience, I’d read one or more books a week to feed what was probably an addiction to intellectual stimulation. What I was now interested in was beyond words, beyond the intellect. I had stepped out of my mind into that which the mind jealously pretends it comprehends, and I was interested in knowing more about that. I wanted to live more of it. It became a priority, but even the best books on the topic were dry for me. They were pointers to the stars, not the journey to the stars, not the space between the stars. They were maps, not the terrain. I wanted the real deal.
My drive to pursue mundane matters fell away. At the same time though, I could be delighted by the simplest of things. A ray of sunshine through a canopy in a forest, mist rising from a meadow, watching a leaf fall from a tree, or just sensing the space surrounding me filled me with a pleasing sense of aliveness and wonder.
Now and then, I’d try to regain traction with some semblance of normalcy. To re-establish myself in my old reality, but I floundered. I’d work up some enthusiasm to pursue something, and more often than not it was like trying to run up a down-escalator. My passion would flag, my energy would wane, I’d ease up on all the effort I was putting into it, and find myself pretty much where I’d started. It was frustrating.
On top of this, I had recently become a single father with a teenage son and felt challenged to stay grounded in the world I grew up in while trying to gain a foothold in the broader world I’d become aware of, and to pass on to my son some of both. I had a lot going on, internally and externally.
In January 2004, exactly ten years after my awakening to non-duality, I experienced a second paradigm shift when I was introduced to subtle energy. At the time, I couldn’t tell you which one of the two was more profound, but today they go hand in hand. Part and parcel of the greater reality my awareness has been expanding to encompass.
Non-duality and subtle energy are both more ancient than ancient. They’ve always been around. They aren’t new phenomena, yet they aren’t mainstream either.
The paradigm shift to an awareness of non-duality happened suddenly, but getting used to it, growing into and becoming ‘grounded’ in it may take a lifetime. Eckhart Tolle seems to have been flung into non-duality and eventually made his way back to be able to help those of us heading in that direction. In his earlier videos, he seems to have great difficulty bridging from one to the other, sometimes even straining to breathe while talking about it.
Similarly, the initial shift to an awareness of subtle energy was comparatively quick, but cultivating it, learning to work with it, and becoming ‘grounded’ took time.
I believe I was guided to these dramatic paradigm shifts through my interests. I attracted them to me by the focus of my attention and intention. In short, my desire to know more about how the Universe works.
I’m not a church person and hadn’t gone to church in 30 years but in early December 2003, I was asked to give someone a ride to church. She had just moved back to the US and didn’t have a car yet, and I said sure. After the service, the woman asked if it would be okay with me if she got reacquainted with some of her friends that she’d not seen in a long time. I wasn’t in a hurry, and it was fine with me, so I wandered around a bit. It was my first visit to a Unity church, and I was surprised the bookstore there had some of the books I had at home; The Power of Now, The Four Agreements, The Celestine Prophecy, Conversations With God, and others.
Seeing these books in a church was a surprise.
In the coming weeks, I gave the woman a few more rides and through this group, I would be introduced to various healing methods that at first seemed to be very subjective. It felt like you had to buy into some of these things for them to work. Unlike gravity, which doesn’t much care if you buy into it or not, it just works. Nevertheless, I was curious, and cautious as I explored further.
About two months in I was invited to a Reiki healing circle at a new age bookstore where I mainly observed. I didn’t understand what it was about, and I wasn’t interested in being indoctrinated in what to believe. However, I did experiment to see if I could detect an aura around people. At first, I didn’t feel anything special at all, but when I moved my hands very close to someone’s body, they’d comment and ask what I was doing. On one occasion an attractive young woman stood up in tears and thanked me for something she felt or experienced as a result of my sensing her aura. She didn’t give details, so I didn’t have anything to go on. It was a little surreal, but not in a bad way.
It could be that paying attention to the person sitting quietly there waiting for something to happen was enough to cause an energetic shift of some kind in her body/mind/spirit complex. Maybe my gentle exploring was enough of a ‘something’ to allow her to relax into a more optimal way of composing herself. We can speculate about these things, and some of what we come up with may be true, but there may also be more to explore beyond what is already known.
A week or two later I went back to the healing circle, and a Reiki master was laying on a massage table, and I did something I learned thirty years earlier to balance energy. I lightly touched one side of her body, then the opposite side. I did that several times in different areas. The woman laying on the massage table sat up and asked what I was doing and said it was amazing. She wanted to know what level of Reiki I had taken. I hadn’t taken any Reiki training. I was the new guy here wondering what it was all about.
The second or third time I went to this healing circle, Horace the reiki master who organized it said, “It’s my turn!” and he laid on a massage table and had something like five of his students work on him. Get the picture here; it’s a big room, lights are low. Soft, soothing music is playing, several massage tables are there with people on them and some people are receiving this woo-woo energy work while sitting in chairs, and I’m hugely skeptical about it all, but I’m also inquisitive.
The Reiki master closed his eyes, and these five guys held their hands' palms down, maybe a foot or so above him. I came over, and as respectfully as I could, I passed my hand between their hands and the reiki masters’ body to see if I could feel anything. I didn’t. Then I carefully tried to explore the aura of the Reiki master to see if I could feel anything there. When I put my palm about three or four inches over his upper right arm, I could feel an energetic warmth that had a quality of more than just being warm. It had an energy about it with a density of magnetism. I explored that energy and moved my palm down his arm toward his wrist and hand, still not touching him.
At one point between his elbow and wrist, the warmth of the energy went cold. From that point down to his hand, it was cold. Moving my palm back up the arm, still a few inches away, not touching, I felt it get warm again. I moved my hand back and forth a few times and pinpointed where the shift occurred. Something was going on in there, and I don’t know why but I put my finger on that spot on his arm and pressed down, then pushed it up towards his elbow, massaging as I went. I guess I was instinctively trying to clear a blockage or get a small muscle spasm to let go. I didn’t think about it. I just intuitively understood that something needed to shift in there.
One of the students said, “You break it; you buy it.” I understood him to mean they’d been trained not to touch. I didn’t get that training and I continued to intuitively massage an invisible line up his arm with my index finger. The Reiki master, eyes still closed, said: “Whoever is working on my right arm is exactly spot on!”
I felt the aura on his arm again, and it seemed to be a little warmer where it had been cold. I left it at that and went elsewhere in the room to explore other things. This woo-woo stuff began to get interesting. I was being drawn in to learn more.
Becoming aware of an energy that science doesn’t generally acknowledge was the start of the second paradigm shift.
Learning how to sense and work with subtle energy to heal others took the shift to another level. Doing it at a distance took it to yet another level, and as the results became more dramatic the shift expanded further still. And these shifts continue; some smaller, some larger, and I take them all to be part and parcel of the overall paradigm shift many of us have been going through.
As I made my way with all of this I would learn new techniques and gain some sense of certainty about them. Then I’d be introduced to other techniques, then still more techniques, and so on. My certainty about what I was learning would tend to coalesce as I’d reconcile various teachings with one another and with my first-hand experiences, and then a minor miracle might happen, something unexplained and entirely improbable, and my certainty would fall to pieces like a Jenga tower coming down. At times it seemed to me the Universe was taking pleasure in pulling the rug out from under me, so I looked for solid ground, a foundation beyond belief or indoctrination.
It sometimes seemed like the more I learned the less I knew. When my understanding caved in on itself I’d be left wondering; how did that happen? Is it going to happen again? Do I need to know? How much do I need to know? And I was sure that superficial, off-the-cuff answers weren’t going to satisfy me.
Even as the paradigm shifts were well underway, I maintained a healthy skepticism about what I was finding in my explorations and kept most of the material at arm’s length. I wanted to be at least somewhat scientific about this, not just accepting or rejecting information out of hand. I also tended to be somewhat anxious about quickly reconciling the new information I was taking in with my old worldview, or the shared view of reality that society generally accepts. Much of the material I found was speculative. It opened the door to possibilities and often raised more questions than it answered. And I was stingy with faith on even the simplest of things, much less the more difficult, but I was willing to suspend disbelief for a time and explore for myself.
As a parallel, consider the subject of UFOs. Many, if not most people have their minds made up about them before they do any research. Believing or not believing in them introduces a branching into two different sets of accepted reality. I’ve known some people to get hostile towards you if you simply show an interest in learning more about the subject. That last statement is pretty wild. Some people get hostile if you show any interest in learning more about a subject. This is true of many people and many subjects and it’s worth delving into the why of it.
Some people put a lot of effort into protecting their views of reality. Religions, cults, political belief systems, and other schools of thought are sets of beliefs in things that are commonly held with a good deal of importance. Variance from those beliefs tends to be a threat to the reality held by believers and they tend to respond to the threat defensively. Believers usually argue they are talking about facts, not beliefs, and they will cite many facts to support their facts, but when you look closer, their facts are only supported by beliefs. You can go-‘round and ‘round with it.
Breaking free of the constraints of old belief systems is usually an act of defiance, of rebellion. Rejecting your parents’ religion, or their political affiliations, or their attitudes about anything or everything and breaking free and finding your way in the world is a big leap. It’s a right of passage into adulthood. One that nature requires of us to continue to evolve as a species and as individuals.
Venturing beyond the bounds of your belief systems almost always leads to quickly entering into yet another set of beliefs. It’s like you’ve left one store in a shopping mall and now you are surrounded by many stores selling different belief systems. Something draws your interest and you soon find yourself buying into another set of beliefs. One religion is replaced with another. One political affiliation is given up and another is adopted. One or many viewpoints, and mental constructs are exchanged for others. This can happen quickly, or over time. It can involve a few core beliefs or many. Questioning core beliefs can threaten the structure of a person’s understanding.
However, sometimes just taking a neutral stance on matters can gently open doors to new information that doesn’t have to be earth-shattering, or paradigm-shifting, but may lead to new understandings. For example, you might contemplate the idea of UFOs, and recognize there are huge numbers of planets throughout the vast reaches of space where life as we know it could have evolved, and many of them could have civilizations that are far more advanced than we are. And they could have developed means of space travel that we know nothing about. By contemplating these ideas you didn’t suddenly start that advanced beings are traveling to earth from distant galaxies. Rather you simply allowed it as a possibility without latching on to anything.
Sometime later you may delve deeper into the subject and find all sorts of misinformation and disinformation, arguments one way or another. And in the mix of it all, there may be notions that strike you as being valid. There may be a cloud of malarky, with a hint of truth and some small thing could cause you to shut it all down in total disbelief, or to leave the door open for more information to come as it will, the way answers to crossword puzzle clues do.
When you get down to it, until you see UFOs for yourself it’s all an intellectual exercise. And even afterward, if you saw one, you could turn away from your experience and go back to intellectualizing about it.
History shows plenty of examples of subjects too ‘unbelievable’ to consider real. The earth being flat, or at the center of the solar system, or the center of the universe. The idea of germs was not believed and doctors performed surgery after surgery without washing their hands between them.
Ruminating on UFOs, or subtle energy or our place in the universe is all good and well, but I was interested in practical information that I could use in my daily life. Not just another set of beliefs to try on and relinquish at a later date. I was kind of a bear about it. Not willing to concede that any of it made sense until it did. I wanted to know more, but I didn’t want my reasoning abilities to calcify as blind faith took over.