The Eastern theory of non-duality says we are all connected. We are connected with everything that exists—everything is connected. When you think about it, that means there is no “we.” There is no “everything.” All is one.

The concept is difficult to comprehend because, with our eyes we see everything that exists outside of us, and we feel that we are inside—apart from everything else. We sense the boundary between ourselves and our surroundings. We speak to others with different viewpoints and they speak to us. All of this adds to the illusion of separation.

The best way I can express the concept of oneness is through an analogy from the ancient yoga teachings. You are a wave on the ocean. Everything in the ocean is in you and everything in you is in the ocean. You are inseparable. When you are born you become the wave and when you die you recede back into the ocean. Nothing changes. There really is no birth or death—just a continuation in different forms. In that way, everything is connected.

We humans are just like that wave on the ocean in relation to spirit. The world we see is just an illusion—maya—constructed to let us explore who we are and to learn how to be—how to love—how to return to spirit after we explore and unfold our own perfection and purity. We rise like a wave in the form of our body at birth and we return to ashes to reunite again when we die.

One way to feel that everything is connected

Gadu subbody butoh everything is connected

It’s okay to feel whatever you’re feeling. Photo by Pat O’Loughllin

Gadu Doushin, one of my medical qigong instructors, practices a Japanese art form called subbody butoh (butō). In the video above, he explains how butoh helps him feel that everything is connected: “I think when you practice subbody butoh you really get in touch with things inside but at the same time you get in touch with everything outside and you learn everything is connected.” Watching his flowing movements, I get a good sense of what he is saying.

He explains that the concept of oneness is scientific: “Everything is resonating. In physics as well, everything is energy. It’s just how the energy organizes or reorganizes—different resonance patterns—and that’s what makes us us, or makes light or air or—everything else. When we are connecting on a certain level, our perception about what we are and what others are—our sense of separation disappears. You actually feel more compassion, you feel more connected.”

When we forget ourselves—when we stop being a slave to our egos for awhile, we can temporarily move beyond the boundary of our self and experience the connection.

We do this when we sleep each night. And in the morning when we awake, we can think of ourselves as being in a dream being dreampt by spirit. In our waking state, we become spirit’s dream characters.

The concept can be fun to ponder.

Gadu brings the concept back to earth

Gadu explains that whereas Western dance resonates with the strength of the body, butoh resonates with the weakness of the body. He says, “There’s no good or bad or right or wrong way of experiencing…it’s just experiencing. Enjoy whatever you experience…you can enjoy uncomfortableness, sadness, or fear.—Our society has so much dogma about feelings. Everybody is supposed to be just happy and joyful or just not feel anything. But without feeling, without noticing what you are feeling and actually confronting and dealing with it, it’s almost like not really living.”

To Gadu, butoh is learning to be in the moment—regardless of what that moment is. Mindfulness helps us to learn how to experience whatever is happening—and that it’s all okay. What is in the moment is just another aspect life. Life is flowing and moments are temporary.

We can feel experiences without becoming attached and defining them as good or bad, negative or positive. When we hold back our judgment, our perception changes and we experience everything differently. We become more of an observer—looking on with interest and wonder. Experiences just are, and everything is one.