Oneness: What Does It Mean?


When I was invited to be a part of the group from Humanity’s Team to petition for a Day of Oneness at the United Nations, I started thinking deeply about the concept of oneness. What do people mean when they say oneness?

I think different people mean different things. Here are some thoughts I had about some different aspects of oneness.

We are interconnected from the most material and tangible, or relative, perspective to the most subtle, or absolute, perspective. From the most physical, or relative, level our actions affect others. We live in relationship to each other and affect each other in all sorts of ways: physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. A rudimentary example is: Your second hand smoke affects those around you. Or someone dumps toxic waste, and it leaks into the atmosphere/environment and affects many others. We share space on this tiny planet.

So acknowledging this and being able to respond accordingly is acknowledging our interconnectedness, and ultimately our oneness.

Looking at this from another level, again from the relative world, other people’s feelings affect us. Just as laughter is contagious, we can feel and experience when someone is having a bad day. We feel or sense their “vibes,” or get an unspoken impression of them. This experience is shared by whoever else happens to be present, although they may experience it differently based on their own personal history, because we are also individuals. We are individual expressions of life demonstrating qualities that are aspects of the one. We are separate waves in a vast ocean.

An example of this might be that we see a waitress snap at someone sitting at the table next to us. One person might be greatly affected by her sharp words and attitude, while another might not even notice what happened. It depends on their history. One isn’t better than the other, they’re just different. Although many of us may seem to have similar responses to people, each one of us responds to the world, with its constant barrage of stimuli, differently depending on our culture, family, personal history, and experiences.

As we open up more of our sensitivity to ourselves, and others, we often feel the energy and notice the body language of the people around us. When someone disagrees with us, even if they say nothing, we can feel it. Our reaction to their disagreement is ours to unfold, and get to know better, in order to embody more freedom.

Although we’re connected we all have our differences, or preferences, about what colors, foods, and art we enjoy, as well as so much more. In our individuality we each have our own particular lenses through which we see the world. Yet at the same time we are interconnected and part of the same human tribe.

Beyond our individual differences we see in various cultures the common human longing to feel ourselves a part of the bigger picture. We long to experience that interconnectedness and oneness. Many people experience this through nature, such as when touched by the sight of a beautiful sunset, or vista, or mountain. Others feel this through contemplative spiritual practices, such as when opening to a sense of awe in the midst of meditation. Whether through nature, doing certain spiritual practices, or some other avenue, most of us have the potential to experience this weave of connectedness to something larger than our individual selves.

From the largest perspective, everything is one. There is no separation.

Even if we don’t name it, most of us long for an experience of oneness. We have the potential to experience the embodiment of spirit in certain teachers, and spiritual practices. This draws us to particular teachers, workshops, events, and books. Feeling relaxed, connected with ourselves, and more compassionate towards ourselves and others are good signs that we are with someone, or doing a practice, that can truly help us grow spiritually.

For some, the spiritual connection that is received in certain churches gives people a taste of that emotional high, and sense of awe, but often doesn’t have the same open acceptance of a oneness that could include others of different faiths. While the mystical end of the spectrum of most religions embraces the experience of oneness, mysticism is sometimes misunderstood and can have a poor reputation with the average person. It can denote magical spells and scary ritual dances. Yet the truth is that there are aspects of mysticism in every religion.

Much of the world is seeking what could be called “faith in God.” Mysticism comes from the Greek word meaning, “to conceal.” It is the pursuit of achieving communion with the hidden aspect of God, or a conscious awareness of ultimate reality, the divine, spiritual truth, or embodied oneness. This is through direct, personal experience rather than rational thought. It is an experience of the existence of realties beyond perceptual or intellectual comprehension. For a mystic, it is an everyday experience to live with an ever-present wholeness, or God. Most of the world’s religions speak of the mystical experience in similar ways.

Although the Kabbalah, which is the mystical aspect of Judaism, has been touted by celebrities like Madonna as being a “set of rules and a life-plan,” study of the early Kabbalistic texts chart a beautiful path to follow in our yearning for an ever-present God.

The numerous Christian mystics from the middle Ages were mostly found in monasteries, convents, and among clergy experienced in communion with God. They were often the people who felt called to, and could, take the time, energy, and focus to achieve this connection-experiencing oneness with God. In more modern times mystics have included lay people, as well as the clergy and religious who’ve committed themselves to a practice of spiritual refinement and acquiring the deeper connection of unified consciousness.

In the Old Testament (if you are Christian) or the Torah (if you are Jewish), there is a prayer called the Shema, in Deuteronomy 6:4-9. It goes like this, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” This prayer speaks of God being “One.” Hindus and Buddhists also speak of the experience of being one with everything. While in science, physicist David Bohm speaks of the same, describing the unseen world as the “enfolded world,” and the manifest world as the “unfolded world.”

A poem by the Islamic mystic and teacher, Mevlãnã Jalãludd?n Rumi, expresses the love that is experienced as we learn to embody this oneness with God.

The Meaning of Love

Both light and shadow
are the dance of Love.
Love has no cause;
it is the astrolabe of God’s secrets.
Lover and Loving are inseparable
and timeless.

Although I may try to describe Love
when I experience it I am speechless.
Although I may try to write about Love
I am rendered helpless;
my pen breaks and the paper slips away
at the ineffable place
where Lover, Loving and Loved are one.

Every moment is made glorious
by the light of Love.

From: The Love Poems of Rumi, Deepak Chopra
Translated by: Fereydoun Kia
Edited by Dr. Deepak Chopra

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