"The Fact of Our Oneness" (excerpt) The Exquisite Risk by Mark Nepo
---“Sheep Painting” by Nancy Easun
THE FACT OF OUR ONENESS
That which can't he stolen hut only given, that which survives by opening us all . . .
All the traditions speak of what Thomas Merton called a Hidden Wholeness, an unseen tissue that joins everything. It is in fact our deepest and oldest home. In truth, it is not really hidden, just so immense that it's hard for us to hold in view for very long. In actuality, the fact of our Oneness is constant and everywhere, a secret hidden in the open.
Amazingly, we arrive filled with this Oneness. At birth, there is no separation between us and other things, no subject and object. Of course, we must make this differentiation very soon in order to live. But inwardly, we then spend much of our time on earth finding our way back to that mysterious place where we were all part of one larger Self,- all part of the same living organism, the Universe. Eventually, if blessed, we land where all saints and sages have always landed, back in the consciousness that joins everything, where there is no separation between living things.
Yet no matter how we stray or are thrown off course, we can, at any moment, regain our sense and experience of Oneness through anything authentic: an honest feeling, a truthful thought, the giving or receiving of a kindness, or any sudden surrender to the larger] order. This is the purpose of love, of truth, of spiritual practice: to j bring us to the lip of that sea where all things join.
The common beat of our Oneness is never far away. When we look closely enough at any area of knowledge, the Hidden] Wholeness can be found. For instance, in nonlinear biodynamics there is a phenomenon known as coherence, which speaks to how 1 harmony is as elemental as gravity. A Dutch scientist named Huy- 1 gens first noticed this effect while sick in bed. He placed two pendulum clocks on his mantel and noticed that no matter how they were swinging when started, they would eventually begin swinging in identical motion. Eventually they would find their rhythm of oneness.
Even more telling is that if you place two living heart cells from j different people in a petrie dish, they will in time find and maintain a third and common beat. This biological fact holds the secret of how all things relate. It is cellular proof of our Oneness. For beneath any resistance we might pose, there is in the very nature of life itself some essential joining force. Given the chance, we will find a common rhythm between us that is enlivening. Some suggest that this common rhythm is our home.
That we have this inborn ability to find and enliven that common beat is the miracle of love. For what are full hearts when excuses fall away, if not two cells finding the common pulse beneath everything? From Taoists to Christian mystics, our journey on earth is offered as a way to find that rhythm of Oneness and to swim with it and not against it. Brief as these moments may be, when we feel that common beat, we are vibrating in harmony with other life. Knowing this and feeling this can be a tremendous comfort and resource.
These moments teach us what it means to live in relationship to all of life. The great Native American elder Black Elk speaks to the power of our Oneness when he says: Peace comes within the souls of beings when they realize their relationship, their Oneness, with the Universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the Universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that this center is really everywhere, I it is within each of us.
Albert Einstein affirms all this when he says:
“A human being is a part of the whole, called by us "Universe," a part limited in time and space. . . . Our task must be to free ourselves ... by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
Whether it is pendulums swinging on a mantel or heart cells beating in a petrie dish or strangers realizing they are intimates, there are indications of the Hidden Wholeness everywhere. Consider how a simple stone dropped in water sinks as it sends its ripples out from the center. Likewise, the deeper we are drawn into our common center—into the fact of our Oneness—the more we are compelled to ripple out our web of relationship.
In essence, we are here "to widen our circle of compassion" until we experience "that the center is everywhere." Whatever we attend to with sincerity is in some way a service to this end: to deepen and to reach out, and to live in that common beat.