Feb 27, 2019

Non-duality as an Adaptation to Separation

Human psychology evolved for the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, but for many thousands of years most of us have not been living that life.

If you've ever been on an expedition or part of some intense team experience that lasted three days or more, you will probably have experienced a significant loss of "ego": far fewer thoughts about your "self" and your personal story and far more spontaneous responding in the here and now. Maybe you felt it at Burning Man, on tour, or during that week when your whole team was holed up in the office finishing off (or starting) a project.

Over recent millennia life has become more and more separate for most of us: the teams have become progressively smaller, the strangers more numerous, the cooperation less intense.

Chances are, if you're reading this, you are alone right now. The way you are living would cause profound anxiety to a hunter-gatherer, who would interpret the situation as fraught with danger.

You may even be living alone. That means cooking alone, washing alone, and cleaning alone. You've got a complete set of home conveniences which previously would have serviced a multi-generation household. And several generations before that there would haven't been any of those conveniences.

Things have gotten particularly "bad" in the past 70 years. Average household size in most countries is plummeting and will soon be below 2. In fact, household size is as good a proxy as it gets for how "modern" or "progressive" a country is. The larger the households, the more "backwards" or "traditional" the society.

In their unadjusted state, humans are bound to suffer in this unnatural lifestyle, like a polar bear at the zoo who endlessly paces back and forth in its cage.

But there is an upgrade, a "tweak," and it's been around for thousands of years — presumably as long as cities have been around: the experience of non-dual oneness.

Non-dual oneness is a shift in the experience of the self from a separate, localized self to a self which is impersonal and universal. It is the mental hack that frees you from the anxiety of living separately while being surrounded by throngs of strangers.

Without the mental upgrade, modern living is bound to leave you low in oxytocin, serotonin, and other neurochemicals, and high in anxiety. From a hunter-gatherer perspective, you are trying to get by on your own in a hostile universe. You're basically ostracized from your tribe.

But these feelings aren't based in reality. There is no one out to kill and eat you. All your needs are met. And nobody has ostracized you. But without the non-dual "hack" you cannot fully assimilate this truth. You may understand intellectually that there is nothing to worry about, but your subconscious doesn't believe it.

With the hack, you can continue your apparently "separate" lifestyle with no loss of neurochemicals and no persistent anxiety or stress.

Some of the first to systematically figure this out were hermit monks who would spend months living in inhuman conditions in caves to train themselves to produce oxytocin without human contact, serotonin in the absence of social support, and all the other neurochemicals they needed to feel good. Of course, to reach this level they had to first undergo extensive training — typically years of special mental exercises. An untrained person would wither and die from the experience.

Today interest in the "hack" is growing proportionally to the apparent dysfunctionality of modern life.

Could there come a time in the not-so-distant future when the non-duality patch comes installed by default?

p.s. There is at least one other "hack:" pets! :-) But it's not as complete a hack as non-dual oneness.

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