Next time you are alone in a crowd, do a little meditation and record how you feel. You are alone of course, the sea of people are talking in groups or couples, walking or sitting or standing still, some might be looking in your general direction while others are turned the other way. Do you feel out of place looking at them in this way? What happens when one of them returns your gaze? Do you smile or quickly avoid looking at others, conscious only now in the Other’s gaze, that, to them, you are a self?
Imagine that the crowd was transplanted—in its hive of activity—in the middle of a purely selfless and loving moment of awareness during your second hour of mindfulness meditation. Is there space for them in your vast oneness with the universe? Of course there should be. The forms made in the formlessness of consciousness are not of your doing… leaf blowers happen to backyard sits, best not to label and be adverse, but what of this crowd of people? All with their own inner lives, and they are all (seemingly) including me as an idle identity… how to cope? Can we be loving and kind for all these Others?
The above questions convey the real difficulty. We are never more conscious of our mental model of a self, when we are investigated by another self, one clearly (or not so clearly) passing judgement. Even if this happens in a mindful moment, our concentration-breaking desire to communicate, explain our experience for the benefit of understanding, and find often ellusive acceptance is almost overwhelming. Without practice, we slip into self, drop our non-dual awareness, and ascribe a bot-like self to the unfortunate Other, setting them out as an object against the “backdrop” of the universe and consciousness.
In a recording of a Ram Dass talk for a podcast I recently listened to, he reminds us that our practice is not a selfish one, but is instead for the mutual benefit of all living beings. Our practice is aimed in improving our mind, eliminating its idiosyncrasies by freeing it from an ego, and being in relation with other beings who are more-or-less finding freedom on the same path. Our compassion is not only called upon when they suffer great pains, our consciousness must make space for them whenever we practice, it can be no other way, they are part of our loving awareness, an articulation of form out of a universe of process, complete with their own window on the ordinary illuminated nature of experience. Love them and make space, be one as consciousness with them and practice recognizing the thoughts that (errantly) separate you and them as selves separate from experience and one another.