The loss of separateness

Books are an incredible bargain. For the price of a pizza or two you are going on a journey. It could be a journey of pure entertainment or a journey of self discovery or, best case, even both. It does not only depend on what is written in the book but a lot on what you are able to see and therefore extract from it. I am currently on such a journey while reading a book by Michael Pollan, its title being How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence.

Whenever I read non-fiction I tend to make notes of passages I will probably like to revisit in the near future. This is one of those rare books in which I find such a tremendous amount of valuable passages that I will most probably just reread the entire book.

In this book Michael, most well know for his earlier books about food and agriculture, writes about psychedelics, a class of drug which can lead to a non-ordinary state of consciousness in which people have a wide range of peculiar experiences. One such experience can be the loss of separateness between oneself and everything else there is.

Here is a related footnote from page 367:

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us “Universe”, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” (Walter Sullivan, “The Einstein Papers: A Man of Many Parts,” The New York Times, March 29, 1972.)

I find this to be both beautiful and true as I have experienced such a loss of separateness myself before, e.g. during a holotropic breathwork session.

Symbols, rituals and consciousness

At least once per year I take a break from work, preferentially travel to a secluded place with little noise and go into self enquiry mode. It usually includes a lot of ‘me alone by myself’ time plus some form of learning process with other people, too.

Yesterday afternoon was the start of a five day research retreat. Its title is “Symbols, rituals and consciousness”. For weeks now I was very much looking forward to it.

It is something wonderful when curious people get together, sit in a circle, share personal stories and listen with an open heart. Music is an important part of this retreat and I have once more experienced that people who have never met before can create beautiful improvised music together. There exists a level of listening to and sensing what wants to arise from a group of individuals who make music that is pure magic.

All three domains that the workshop addresses are very much linked to what VAU stands for, a brand my team and I have launched at the beginning of this year. VAU is about everyday objects inspired by universal symbols. What we seek to explore is the divine in everyday life. Alternatively the divine we are referring to could be called the sacred, the mystical or the spiritual. Amongst the main topics that through VAU we speak about are precisely symbols, rituals and consciousness.

The synchronicity of, a few months ago, receiving an email about this workshop, just blew my mind. Sometimes the universe just conspires to help you and sends all kinds of good things your way. I feel lucky.