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Know This Love: Oneness in the real world

There is a lot of talk in spiritual circles about the oneness or unity of all that is, particularly in more “new age” or universalist crowds. It’s also present in major world religions, though there it tends to be cloaked in allegory and metaphor that is so often woefully misinterpreted.

However, outside of a very idealistic group of folks (usually involving marijuana or a drum circle), the concept sounds completely ungrounded and disconnected from reality. It sounds like airy-fairy bullshit.

I mean, this world is a dark and shitty place, right? How can we see everything as being “one” when at the slightest trigger, we yell at people we claim to love – not to mention lie, cheat, steal, rape and wage war.

Consider John Lennon as an example. He was the great luminary who sang, “All you need is love,” and he is revered still today as an icon of love. Yet he also allegedly beat the woman he loved.

So it would seem there’s a great disconnect between the ideal and the reality. But I am seeing now where that gap is bridged.

One way this happens is in something we call synchronicity, serendipity or “miracles,” the kind of experiences that transcend and explode the neat little categories we divide life into.

They are the kind of events that would be impossible to explain by the old model of the world – the one in which reality is composed of discrete, separate entities. But within the “new” model – the one in which all is understood to be one – they cannot help but make complete sense.

I had that kind of experience at the beach the other day. I was twirling my drumsticks absent-mindedly, as I tend to do, walking toward the water, when somebody asked me if I played drums.

What unfolded after that would have been impossible to explain if I still believed the world was composed of discrete, separate entities. But it perhaps makes sense when viewed from the “oneness” mentality.

The person who posed the question turned out to share with me so many traits, experiences, quirks, knowledge bases, and reference points, I could only explain it as feeling like I’d met myself in another body. Love pervaded the connection in a way that you find only with a brother, a father, or a dear, long-time friend.

At every turn, we shared ideas and revelations that often felt like hearing ourselves think out loud. In other moments, the conversation connected pieces of reality from across our lifetimes, making sense of things we had never before been able to understand.

I can count on my hands the number of people with whom I’ve had that level of connection.

But I saw oneness in another way that day, too. Later, when I was on my way to pick up groceries, I met a woman who was sitting outside the store with a sign asking for help.

I used to do in these situations what most people do, which is to awkwardly walk past while avoiding eye contact. But that always felt wrong, and eventually, it felt wrong enough that I examined my beliefs on it and changed the way I acted.

So these days I try to interact with everyone as though each person is a dear friend, because in a sense, everyone is.

I asked the woman what she needed help with. She replied that she was disabled and homeless, and added:

“Anything would help – food, money.”

I told her I’d bring something back to her. I asked her name, and she asked mine. We hugged.

I share this not to inflate my own ego. Rather, I’m trying to illustrate that the only difference between a person we know and a person we’ve yet to know is our energy.

We are already somewhat open and free to people we know; we are typically closed off and guarded to people we don’t know.

But the issue is largely one of familiarity. We can overcome that barrier by teaching ourselves to keep our hearts open with everyone we meet throughout the day. By, in essence, pretending we’re already familiar with the person (because in some sense, we are).

True to my friendly nature, that’s what I’m learning to do.

I try to treat everyone with the same love, the same courtesy and the same respect that I would offer a member of my family. And I do, in fact, consider everyone either my sister, my brother, or my lover. Since I’m single, that leaves two categories.

Although a few people I encounter probably think I’m insane, a lot of people smile back and respond with warmth and love. Not surprisingly, I’ve found that the people who seem to get the least attention from people are often the ones with the biggest hearts.

After all, we are, as one dear friend states it, one human in 7 billion bodies.

That is how I see oneness in the “real world,” and it’s how an idea transforms from airy-fairy bullshit into grounded fact.

A week after I met Brendan and Brenda, Brendan and I were hanging out. I went to get groceries, and he tagged along. We found Brenda sitting in the same place she had sat before.

And as I gathered my groceries for the week, Brenda and Brendan discussed oneness.


Matthew Stensland-Bos explores consciousness, love, healing, and grounded spirituality in Know This Love, a weekly SFBay opinion column.  You can find him on his website, and his blog,



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