One of my favorite photographs, is of a young monk meditating under the stairs of his monastery. It reminds me of my longing to be a monk, and my desire to "hide myself away".
Regardless of what some may say, this longing, this "calling" if you will, is very necessary to the beginning of a "journey" that lasts a lifetime, and even more so to sustain such an undertaking. It is a kind of "madness" by worldly standards, as it must be an "obsession", a life consuming endeavor. Anything short of absolute earnestness will not take you to that which you seek.
So much talk goes back and forth regarding Non-Duality. On the forums, Facebook and other social networks, there are so many who challenge others "awareness", or "enlightenment". The "practices" are challenged, and refuted/approved on and on. Westerners will quote Eastern teachers, and insist on their superiority to Western teachers. Neo-Advaita will be attacked, or praised in turn. Talk. We all understand that words cannot present the truth, but we continue to talk. It's as if we believe that if we stop talking about "it", "it" will slip away. Even though we understand "it" can not be grasped, we continue to "grab" with our minds by keeping "it" there, keeping it "alive" with talk.
Before I sought Religious Community, there was a "formation" that called me to community. An understanding had developed that the "world" had nothing to offer but distraction. An understanding that one thing, and one thing only, was worthy of pursuit; that which was God, that which was real. This required, not just a change of thought, but a change of life. A new understanding requires a new life that makes it "live". In Christian Religious Community there is a "way" of life. This is established by the "Rule" for the Community.
It fell upon me to write the "Rule for the Community of the Living Sacrifice". This rule was based on tradition, but written based on a life my Partner and I had lived for over a dozen years, and included a lot of "psychology" and "encounter group" influences. Later, after leaving the Community, I re-wrote the "rule", and looked at it for consistency in Advaita/Christian thought. This study is one anyone "moving" from one "system" to another would be well advised to make. My understanding was greatly enhanced by honestly and fearlessly examining my Christian "faith" in view of the absolute understanding of Advaita.
Regardless of the "studies" we make of our Faiths, or of Advaita, or any philosophy, it's what happens "next" that counts. We all see the "Sunday" Christians, or even more often the "Easter" and "Christmas" Christians, who show up for church, but that's it. Once they leave the pew, they go about their lives based on other criteria altogether. The same seems to hold sway with the Non-Dualists as well. The difference would be that the Non-Dualists run against their principles even when "practicing" them! Non-Dualists will go to Satsangs, and watch a well known "Guru" humiliate or embarrass a seeker, thinking they are "superior" to the one who uses "I" too much, or does not know "who asks the question?".
When we judge others "spirituality" without being asked, we are engaging in ego only. If someone comes to you and asks honestly for your advice regarding spirituality, that is the time to let them know your advice. If you write or make blogs about spirituality, by all means write your experiences, uncoveries, and opinions as honestly and clearly as you want or can. But if someone is not seeking an answer, but stating their own opinion or experiences, that is not the time for "corrections" or criticism. As long as you feel an urge to inject your unsolicited critical opinion into someone's spiritual writing, you can trust that you are not in a position to do so! We all love to engage in discussion of these things, but when it becomes demeaning and "one-ups-man-ship", the point is lost along with the compassion. Just as a Christian who goes to church on Sundays, and "sins" all week, a Non-Dualist who is always looking for "division" in argument and thought, is not living up to their ideals.
As a Christian or as a Non-Dualist (if you perceive a difference!), living the life is the real test. Living the life in integrity is the way to see if you are "progressing" or not. You can learn all the words; Enlightenment, awareness, manifestation. You can learn and understand Eastern and Western Philosophy. You can ask "who am I?" until you are blue in the face. But if you do not live a life of integrity that demonstrates Non-Duality, you will convince no one. One of the biggest questions and puzzles many on the "path" have is in finding a "real" Guru. This same criterion can be used here; does the Guru walk the walk as well as talk the talk? If a Guru's life is not the living out of his teaching, his life is false, and the teaching questionable.
Non-Duality is the opening to life and love. It is in fact "being" Love. This is, by any standard, a daunting task for a "person". But as your natural "state" it is "easy", as it is as you are. The "person" however needs to be "hidden under the stairs". We need to do so much more than talk and read about Non-Dualism, we need to live it. That will mean different things to different "people", but the absolute conviction must be there, as well as a fearless determination to be satisfied with nothing less. Every movement of our life must reflect this. Our actions, our words and our thoughts must be such that they are no longer seen as "our" actions, words, or thoughts, but movements in line with the stillness we are. Non-Duality is for so much more than "talking", no matter how stimulating or "edifying". Live Non-Duality, and there will be no need for words; Love will say it all.