In non-dualist circles a big question that continuously comes up is whether or not we need to work on our stuff, because, after all, we are already divine. If there is only One that exists perfectly outside of the imperfections of time, and all effort is in time, then why should we work on our human selves?

I sat for a while with a teacher of this school of thought. And what he said was profound and was needed, especially for Westerners who can be so caught up about improving themselves and the world, while forgetting their Essential Nature. Ahh, how wonderful it was to just sit and forget about all those responsibilities. It was just like a poem by Hafiz that says:

We see you have discovered the power of meditation
That can free you
From all land, mind, debt, alimony;
The whole works,
And like us
Lets you carouse all day in God

And there was a profound peace in the room. Yet after months this same teacher, whose body was old and unhealthy, made a pass at a young woman devotee. And he was married. When the group confronted him on this he said to the effect: Who kisses whom? There is only the Self.

“Know there is One but act as though there is two,” Ramana Maharshi said when asked about the need for a teacher to help one on the path. There is no greater teacher than working on the art of becoming a human being and interacting with others who are trying to do the same, with many degrees of consciousness involved in the effort. As an artist I work pretty much stress free now because I have come to the Awareness of my Intrinsic Worth. And no matter how wonderful or how awful my work manifests itself, it does not affect the Self. Yet I keep working at it, allowing it to evolve. While at the same time I keep constant vigilance of the mind and do not let it go off on any unrelated tangents. The mind is either working at what is at hand or I keep it shut away in the Silence of Being. Then the work just happens. There is no me doing it. Just like runners who after much effort get into the effortless groove.

So it is with the art of me being a father, a partner, a teacher, or whatever. Each requires a discipline and learning of skills and tools and I do my best at mastering these roles. However it is a choice now; it is done out of unconditional Love. I used to work on myself and gathered knowledge from books and classes because I thought I would be more worthy to be loved—both by my fellows and especially by God. And there was much gnashing of teeth.

Knowing there is only One and acting as though there is two is a balanced way of living. That knowing is very feminine, very passive, and has been embodied in the wisdom of the East. It is the place of Being. While, on the other hand, acting as though what we do is important and meaningful, altering our environment and chiseling at our imperfections, is very masculine and has manifested as the industriousness of the West. This has been the use of Will. To become a true human being is to have both sides operating fully and harmoniously, coming together in the Heart of Love, aware of the absolute and playing with the particulars.

Another way of looking at this question is to remember the ancient word, Leela, which means the Divine Play. Everyone has roles to play. By first connecting to your Being then your human roles you won’t take so seriously, and subsequently you will be able to do them better. If you are an historian, read all the history books you can, just give plenty of time connecting to the Self that knows no history. If you are a partner learn how to make love and communicate, and love the Self that knows no other; if you are a parent learn how to be a conscious parent, and suckle the Self that was never born. If you are a seeker go to the feet of teachers and go on pilgrimages, while remembering the Self that was never lost. Roles are roles and are not you.

Play the game. Enjoy your roles and allow them to change. Clean up your act. Do your very best in all that you do. Evolve. Create. Learn. Be vigilante of the mind. Welcome discipline. Conquer moods. Foster virtues.

And in all your acts remember your Essence. Be still and enjoy the Silence. Take nothing personally. And laugh at the absurdity of it all.

Author's Bio: 

Janaka Stagnaro is the author of two books: "Silent Ripples: Parables for the Soul" and "Footprints Along the Shore of an Incoming Tide." He has offered spiritual counseling and mentoring for thousands of clients for over 20 years, utilizing the Tarot and other metaphysical tools. He is also a Waldorf teacher and artist. You can check out his other writings, teachings, poetry and artwork at or visit his Triliving Blog at