The Valley of Unity

By Thea Iberall


The fifth valley in Attar’s Conference of the Birds is the Valley of Unity where everything is broken in pieces and then unified. Attar says, “Although you seem to see many beings, in reality there is only one. When all that is visible is reduced to nothing, what is there left to contemplate?” In this valley, there is no longer a difference from one another. This state of being one is a condition of body and soul being one. Whatever direction one turns, everyone turns the same. When duality disappears, unity is found.


This is a story Attar uses to explain the Valley of Unity:

There was a review of the monarch’s army, which consisted of innumerable elephants, horses and troops. As the immense army marched past, the great monarch said to Ayaz: ‘My son, all these elephants and horses and men of mine are now yours, for my love for you is such that I look on you as king.’ Ayaz appeared indifferent and unmoved; he neither thanked the king nor commented.
A man standing nearby was astonished and said: ‘Ayaz, a King has honored you, a simple slave, and you show not the least sign of gratitude; you neither bow nor prostrate yourself in token of respect.’
Ayaz said: ‘If I, who have neither stability nor position, wish to show my devotion to the King, I can only fall in the dust before him in a sort of humiliation or else sing his praises in a whining voice. Between doing too much or too little it is better to do nothing. The slave is the King’s, and his respect for the King is taken for granted. When the King deigns to cast his eyes on me he annihilates my existence by the brightness of his rays. Since in the light of his glorious sun I no longer exist, how shall I prostrate myself? Ayaz is his shadow, lost in the sun of his face.’

I have traveled through the first four valleys: seeing beyond what I was brought up to believe, seeing beyond what reason tells me is true, seeing beyond what I think I know. I’ve learned acceptance is not about thinking about acceptance, but it’s about really feeling it. Detaching is wanting nothing for ourselves in order to see clearly into other’s needs.


Many years ago, I was invited into a new relationship that felt joyous: it was fun and playful, but at the same time, we had deep conversations and explored all sorts of ideas and thoughts. And she started exposing me to a world that blew open my western scientific mind: a world of energies, auric fields, and communication beyond cell phones. Part of me said none of this exists but at the same time, I was experiencing it. I had knowings of things but I didn’t know how I knew them. I became caught up into a world I couldn’t even imagine and when she left, she took the world with her. My new abilities only worked because she was around. Losing them created a grief so profound, it was like someone had cut off my arms and had blinded me. I felt hopeless and lost (see Wounds Into Wisdom post). But I became determined to get the abilities back and I started to smudge my house and my life. I had planned a trip for us to a spiritual center in Santa Barbara and after the breakup, I went anyway. There, I learned about the Gentle Wind project. From that, I learned about Barbara Brennen’s book Hands of Light, which led to lunch with a friend which led me to Donna Eden’s book Energy Medicine. Which led me to learn Reiki which led me to learning about shamanic healing. And the lovesickness poem I wrote about the breakup led me to write my one-woman show which led me to Shirley. A four-year journey that started with utter loss and grief and led me directly to my beshert, my destiny. My grief led me to my joy.

Attar says that when duality disappears, unity is found. There are no opposites. They are the same. One leads to the other. It means that there is no good or bad, no grief and joy. No liberals and conservatives. People want the same thing: comfort, safety, love. Differences develop when wounds start interfering with the heart. Divisions are drawn and separation feels real. Attar is saying don’t get stuck on one side. Of course, it’s easy to say just don’t get stuck in the grief or joy. How to do it? Maybe there's something to being aware there's a bigger picture. So that at least acknowledging the bigger picture will help us hang on to something when the rest is falling apart. To make my body and soul be one.


The shadow is lost in sun. This morning, I watched my shadow in the early morning sun. I could see it in contrast to the sun. One was dark, the other light. But then I had a thought. If I look at it for a long, long time, eventually my eyes will tire and the edges will smooth out until the shadow is gone. There will be no separation. And maybe that is what Attar is saying.


A poem was shared that is an excerpt from the lyrics from a song by Regina Spektor.

Participants’ Reflections

  • Thank you so much. I love your meditations on the valleys. I love the concept of things having to fall apart and then coming together different and better. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences.

  • I appreciate your perspective so much. I was drawn to a lot of things you said. I spent some time with ‘when duality disappears, unity is found.’ I found myself thinking of experiences in my life where I was feeling what you were describing. The feeling of when you are with someone and they really get what you are saying and feeling. Those moments create that sense of unity for me. I remember going to Obama’s first inauguration in Washington DC and being in this diverse crowd of people, and there was such love and excitement. It was a way of bridging all the differences in those moments and connections. That sort of unifying, being at one. The moments—the treasure is in seeing those moments.

  • Thank you. I find your writings and sharings to be very insightful. I listened feeling like I was the only one you were talking to. At moments, things speak so strongly to me. What I took into the meditation was the thought that I need to empty out all of my judgments and my wanting to make these compartments and things, and to have a feeling that it just is. In the naming and labeling, I get it that I create separation. In the meditation from yesterday, I painted everything white again. Today a pink came in. I’m not a color person. I’m just trying to attain some sort of light that I am supposed to be creating. I’ve been trying to figure out what does joy feel like, and it felt like the pink came to help me. It felt good to see and feel and be the pink. A new sensation for me. Thank you.

  • In my studies of pranic healing, there’s a lot about colors and the meanings of color.

  • You were talking about the shadow and the bright light, and looking for a time reaching a place where they weren’t different. I think when we look through the eyes of love is where we reach the point of no longer seeing that difference. I am remembering the quote from The Merchant of Venice: “if you prick us, do we not bleed?” I think the animal side of us, the physicality of us, is a common bond whether or not we see it. We all are born, live, and die, and are subject to illness. That’s part of the commonality and part of the unity. I think trying to get to unity through ideas is much harder, maybe not even doable. But that outpouring of affection and physical affection is a great place to look for unity.

  • I think Attar’s stories are so esoteric and strange in order to confuse the mind so that we get out of our mind. I try to understand it and I can’t. I have to feel it.

  • I’m curious what pink means because I have a similar experience. In creating a soul collage, there’s a figure with the chakras and a column going down the middle with the clear chakras and light coming in. I did it in yellow and it didn’t seem right. I tried pink and I knew that pink was right. There’s a hand holding straight fireworks that were pink coming down into the head. I know now that it has something to do with love so I am curious what pink meant.

  • I’ve been studying the Barbara Brenan book. In chakras, the heart is green, but when we are meditating around the heart, we hold pink quartz. There are not just chakras but levels in our bodies. The fourth level is pink. Pink is love. That’s my understanding.

  • The color pink represents compassion, nurturing, and love. I think also the Barbara Brennan book says yellow is seen in your aura when you are in your head, not in the heart when seeing yellow.

  • I’m going to be starting the Tara spiritual painting class. In painting, canvases are covered with gesso—a white paint used as a base. I got this image that we are creating new canvases and we are starting to prepare our canvas for what we want to create.

  • Thank you everyone. Unity is a perfect topic for right now. What you said about being broken in pieces and then unified, I’ve been working hard allowing myself to be broken into pieces. Growing up, it was labeled as bad to be broken in pieces. We had to put on a good show, a good face. If you were broken, there was something wrong. This was good, this was bad. It’s not. It’s just part of the process, of life, of being human. To just allow myself to go through that and be that. Thank you.

  • Speaking of being broken and healing, I had a horrific accident on a ladder years ago and was told I may never walk again. I was so drugged up, I didn’t hear that. My tibia was broken into six pieces. I believe that when a bone heals, it is stronger than it was originally, which is a nice metaphor.

  • Thank you everyone. In the mention of unity and that we are all the same, I have been able to reach out to a lot of people and connect through the heart. We’ve talked about everyone wants the same thing but I do find it hard to accept extreme behaviors like when someone hurts someone or an animal. This morning, I watched a video of a husband and wife who rescued a three-day old cow. They hand fed her. They have some sort of sanctuary there. They followed her around and were playing. She walked into the house and they welcomed her. They rescued a smaller calf as a friend. She was very frightened when she arrived, she didn’t trust the humans. The cows connected though. Bit by bit, the bigger cow helped the little cow feel comfortable. They nuzzled with each other and the people, laid down with them and were running around. I think animals are the same as us, they feel sadness and joy. They feel everything. They are so pure about it. To me, it’s so obvious.

  • I have a family member who’s been struggling. He had a severe accident and is in the throes of addiction. For the last year, he’s just been not there. This weekend, I visited with him and he was alive again. I asked him what’s going on. They have chickens and he noticed one was being picked on. He felt bad for it so he let it in the house. The chicken went into one of the planters and laid an egg there. He let it out. The next day, the chicken showed up at the door. He let it in, started talking to the chicken, and the chicken laid another egg in the planter. This goes on for a few days. Then one morning, the chicken is there with a friend. They both enter and each then lays an egg in the same planter, and off they go. He’s being so entertained and enlivened and so called to be present by these chickens. One day, the chicken came in. My relative had to go upstairs and couldn’t watch the chicken. When he came back downstairs, he couldn’t find the chicken. He looked all over and couldn’t find her. Then he heard her cluck. In the kitchen, there’s a wire basket tucked under the cabinet where they keep the eggs. It’s in an inaccessible place. The chicken was sitting in the basket on the eggs laying her egg. As he told the story, he became so alive and connected again to being. I think it’s so glorious. We never know where inspiration is going to come from that calls us to be alive. I appreciate the stories about nature and coming alive through the sweetness.

  • That reminds me of the dogkeeper story in the Valley of Detachment.

  • Thank you. This was a powerful morning. I think everyone got something from it. Have a gentle day.


NOTE: The Gentle Wind Project was dissolved in 2006.


Photo credit: "The Concourse of the Birds", Folio 11r from a Mantiq al-tair (Language of the Birds)ca. 1600, Painting by Habiballah of Sava



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