Image Credit: Burst
“Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.”
– John Lennon
For anyone who has spent much time in the world of Meditation, Yoga (not the exercise fad), or the practice of the Eastern Religions, you have most likely come across the saying “Reality is Illusion”. The concept is, as you progress further down the path of enlightenment, you reach a point where you begin to see beyond the physical, understanding that everything we see, touch and feel is nothing more than illusion. It is the way we perceive the world, not the way the world really is.
In the early days of my exploration with meditation and self-realization, I also struggled with this concept. I understood it when my guru explained it to me, but I was never able to attain this level he spoke of. I tried everything including chemically induced states of mind.
Chanting, sensory deprivation chambers, aromatherapy, but nothing brought the bliss I was in search of. Since this was supposedly the path to enlightenment and the entry into the world of manifesting my reality, I accepted that it must just take longer than expected to reach the level of inner peace I was hearing others talk about. And so I continued practicing as often as I could, going four hours and longer at a time…still no Nirvana.
I tried locking myself in my walk-in closet, headphones on with Spa music playing loud enough to drown out the sounds around me, with the lights off, and a small scented candle glowing. I tried waking up before the sunrise, sitting in my backyard. I tried using incense and natural essence sprays. I bought meditation CD’s that used sound wave technology designed to move my mind from Alpha to Beta, Delta, Epsilon and Gamma states.
The more I struggled with this, the more my life was a struggle. My relationships become constrained. I began to resent having responsibilities. I had a strong desire to pack a small bag and simply disappear, live in a cave somewhere and give myself over fully to the pursuit of enlightenment. I was spiritually lost.
And then one day, while I was working, I was sitting in my car waiting for a listing appointment with a potential seller. I had about 20 minutes to kill, so I figured I would meditate for a while. After just a few seconds of sitting with my eyes closed, I was drawn to open them again. Thinking I was just being distracted by my ‘ego mind’ trying to prevent my ‘true self’ from being revealed, I closed them again, only to open them after another few seconds. I remember feeling as if there was a purpose in keeping them open, yet I was unsure what that purpose was. I tried for a while meditating with my eyes open, trying not to focus on anything specific, but that did nothing for me. About to give up, a felt an urge to instead focus on a tree in the far end of the park where I had stopped my car.
As I sat there watching the tree, slowing my breathing and opening my awareness of the tree, I tried to connect metaphysically if you will. Slowly, I began to see a pattern. I noticed if I kept my eyes pinned to the tree, but at the same time allowed my peripheral vision to become my primary focus, I could predict the severity of the movement of the branches in the wind. It wasn’t that I was channeling any great tree spirits or that angels were guiding me. It was far simpler than this. My peripheral vision would notice the trees on the periphery move in the wind, and within a second or two, the tree I was looking at would move as well. The more the trees at the edges of vision moved, the more my tree was going to move. As I put more attention to witnessing this pattern taking place, the further out my peripheral vision was drawn. I also began to feel a surge flowing through my body, like an electrical current. Sensing this surge was connected in some way, I began to open the sense of touch as well.
With my eyes still focused on the tree, and my peripheral vision in full awareness, I began to sense the weight of the clothes I was wearing as they rested against my skin. I began to feel the resistance between the weight of my body and the supportive nature of the seat of the car. I could feel the heat of the day as it registered all around me, and I could feel the electric surge as it flowed through every part of my being. It was warm, gentle, and blissful. It brought with it a sense of joy and release I had never felt before. Feeling I was on to something, I added in more of my senses. I opened my hearing, seeing if I could pick up all of the sounds of the outside world at once. I heard the kids playing in the park, dogs barking, the white noise of the traffic on the main road a few blocks away, the wind blowing, and my own heartbeat.
I added in the sense of smell, sensing the aroma of the flowers that were in abundance on this warm, summer afternoon. Since it was close to seven o’clock, I also began to pick out the various dinners being prepared in the homes next to where I was parked. With all of my sense on full alert, and my mind fully engaged in receiving the information that came in through all of the different paths, the energy buzzing through me grew to the point of ecstasy. I had the sudden realization I had reached, or at least was in the same neighborhood, as the Nirvana my guru had described so many times. Yet I had reached it not through the detachment from reality, but in the full exposure to everything around me. How could I have reached this point by following the complete opposite path that I had been instructed to walk? I began a process of journey and exploration to find out.
I read the Sacred Texts of every major religion, seeking answers to the questions that wouldn’t go away. Questions that came from somewhere deep within, and burned inside to be discovered. Why am I here? What is reality? What was the purpose of creation? It wasn’t that I was curious about these things, I reached a point where I absolutely HAD to know. Thinking about the questions hurt inside with a desire I had never had before. My reading went from Wayne Dyer to Eckhart Tolle to Alberto Villoldo, Don Miguel Ruiz, and others all focused on the spiritual side of enlightenment. This path took an interesting turn into books from authors like Judith Orloff and Mira Kirshenbaum.
As I read from various authors, I began to see the same pattern I had witnessed years ago sitting in that car watching the tree. Each author had been influenced by someone before them, and in turn influenced future writings of others. Like a wind blowing through a forest, there was a path that I could see which had led me to where I was. And if the path could be defined, then perhaps it could also provide an indication as to where it was headed next. Perhaps there was a purpose behind this evolution of knowledge. Not a structured, rigid purpose in which humanity has no option or choices, a version of reality where every step had been predetermined, but instead a fluid reality where all creation has opportunity to evolve.
This brought me to the firm realization that, in life, the answers always come first. What we experience is the cause of an effect that had previously occurred. And as such, it had its own effect in our lives. Yet the cultural traditions of our world held us bound to focus on the cause. When an event happens within our lives, mostly those of a chaotic or disruptive nature, the tendency is to focus on the event itself, asking questions such as “Why did this happen?” or “Why me?” When, in reality, the event is the answer. Consider the life of Candy Lightner, the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Had she not experienced the loss of her daughter Cari to a drunk driver, she most likely would not have had the inclination to found MADD, an organization which has created tremendous change in national driving laws.
I began to see the evolution of my life not as a series of unfortunate events, but as the moving hand of the oneness of all life, gently calling me to a deeper understanding of my purpose. I saw at once the pattern that had led to where I was, and what the next step in my life would be. It was not the pursuit of the Law of Attraction that was the purpose behind my desire for enlightenment. In fact, although I had been fairly successful in manifesting my reality to a certain extent, I came to the realization that nothing manifested in the physical world had any value. It was nice driving the Candy Apple Red Camaro I had desired and manifested into my driveway, but it didn’t bring with it anything more than the excitement of driving, and the fear of getting a ticket.
It wasn’t until just recently that I came to another realization. This time while reading Evolutionaries by Carter Phipps. This book combines the concepts of Spirituality and Science into one text, as it explores the multi-dimensions of evolution. The author covers topics from Meditation to Evolution to Quantum Mechanics and Philosophy. It was the topic of Quantum Mechanics that drew my attention most earnestly. I began to read more about this scientific field, as I had little formal exposure to it previously.
From what I learned, quantum mechanics was the study of reality at the sub-atomic level. The field covers the relationship of protons, neutrons, electrons and the like. Experiments conducted within this field of study seemed to fit with what the ancients in Eastern Spirituality were saying. Literally, reality was an illusion. At least in the terms of unobserved reality. From what I read, experiments on the behaviors of sub-atomic particles all showed a similarity in activity. Basically, the existence of any of these particles could only be determined through the direct process of observation. Left to themselves with no direct observation, they acted in ways as if they didn’t exist.
This changes the question from, ‘if a tree falls in the forest when no one is around to observe it, does it make a sound’, to become ‘does it even exist at all’? Since the only way to prove the tree does exist would include the process of observing the tree, there is no way to truly tell if it is there or not. This reminds me of the character Invisible Boy from the movie Mystery Men. In the movie, the character can only become invisible if no one is looking. Even the Invisible Boy himself has to close his eyes and not look to see if he was successful in becoming invisible or not.
We also know that even the most solid matter isn’t ‘solid’ in the true definition of the word. As you expand the magnification enough, you will see the molecules of the rock are actually in motion. You will also see space between each molecule. Increasing the magnification further, you would see each molecule is made up of atoms, again with space between each atom. In fact, most objects we perceive in the ‘real’ world are made up of more space than they are molecular material. Anyone who has ever played the game of golf and found themselves with a tree between their ball and the green will understand this. If you were to lightly wrap a sheet around the branches of a tree, you would find that close to 90% of what makes up that enclosed space is empty air. Yet try to hit a ball through the empty space between the leaves though and you would be at least 90% likely that it would hit a branch.
How does this relate to my understanding of meditation? Simply put, following the path of disconnection and entrance into the realm of potentiality, I was in a place where I believed I was separate from the rest of creation. I was seeing myself as something separate and unique, and wanting to be connected more fully. I believed I had an “individualness” to my being. Which is true, as long as I am observing myself as separate. But the moment I connected fully to everything around me, the individual nature of my being disappears, and the universal connection with all creation takes over. I was able to see beyond the physical world into the world of spirit. I could see the oneness of all life’s hand in all of creation, and I could see my part in His plan.
This goes far beyond a sense of being in the world, but not of the world, as scriptures tell us. It opens the door to new and evolutionary understanding. As Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wrote, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having human experiences.” We are no more individuals in our nature than a glass of water drawn from the ocean is separate from the ocean in its nature. Yes, it can be identified differently, but its essence has not changed. Pour the water back into the ocean and it not only immediately becomes ‘ocean’ again, but you will never be able to draw the same water in the same form again.
Likewise, we come from the source of all creation, temporarily identifiable as different form. But when we return to Spirit, we will simply re-enter existence with creation. It’s not that we will cease to exist, just that we will never be able to return to this same form again. We will have re-entered the realm of the unobserved, the realm of potentiality. What we are here to do now in this form, is to have every possible human experience we can. Not from a disconnected, separate individual understanding. But from the aspect of being of the same substance. We are each just a temporary body of creation, pulled from the source of all creation, manifest in the physical nature to experience the oneness of all life’s world.