Many people feel that the world is getting more challenging to navigate, that it’s harder than ever to keep a sense of who they are, how they want to move through life, and where they want to go.
Reports of the strain on people and planet echo around us. On an individual level, pressure to be, do, have mounts on all sides. Time seems to be quickening year on year. We’re pounded by images and messages. Our attention is called in a million different directions. We have to manage more and more on less and less.
On a societal level, there seems to be a perpetual discontent, a wrestling with current conditions. We don’t trust our leaders. There never seems to be enough; money, justice, sense, kindness. Some have a say. Most don’t.
On a global level, we are caught in a web determined by companies whose actions we cannot alter. Some live in extreme (fiscal) wealth, some in poverty. To top it all, we know that the planet on which we depend has been systematically desecrated by our presence. Flora and fauna are struggling, the air is polluted, the water table and ocean health are severely disrupted. Our ecosystem is demonstrating consistent signs of overwhelm.
The weight of these perceptions rests heavy on us. We struggle to stay positive, keep going, make a difference. We are broken-hearted at the cruelty inflicted on those caught up in war, those that lose out in society’s raffle. We mourn the loss of species and habitat. We make sure to vote, give to causes, stay true to our values, but we increasingly call to the heavens for backup.
This picture of life on Earth may seem extreme, one-sided, or it may not (partially or wholly) apply to you or your individual perception of the present situation.
Nevertheless, these situations do exist somewhere in the world, and humans are influenced by the collective effect they create. So, even if we are not personally perpetrating their continuance, we have to exist on a planet that does.
How do we:
keep a sense of purpose and perspective when feeling challenged
stay centred and aligned when surrounded by continual disruption
be still and quiet in the midst of so much busy-ness and noise
choose calm when feeling pressured
respond wisely to negativity and discord
detach from the stories our mind tells us about who we are and how we feel about ourselves as a result
Even if we start each day with this intent, we can get confused about how to read our experience. When it’s all jumbled up inside us, we often misread our being and misinterpret situations. How do we discern the difference between the voice of our higher self and the voice of the identity self? To begin that conversation, we need to assess what is real and what is illusory. If we fail to identify truth and illusion correctly, we end up continually fighting fires; putting out one only to find that another has cropped up elsewhere.
Ultimately, something is real (truthful) if it is permanent. By contrast, something is illusory (deceptive) if it is temporary. However, most of us don’t compute our moment to moment experience in absolute terms. We are dealing with the various (more than 50) shades of grey inbetween. Having said that, it is crucial that we understand the difference between real and illusory aspects of life if we wish to understand the interplay these two aspects create. Because whatever is real is also truthful, it is something you can rely on – always!! When something is illusory, it (often and easily) deceives us and is therefore misleading (it’s called illusion because it presents falsity as truth!!).
So, if something is real, let’s say a thought, it’s also truthful (reliable) and it shows itself by creating expansion (by their fruits ye shall know them) and it raises the frequency of your state (a little or a lot). Obviously, the opposite scenario happens with illusion. The tricky part is that we create temporary expansions when we entertain egoic thoughts (I am better than you) and believe them to be real when they are illusory.
Your being is designed to help you discern your experience accurately. With illusory thoughts the first clue is that the thought passes… so if it’s not permanent, it’s not (eternally) real. The second clue comes if we are very present. We can then spot that these kind of temporary thoughts also lower our frequency with the resulting sensation they produce. The third clue is revealed in the difference between events and our reaction to them. We create layers of sensation by reacting to the sensation we have just produced (I observe I am overweight….and now [on thinking that thought] I am horrified that I am overweight…. and now I feel weak….and now I am disappointed in myself…… and now I feel depressed.) When we compound sensation in this way, it makes it much harder to read.
When we try to apply this formula to our perception of the world around us, we can be torn between trying to fix it and detachment. If someone (including ourselves) seems to be suffering, shouldn’t we try to find out what’s going on and resolve it? But if it’s not real, shouldn’t we dismiss it and not engage at all? I am often asked how we can best respond to the world around us. Don’t we show that we are loving, compassionate people by sharing the world’s pain? Is shock, horror, indignation, anger ever warranted? The answer depends on how invested we are in the narrative that accompanies our experience.
Our conclusions around who we are (gathered from our own experience) determine how we see the others, the world, life itself. If we are inclined to believe that we are inherently flawed, that life has treated us unfairly, that something needs to be done (now, soon, at some point, eventually) to make us happy, then we are very likely to project that view onto the world (thus creating our worldview). The world is then seen through this same filter. So our worldview is really our self-view. The stories we tell ourselves about what is happening to us, others, our planet are ultimately governed by our ability to discern what’s real from what’s illusory….first in our own experience, and then applied to the world.
In order to do this, we need to be steady enough in our detachment to sensation that we can see the correlation between our thoughts and the experiences they produce. Only then can we see through the apparent form to the foundational source. This part is really important. If we don’t connect to the foundational source, if we don’t see, recognise, accept its presence, we can’t activate all the attendant states of calm, knowingness, trust, in order to factor these into our assessment of our experience. In other words, see truth from illusion.
We’ve read about and heard the truth from books and teachers. And while it may be inspiring, it’s not ultimately enough. Until we consciously see it for ourselves, within our own experience, it doesn’t become our truth (the knowingness we live by). If we are able to see truth, we don’t react the parts of the world that are illusory….we respond to them instead. We put our attention and our energies towards seeing the truth in every situation. And when we do that in ourselves, we extend that to the world (real self-view becomes real worldview).
Then we are able to extend love, compassion, service, healing, contribution to ourselves, others, the world without buying into and perpetuating an illusory story.