YOU are the creator of reality

Do you ever find yourself asking “What the hell is going on?”?

I mean in general.

We have all these concepts. Life, reality, me, you, self, other, future, past. We talk about our property, our country, our family. We have names for all of this. But sometimes I feel like the naming and conceptualizing detracts from the actuality of what this is. Maybe I should say THIS, because I simply mean what there is.

What is going on?

What does it mean to be sentient, inhabiting a sack of flesh and bones, in this strange, strange place we call the earth? Does it have to mean anything?

I often find myself forgetting, for long stretches of time, just how weird all this is. Wouldn’t it have been easier to have nothing? To be nothing? Simpler, at least.

It’s so strange that anything can seem trivial. The mere existence of the most minuscule, unimportant thing is a miracle! The simple fact that something is here at all is a reason for wonder.

It’s very easy to overlook this fact.

We may all share this reality, but then again, our perceptions of said reality differ so vastly, that we might as well each be absolutely solipsistic.

And you never know. Are other people actually conscious? Or are they just pretending to be conscious, like characters in a dream. Or maybe they even believe that they’re independently conscious.

When I look around me I see an apartment. My apartment. I see potted plants, furniture of all shapes and sizes, electronics, food, picture frames. Cups, mirrors, lamps…

Most of this stuff is man made. They started off as ideas, or concepts, in somebody’s head. Their powers of creation made it solid. And here I am, enjoying these marvelous things without having any true idea of their origins.

Concepts are a funny thing. We make them up in our minds, or we learn them from somebody else, and then we glue them onto objects we encounter in the universe. Like when you put one of those cut-out cardboard celebrity faces over your own.

Then, having adequately labeled our surroundings, our reality, we promptly forget the true nature of what they are, and go on through life acting as if the concepts are the ultimate reality.

Like I said, it’s weird.

What does it mean though, for us normies? Concepts are incredibly useful, as are labels. They allow us to quickly understand what something is without having to constantly reexamine it. For example, because we have a concept of an apple in our minds after countless encounters, when we see one on the table we go right ahead and take a bite.

We don’t need to check if it’s edible, compare it to the other objects on the table, taste it, etcetera. It’s just an apple.

On the other hand, sometimes our conceptualizing is very limiting. Like when we label ourselves. We say that we’re depressed, we’re shy, we’re anxious, we’re lazy. These labels are probably true, some of the time, but nobody’s lazy all the time. We have moments when we’re shy, and then we have moments where we’re assertive.

Self-conceptualization is a major problem for people everywhere. Not only do we frame ourselves withing concepts, we also allow other people to frame us within concepts. And we do the same to them!

Sometimes this is necessary, like if somebody’s prone to violence, the label of thug is appropriate and may save us from a nasty encounter.

But more often than not, these labels limit us to a certain personality type, to certain actions, to certain behaviors. These behaviors may be destructive, humiliating, depressing. The power of social conceptualizing is such that breaking free from these imposed limitations can be a very daunting task.

In many ways, this is the work of meditation. We meditate in order to see reality as it is, not as we believe it to be.

Sometimes we get moments of clarity, often out of the blue. This is often related to the appearance of some sort of anomaly, like seeing a shooting star, or an explosion, or somebody dancing naked with a street lamp (actually saw this a few years back, it really sticks with you).

Sometimes it’s due to some kind of shock, like illness, an accident, or a betrayal. Something that disillusions you so much that it breaks down your model of reality. It can be traumatizing, and in fact, that’s what trauma is. Trauma is a veritable smashing of your reality tunnel, when you encounter something more unpleasant and unbearable than you previously thought possible.

When somebody you love dearly betrays you, your concept of them is shattered into pieces. You need to reevaluate them, you need to reevaluate your relationship to them, not only in the here and now, but past and future as well.

When you unexpectedly lose your health, you need to reconceptualize your mortality. You realize that you’re not indestructible, that in fact you might die today, or tomorrow.

In this way, concepts that have been helpful up until now may become crushingly incomplete in the future. That’s why we need to learn how to see clearly. To live a life of fulfillment and prosperity, we need to be prepared to change our perceptions of reality when the time comes.

There’s a great quote:

Life isn’t about avoiding the storm. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.

Can’t remember who’s it is.

Isn’t that awesome?

Whoever we are, wherever we are, we are always susceptible to change. That’s the nature of being. Change is the only constant.

When we don’t acknowledge that change is possible, we become susceptible to trauma. Can you believe that a person could meet with a disabling accident, a chronic painful illness, or the death of a loved one with equanimity and peace?

No suppression of grief. No repressing emotions and acting like everything’s okay. We can partake in all these human emotions without letting ourselves be crushed by them.

Dancing in the rain is actually possible. Not pretending to have fun, mind you, but actually accepting the inevitability of crisis and taking it in. There will be storms in life. In fact, that’s what life is. A succession of storms. Some of them we manage to weather out quite nicely, but others will shake our foundations.

In the long run, learning to stay strong in the face of disaster may be the most important skill you ever develop.

My own life, though it hasn’t been perfect (whose is?), was relatively trauma free, up until a few years ago. I guess the most traumatic events in my life before the age of twenty-three were my parent’s divorce at around seven years old, and then successions of moving between cities and countries and new step-dads.

Which in itself has a deep impact on a kid, but being so young I didn’t have the skills or self-knowledge to actually work myself through that trauma until years later.

However, at twenty-three, my life changed forever. I was diagnosed with a chronic skin disease (Red Skin Syndrome) of terrifying proportions. I developed insomnia due to intense itchiness during the night, infections due to endless sores and cuts from scratching my skin raw, and massive psychological trauma.

It’s now been two and a half years since that fateful moment, and I’ve managed to improve my condition by at least 80%. I should clarify, that this disease is most likely temporary (2-5 years average), so a big part of my regained health is due to the passing of time.

However, I also believe that my own efforts for survival and betterment have been invaluable.

I started eating an absolutely clean, whole-foods diet. I cut out all sugars and carbs in general. Stopped smoking weed, stopped using pornography, started exercising as much as possible (although sweating is a real issue with this disease), started a steadfast meditation habit, started journaling a lot, and generally diagnosed everything that was holding me back in life and decided to remedy it as best I could.

Even though I knew there were things I couldn’t control, I decided to do everything I could control as well as humanly possible.

Taking responsibility for my circumstances in life has been the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. It has also made me intensely grateful for the mere fact of my existence.

This life is a perpetual roller coaster. We slowly gain altitude in times of peace, and that’s when we have a chance to prepare ourselves in every way for the inevitable swooping, dizzying descent.

When we manage to prepare ourselves and overcome our fears of the inevitable crises, we can actually have fun, just like even the most terrifying roller coaster becomes exhilarating in the absence of fear.

So this brings us the question we posed in the beginning of this article:

What the hell is going on?

We exist, obviously, but why does it have to be so hard?

Why does life have to be so fraught with misery and suffering? Wouldn’t it be easier to just have the pleasant bits and smooth out the splinters and hang-nails?

Well, here’s a profound insight for you: Good is only possible when it’s balanced with bad. Pleasure is only possible when it’s balanced with pain, in the same way up is only possible with the inevitable down.

We live in a reality of opposing extremes. Everything has an opposite, because without it, nothing would have meaning.

It doesn’t take a lot of pondering to see that this is absolute truth.

What this means is simple. Without the dark times, there would be no happiness. Without suffering, there would be no bliss. Without nothing, there could be no something.

When you truly realize this, and take it to heart, you’ll find that you start appreciating what’s wrong in your life. You may not welcome pain, but you start to see its value.

Another thing to consider, is that as there are categorical opposites, like pleasure and pain, up and down, light and dark, there is also an element of opposites within the effects of each category.

This will take some explaining.

When you get into a boating accident, fall into the middle of the pacific, a shark bites your leg of, and then you’re pulled out by your ship-mates, that seems pretty Sh**ty. And it is.

But no matter how terrifying and negative an event is, there is always something to be learned, some insight to be gained. And the value of said insight will be as positive as the event was negative, and vice versa.

It’s impossible to know in advance what the silver lining will be. In the example above, the most obvious positive insight will be your increased compassion for amputees. Your increased awareness of danger and of your own mortality. Expanded awareness, in other words.

There can be zounds of hidden positive aspects to negative events, it all depends on how you decide to react to them. A mountain can be teeming with gold nuggets, but if nobody thinks to look for them, they’re worthless. In the same way, there can be veritable jewels of insight hidden within a break-up, accident, illness, or death, but if you don’t focus on them, they might as well not be there at all.

I know it’s difficult to think this way. Illness is incredibly unpleasant and often painful, and there’s no way around that. But as you take responsibility for that pain and discomfort, you are in a better position to mine the insights and become aware of ways to make up for it. It’s a process, but it can be done.

We are creators of meaning.

Even if we don’t intend to be. We create meaning through the simple virtue of our humanity. It’s what being human entails. And we may not be aware of this, but we get to choose the meaning we apply to anything at all.

It takes self-knowledge, and it takes contemplation of the nature of reality and consciousness. But when we gather together the simple truths and laws of the universe, of human nature, we can effectively change our reality.

And that, my friends, is magic.

 

When life gets confusing, this is what you need to understand

As winter approaches, I feel like I’m getting old. Not so much physically, with the wrinkles, aches, and white hair, but more so mentally.

I feel like the illusions of youth have been shattered to some degree.

Listen, I’m only 26. I’m not old by any stretch of the word. But what I want to write about today is seeing through illusions.

Recognizing our models of reality for what they are.

The thing with illusions is, well, you don’t know they’re illusions until you go beyond them.

Life to me seems to be a sequential trading of one illusion for another. As a baby, we understand nothing apart from our own satisfaction/pain/discomfort/hunger, and our mother’s voice and breast.

Anyone seeing the baby from the outside is aware of the baby’s illusion, that the world is in fact infinitely larger and more interesting than baby can ever imagine, but we don’t try to explain this to the baby.

We know that with time, experience, and maturation the baby will experience this expansion of consciousness for itself.

The reason I feel old today, is that I’ve become aware of this part of the nature of human experience.

I may not know the absolute truth of reality, but I do know that I don’t know the absolute truth of reality. If that makes any sense.

“The only thing I know is that I know nothing.”

Socrates

This knowledge, however trivial it may seem, has been changing my life. Knowing that I don’t know, that I can’t know anything for sure, is a double-edged blade.

On the one hand, it’s a bit sad. My models of reality become pretty meaningless, everything seems a bit confusing and ephemeral. On the other, it frees up a lot of energy. Mental space.

Skórlitlir

Knowing that my models of reality are not absolute allows me to apply the energy that I used to use for keeping them up and running, to other things.

Now, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak (does that saying terrify anybody else or is it just me?).

Even though a model of reality isn’t absolute truth, it may still be applicable, or even useful.

A model that’s not absolutely true, in other words, may still be true enough.

“I don’t believe anything, but I have many suspicions.”

– Robert Anton Wilson

True enough to keep you fit and healthy, along with your relationships. True enough to find happiness and fulfillment.

We live in this ever-eddying, swirling, constantly up-down, in-and-out, ever present experience we collectively call the world or reality.

I have no idea if anybody has discovered a truth to this thing, or if it’s even possible.

What I do know, is that some peeps have models of reality that move them forward, and others have models that hold them back.

The nihilist who sees only the bleakest side of every experience isn’t occupying a different reality than the optimist who strives to see the good instead of the bad.

They’re both here, now, right?

They’ve chosen different models of reality to live by, that’s all.

“We are happy when people or things conform and unhappy when they don’t. People and events don’t disappoint us, our models of reality do. It is my model of reality that determines my happiness or disappointments.”
Stefan Zweig

I’m not saying that blind optimism and denial of the pain of the world is a good thing, because it’s not. Nor am I saying you should be nihilistic. Not at all.

Both world views have their pros and cons. The nihilist will be way less likely than the optimist to blindly trust a malevolent stranger, for example. The optimist will be way more likely than the nihilist to grab a rare opportunity that presents itself to them.

But neither model is true. And both have serious drawbacks.

These are simple examples. Most of us don’t have a label we can apply to us. Nobody’s a pure nihilist or a pure optimist.

Our models, our reality tunnels, are an amalgamation of whatever experiences and influences we’ve encountered throughout our lives.

We’re cynical about some aspects of life, optimistic about others.

We’re open to new experiences in some realms of experience, and we’re closed off in others.

We react with love in some instances, and fear in others.

I think building a model of reality that’s absolutely true is a fool’s errand, to be totally honest.

I can hear the rationalists gasping in disbelief, the religious among you shouting “blasphemy!”.

What’s more, I think trying to build an absolute model of reality is a waste of energy. There are more important things to do.

“There is but one reality, that is true — but the two of you experience it in slightly different ways. The older you get, I should think, the more you will come to understand that the universe is very much a looking glass, Miss Lancaster.”               Jim Butcher, The Aeronaut’s Windlass

Accepting the fact that you don’t know what the hell is going on, as well as the fact that you may never know, will set you free.

Earlier in this article I stated that whatever our reality tunnel may look like, we all inhabit the same reality. This statement is arguable at best.

Do I inhabit the same reality as a fish? Or a snail? Or a piece of glass?

How do we actually define reality? Does reality exist without someone to experience it? Is there such a thing as an objective reality?

In other words, if a tree falls in the woods and there’s nobody there to hear it, does it make a sound?

Realizing that reality is fundamentally subjective, and not objective, has been a huge step for me in not only formulating a more precise model of reality, but in becoming a happier, more fulfilled, conscious human being.

This brings me to an incredibly salient hypothesis called consciousness first.

It’s very simple really, and goes hand in hand with Occam’s razor. In fact, it’s the neatest, simplest explanation of reality that I’ve ever encountered:

Consciousness is the point from which all reality arises.

There can be no object without subject.

In the history of the world, nobody has experienced anything objectively. How could they? Experience in itself entails consciousness. Without consciousness, nothing is.

“Nothing” is really an overstatement. The term “No-thing” is more appropriate. The former implies the absence of “something”. The latter implies the absence of “thing”.

“Nothing” is a concept. A concept is a thing. “Nothing” can be experienced as a concept, “No-thing” can’t be experienced at all. In the absence of consciousness, no-thing is.

If that doesn’t make your head spin the first time you think about it, congratulations!

This all ties into the nature of illusion. When we realize that out entire reality is subjective, springing out of consciousness rather than containing it, the possibilities for experience and growth become limitless.

Unninlitil

What I’m saying is, life is a dream. A dream is the most famously illusory state of mind known to man, but as you realize the fact that life itself is illusory as well, it changes your idea of what’s real.

If life is a dream, or an illusion, does it necessarily make it any less real?

But then we’re lead to our next question, which is this: If life is real despite being an illusion, then how can we say that dreams are any less real than life?

The thing is, all experience is as real as it can possibly be!

If you experience something, anything, it can’t be experienced any more or any less than it actually was. In fact, that statement would be meaningless.

Everything that arises in consciousness, arises in consciousness. And that’s that.

So in that sense, any experience is real.

Okay, so that’s pretty interesting, but how is this practical in any way? How can this knowledge improve your life?

Well, when we stop fussing over reality, over what’s real and what’s not, we can actually start having some fun with experience. We can decide to enjoy and learn from all experience equally.

Meaning is to be found in anything. Humans are creators of meaning. Meaning isn’t inherent to anything, instead it’s our minds that imbue experience with meaning.

Notice that I said experience. Not item, place, person or teaching. In the end, all concepts, all things, all people and all places are only as real as they are experienced, meaning as the appear in consciousness.

Listen, having fun with experience is all well and good, but it doesn’t seem practical in this world to just take any old dream or hallucination for reality. Does it?

Absolutely not. This human experience has rules, laws. We need to follow those laws if we want to keep playing this game. Fair enough?

But that doesn’t mean that we can’t be aware of the fact that we’re playing it.

You know when you play monopoly and you get so sucked into the game that you start to act and feel like you’re actually a millionaire? That the plastic houses and fiat currency are actually real and valuable? Even though at the end of the evening, it all goes back into the box?

Take it a step up. When you inevitably die, all your possessions, friends, personal attributes will go straight back into the box. Sound familiar?

Now imagine two players of monopoly. One of them’s so engrossed in the game that he’s forgotten his existence outside of it.

“A person who plays the game knowing he will win, doesn’t impress me as much as the person who plays the game even though he knows that he might lose.”                 N’Zuri Za Austin

He follows the rules because they’re all he knows, and he builds up an empire of hotel chains and real estate because that’s where you get meaning in monopoly.

The other guy does everything the same as the first player, with one difference: He still remembers his existence outside of the game.

When things start to go badly for him in the game, he reminds himself of the piece of cake he has waiting for him in the fridge. He’s not attached to the outcome. At least not in the same way as the other player.

If the first player loses the game, his entire universe (seemingly, to him) crumbles down all around him. His clinging will make him irrational and prone to stupid error.

The second player, although he may be enjoying the game immensely, will be cool and detached enough to see what’s actually going on, and the fear of losing will not be all consuming.

This is enlightenment.

When you get that life is a game, everything changes, even though everything actually stays the same.

The buddha saw through all illusion, maya, and that’s why he was called an enlightened one.

Seeing through the illusion of separateness, of subject and object, of self and other, is a noble goal. But even getting a glimpse of what’s on the other side of the curtain can change your life forever.

In my case, a lot of meditation, psychedelics, and a chronic illness all worked together to get me to the point where I could peak behind the curtains and see the truth.

Then I put the curtain back and went on with my life. But I will never forget what was on the other side, even if it can’t be conceptualized, or much less put into words.

There are ways to see beyond the illusory nature of reality. In fact, there are plenty of ways. I’ve written many posts on this site detailing them. But they all have something in common: work and dedication.

You need to be prepared to work for the glimpse. You need to want it enough.

When you take that drive, that need to see beyond the veil, all doors will be open to you.

Into the dark

My grandmother died last night.

Her death had been looming for months, to be honest. Even years. We weren’t very close, and I can’t say I have very fond memories of her, but it’s still very strange to me.

My father called me around eight last night to break the news. I could hear he was devastated. After all, the distant grandmother I hardly knew was, of course, his mother.

Whatever her faults, that’s who she was to him, and that’s who she always will be.

She had been very sick for a long time.

In fact, even in my earliest memories of her she was an incredibly feeble, sickly woman.

I remember thinking that she couldn’t have much time left on this earth, even when I was very young. Still, she remained in that state for a solid twenty years.

Death is a strange thing. We all know about it, but we feign ignorance.

Every day, we act as if we’re immortal. Then when death comes a knockin’, we become indignant, flustered and confused. In no way are we prepared for the fact that someone very dear to us may pass away in every passing instant.

We have a silent cultural agreement. We believe that if everybody looks the other way, ignores it, maybe it won’t happen to us. It’s something we see in movies and tv shows, read in books and magazines, hear from friends, but still we see it as something that happens to “other people”.

The fact is this: You will die. You will die. I will die. It’s only a matter of time. Do you think you would live life differently if you truly understood this fact?

Would we worry about mundane things like bills, arguments or the news if we were fully aware of the fact that, in a matter of years, it all goes back in the box?

We’re playing a game.

When we play board games like Risk or Monopoly, not to mention some of the more immersive video games, we tend to forget that we actually exist outside of the game-world. In fact, that’s a big part of the appeal of a good game. We get to forget who we are, and experience a different paradigm.

So it is with life.

We forget who we truly are. Am I this body? Am I the name I was given at birth? Am I my possesions? Am I the persona that other people see me as?

A major hurdle in my quest for increased awareness in all aspects of life was my brush with mortality.

As I wrote about in previous posts, I’ve recently overcome a devastating illness. It dragged me down into the pits of despair. I contemplated death, my own. I contemplated suicide. My entire concept of myself was broken down and rebuilt repeatedly.

Psychedelic mushrooms were a great help in these difficult times, as was meditation and my beloved journal.

I’m convinced of the polarity of human existence. If life is hard, there is always a silver lining of equal goodness.

My battle with illness was a slap in the face, a wake up call. A chance for me to sort out the important bits from the chaff that was my life before my difficulties. What seemed important a year before I got sick became absolutely meaningless to me in that dark place.

I think becoming seriously ill is like dropping a cup of coffee on the monopoly board. It snaps you out of the game mentality and reminds you that you do, in fact, exist separately from your in-game persona.

There are many different types of wake-up call, just as there are an infinite variety of beverages that can be dropped on the board. A serious accident, death of a loved one, even an especially difficult break-up.

We need to receive these difficulties as gifts. Pain is a letter from god, to paraphrase Duncan Trussell, and whenever we ignore or try to remove it, we’re throwing that letter into the fire.

Imagine what you can learn from death if only you meet its gaze.

Much love.

Awakening to the dream of life

I had a lucid dream last night.

As always, the experience itself was incredible. I mean, what’s not to be amazed at when you find yourself in an alternate dimension, somehow warped from basic reality?
I am starting to become a bit frustrated though, because I semi-regularly become lucid within the dream only to have the dreamscape fall apart or my awareness dissipate.
For example, last night I became aware of the dream-state, tried to center myself by rubbing my hands together and feeling my body, shouted out “clarity” at the top of my (dream) voice.

All of this helped somewhat and I became more stable, more aware.

But still I couldn’t seem to realize that all of this was, in fact, a dream.

It’s all in my control, if I only reach out, believe I have the power to change and understand the nature of this world.
This has been happening again and again.

I know, however, that every second of lucidity within the dream-state is a step toward further lucidity and development of awareness. Frustration can’t be helped. All I can do is keep walking the path of ever-expanding consciousness.
I can no longer look past the incredible similarities between dream and “real” life. In fact, I’ve started to view waking life as a form of dream. Sleep-dream and life-dream.

What you believe you can do in the dream sets the limits for what you actually can do.
In a less obvious but more profound way than in dreams, belief also shapes the life-dream. What do I mean by this?
In sleep-dream, becoming lucid to the fact of the dream isn’t enough to facilitate change.

Only when you truly believe, truly know, that you are the dream can you achieve the impossible. This is well known in lucid dreaming circles.
When a novice lucid dreamer attempts to walk through a wall in a dream, most likely he’ll bump into it and fall over. It might even hurt.
An experienced lucid dreamer, however, will most likely have plenty of direct experience with the malleability of dreams.

She will be absolutely certain of the fact that the wall is, in essence, an illusion, and will proceed to walk straight through it.
In waking life, there are rules. Rules that are difficult to bypass.

Gravity, for example, is particularly unforgiving. If a coconut falls on your head, it will certainly knock you cold.

There are certain needs of the physical body, like food, shelter and companionship, that must be regularly met.
If you truly, truly believed with full certainty that you could stop eating and still thrive, maybe you could. I would say that I doubt it, but I don’t even know anymore.
There are very salient examples in mainstream consciousness of the power of belief, not least of which is the notorious placebo effect.
In simple terms, the placebo effect refers to this:

Three people, A, B and C, have a life-threatening disease, which is certain to lead to death if left untreated.
A recieves standard medical treatment, and with a 99% recovery rate, he recovers in a matter of weeks.
B goes to the doctor to recieve treatment, but the doctor gives her anti-fungal pills by accident. B goes on to take the pills as prescribed, and she has a full recovery as well.
C goes to the doctor to recieve treatment, but the doctor tells him that unfortunately the standard medicine for this particular illness is finished.

He recieves anti-fungal medicine instead, the doctor insisting that it must be better than nothing. C takes the pills as prescribed, but dies within days.
So what’s the difference between B and C?
Well, B believed that she was recieving standard medicine that should have been effective for her illness, and that alone allows her to recover. The anti-fungal medication has no effect.
C, however, knew that the pills he was taking would have little or no effect. With this belief firmly etched in his mind, he was certain he was going to die.

And so he did.
The placebo effect is well established in medical science, though it may sound pretty out there.
The power of belief manifests in all aspects of life, not always in such a life-or-death fashion.
The athlete who is certain that he can compete with the best is way more likely to do so than the athlete who doesn’t.
A person who is sure that she can write a novel is one step closer to actually doing it than the person who believes they don’t have the talent, time or energy.
It may not always become reality, but belief is certainly the first step to accomplishment.
I can’t help but wonder how deep this rabbit-hole goes.

If I were absolutely certain that walking through walls were possible, would I be able to do it?

The only way to know would be to try it, but changing our beliefs is easier said than done.
I think the easiest trap to fall into is listening to other people. All to often we take the opinions of others as holy gospel, especially if they’re “experts”.

F**k that.

Direct experience is the only way to go, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Ha ha, got you there. You shouldn’t listen to me either. If this sounds like bullshit to you, stop reading. I don’t mind.

We need to get out of the habit of giving other people permission to tell us what to think.
I’m going to keep expanding my limits, increasing potential in my life.

Meditation is one way of doing that. Journaling is another.
I’ll conclude with this: You already know, deep down, what you need to work on to overcome limiting beliefs. Do that.
Much love.

Unraveling the dream, unraveling reality

Sometimes I feel like I must be going crazy. The thoughts going through my mind today are the same thoughts I attributed to craziness a few years back.

I’m often astounded by how much I’ve changed in the last years.

Physically, mentally and spiritually. I feel like the world has changed with me, and in some ways the world has changed, but of course my perception of the world has changed even more.

I’m convinced that waking life is as much of a dream as sleeping life is. Different in texture, different in scope, with different accents, certainly, but a dream all the same.

And questioning the primacy of waking reality is a definite faux pas in our society. It can get you locked up in institutions or burned at the stake, so we better be careful.

Madness is dependent on perceptions as much as sanity is. The crazier I become, the more it becomes clear to me that the world is crazy.

Anyway.

A dream is hard to define, but easy to recognize.

When we become aware of being within a dream, we’re often amazed that we didn’t figure it out sooner. You know, what with the flying tigers and melting clocks and all that stuff. But I submit to you that the same feeling of “how could I have missed that!?” can arise in us when we start to question not only dream, but “reality” as well.

Its what they call enlightenment, no less.

As I progress on my own path of increased awareness in daily life, I constantly become more perplexed by the incredible weirdness of it all. I mean, what is all this? We live in sacks of bone, meat and blood, going from triviality to triviality with glimpses of meaningful experience in between, and apparently everybody dies at the end, although we’re loath to admit it.

So what does it all mean?

The question to answer all questions is the same question we instinctively brush off and ignore.

What we call a “dream” in common parlance is in fact a dream within another dream. And who’s to say waking life isn’t a dream within another dream within yet another dream.

It’s turtles all the way down, as a wise woman said.

So what’s the purpose of contemplating this universal madness, this absolute paradox? I often ask myself this question, but the answer I’ve found is that the contemplation of the ultimate question leads to ultimate satisfaction. Is the answer that there is no answer? A definite possibility. But the journey is the destination, just as the answer is the question.

Perspective is everything. The sooner we see the dream for what it is, the sooner we can let loose and have a bit of fun. Take off the mask and see our own true nature. Spaciousness of awareness arises with a relaxed and quiet mind, and your mind will never be quieter than when you recognize that you’re dreaming. You’re always dreaming.

And what a dream it is!

 

The tricky part is to somehow hold on to this awareness without getting clingy. It’s one thing to understand the dream, and another thing to apply that understanding.

That’s the road I’m on now, and I hope to see you where it ends.

Much love.

Dream or reality?

Dreams have always fascinated me. I’m sure they fascinate most people to some degree, but I’m always surprised by how most people (myself included sometimes) manage to brush them off so easily.

Vague explanations like “it’s all in your head” or “it’s just the brain sorting out the events of the day” have never really convinced me.

After all, a rock is “merely” a collection of atoms and a star is “simply” a giant nuclear reactor. Does that in any way reduce their significance? I don’t think so. At least I don’t any more.

Last week I finished reading a book on the Tibetan yogas of dream and sleep, and though many of the concepts didn’t really resonate with me, one idea in particular slapped me in the face: the idea that dream and waking “reality” may not be so different after all.

In fact that idea seems to me to be the very basis of dream yoga, or lucid dreaming.

In the dreamscape, things are fundamentally unstable. Everything changes constantly. Impermanence is the only rule in dreams.

The state that we normally identify as “real” is fundamentally stable (relatively), and seems to have a ton of rules by which the objects within it abide, but in the end the only certainty is that everything changes.

The desk I’m sitting at right now may seem stable to me now, but it’s easy to imagine what it will look like in 10 years, 100 years. In 10,000 years, nothing will remain.

That’s why I said that waking reality is relatively stable, because what’s stable to me is not stable in a mountain’s perspective. A

mountain is not stable to a star. A house fly is fleeting to us, living only a couple of days, but from the point of view of a molecule of plutonium, two days is eternity.

The reality check

One of the main practices outlined in the various guides to lucid dreaming is the so-called reality check, which means exactly what it sounds like.

For example, my go-to reality check is to close my nostrils with my thumb and index finger and try to breathe through it. If I can’t breathe, I’m most likely still awake. If I can breathe, I’m almost certainly dreaming.

This has worked countless times for me in dreams in the last few years, but I’ve had limited success in actually doing anything within the dream after the fact.

The trick to making this happen is to make reality checks a habit in waking life. The theory goes that once the habit of questioning reality becomes ingrained enough, we start doing it automatically in dreams.

I haven’t been consistently working with dreams since I discovered lucid dreaming, but in the last few months I’ve found a renewed interest in them. After all, the possibilities for growth and learning is practically limitless within the dream world.

The missing ingredient

However, I’ve found that simply making reality checks an automatic habit is missing a crucial ingredient: awareness.

When I finally did start doing an automatic reality check in dreams, I would realize that I was in a dream but still somehow not fully understand what that implies.

It’s weird, really. I would think “hey, I’m in a dream!” but then just keep reacting to it as if I didn’t know.

After I started to do reality checks habitually with full awareness, things started to change.

I’ve only become lucid in dreams a few times after I started to do this, but there is a definite difference in clarity and understanding, though to my infinite consternation my dreams keep falling apart after about 10 seconds of lucidity and I end up waking up.

What do I want?

Still, I see every moment of lucidity in the dreamscape as a step forward, and I try my best to view it in a positive light, as in “yes, 10 seconds of lucidity” instead of “dammit, only 10 seconds of lucidity”.

Which brings me to my last point in this rather all-over-the-place article on lucid dreaming: intent.

I’m sorry to say that I’ve been very lazy with implenting this particular key practice in dream work, but the times that I do, the results have spoken for themselves.

What I mean by intent is simply this: going to sleep with the actual intention of becoming lucid in dreams. It seems so obvious but to me and many others, it’s very elusive. I’ve been working on a nighttime ritual to remedy this, linking it to my meditation habit.

After meditating, I’ll sit quietly for another 10 minutes and reflect on the day that’s coming to an end, focusing on the more dreamlike qualities I’ve experienced, like strange encounters and weird coincidences.

Then I’ll reflect on the endless possibilities for the conscious dreamer: flight, exploration, understanding, *cough* SEX *cough* and so on.

I try to foster the feeling of excitement and anticipation for developing awareness within the dream and learning to control it.

For some reason I’ve been experiencing loads of resistance to this simple formula, but persistence is key. I won’t give up.

I’m gonna wrap this up now, but you can expect way more content on dream awareness in the near future.

Until then, much love and pleasant dreams.

Who are you?

What does it mean to be me anyway?

We think we’re someone, but we’re not. Not really.

A large part of our body mass consists of bacteria and mitochondria, none of which share the DNA of our cells, the cells that make up what we consider to be ‘our’ bodies.

And even ‘our’ cells are constantly splitting, multiplying, dying. Not a single cell in my body is original. They’ve all been replaced. So where does that leave me?

It leaves me nowhere, to be honest. A man cannot step into the same river twice, as it will not be the same river, and he will not be the same man. The greatest paradox of being me is that I’m not me at all! All that holds this particular personality together is my memory of myself, my past. And we all know how unreliable memory can be.

I used to ‘remember’ the girl who used to babysit my sister and myself when we were kids, as being blonde. Then when I met her 10 years later she had flaming red hair. She said she had never in her life colored it, and had been a redhead when she was taking care of us ten years earlier. Go figure.

It may seem trivial but it’s not. If we can’t trust our memories, what can we trust?

I’ve been watching the new Westworld series, and it’s incredible. Poignant. Scary as fuck. I highly recommend it to anyone with even a minor interest in the nature of consciousness. A big part of the plot is the fickleness of memory, in androids to be sure, but the point remains the same.

Without self-awareness, mindfulness, are we just sophisticated machines? Like the hosts in Westworld? To paraphrase Anthony Hopkins’ Robert Ford, humans are just as stuck in their loops as the androids are.

When somebody has worked in the same office for ten years, going to the same bakery for a coffee and danish every single day, and then collapses into the same couch every evening to watch whatever bullshit show that happens to be on TV, is that somebody still somebody?

The more I develop my awareness in all its magnificence, the more I realize how asleep I’ve been, for my entire life, with the exceedingly rare pocket of consciousness here and there. During hardships and trauma, or moments of extreme beauty and kindness, we are pulled from our unconsciousness for seconds at a time, but without effort we fall right back into darkness.

In the words of Socrates, the unexamined life is not worth living. When I think of the hours, weeks, years that I’ve been unaware, I see that I may as well have been nonexistent.

Every day I work on expanding and solidifying my conscious awareness, because I see that it’s the only reason I’m here. All else comes and goes. Experience is forever. Now is eternal. There is no beginning and there is no end. Only here, now.

I intend to go higher and higher. I want to take you with me. There is immense possibility within us all, all we need is awareness. There’s a reason this site has the name it does. Because awareness is the path to true joy.

Much love to all, until next time.

The primacy of direct experience

To quote Terence McKenna, culture and ideology are not your friends.

As I go through this life, living in this society, experiencing what western culture has to offer, I am constantly rediscovering the truth of those words. Culture perpetuates itself for its own sake, not mine. Ideology has no interest in my well-being.

Society is an entity, an organism all its own, and just as the death or mutilation of a single ant in an ant-hill is irrelevant to the continuation of the whole, so too does society keep up its pretenses even when the individual suffers.

It’s harsh, but it’s also true.

Truth

Truth is something that increases in value to me as an individual as I mature and grow wiser.

A truth we have to come to terms with is that society loves you, and is indifferent to you, simultaneously. It gives you clothing, shelter, food, and all the amenities of the western world, but it also oppresses, shuns and punishes those who think outside of the box, or those who dare to defy it.

Jordan Peterson often speaks about the dual aspects of human society, found in the Jungian archetype of the King. The King Father protects, loves, serves his people. The Tyrant is oppressive and punitive. Both aspects are integral to all societies. All existence, in fact, is polar, dual. Pain and pleasure, love and hate, up and down, soft and hard.

A slap in the face

During my midnight of the soul I was suddenly confronted with the idea that western medicine didn’t in fact hold the answers to everything, and that many aspects of its ideology where dogmatic rather than scientific.

I had been using a medicine for more than a decade, a medicine that I had been assured was safe and beneficial. It turned out to be nonsense, and I now view most of the drugs proffered by western doctors to be poisonous rather than medicinal.

What I was experiencing was an ideology gone rogue, where even though many doctors know of the deficiencies of western allopathic medicine, the ideological system itself refuses to change.

This seems to happen in all corners of the world, wherever there are enough of us that come together, cults spring up out of the swarms of human beings, whether we call them institutions, churches or establishments. They may exist harmoniously, ethically, and for the good of the whole to begin with (or they may not), but sooner or later they weaken and become corrupt.

The Catholic Church is the most obvious example that comes to mind, although the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Roman Republic are a close second.

So that’s all pretty depressing, but where the hell am I going with this? What can we do?

Break on through to the other side

My first reaction to the realization that society didn’t actually care about me as an individual was depression and lethargy. I felt betrayed and deceived. And I think that’s a pretty common first reaction to a shattered paradigm. But as time passed and I had a chance to allow the idea to sink in, my depression gave way to a feeling of freedom.

Just as society doesn’t conform to my every need and want, I don’t need to conform to society’s expectations.

I guess this idea had popped up in my head every now and again, but never in such a profound way. A clear principle was born, a principle that now governs my life : Believe nothing, except direct experience.

Direct experience

I no longer take anything at face value. I decided never again to trust any source. We’re told we can trust doctors, teachers, clergymen, politicians and police officers. We’re told we can take what they say as a god-given truth and fuck the naysayers. Well, it’s just not that simple.

Everyone makes mistakes some of the time. Everyone lies some of the time. There is no such thing as a “trusted source”.

This doesn’t mean I need to reinvent the wheel or live in a cave. I absorb ideas, tinker with them, experiment with them, and then and only then will I either implement them in my own life or scrap them. But I don’t accept anything as “truth” before I’ve experienced it first hand.

That’s why nowadays I give little credit to most scientific research. Although admirable in many ways, modern science has, to my mind, a fatal flaw: it’s unverifiable by the common person.

A biologist may publish a paper connecting this bacterium to that disease, or name the exact protein that causes an effect somewhere else, but there will be no way for me to verify it!

I’m not a biologist, I don’t have a microscope, and even if I did I wouldn’t be able to make heads or tails of what I saw.

The only way I can approach truth in this manner is to take the ideas of others and test them myself. That’s not to say that I oppose all ideas that I haven’t tested myself, or can’t test for myself. All I’m saying is I don’t accept it as truth just because it comes from a specific source.

Ultimate reality?

Strictly speaking, our experience of reality is the ultimate reality. Our heads are full of concepts about the physical world that we will never be able to fully verify, yet we accept them as truth. Direct experience is the only way to know anything. At least you will know what you are experiencing.

That’s why I’m so interested in psychedelics. They have shown me that my everyday experience of reality is not the only way to experience reality. There are mysteries so profound, so evanescent, so transformative, that my eyes tear up just imagining what’s out there, what’s possible.

That’s also why I’ve built up a firm meditation habit. Meditation is a less intense, though more permanent, way of getting in touch with direct experience. The importance of understanding that you are IT cannot be overstated.

Once you realize your own potential, the incredible places your consciousness can take you, you will laugh at the ideologues and the dogmatists.

You will be living an observed life, to paraphrase Socrates, which is the only life worth living.