Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one. - Albert Einstein
Jolted awake by a nightmare, my heart pounded wildly as I gasped for the next breath. Terror had captivated my full being, making the dream and its aftermath of distress feel all too real. Though nothing concrete had actually taken place, it took quite awhile to calm myself down.
I’m sure this dream arose from the events of that very same day. Life had taken me into a situation that triggered a similar thumping of the heart. But, later I realized it wasn’t entirely the circumstances that caused the anxiety and fear. I had brought along an old story that made it far worse than it actually was.
I didn’t see it then. But this dream spawned an insight that burst unmistakably from my brain.
Isn’t the unreality of this dream exactly how ‘real’ life often is?
Do We Ever See Reality As It Is?
Let me explain. You see, more often than not, we believe our projections about a person or situation constitute the truth. Then we build an entire scenario around our distorted perceptions. Since we usually bring along our own stories wherever we go, they're intermixed in the experience too.
Because we tend to take every moment so seriously, our mind and body churns on and on in a distorted mental fantasy, which might only be marginally related to the events at hand. Most of the time, we’re living out a melodrama created by our own mind. Later, we may even discover that the situation or person was completely different from what we had presumed.
If everything is changing in every moment, what do we know for certain about anyone or anything?
Whatever happens dissolves into the past just like another passing dream. It may not even turn into a solid memory unless we feed it with more and more thoughts.
Can You Hold a Rainbow in Your Hand?
This dream-like, illusory quality of life means we can never catch a particular moment just like you can’t hold a rainbow in your hand. When we finally get the discrepancy created by our ever so clever conceptual mind, we understand we’re constricting, constructing, and interpreting every encounter and every minute instead of living it directly in bare awareness and letting it go by like a cloud in the sky.
It’s not easy to just let go and simply flow in this illusion-like life. It takes practice to peel away the veils from our eyes. Here's advice from one great master on how to be in this magical dream.
Always recognize the dreamlike qualities of life and reduce attachment and aversion. Practice good-heartedness toward all beings. Be loving and compassionate, no matter what others do to you. What they do will not matter so much when you see it as a dream. The trick is to have positive intention during the dream. This is the essential point. This is true spirituality.” - Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, book
The Benefits of Seeing Everything as Dream-Like
“Be a child of illusion” is one translation of a slogan from the 7 Points of Mind Training, a detailed instruction for cultivating compassion in both the most profound and ordinary sense. This particular slogan refers to post-meditation, once we’re up and off our cushion. It reminds us to continue to see all that we perceive like a magical illusion.
What are the benefits of seeing everything as illusion-like?
- You won’t get overly excited when things go well, knowing they are bound to change.
- Neither will you get all worked up when things don’t go your way, knowing that they too are subject to change.
- In short, you’ll get off the emotional roller coast that tends to dominate most peoples’ life.
- But, you won't become a zombie. You'll enjoy the richness of each moment as a precious gift.
- Chances are you’ll feel more relaxed, flexible, loving, and have a better sense of humor too.
- You're hard edges will soften, you'll feel more grounded and confident, and more receptive to new solutions.
- Of course, you’ll take complete responsibility for your actions because they do have an affect for better or for worse.
- Compassion will naturally arise when you see how almost everyone is so sucked into the false drama of life. So naturally, you'll wish for everyone to be free of all these contrived thoughts and emotions so they could be free of suffering as well!
There are two ways to find this freedom from the constraints of conceptual mind:
- Through mindfulness meditation, train your mind to stay present in this very moment.
- Contemplate this slogan ("be a child of illusion"), and practice seeing everything as dream-like again and again.
Knowing all things to be like a rainbow, a magical illusion, or a dream, doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t exist. They just don’t exist in the way that we presume they do as rather solid, permanent, and unchanging.
Have you ever practiced seen everything as a dream? Would you like to give it a try?
Thank you for your presence, I know your time is precious! Don’t forget to sign up for my e-letter and get access to all the free self-development resources (e-books, mini-guides + worksheets) in the Always Well Within Library. May you be happy, well, and safe – always. With love, Sandra