Awake in the World

Awake in the World

Maya: Life’s Illusions on the Spiritual Journey

Buddhist teachers often refer to life as an illusion or maya. In India I heard Hindu teachers and sacred texts say the same. It’s challenging to understand the deeper meaning of illusion or “maya.” When we cut a finger or stub a toe, the pain is very real and immediate.

The meaning of illusion as I’ve come to understand it is anything that is not permanent, eternal and unchanging. Anything that changes, shifts and transforms is “maya” and this includes practically everything that is perceived through the five senses. That which is unchanging and eternal is considered absolute Truth and is inherent in our deep divine nature.


Sacred texts encourage a series of questions to find the aspect of us that is permanent and unchanging. “Am I my body?” The body changes. When I was born, it weight eight pounds. Later it weighed twenty-five and now it is one-hundred and twenty. So I am not my body. “Am I my mind?” My mind is ever-changing and ever attaching to things outside of me that also move and change. Sometimes the mind is “lost” when illness and disease set in like Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore I am not my mind. On the deeper level even the soul grows and changes as it goes through experiences. But there is an element, an aspect, a spark of the divine that burns within us that is ever light, ever joyful and ever aware. To weather life’s trials and stay anchored in storms, going deep into this inner Truth keeps us whole and sane.


Bio: Debra Moffitt is author of Awake in the World: 108 Practices to Live a Divinely Inspired Life. A visionary and teacher, she’s devoted to nurturing the spiritual in everyday life. She leads workshops on spiritual practices at the Sophia Institute and other venues in the U.S. and Europe. Her mind/body/spirit articles, essays and stories appear in publications around the globe and were broadcast by BBC World Services Radio. She has spent over fifteen years practicing meditation, working with dreams and doing spiritual practices. Visit her online at

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