When life falls apart, or threatens to come unglued, it seems almost natural to carry around some desperate, stressed, or depressed emotional state. But why cling to something that makes us ache? The answer is surprising, but evident, once we’re aware of what’s actually taking place within us.
Negative states tell us that we must feel as we do.
In some strange and unseen way, the weight of a dark worry serves as proof that we have “no option” other than to buckle beneath it . . . to fall down, feel betrayed, or prepare for a ﬁght.
Real life can no more act to pull us down than the rising sun can burden the spring ﬂowers that wait to bathe in its nourishing light.
No event, in itself, is the cause of the fear we feel in the moment of its appearance. William Shakespeare, whose insights into the workings of the human mind still remain treasures in spite of passing time, validates this important ﬁnding: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” The same wisdom holds true when it comes to the moments that make up our lives: we meet in events nothing more or less than the wealth of possibilities they present before us.
It is the mind asleep to itself that makes monsters appear where there are none, just as a child’s runaway imagination creates menacing shapes out of shadows on the wall. In this instance, we feel fear when our mind sees something that threatens us in some way. But what the mind that feels this doesn’t recognize, but that we must see if we’re to be free, is that it’s looking at a negative image of its own making! This level of mind, divided and asleep to its own creations—then tells us what we must do to protect ourselves from its projection!
To give you a picture of how this plays out in a mind still asleep to itself, imagine a team of bogus bug exterminators, one of whom shoves termites under your back door, while the other knocks at the front door to sell you a service you suddenly need!
How does this new knowledge empower us to walk away from what’s been hurting us? Imagine an artist who, as he sleepwalks at night, walks into his downstairs studio and paints a picture that, when he awakens the next morning, terriﬁes him. He’s at a complete loss as to how this could have happened! So he buys an expensive security system, hires a patrol service, and takes a host of other steps to protect himself from an imagined intruder. None of these efforts work—and we know why! It isn’t until he installs a motion-activated video camera that he catches the real culprit: himself! Shocking, for sure, but the outcome is wonderful. The artist’s fear disappears in the very same moment he discovers its cause.
The next time some fear tries to drag you down into its world of worry— ﬁrst showing you all that’s dark and wrong, then telling you how to make things right and bright again—choose in favor of this action instead.
At the onset of any frightening situation—whether in the form of an actual event, or because of some worried thought that appears—remember that no such fear exists outside of the dream that makes it seem real. Then simply come as awake to yourself as you can, and see what you’re giving yourself to look at in that moment. This new and higher self-awareness reveals the unthinkable:
Your own mind is scaring itself. As you see that the feel is real, but the “why” is a lie, you’re done with both sides of the deception, and the dark state drops away by itself. This kind of clarity gives birth to a whole new kind of spiritual courage, for now you know that you don’t have to free yourself from anything other than a misunderstanding about who you really are. And, by this same light, a promise dawns you couldn’t have seen in any other way. You’re already free; you simply have not yet seen the truth of it.
Anxious thoughts and feelings are not there to help us reach the promised land. Instead, they keep us a prisoner in the world of their empty promises. The courage to see the truth of this fact is the same as the courage we need to be free . . . to consciously walk away from these impostor powers, regardless of how convincing they are that we can’t live without them.
Question: What are illusions and how do they impact our lives and our ability to grow into our true nature?
Answer: Illusions are something we believe we see, but they are not real. When it comes to the illusions that limit our lives, they are the product of an unconscious relationship we have with images (of past events) stored away in our own minds and hearts that condition the way in which we experience our lives. These illusions — our unsuspected relationship with them, and the conditions they create in our lives — do not serve us. They serve the interest of the society from which these images (and their illusions) have sprung.
The life of illusion is the story of humankind, and its deception grows stronger every day — causing most people to fall into a deeper and deeper spiritual slumber. As a result, individuals are no longer in command of their own lifelives. They are ruled by their habitual reactions to events that run counter to the images of security, happiness, etc. to which they have become attached and dependent upon. As a result of this resistance to life’s constant changes, life becomes a never-ending struggle where the illusion of security is threatened by the illusion of its loss! Let’s look at a simple example:
Let’s say we see someone we know talking to somebody, and suddenly we’re pretty sure that they’re talking about us. Then, our mind forms an image of this conspiracy based on some (usually) painful experience of a similar past event, and we are gone! We find ourselves the captive of our own idea about what is happening, followed by those negative emotional reactions that then rule us (and wreck the rest of our relationships). Now multiply this simplest of social conditions by six billion people, add the kind of horrific events that cause global conflict and fears, and it isn’t hard to see how our present day world is the unhappy effect of living in illusion. And, when we mechanically fight with these negative effects, we strengthen that which produces those illusions; so that instead of getting to the heart of the illusion, and canceling it at its core — which is the only chance we have to be free — we actually participate in making ourselves prisoners of further illusion. Yet, to be able to see the truth of this negative spiral is a highly positive thing for us. It awakens in us the real need to free ourselves of the false self that is the king of illusions!
Real spiritual work, real spiritual development is not the sense of pleasure that comes when we imagine ourselves being free or new. Real spiritual work is seeing through the need to imagine who we are at all. And as we realize this truth, and do the interior work to give up that image-dependent self, we also let go of its principle illusion: a time to come in which we will be what we imagine is necessary to be whole and happy.