Life is but a dream – Understanding the Illusion of Reality

Life is but a dream – Understanding the Illusion of Reality

Life is but a dream – Understanding the Illusion of Reality

Have you ever had a dream that felt so real, you couldn’t tell the difference between it and waking life? What if I told you that waking life is just another kind of dream – an illusion that we create in our minds?

According to spiritual and philosophical traditions throughout history, life is just a dream, an illusion that we create in our minds. This may sound like a radical idea, but it’s one that can bring a deeper understanding and appreciation of the nature of reality.

The concept of life as a dream is rooted in the idea that our minds create the world around us. We perceive reality through our senses, but our senses can be deceiving. Just as we can be fooled by a dream that seems real, we can be fooled by the illusion of reality that our minds create.

This idea is not just a philosophical concept – it has real-world implications. When we understand that life is just a dream, we can let go of attachment to material possessions and external circumstances. We can focus instead on our inner state of being and our connection to the universe. We can learn to live in the present moment and appreciate the beauty and wonder of life as it unfolds.

At the same time, the idea of life as a dream is not an excuse to check out or disengage from the world around us. Instead, it’s an invitation to engage more fully and deeply with the world, knowing that we are all part of the same dream. It’s an opportunity to recognize the interconnectedness of all things and to cultivate compassion and empathy for all beings.

Slow Down

Slow Down

Life is not all about how far we go, how many things we do, or how much we achieve; life is simply a measure of how deeply we live. This is why there are as many ways of living as there are people on this planet. There is no one right way of living and there certainly is no one definition of life.

Rarely do we talk about the experience of being in the moment. Most of the time we are so busy skimming off the surface of life, darting from one point to another, we simply forget that there is enormous depth to the present moment. The present moment is a single moment only from the point of view of the past and the future. From the point of view of the present, this moment is eternity. It has a depth beyond comprehension.

Our fears, worries and anxieties are simply a result of not knowing how to experience the depth of the present moment where life is brimming with joy and completeness. Happiness is not an experience; it is simply the depth of our being. The deeper we are able to get to the depths of our being, the happier we will be.

One of the easiest ways to reach the depths of the present moment is by learning to slow down. Yes, the simple act of slowing down tremendously increases our ability to experience the present moment. Just a conscious choice to slow down will make an ocean of difference as to how we perceive and experience life. Slowing down doesn’t mean that your life has slowed down; slowing down means you are more aware of and alert to what is happening around you.

Just reflect on this for a moment; aren’t all our daily frustrations a result of our mind racing fast, hop-skipping from one thought to another, not knowing how to slow down, pause or stop? We know this from experience; the faster our thought process is, the more agitated and disturbed we become. There is a direct correlation between speed of thought and stress, isn’t there?

Contrary to the understanding that slowing down will not allow you to complete important tasks in time, slowing down, in fact, increases your ability to complete your tasks in time. In the name of finishing something fast, more often than not, we make a lot of mistakes which make it more difficult to finish the task in time. Slowing down and doing things more consciously will not only add more meaning and depth to your life, it will also help you to avoid unnecessary mistakes, avoid doing things again and again, and you will be able to enjoy life as it comes, moment-by-moment.

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Plant, Animal or Human?

Plant, Animal or Human?

Our lives aren’t so much different from that of animals, or plants for that matter. Think about it: When you pick a plant or pull a leaf off a tree, within a short time it withers, dies, and decomposes. That spark of life has been severed and survival is no longer possible for what has been picked. Similarly, when a person dies, that spark of life is gone so the body withers and returns to the earth.

That spark is the exact same spark for all living creatures; it’s called existence. We’re all swimming in it and don’t even recognize it. As Avi says, “We are like fish swimming in the ocean; we can recognize everything except the water, because we’ve always been in the water.” In this analogy, water is the spark of life.

Subconsciously (I imagine) for ages, people have equated human situations to plants in language. We have been comparing ourselves to the plant kingdom without giving it serious thought, but the sayings have a great foundation. For contemplation, here’s a sampling of horticultural words we use to describe human situations:

When you move from one town to another, it takes a while to “put down new roots”

Once you do put down new roots, you’ll always be a “transplant”

Large companies have “branches” and they “branch out” into new territories

A successful meeting could be considered as “fruitful”

A naughty child is sometimes referred to as “rotten”

Notebooks with separate sheets of paper are called “loose leaf”

When you’re in a situation great for learning, it’s called “fertile ground”

A “leaflet” is a small pamphlet

A “sprout” is a baby or small child

People just starting out in a creative endeavor are referred to as a “budding musician”, or a “budding artist”.

Take the word “ovule”. It’s used in both the plant as well as the animal kingdom–it’s used to represent the very first stages of life in each. Once we start growing, we take different directions, but we both started with ovules!

I think it’s fascinating to look at all the similarities we share with the plant and animal kingdoms. Makes the world feel a little more like home, doesn’t it?

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The Mind Game

The Mind Game

I had a boss years ago who used to say, “If you don’t want to know the answer to the question, then don’t ask the question.” At first I thought that was a stupid saying but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made.

Let’s say for example that you ask your significant other, “In all your relationships, who have you been the closest to?”. They answer with a matter-of-fact honest answer that it was their high school sweetheart, who left them for someone else.

Nothing else has changed, your significant one still acts the same way toward you, but you just heard them say something that you hadn’t heard before. It changes the way you feel inside, doesn’t it? We get so caught up in constantly “doing things” that we forget that most of what we perceive as reality is in fact the part of life that we can’t see, like happiness, jealousy, sadness, joy, anger, and love.

Dealing with these tidbits of information that are unsettling to us can be a challenge. That’s where having a regular routine of sitting quietly and letting the mind relax helps out. When you sit quietly and just watch your thoughts it’s easier to keep thoughts from upsetting you. After practicing this for some time, you’ll see how your mind goes on its own little tangents, coming up with things you don’t want to think about, nonsensical things, and how you perceive and react to this “inner world” is what you have complete control over. It’s what is known as “the mind game”.

When you wake up in the morning, it’s totally up to you to start each day fresh or pick up baggage from the day, weeks, or even years before. Forcing our minds to take a break from thinking is the secret to controlling what we think, and sitting quietly on a regular basis is the method of forcing our minds to take a break and stop controlling our lives.

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Your Mama was Right!

Your Mama was Right!

If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!

Ever look back at all the things our mothers told us when we were growing up? I know I do. Some of it didn’t make any sense at the time, but by revisiting what she said, I can see the relevance to making life better. Let’s look at a few examples:

Make your bed.  Clean up your room. Seriously? “I’m just going to get right back in it tonight, and I’m not even going to be here all day long, so why bother?” Well, look at it this way: When you walk into your space, doesn’t it just feel better when the bed is made up and the room is clean? It actually makes sense because clutter creates chaos and confusion; things get lost which wastes time looking for them, causes undue stress, and it actually takes longer to clean up a big mess than just keeping things picked up along the way.  Not to mention if someone happens to drop by……

If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.  Man, there are a lot of people on social media who need to revisit these words! Today’s world needs a HUGE dose of “nice”. It’s so easy to just be rude when you’re not face-to-face with someone, so why not just listen to mom–don’t respond at all.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.  How true this is! If you want something bad enough, there is a way to do it. It just takes courage and belief in yourself. Get out of your box and live! You are the creator of your reality; you can keep on doing the same thing day after day after day and wish for something different, or…or.. — you can do something different! No one else is going to do something different for you–you are in charge!

Go outside and play. Wow, how we all need this today! Put your “homeland security tracking device” (aka cell phone) away and take a hike. The fresh air and nature will do wonders for your mood and the movement will get your blood moving (as mama used to say).

Sit down and be quiet. These are probably the most important words our mothers could have told us, but of course they weren’t meant in the way that they should have been delivered. We all are way too busy nowadays and we really don’t take time out for quietness. Our minds are constantly working and really, it’s exhausting! A few minutes of just sitting quietly every day works wonders for our moods and attitudes, and well, everything for that matter.

Mamas are special people. Listen to them and love them while they’re around, and when they are gone, remember all the special times and learn from the bits of wisdom they passed along.

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Don’t Worry About what you Can’t Control

Don’t Worry About what you Can’t Control

why not just live in the present moment and enjoy life as it comes?

I’m pretty sure that everyone reading this remembers where they were and what they were doing when 911 happened.  I had just walked into a conference room at work to attend an all-day “Stress Management” class with about 20 other colleagues. The guy sitting next to me asked if I had heard what happened…

Stress Management.  What an appropriate topic for the day! Turns out that the guy teaching the class was retired military and had worked at the Pentagon for 20+ years, so he was particularly distracted by the entire event.  We didn’t have smart phones then, nor even television in the room so we had to go to our cars to listen to the radio at breaks to keep up with what was happening. 

He did an amazing job with the class, but the one take-away I’ve never forgotten was “Don’t worry about things you have no control over”.  That is so true!  Hard to accomplish, but true. 

What is worry, anyway? It’s such an important word that it’s used as a verb and a noun. As a verb it means  to give way to anxiety or unease; allow one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles.” As a noun, the definition is “A state of anxiety and uncertainty over actual or potential problems.” Worry is simply allowing the mind to have its own way concerning a particular event or train of thoughts.

You’ve probably heard the saying, “If you’re depressed you’re living in the past, and if you’re stressed you’re living in the future.” Think about that saying, and you’ll realize how true it is. We have no control over the past because it’s already happened. We can definitely learn from it, but don’t relive it or dwell on it. We can shape our future, but the future can’t happen until it’s in the present moment, so why not just live in the present moment and enjoy life as it comes? When you think about it, if we’re “in the moment” then it is impossible for us to worry, period.

As Avi teaches, the most effective way to step away from worry is to be in the present moment. To get into the moment, sit quiet, breath slowly, and watch your breath. Your body is always in the present moment, so just focusing on your body or a part of your body will keep your mind from wandering everywhere. Every time your mind starts to go to a worrisome thought, bring your focus back to the breath or your body. It’s a continuous battle, but being mindful and living in the present moment is without a doubt the ultimate weapon to combat worry.

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If a tree falls …

If a tree falls …

he fundamental question is: “Is there an independent existence that goes on all by itself whether you exist or not?”

If a tree falls in the forest and nobody was around, did it really fall? That’s a very fundamental, existential question. Why do you ask such a question, when we have absolutely everything in existence happening all by itself, and you are just a small part. When you have absolutely assumed that the forest is already there for you to take a walk in, the sky is already there for you to contemplate on, and everything around you is ready-made and you’re just one person in the middle of the game of life, then that question doesn’t make any sense.

If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, we still ask the question, Did it fall? When you understand the nature of reality for what it is, can you understand that existence is pure perception? Without the perceiver there is no perception; without the watcher, there is no watching; without the one who is inquiring, there is no inquiry; without the one who is listening, there is no song. So, if a person is not there to hear a tree fall in the forest it did not happen.

Everything that you have perceived in your life, you have perceived through your own personal experience. When somebody says that a tree fell in the forest, you have to imagine a tree falling in the forest. There’s got to be a sound that’s already in you to be able to imagine that tree falling in the forest. If you don’t have that imagery at all, if you have never experienced it, then it is impossible to even talk to you about such things. That itself means that you supply something very important to the process of creation.

There’s a difference between your imaginary world and your real world. In your imaginary world you can create whatever you want. You can imagine a tree falling, you can imagine dinosaurs gathering themselves up from bones, you can imagine a lot of things. But for something to actually happen you need to participate in the process. To experience a tree really falling you have to be there watching and listening. The question is not about the tree, or the tree falling, or you listening to the tree falling. The fundamental question is: “Is there an independent existence that goes on all by itself whether you exist or not?” Every time you think about this, if you think that you’re just this reality or just this physical body, then you’ll miss the whole point.

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What Matters

What Matters

I’ve never climbed in the Himalayas but I’ve read a lot about those who do. And it is there climbers encounter above twenty-five or twenty-six thousand feet a place known as the Death Zone. It is so named because at that altitude there is a variety of conditions that if not overcome will painfully kill you.

Of course the most obvious one is the thin air. Even with supplemental oxygen the body won’t perform with its usual efficiency. And because one’s faculties are typically impaired there,  a climber is more exposed to falling, various forms of edema and other potentially fatal results. Weather is also likely more extreme and dangerous, causing many climbers to bivouac in places where survival is unlikely at best.

A very small percentage of climbers ever experience the Death Zone of the highest mountains in the world and for good reason. It’s just too dangerous.

However, in life there are some reasons we might live in our own Death Zone of sorts. In fact, we can’t avoid it. It’s living knowing that at any moment our life on this earth could end. We could be gone or someone we love simply won’t be around. Morbid? Creepy? A little out there perhaps? Yes, in some ways.

But I have a good friend who is most likely going to die in the next few months, barring a miracle that many of us our are praying for. However, whatever happens it has made us all think more about whether we would be ready to face the same ourselves. What would we do if death were looking us in the eye all of a sudden? 

I think the answer gives us some essential things to think about doing NOW without living in some sort of dark, fearful place in the process.  Let me suggest a few. 

First, make the most of every moment you can. No, none of us can savor each second of every experience, but we can slow down and enjoy people and opportunities a bit more.  We can quit cramming so many things into our lives and running by people we love as though they are hardly there. We can stop and watch our kids and grandkids longer, spend a few more minutes with a spouse or friend and just enjoy little special moments of nature that occur every day all around us.

Second, take inventory. Be brutally honest about how many things you’re doing that really matter for the long-term versus those that are just because everyone’s doing them. Yes, there’s nothing wrong with leisure, goofing off now and then and simply having fun. But are we letting the temporary push aside the eternal and the things we think we should invest in for our gain steal time from the people we want to invest in because we love them?  Have we pushed the most important things and experiences into the I’ll-do-them-someday-when-I-have time category?

Third, say what you want to say now. I’ve often thought we should have everyone’s funeral before they die if possible. That way people can say to another’s face what they want to say about them and would likely say once they’re gone. Well, in a sense and in the same way we would be wise to say what we want to say to people before one of us is gone. Do we need to forgive, tell them we love them or that we are proud of them, let go of some past hurts or remind them of how much they meant to us?  Do it now.

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Don’t Throw Your Life Away

Don’t Throw Your Life Away

At any moment of your own choosing, you can stop running, then pause and reflect on the life that is already yours.

You can very much be alive and still throw your life away if you don’t know what exactly it means to be alive. Life is not just a precious experience that has to be cherished, it is a once in a lifetime experience! There is no way to live this life again. If life is this precious and unique, then it has to have tremendous meaning and purpose.

It is very easy to get lost in the mundane routine of life and miss its true meaning and essence. Today’s lifestyle exists in a shallow culture, and life is the easiest thing to lose track of. The saddest part about not knowing our true purpose is waking up one day to realize that we have wasted a perfectly beautiful life in pursuit of worthless goals.

There is an ocean of difference between surviving, making a living, and living. Most people are either trying to survive or are trying to make a living. Life itself is still a great mystery for most; they have confused different expressions of life for life itself. A flower is an expression of life; when you pause and watch a flower, it becomes an experience. Knowing the difference between the expression of life and the experience of life can make all the difference to our quality of living.

In our constant pursuit to make a living, we are chasing different expressions of life. We can have the whole world under our feet and still feel miserable and lost. Life is not an accumulation of expressions; it is an experience to be lived and enjoyed. At the end of the day, all that matters is a meaningful pause to soak in the infinite beauty of life.

Life has adorned herself to entice, intoxicate and draw us into her bosom. Nothing at all has to be done to enjoy her infinite beauty and wonder. You can be rich, poor, intelligent, dumb, happy, or sad; it just doesn’t matter. Life will cradle you, for you belong to her. You are her creation and expression. What is it that you are constantly searching for? Maybe you are confused about what you want, and in that confusion you are searching in all the wrong places. Maybe there is another way to look at the experience of life.

We are running from our own shadows. There is absolutely nothing to run from or run to. We create our desires to run toward and we create our fears to run away from. Not knowing that life is here and now, we are darting here and there without rest. We are tired of all the running around, but we cannot stop, because somewhere deep down in our mind we have concluded for ourselves that the real meaning of life is in constantly chasing something.

Life waits – She has infinite patience. At any moment of your own choosing, you can stop running, then pause and reflect on the life that is already yours. Just knowing how much life has already given you will bring a sense of calm and serenity to your life. We have absolutely no right to be miserable when we have life on our side. Let’s reflect and remember that we are not alone. This moment is life and She is always with us. Let’s not ignore Her and throw this precious life away.

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Gift of knowledge

Gift of knowledge

The root cause of suffering is ignorance; ignorance being the lack of a clear understanding of what we are doing, where we are going, and who we are. This ignorance is the single biggest reason for our suffering. On the other hand, knowledge is the light that illuminates everything. The wider and deeper our knowledge and understanding of life is, the less pain and suffering we experience.

Ignorance brings such deep suffering with it that it penetrates every single aspect of our lives. Not understanding our job brings suffering at work; not understanding our friends brings suffering in relationships; not understanding our family brings suffering at home; not knowing our purpose brings suffering in our actions; and not knowing who we are brings suffering to life.

“We are suffering our ignorance”

In that sense, everybody is suffering just one thing—not knowing. An ignorant man has never been able to find joy and happiness, because ignorance is a painful dark shadow of life. Ignorance plunges the soul into deep, unknown dungeons of suffering. Suffering is an absolutely natural state for an ignorant mind. The only respite for an ignorant mind is the momentary joy that comes when one ignorance triumphs over another. The only resting place for an ignorant mind is that single moment when it is suspended in midair, while jumping from one ignorance to another. In that moment, an ignorant mind says, “Ah! I am so happy now.

The way out of misery is acquiring knowledge. A seeker of knowledge discards a little bit of his ignorance every day. He grows in understanding and wisdom, he learns his way out of misery, and he conquers his ignorance using the light of understanding. The seeker of knowledge constantly gains a deeper understanding of himself, his life and the world around him. He moves beyond ignorance to eventually bask in the glow of knowing.

If we acquire enough knowledge about how to do something, we will eventually become good at it. If we acquire enough knowledge about running our business, we will become a successful businessman. If we acquire enough knowledge about our friends and family, we will become successful in handling relationships. If we acquire enough knowledge about the world, we will become successful in the eyes of the people around. And if we acquire enough knowledge about ourselves, we will become happy and peaceful.

The most important thing one has to remember is that, acquiring knowledge is not just about gathering ideas. For most, acquiring knowledge simply means reading books and being more informed. Reading is just one type of knowledge. Reading illuminates only the intellectual dimension of life. There are other streams of knowledge that one has to pursue to understand life fully. That knowledge can be acquired through observing, traveling, failing, dreaming, meditating, playing, laughing, and crying. Let us keep learning and let us one day go beyond all our suffering. Let us give ourselves the gift of knowledge.

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