Behaviour and Psychology Perception

Perception and Reality: The Playground of the Mind


What is reality? What is real? What is truth?

For those of us who love a sense of certainty, I have bad news for you: The answers to all these questions are purely subjective.

If there is any truth, it is this: There is no single reality, no single truth, and that which you call “real” is purely subjective.  The reason for this simple; so simple that we often completely overlook it when pondering these questions.

The challenge to pinning down an answer to any of these questions has to do with how we experience the world. In fact, experience is all we have to go with as we live out our human existence on this earthly plane. When I use the word “experience,” I am speaking of how you experience the world, from moment to moment, via your sensory organs and thoughts.

Let me just get straight to the point with an audacious statement:

No one has ever experienced anything but experience itself

Rather than attempting to explain this, I offer you this simple exercise so that you can determine for yourself if what I say is true. Before doing this exercise, you do need to follow a simple rule: Rely on your immediate and direct experience. Do not refer to your past experience, the knowledge that you have gained, or what you have been taught. Do not analyse, judge, or rationalize anything that you experience – simply allow yourself to be informed by what you are experiencing in the moment.

  1. Sit down and make yourself comfortable.
  2. Find an object in the room that attracts your interest.
  3. Spend a few seconds viewing the object.
  4. Is the object you are viewing is separate from your sight, is there a point when seeing stops and the object begins, or are they inseparable.  If you are truly going by your direct experience, your answer has to be that they are inseparable.
  5. Now ask yourself; if seeing occurs from within you or from outside the body. In other words, where does the act of seeing originate from? Again, if you are going by your direct experience, the answer is obviously from within.
  6. Next, ask yourself “How do I know that I am seeing?” No matter how you respond to this question, ultimately your final answer has to be that you are aware or conscious of it. The only way something can exist is if we are aware of it. Without awareness, there can be no existence.
  7. Finally, ask yourself if awareness and the act of seeing are separate, or are they inseparable? The obvious answer is that they are inseparable.

From this simple exercise, we can summarise the following:

  • The object that is seen and the process of seeing are inseparable.
  • The act of seeing originates within us.
  • The act of seeing and the awareness that seeing is occurring are inseparable.

We can conclude that the object, the process of seeing, the person doing the observing, and awareness itself are not separate from each other; they are one in the same. This should not be surprising when we remember that all of existence, at the most fundamental level, is energy. At the quantum level, all that we view as having physicality becomes formless. What gives form to the formless is due to the nature of the mind, which creates concepts out of our experience. That which is formless does not register with the mind as the mind is conceptual; it represents experience conceptually.

At the deeper layers of what we call “reality,” the object you viewed is inseparable from you, as is all of experience. Through the limitations of our five senses, along with societal conditioning and the beliefs that each of us develop, we superimpose are impressions on our experience, leading to each individual having his or her own unique perspective.

The possibilities this understanding gives are endless, but here are two examples:

  • Enhance your creativity: By moving beyond conceptual thought, we can tap into sources of creativity that have been responsible for some of the greatest scientific discoveries of our times.
  • Emotional wellness: By learning to view life in a way that moves from a sense of separateness to one of connection, we experience greater happiness and compassion.

So how do we apply this information in a practical way? It is actually very simple. In fact, all religious traditions have taught these basic methods throughout the ages:

  • Learn to meditate or take time to be silent and still.
  • Allow five minutes per day of practicing non-judgement. Do not judge anything that happens. If you find this too difficult, shorten the amount of time. As you get more skillful, increase it.
  • Intentionally find things to be grateful for and focus on helping others. By removing our focus from ourselves and placing it on service to others, it gives us a break from our egocentric thinking.
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