Personal Reality
  Meditation & the Acceptance of Life
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Personal Reality

“What is reality?” I asked as we sat a small picnic table surrounded by the dense forest that is northern Thailand. “And why, now more than ever, is it important to know what reality is?”

His vibrant eyes widened and his smile awoke with satisfaction to the question at hand.

“Reality is what is in front of you in the moment that it is in front of you,” he said, his tone slightly mischievous, knowing full well this answer would not suffice.

“In Thai language we have several different words for reality, but in English we have to use a combination of words in order to talk about this subject clearly.” He became more serious now, but in a warm empathetic way. His sincere and gentle nature implied the words he was about to speak were of utmost importance. He leaned in to share them with me like an old friend would share a secret.

“There is a personal reality and a non-personal reality. The personal reality is the non-personality reality put through the filter of conditioning present in every person’s mind. And so when you see the American flag, you have certain feelings, certain emotions that are triggered by that image. Perhaps pride, perhaps disgust. This is the personal reality. But within the non-personal reality there is only the flag with it’s various shapes and colors, no connected emotions and no connected ideas.”

“So a flag is a flag, not a symbol of an ideology,” I added.

“Yes, in the non-personal reality a flag is a flag, but we all know what happens when a flag is burned and people start getting anxious.” He laughs as if emphasize the silliness of the average person’s actions.

“People live in a personal reality which they truly believe is a non-personal reality. There is no distinction in their mind between these two realities and most people are so attached to their idea of reality, their personal reality, that they simply cannot comprehend the fact that a non-personal reality exists.” His smile remained but was less enthusiastic and more empathetic than before.

I asked him why seeing this clearly was of vital importance, now more than ever. He replied that it has always been of vital importance to realize the personal and impersonal in life, but now the very survival of the human race also depends upon people’s ability to accept and co-exist with other personal realities that may not be in line with their own.

“Why do you think people are so attached to their ideologies?” I asked.

“When we use this word, it is easy for people to think of the extreme ideologies like the Islamic militant movement and the capitalist democracy movement. These are very extreme examples of people sticking to their personal reality, each with equally extreme consequences if not changed over time. But there are much smaller examples that have much larger effects on the average person’s life. Love, for example, is a personal reality. Whether we are talking about the romantic love, the friendship love or the familial love, all forms of love are a personal reality.”

“Can you give me an example?”

“Of course. The man who is broken hearted, the widow who’s life ends with the death of her husband or the mother who loses a child,” all of these people cannot see past their personal reality. They confuse the feeling that they had while being with the one that they loved with the actual person. So when the person disappears, the feeling disappears. What is unfortunate, is that the grieving person cannot see that it is the feeling that he or she misses, not the person. That person may have given them hope, security, laughter or interest in life as a whole, but when all of these feelings are taken away, the person truly crashes and cannot see the truth in the fact that they can indeed build a balanced life without the other.”

“Many people say that losing a child is the most difficult experience to go through in life.” I reflected aloud.

“It would be to those who cannot see their attachment to their own feelings.”

“Which is almost all of us.”

“True.”

We spent the afternoon continuing the conversation around the idea of personal and non-personal reality. Much more than just a philosophical discussion, talking with the teacher at the Foundation for Balanced Growth in northern Thailand, taught me how much we humans are attached to our ideas of about reality, rather than seeing reality clearly as it is. To many men, a woman is no longer just a woman, but an object of his desire and assurance of love and affection. The man longs for money because he believes that with money comes a beautiful wife, a good job, a nice home, a fashionable car and exotic travel. He thinks, somehow, that in the light at the end of this tunnel of desire there is peace and happiness. To many women, a better figure, a faithful husband, loving children and a successful career will somehow transport them to the same place the man is wishing to go. In the ideal world of love, the man and woman will somehow help each other get to this ‘heaven’ together. But if we are honest with ourselves, what is it that we are truly looking for? If it is support and security, if it is pleasure and assurance, then once we have these things, how much energy will we need to expend in protecting them? And when, if ever, is enough truly enough?

Granted this first question of ‘What is reality?’ has brought up more questions than it has answers, but this is a good thing. Only through our own enquiry into our own personal reality, can we ever thoroughly understand the ‘non-personal reality’.

 

     
in the woods
chinese proverbs
addiction
crying
monk's sacfice
what is reality?
capitalists wage war
eating a lizard
nothing is more
conditioning and reality
escape from nothing