Illusions and our Suffering
There was an excerpt recently from a new book by Robert Wright called, “Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment”. Pretty heady title and who knew that Buddhism had to be confirmed as true, after such a long stretch in history. Anyway, the article kind of explained simply what Buddhism was about – and this explanation was new to me. He describes it as a good new/bad news story. We as humans are all prone to illusion – making things up that either make us feel better or make us feel worse. Usually – at least for many of us – the illusions don’t make us feel very good. And often this leads to suffering of all sorts – worrying, regret, unhappiness, lack of fulfillment, and much more. But the good news, again according to Wright, is that illusions and suffering are one and the same, because we are the source of both and if we could see the world clearly, then our suffering would stop. And therefore, we have the ability to stop the illusions and our suffering. Hence the song I’ve quoted from before: “We are our suffering”.
Wright also notes that we’re prone to illusion as a means of survival – almost as if Buddha and Darwin were partners in the science of evolution. Darwin probably would have approved of Buddha’s solutions – like mindfulness meditation and gratitude – and Buddha would have probably appreciated Darwin’s theories of evolution. Each would have seen the illusions for what they are – a means of survival in the days when we were hunter-gatherers. But most of us are not in that role anymore, and certainly not in fear for our survival. And unfortunately for us now, the illusions we create usually lead to suffering in one form or another.
So what good do these illusions – the ones brought on by our fight or flight response – really do for us anymore? Do the illusions we create before a big event – whether it’s a presentation to a large group, a date with a new person, sending our children off to a new school, or a confrontation with our boss – spur us on to success or to crumble in anxiety? We all have ways of dealing with these situations – hopefully in better ways as we mature – than we did the first time it happened. So we adapt. We adapt our feelings, our skills, our social behaviors, and maybe even our beliefs about the situation so that our lives improve and our anxieties decrease over time. That makes sense, right?
But what about those other illusions? The little ones we deal with almost every single day. The ones that cause the incessant chatter in our otherwise nimble brains. We can think of these as the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” illusions. The ones that show up at the most inopportune moments – partly because they are there to protect us…from the wooly mammoths of old! There is no logical reason for these fears, illusions, or worry. We know that logically we can do this (fill in the blank) activity! Usually, it’s our gut that’s saying “yes” while our head is screaming “NOOOOOOO!” We don’t need to get into all the ways this can happen – I’m sure you already recalled a few of them as you read this! But can you also recall that the majority of those situations turned out just fine? I read that over 98% of the things we normally worry about NEVER happen at all. All the boogie men in our heads, the nightmares in broad daylight, the horrible things we imagine might happen NEVER happen at all!
So we could ask ourselves where these fears and illusions come from? And Robert Wright would say they’re part of our evolutionary process. Well, that’s nice, you might say, but what do I do today while waiting to evolve to a less anxious mortal??
Today, I’ll suggest two tools. Of course, every challenge that I run across can use Human Design as a ready tool. You probably figured that. Knowing your own Human Design can help to dispel so many of the illusions that we face. When you know who you really are, a lot of illusions of who we think are, who we should be, who we’re expected to be by parents, bosses, spouses, go away. We stand in our truth and have the power to quiet the thoughts that used to rob of us of our true identity and purpose.
The second tool, as Robert Wright suggests, is the age-old Buddhist practice of mindfulness meditation which also works beautifully. It always has and probably always will. With a little practice and attention to your thoughts, feelings and everything around you, it’s a lovely way to decrease stress, find stillness, and allow for gratefulness to become a much more prominent part of your life. When you emerge from your stillness in meditation, the breath and the stillness can both be recalled and achieved at other stressful times of your day – if and when you take a moment to recall them. (I admit it – that’s the hard part – remembering that there’s a better way in the midst of stress!) But taking that breath and finding stillness – that allows for the real payoff: clarity in the present moment. Instead of anxiety, your head becomes clear, you can see the players and situation for what they really are, and then – with clarity – make a rational choice, a judicious comment, or offer a kind embrace. A “WTF” moment becomes a moment of calm, composure and intuitive knowingness. You got this! And in the end, you make the world a better place.
Isn’t that what we’re all here for anyway?
Have a wonderful summer! Do watch your energies this entire month of August – the energies around us will be intense. Especially around the time of the Eclipse – August 21. This is a note especially for the more sensitive beings – you know who you are – please sleep, eat when you need to, try to remain calm, avoid too many crowded situations, and stay grounded. If you’re interested in more information about these energy changes, I suggest two sites for my teachers: Espavo.org and EraofPeace.org. Enjoy!