Sunday, July 21, 2013

Working with reality – From disillusionment to enlightenment

Albert Einstein, one of the greatest physicists the world has ever known, contributed immensely to his field with the Theory of Relativity. But his contribution was not just in the field of physics. His work opened up the possibility of being able to understand the universe and its reality in a multi dimensional way. By this, I mean, that his work on time and space has reminded us that somewhere, physics, spirituality and in fact most other streams of learning, actually merge at some point. It is no surprise that a lot of the world’s greats were polymaths, people with multidimensional intelligences. People whose brains knew what the universe already does…. That everything is one and from one everything is born. Leonardo Da Vinci was a painter, engineer, mathematician and musician all rolled into one.  Michelangelo, Galileo Galilei, Benjamin Franklin, Isaac Newton are some other polymaths.

We find it fascinating to read and learn about the work of greats in the science of reality. But we have considerable trouble handling reality when we encounter it in our individual lives.

Sumita (Name changed) , a girl I know, describes her life as traumatic. She complains that men with severe emotional disabilities seem to enter her life with unerring consistency. She complains that whenever she feels things starting to go well with someone, that person starts to show signs of emotional instability and the relationship eventually comes to an end. As a person well into her thirties and looking to find a life partner, she feels life is being unfair to her. Since I know Sumita reasonably well, I once took the opportunity to dig further to find out what could be going wrong. As I kept exploring, I came to see a pattern in her narration of her life in general and more specifically her personal life. I came to realize that Sumita, believed genuinely in her heart that she didn’t deserve good things. In some sense, she WANTED life to be unfair to her because that’s what she thought she deserved. Her view of the world was a place which treated her the way she deeply believed she deserved. But understandably her intellectual, logical mind kept looking at events as unfair. A person who holds this world view as ‘real’ could be perpetuating a pattern of events. It is very possible that she feels attracted only to people her intuition identifies as unstable and goes on to start something which has no future; only for it to end in the manner that validates her self-image as an undeserving person.

Another lady I know believes fervently in her heart that the world can do no bad and everyone, including one’s apparent enemies are warm, loving, guileless and forgiving people. Even if spite, malice and hatred stare her in the face, she refuses to believe it. She has a blind side to the darker aspects of human nature. While this may seem like an endearing quality on first glance, what it does, is create a person constantly pandering to others and trying to keep peace. A person who gives benefit of doubt to the other, even when grossly undeserved and has no capacity to hold her own. A simplistic and highly erroneous view of the world was the only thing tolerable for her. Her world view was a fairytale one, with no space for reality.
These are just two examples of how people choose their reality, and how sometimes this web of reality woven by them traps them in a regressed state… a place from where there is no path to growth.
Reality is something we struggle with all our lives because let’s call a spade a spade …. Facing reality is unpleasant. One would think I’m alluding only to the painful nature of reality. But what I am referring to, is the difficulty in seeing a reality different from one we want to believe in, regardless of its nature or quality. This happens for a reason. 

We all develop a paradigm for leading our lives. We begin developing this paradigm right from childhood slowly and surely. And by the time we hit our thirties, our paradigm is more or less set, like hardened clay. We may allow some changes as life moves on but largely, patterns of response remain the same,  except of course in cases where life has forced a jolt upon us. These responses are both emotional and physical…. and largely become unconscious as they set more and more with practice. 

Raman (name changed), I man I’ve known for many years has a certain pattern of response to all sales representatives who land up at his door step. He first invites them in and offers them tea. After listening to them flatteringly for sometime, he starts engaging them in a debate which quickly turns into an argument. The conversation becomes unpleasant within minutes . He ends all these meeting with hurling accusations, often alluding to their ‘dubious’ intentions… always suspecting cheat and deceit. It may well be true that there are many cheats out there looking to con an innocent buyer. But, the point I’m trying to make here, is that Raman is convinced that this is going to be the case everytime. He extends this view to many other people and situations. Raman’s world view is one that has to be, for some reason, tainted with a negative brush.  To him, no one can be trusted and everyone is deceitful. 

The realities these people have chosen for themselves, albeit unconsciously, are so comfortably nestled in their hearts and minds that an alternate reality, even if it is a happier one, would be unpleasant for them to accept. Our paradigms were built because they worked for us at certain points in time. But we continue to take that map forward into our lives and apply the same model to most life situations. The problems with this approach are obvious. If we were to continue to believe that our world works for us the same way it did when we were children or even 5 years ago, or if we don’t incorporate real changes in our life experiences into our paradigms, we are essentially attempting to push a square plug into a round socket. The result is frustration and a feeling of failure at things going wrong all the time, everywhere. The sad thing though is, people whose paradigms have failed, hold on even more tenaciously to their faulty model because they somehow twist this new reality of failure to fit their old paradigm. The bitter man believes that the world is a bitter place, spreads bitterness back, receives bitterness in return, which reinforces his view of a bitter world and he turns even more bitter. The perpetuating cycle starts all over again.

Unlike science, there may not be a fully objective reality for our individual selves to learn and believe in. Our unique lives require us to construct our own unique realities. But still, we must remember that we are prone to incorporating some misplaced, unreal and therefore unstable components when we build our life model.

 For example, Raman could do well to know that while some sales people may be deceitful, it is possible to meet an honest salesman who sells a good product that may end up being something he needs. Sumita could try to see how unreal it is to believe, that everyone out there is emotionally stunted. It is a good statistical probability that there may be many well turned out and emotionally stable men who could be consideration worthy. The naïvely optimistic lady, who believes there is only good in the world, could do with knowing that all human beings are a mix of light and dark. A survival instinct and fighting spirit may actually be required sometimes to exist amid society and peers. 

Having said this, changing our internal reality is a job far easier said than done. Sometimes, our desire and need to hold on to our realities is so intense, that it may come in the way of this process. Nevertheless, when we start to work at first challenging our current reality we begin the work of healthy disillusionment. We begin to realize what is unreal in our picture and begin to replace it with more realistic strokes. As we begin to paint a new picture for ourselves we start to see it changing hues. It may start to become a more complex painting, with colors ranging from the lilacs and pinks of cheer and happiness to the dark burgundy of malice and evil with various other shades in the middle depicting every nuance of the mind boggling reality that life is. Yes, the painting does begin to look less simple, but it begins to look richer.

As we keep refining our understanding of our individual realities on our spiritual growth path, we begin to see a method of working with our lives in a very concrete and real way…. without escaping from it or viewing it through a broken glass. As we work with realities we would’ve been afraid to see earlier, we begin to feel a sense of living life fully. An ability to experience all shades of our life’s events in their unadulterated form, gives us a complete experience. And then, somewhere in the complex painting of different hues, we will find our color of bliss… a color born not out of delusion but out of dipping ourselves and getting wet in the ocean of life’s palette.

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