One person could go to a party and see only people in more expensive clothes than theirs, and yet another person could go to the same party and only see music lovers and people interested in social justice. One person could complain about the poor English used by a new immigrant, and another person could talk to the same person and be impressed with their effort. One person could notice that a child is noisy, and another person could notice that the child is singing. The question is, which person are you?
All day long you use words, strung together as narratives, that you use to describe the world around you. That description—those judgments—are what the Buddhist Illusion is. You start to think that your words are actual things. That your ideas about things are the truth about them. Really, if you have an idea about something, that’s just a story you’re telling yourself. Maybe it’s a story you read in a physics textbook, or maybe it’s a story your wonderful old drunk Uncle Jim told you, but that’s what egos do—they try to describe the world so they can try to define their own place within it. But that doesn’t make the stories true. It just makes them personal and true to the person telling them.
By changing the stories you tell about the world you prove that they are merely stories. Your reality is flexible. That person’s voice might be annoying, but those might also be some fabulous shoes the talker is wearing. Whether you put your attention on the irritating quality of their voice or on their shoes is entirely up to you. But understand that making that choice—the choice of what to think about that person; the choice of what to focus your attention on—that choice is what builds your reality. The sum of that choice is what you experience as reality.
People who are negative are simply people who were trained by experiences to look for what they don’t like about a person, place or thing. Similarly, positive people are simply people who were trained by experience to look for what they do like about a person, place or thing. But people are flexible. They’re a bit like movie projectors. They don’t have to keep showing ugly, violent movies just because that’s what they’ve historically shown. They can show a comedy using exactly the same mechanism. They can run different film through their projector and they’ll get a different picture on their reality screen.
Stop turning the world into a tragedy. Stop making it a horror. Use your inherent ability to focus your attention and choose to see all that’s good in life. Once it becomes a habit (which is quite quickly), you’ll begin to notice that there have always been far more sources of joy than you ever would have previously thought possible.
Head out into the world today with a positive eye. Look for the best in every person, place and thing you encounter. Use compassion and kindness in your dealings, and create a beautiful world by seeing one already in existence. Because that’s how you do it. That’s why Thoreau said, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”
See you later.
peace and love, s
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.