In Step One you were asked to at least temporarily accept the idea that you have two ‘identities.’ One is a mysterious infinite spiritual existence that exists before thought. The other is like its shadow, formed from the product of the thoughts that follow. All of our spiritual selves are always connected and unified, but our egos are discrete and feel separate.
There is a lot of overlap between egos, but everyone is subtly different in unique ways. We can agree with others a great deal, but eventually, if we look hard enough, we would find some difference in our world view with absolutely everyone because that is what it is to be an ‘individual.’ (Importantly, we would also always find some things to agree on.)
For example, each person enters their place of worship with their own unique, personal idea of what their religion is in their lives. Everyone that works in a company will hold their own unique ideas about what the company is and what their job is. Each teacher and each student will have completely different concepts of what a ‘school.’ is. Etc. Etc.
Even different players see a sport uniquely, which is why some are defined as ‘having a nose for the net’ while others are known to for being tough, while still others are known for their work ethic, or for being smart about the use of the rules and about the nature of their play.
Each athlete sees the sport slightly differently, and they all develop themselves based on which facet of the sport their history taught them to notice about the larger, impersonal reality.
What’s most important here is that we must always remember that we can never assert our reality over someone else’s. We can trick others into changing their beliefs but we cannot force them to. We can’t tell someone high on LSD that there is no river of rainbows flowing down the staircase because we don’t see one –they do. To them it’s us that’s blind.
If a player cheats in a game they can only win in their own mind, not in other people’s. Their opponent –and anyone who agrees with them that the other player cheated– will never accept even an ‘official’ win on the part of the cheating player. Even if the other person has the trophy in their trophy case at home, no one can change the opponent’s mind about not having lost. Only they have that power.
Similarly, we can end a relationship, but if the other person refuses to think it’s over they will still participate in it. We might call that ‘stalking,’ but to them the relationship genuinely isn’t over, it’s just temporarily in a disrupted state.
A jilted suitor can even be sent to jail for what they do and even in jail they can believe that love still binds them to the other person. They can be entirely sincere when they tell others about the ‘relationship’ they perceive they have on hiatus, on the ‘outside.’
Fortunately, just as we cannot assert our reality over them, others cannot assert their reality over us. They can even jail us, but they cannot make us believe we are guilty if we know we aren’t. So whether we’re a jailer looking for guilt, or a prisoner looking for release, to stay healthy we must accept that being alive entails living with the messy existence of these separate but often intersecting realities.
In the end, all we can do is respect that the differences between us and others are generally honest and the confusion is created by both parties equally and inadvertently. And there’s more salvation hidden in that idea that might immediately be apparent.
Realities are personal. We very innocently cannot apply ours to others nor can they apply theirs to us. Accepting this is the next step on your journey to understanding.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own over-thinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.