One of the hardest things for me to admit is that I don’t know anything.
It’s hard because I doubt it — because I don’t even know that I don’t know.
It’s a delightful conundrum.
You see, it seems like my thoughts maintain the illusion that there is paint on the canvas. But without thought, I don’t even see a canvas. Without thought, I have no facility to experience form at all.
I know, I know.
To make this more practical, sometimes I like to look at optical illusions and remember that ‘seeing’ happens in the brain. However good your eyes are, you can’t see without a brain.
So as I look at my computer screen now, clusters of light are passing through my eyeballs. That light is turned into electrical signals and transmitted to the visual cortex of my brain. What I ‘see’ is created there, and it’s an effect — my brain’s interpretation of what was in front of my eyes a moment ago.
I think of this as my brain constantly answering the question “What must have been there for light to have entered in that formation?” — and optical illusions show how easy it is to ‘hack’ the visual system.
My experience of reality is similar. Like film passing a light projector, thoughts passing consciousness get projected as experience. I never experience an objective reality; only my thoughts about reality. And it’s consciousness that makes those thoughts feel real.
Seeing this, it makes sense to me that my experience of life gets clearer and more vibrant as my consciousness gets brighter. And it also makes sense that I experience confusion and lack of clarity when my consciousness is at a low ebb.
To explore this deeper, I like to imagine a beam of white light hitting a glass prism and splitting into a rainbow. I love how all the colours reveal themselves.
Then I imagine how the same film would look different if it was projected through different colours.
Different parts of the whole get emphasised or obscured when I look through different frequencies of light, and that’s how I experience my thoughts in different states of consciousness too. At different points along the spectrum, I have different priorities and values — I see the world differently and respond to the same thoughts differently. I have different ‘moods’. Only when I expand my consciousness broadly across the spectrum and start approaching the equivalent of white light do I experience deep peace of mind, wholeness and new insight.
Understanding this, I’ve become grateful for experiences like anxiety and fear. I think of them as signals from my nervous system that tell me when I’m experiencing a distorted projection.
It’s like viewing a beautiful painting while wearing sunglasses — if you didn’t know you had the glasses on, you might think the picture wasn’t as beautiful. So I’m glad to get a nudge in situations like that.
If I smell some old milk, my nervous system creates a sensation of nausea as a warning signal. If I experience a distorted projection of my thoughts, my nervous system creates other warning signals like confusion and frustration. The more I stick with the distorted projection, the more extreme the signals become — up to rage, panic and terror.
Sometimes I forget what my feelings are for though. Sometimes my consciousness is so skewed and limited in that moment that my own signals feel like more problems to deal with.
It’s like if I have a headache. Sometimes I realise I’ve been staring at a screen for too long or not drinking enough water. I take a break, get some fresh air and the headache passes. Other times I think it’s unfair that I have a headache, especially when I have so much to do, and I gobble down some pain killers and carry on.
Similarly, sometimes I respond to ‘bad feelings’ by breathing, grounding my consciousness and observing my thoughts. Soon I experience the same thoughts differently and the feelings pass. I experience clear, whole thoughts and I’m free to choose my response. Life is easy again.
Other times I think it’s unfair that I feel bad, especially when I have so much to do, and I gobble down ‘pain killers’ — things like alcohol, sugar, reality tv and actually anything that will desensitise me to my internal experience. The only price I pay for taking these ‘pain killers’ is they make me so numb to my internal senses that it seems like my feelings are coming from outside of me. So if I’m sitting on the beach and feeling relaxed, I might think it’s the beach that made me feel relax. And if I’m talking to you when I start feeling frustrated, I might think it’s you who frustrated me.
I start believing in a be-cause — a cause for my way I’m being. So I feel anxious because you didn’t make me feel welcome, I feel let down because the train was late, and I worry because the government is so useless. Because, because, because. And then I get busy trying to fix all these things outside of me, and I get lost in the cycle of another dream. I gobble down more ‘pain killers’ and carry on.
My dreams feel real to me — and I guess yours feel real to you too. (But I don’t know. Because I don’t know anything!)
So I want to go back to where I started:
“The hardest thing for me to admit is that I don’t know anything.
It’s hard because I doubt it — because I don’t even know that I don’t know.”
I don’t think that’s actually true. What’s more true for me is that sometimes I find it hard to admit I don’t know anything and other times I find it easy. Moment by moment, day by day, my condition stays the same but my experience of the condition changes.
When I experience a distorted projection of my thoughts, I see lots of partial-truths that each point to a because. Then I think I need to do stuff, fix stuff, plan stuff and try really hard. I take life very seriously then. I have even been willing to die for a cause.
But when I experience whole thoughts through a white light projector, everything feels easy and there’s very little to do. There are no conundrums to solve. Life is good.
In the realm of pre-because – “before the therefore” – I’m free.
So that’s why I think there’s only one reason I have problems. It’s because.