Updated: May 15, 2020
Q. How can one enjoy and indulge in society, make commitments and make decision, with something that brings short term flashes of happiness which is ultimately all an illusion of our minds. How to live and enjoy when this is true?
A. Each of us has a range of identity, or a depth of identity. One aspect of this identity is what we call the individual. Initially, the individual may seem like the biggest part of what we are. This is often what we are taught as babies. As vision becomes broader, the individual is seen within a greater context and picture. It is a context that goes beyond the brackets of birth and death and deeper than the personality that defines the individual, and it touches on the deepest roots of meaning, purpose, perception, and understanding.
This doesn’t mean the individual’s experiences are irrelevant, unimportant, or should be ignored. The individual, their actions, and their dramas are an essential part of the tapestry. The transitioning mind evolves through and with the drama.
Part of the transitioning is jumping from the individual role to the big picture and back—back and forth, back and forth. The mind is not yet able to hold the integrated picture. It is buffeted between two perspectives. This is because prior assumptions are still strong, as they naturally tend to be because of decades of conditioning.
Reconfiguring the Mind
The key to integration is shifting the configuration of the mind—releasing the restriction of the First Mind and relaxing into the Second Mind. One practical technique is to take a few moments when you first wake up in the morning and before you sleep at night to become aware of your mind—its thoughts, assumptions, feelings. Recognize what it is that is called “my mind.” When the contents begin to settle, look around you, noticing the things in the room. Consider that this too is mind-like, just as a dream may appear, or just like the set of a movie.
See if you can feel the boundary between “my” mind and the room out there—two different scenes on the stage of consciousness. Relax and sense the boundary, the division, the wall. If you can feel it, rest your attention on it—the curtain between one scene and the other. Keep the attention there. This steady practice will begin to shift the configuration of the mind.
Where Is the “Illusion”?
The "illusion” is not in our personal minds. Rather, the very concept and feeling of “our” or “mine” is itself a (useful) projection of the greater mind, the Second Mind. Consider that the Second Mind is all around us and appearing as bodies, brains, and personalities. When this mind takes on a particular configuration, it feels like “my” First Mind. This creates the wall between the individual and the world, creating fear, confusion, and altering perception. Dismantling the wall dismantles the blinders that prevent the individual from recognizing the nature of the production.
Playing the role of the individual while recognizing the set, direction, and production has a beauty all its own. Commitments and decisions can be taken with greater clarity and ease because the old beliefs and expectations cluttering the mind no longer obscure the view.
Happiness, Desire, and Fulfillment
As the mind reconfigures itself, brief moments of happiness become insufficient, even intolerable. It knows there is more and can no longer be satisfied with breadcrumbs, old stories, and promises of something better in the future. A parched desert traveler wants to drink up a whole lake of water now, not just have a drop or two every few days.
Flashes of happiness are experienced whenever a desire is fulfilled. Whenever we desire something, the mind becomes restless and agitated. This agitation will go on until the desire is fulfilled. The personal First Mind keeps saying I want that I want that I want that. When the desire is finally fulfilled, that agitation suddenly disappears and the mind becomes clear and open for a brief moment, during which time the deeper nature of the human being flashes through. This is what we experience as flashes of happiness.
All varieties of pleasantness, including happiness, joy, and ecstasy, are therefore due to different levels of clarity and openness of the mind, allowing for flashes of the deeper nature to be experienced. As the mind reconfigures and remains clear and open, the deeper nature remains as the foreground experience. The intensity and all-encompassing nature of this deeper consciousness—of our own nature—is unparalleled by any experience the individual mind may encounter.
This is the moment our parched desert traveler has been waiting for. He finally arrives at the crystal-clear lake from which he drinks to his heart’s content. Having found the lake, the traveler will no longer hanker after drops. This doesn’t mean he doesn’t enjoy the world. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t experience pain and pleasure as an individual, but rather the very meaning and experience of pain and pleasure change, as they are experienced in the context of a boundless ocean.
No More Illusion
The traveler is now a different kind of traveler. Having seen the full picture, the illusion is no longer an illusion. The mind is seen through. The play goes on.