How To Walk Yourself Out Of The Labyrinth Of Illusion

Hillary Boles

I’m always lightly romanticized by the phases of my life, the shifts that occurred as my psyche did — because my psyche did.

I recently visited a place, an old school, that once held so much imbued energy I could barely talk about it, let alone actually be there for any extended period of time. On a half-whim, half-compulsion, I drove there and sat on the curb. I tried to sift through memories but only came up with random moments and meaningless bits. I wrote in my notebook: this is just a place.

The scary parts were only colored by my thoughts and the meaning was then pieced together through them.

I naturally re-assigned that meaning when I moved on — but didn’t realize that emotionally doing so was not mutually exclusive from physically and then mentally. The latter constructed the former, and that was the key.

I use the phrase “lightly romanticized” because it explains the feeling so damn well. The things that were once absolutely gutting to me seemed light or numb and the only hint of confusion was trying to bridge the gaps between who I was and who I am; all the pain that I couldn’t forget was somehow so inapplicable.

It healed as I did. It was never anywhere else but within me to begin with. I wasn’t at the whim of my circumstances, they were mirrors and reflections of my inner state. Nothing happened “to me,” it happened for me. I didn’t realize there was a choice after that. We have this collective consciousness that tells us we have to be pained by that which we were taught is painful. Of course, that pain was created from teaching what ‘should be,’ and therefore, there was no way to teach how to heal from that.

I guess it’s the art of mindfulness; of being present and aware. It’s really jarring to consider how much of what goes through your mind, how much of what constructs your current experience, is nothing but an illusion.

An illusion is a false mental image produced by misinterpretation of things that actually exist — a delusion is a persistent false belief.

Your life is run by narrative thoughts that have nearly nothing to do with what is in front of you at any given moment.

Every action brings with it an idea: how it appears to someone else, what it means, how it serves you, how it’s pointless, who’s responsible for your discomfort, where you should place your anger — or more dangerously — happiness. We spend our lives dreaming of experiencing something else; when that “something else” eventually comes along, we’re dreaming of yet another something else. We spend our days practicing conversations we hope to have in our heads, believing in what something means rather than the fact that it just is. Thinking about what’s next, because the pre-assigned meaning is ultimately meaningless. On a slightly less existential level, our minds are constantly clouded by things that we subconsciously believe ground us in purpose: what money we should be saving, what so-and-so is going to say when we cancel plans for Friday, what we’re going to make for dinner.

Look away from your screen for just a moment. Stare out and silence everything in your mind just for a second. Silence your thoughts and the ideas you have about those thoughts and the thoughts you have about the silence and the feelings that derive from those things combined. What exists for you?

The room, your hands, your breath. The clothes you’re wearing, the ground and the ceiling and the lights and the noises you hear.

There is nothing more to them. They just are.

You’re going to want to fill your life with internal noise as soon as you silence everything. Meditating on really any one thing is uncomfortable because it forces us to be still in the meaninglessness. This whole life is one of grand and mystical unknownness. You think you know, but you don’t for sure. Science can prove something as fact, but that fact disappears when your body does, now doesn’t it?

We cannot look at something without trying to fix it. We cannot examine or see without deriving ideas or beliefs. We take those ideas and beliefs and allow the fact that we thought them to define something about ourselves. We take those definitions and compile them into our identity. We take our identity and fit it into different contexts as we go about our days and weeks and hours and years and lives. We like the things our identities fit into. We dislike the things they do not. We like the people who approve of those identities, who fill roles we have created to supplement and complement us. When they do or say anything that is outside of the context we have created for them, we decide they have wronged us. We must express that they have wronged us, so we get into a conflict, and tell us that they offended us, when really, they shed light on the lines we didn’t realize we had drawn around ourselves.

But of course, those lines are defining, and we want to snap immediately back into them.

Because otherwise, without thought and idea and identification, we are meaningless. (Or rather, y’know, we seem meaningless.)

If life is up to our subjective interpretation, then a lot of weight is put on our shoulders. Simply: it’s easier to follow the pre-written narrative. It instantly garners approval. The approval makes it feel like the “right” thing to do. But eventually, you lose yourself in the labyrinth of illusion. Every problem in your life will be nothing more than one you’ve made for yourself. We lose the grace of being and the simplicity of silencing the voice that wants to assign meaning.

There is nothing happening in your life beyond what is physically in front of you right now. The rest is nothing more than thoughts you have about things that happened, will happen, may be happening, or should happen. They don’t exist. They are illusions, and they are controlling your actions in the now. There’s an extraordinarily sobering quality to fully realizing the plainness of what is. It makes you want to make more of what isn’t. And while you’re making that shift, you suddenly realize you were in control of it all along. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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