Stepping Through Illusions

In a world of “virtual reality,” if I punch a brick wall, my hand does not shatter, because my hand is actually resting comfortably in a chair back in the “real world.” The brick wall is merely an illusion, an imaginary barrier presented to me by the computer program that creates the virtual world.

If, for some reason, I am unaware that I am in “virtual reality,” if I am unaware that the brick wall is an illusion, then my mind will not allow me to even try punching the wall with any conviction. In anticipation of injury and unbearable pain, I will always pull my punches. Thus, I actually participate in maintaining the illusion of the brick wall.

But if I am willing to suspend my belief in the reality of the wall, or if I already know that it is only an illusion, then I will be able to explore my true limitations within the virtual world. Once my mind no longer helps the illusion, I may find that I am not as confined as I once thought. Perhaps I will find that I can hit the wall as hard as I want, without pain or injury. Perhaps I will find that I can punch holes in the virtual brick. Or perhaps I will find that I can walk straight through. Once I free my mind of its expectations, I can begin to explore the true nature of the virtual world and my powers and potentials within that world. For those who have seen The Matrix, these ideas should sound very familiar.

All of this applies, not just to exploring “virtual reality,” but to exploring any reality within which we find ourselves. Our minds hold beliefs and expectations about our world, and those beliefs and expectations help to maintain and reinforce that world. If I believe that I can’t do something, then that belief increases the probability that I won’t do it. This is the power of doubts and fears in our lives. (Breaking boards or bricks in the martial arts is a perfect example.)

But if we are willing to suspend our beliefs and expectations about reality, we can begin to explore the truth about ourselves (our true potentials, powers, and abilities) and about reality (its true boundaries and limits). Perhaps we will find that most of our prior beliefs are valid. That’s fine, because even if we discover only one belief that is not valid, we will expand our world. At the other extreme, perhaps we will find that most of our reality exists only in our beliefs and expectations, specifically in our doubts and fears. If this is the case, then life will open up dramatically for us, in ways that we could never have dreamed.

The question is… “How do we suspend our prior beliefs and expectations?”

Often, we learn to see and step through our illusions by watching other people. Once someone proves that it can be done, it becomes much easier for us to set aside our own doubts and try it. The “unknown” loses some of it’s mystery this way, and the illusion begins to crack. This is exactly how we learn as children, but as adults, pride sometimes gets in the way. Watching and emulating other people provides an excellent and perfectly-valid “short-cut” for expanding one’s life. In fact, refusing such assistance would be foolish, because life is short, and greater challenges await each of us. There is no point in reinventing the wheel, as long as an appropriate role-model can be found.

However, for every new potential, there has to be one person who tries it first and succeeds, without any proof that it is possible. This person has nobody to follow and must suspend beliefs and expectations, doubts and fears, based solely on a vision (or dream) of a deeper, grander truth. Such people are the explorers of the frontiers of truth, and they act on something outside the confines of “knowledge” or “reality.” They act on faith and follow a dream. They fling themselves into the abyss of the unknown, in defiance of the illusion. Sometimes they fail, sometimes they even die, but sometimes they succeed, and “reality” is changed forever.

There are countless examples of such people throughout history. Some of them explored the physical frontiers of the Earth or space. Others explored the physical frontiers of the human body. Still others explored the frontiers of the mind, the heart, or the spirit. All of them explored the frontiers of truth.

There is absolutely no demand that we all become explorers, risking our lives to expand truth, but many people do feel drawn to the frontiers. After all, our modern culture has thrived on such efforts, and our country was founded on such ideals. The challenge for modern explorers is to choose their frontiers carefully. Exploring the unknown is risky, sometimes mortally so, so they must decide which aspects of “reality” are worth this risk to change. Should a potential explorer risk death to prove that humans really can bungie-jump from hot-air balloons, or should this eager soul wait for something a bit more meaningful and profound? I guess that decision must be made by the individual.

As a final note, I can’t help wondering if the growing number of “extreme athletes,” those people who risk their lives doing rather silly things, can be attributed to a lack of obvious frontiers in our modern world. The Earth has largely been explored. The human body has been pushed to extremes. Many frontiers do still exist, but they are not so glaringly apparent as an uncharted ocean or continent.

Ask yourself this: “What are my beliefs and expectations, my doubts and fears, and how do they define my reality and limit my abilities? Am I content with this, or do I want my reality and my truth to expand as I live?”

If you are not yet content, the first step is to look for the “short-cuts.” Find those role-models who have marked the trails to the places you seek. If you reach a point where no role-models seem to exist, then you may have found the frontier of truth, and only faith and a dream can carry you forward.