Recently on Twitter I posted a quote from Byron Katie which said, “I am a lover of what is, not because I’m a spiritual person, but because it hurts when I argue with reality.”
This post prompted one of my friends to question the nature of this reality, which Byron Katie was referring to.
I sort of dodged the question by quoting Ms. Katie again, “What’s true is always what’s happening, not the story about what should be happening.” I added that reality is “what is,” not what I wish it was or what I want it to be.
I also said I would write about the nature of reality, but I have not really been able to follow up on that promise. I find I am not able to write about reality because I am not clear about what it is. To me, the only thing that is real is that which cannot change.
Following this definition, my mind is not real because it changes all the time. My body is not real because I can’t even slow down the rate that it changes. Everything in the physical form is unreal because it comes and goes.
I do not think, however, that Byron Katie was suggesting we solve the riddle about the nature of reality when she stated, “When you argue with reality, you lose, but only 100% of the time.”
I feel fairly confident that she was speaking of a subjective concept of what is real and not inviting a theoretical inspection of quantum physics. As an example: 9-11 happened. Regardless of all the ideas, perceptions, and opinions about how and why the event occurred, the bottom line is that it did happen. The twin towers were taken down. That is the reality of the human experience in this dimension. All of the stories, people tell about the event, comprise the subjective reality. The fact that it happened is objective. In other words it is not really open for debate.
Earlier in my life, when I was a police officer, I learned very quickly that whenever an event happened all of the witnesses would have different stories, about what was real. When I would roll up on an accident scene, I would listen to many different versions of the circumstances which lead to the accident. It was my job to sort through all of those stories and find the truth, based on the physical evidence present. The reality of the accident was that two or more cars had collided; that fact could not be debated. Ideas about how and why that event happened were as varied as the observers.
The point is: Bryon Katie’s advice to “Love what is” does not depend on understanding the nature of reality at a quantum level. What her profound wisdom offers is a chance to live in peace by choosing not to resist “what is.”
Life happens. Loved ones are going to leave their physical bodies. Friends are going to host diseases in their physical form. Until there is some profound discovery that can extend the lifespan of the physical form, indefinitely, this will continue to be our reality. The suffering and sadness that accompanies the loss of a loved one is created by the mind that judges the loss as unfair or as too painful to endure. Consider Byron Katie’s thoughts about suffering: “You move totally away from reality when you believe that there is a legitimate reason to suffer.”
What happens in our lives is not the cause of our suffering. We suffer because we want things to be different from what they are. We suffer because we believe our thoughts. There is no need to debate the quantum “realness” of what we are experiencing, because it is not at the quantum level where we feel the pain and misery. That is created in our human minds. What is “real” to this mind is the object it is reacting to and the reaction itself. Simply proving, at some unseen level, that the object of the reaction is not real, does not erase the pain created by the reaction. If anyone needs proof of this simply consider some time when you have become anxious about some event which, in fact, never occurred. Worry is a perfect example of this. We worry when someone is not home when they should have been. Depending on the intensity of the addiction to this worry, we can create all types of suffering, based entirely on something “made up.”
Bryon Katie’s practice offers us freedom that is not available when we are owned by our thoughts. What is “real” is not as important as what is perceived to be real, when one is a slave to his/her thoughts. We cannot control our lives. What we can control is whether or not we believe our thoughts about what life brings. Listen to Bryon Katie again, “The end of suffering happens in this very moment, whether you’re watching a terrorist attack or doing the dishes. And compassion begins at home. Because I don’t believe my thoughts, sadness can’t exist.”
While I enjoy playing with imagining the nature of the holographic universe and find the discoveries of the quantum scientists fascinating, none of that wisdom eases the suffering I experience when a loved one dies, if I believe that the death is real. It is my belief that I have lost someone which creates the pain, not the actual death. My investment in “what that loss means to me” is what perpetuates my suffering.
Consider these two statements from Albert Einstein, arguably one of the brightest minds in our recent human history:
- As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.
- Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.
The true nature of reality may or may not ever be “known” to us. It is not necessary that we understand reality in order to benefit from Byron Katie’s brilliant teaching. The belief that suffering is necessary is very similar to the belief that worrying is a part of being alive. Just because something is a human tendency does not make it necessary.
Having thoughts is not a problem. That is one of the many gifts we enjoy because we are human. I experience suffering because I believe my thoughts. By simply refusing to believe my thoughts, I open myself to the possibility of life without the pain of suffering. If you find you must believe in some thought, believe the quote in the picture at the start of this writing. Believing that the Universe is benevolent and is always assisting us offers great freedom.