Photography Blog

Life as it is

In Buddhism, in Vipassana meditation, we are taught to look at reality as it is. To get out of suffering, we learn that we must learn to observe life and see it for what it truly is beyond the veils of our own wishful thinking, selfishness, ignorance, desperate grasping, etc. When I first learned about this concept, I had very little capability to grasp it. I probably thought at that time that I understood, but now that I am experiencing this truth on a higher plane, I can say that my previous “understanding” was at most a shallow one. 

How can I put my new understanding into words? It’s so hard. 

I haven’t always looked at reality as it is. Often I have tried to escape from reality by distracting myself with various new preoccupations. Or I get sucked into existing preconceptions and perceptions of this world, perceptions that are merely passed down to me from countless others, and I accept them without filtering them through my own bullshit filter. Why? Because sometimes these perceptions benefit me, or make me feel right, and therefore make me feel good. I often surprise myself by how judgemental, self-centred and self-obsessed I am. And it is only with clear-eyed observation that I realise all these things about myself, even though I have always liked to think of myself as a good person.

Not that I am judging myself to be a bad person. I am just acknowledging the fact that I am a flawed human being, that’s all. But what’s interesting is now I’m learning to see myself for who I am, and not who I want to be. And strangely it has been… liberating.

Which brings me to another point. 

When planning for the future, or trying to decide what to do with my life, I have always relied on one thing: my imagination. And this is a new revelation for me, because I never realised I was doing this. Whatever I have planned for myself to do in future, very often it is the result of what I imagine would make me seem cool, interesting, etc. Maybe that’s why I have always liked the IDEA of doing certain things rather than doing the thing itself, and that is a very dangerous, unhealthy habit. Because that means I gravitate to doing certain things not because I like doing it but because I like the IDEA of myself doing it. As a result I often don’t get as much enjoyment out of an activity as I should.

So now, I try to filter my wants and desires and weird ideas through my little bullshit filter. I am trying to listen to my inner voice, and the difference now is that this inner voice is a little less tethered to my ego, my ego that is forever wanting to look cool to other people, and to do meaningful things just because I think it’d be awesome to do meaningful things. That’s a really crappy reason to do meaningful things.

I want to listen to this less ego-fied inner voice of me tell me what I should genuinely gravitate towards. And I think one way is to try out different things and see what sticks, what fits. The other thing is to not do things just for the sake of leading a “meaningful life”. Thats not how meaning works, I think.

Sometimes I have also been kind because I want the gratification of being kind. I have helped because what would it look like if I didn’t help? But I want to stop all that crap and start being more authentic, more real than ever before. Because the truth is even though we don’t know it, many of us live wrapped up in our own lies and justifications. We spin this web so as to protect our fragile egos, so our egos don’t break. But there is nothing in the world that sucks more than being a fake, hypocritical person.

Reading Parker J. Palmer’s book “Let Your Life Speak” really influenced me a lot. His little book helped shift me in this new direction. There are a lot of heroes in the world today - the media feeds us a diet of heroes on a daily basis. And often we want to emulate these heroes, uphold the same values as they do, but if these values are not OUR values, then we risk living an inauthentic life. I thoroughly agree with him on that. I don’t have to be a Martin Luther King or an Obama to be a good human being and to live a meaningful life worth written about by biographers. If it is a small life that I am meant to live, a small life it will be, but no matter how small a life, I will still have my own little victories.

Rebecca TohComment