In March of 2020, as the world around me grew still with fear and foreboding, I had the sensation of coming untethered from my reality. I had formed my identity through my passion for photography. This was anchored in the freedom to move unhindered through the bustling, crowded streets of cities near and far, capturing truth in close observation
When the fog of COVID-19 rolled in and blanketed the world, I became lost. Dazed. Unable to see a way through. But, as I became accustomed to the strangeness that lockdown had brought, I began to wonder whether this was, in fact, the true nature of the world.
Einstein described reality as a persistent illusion. He wrote these words in a letter of condolence after the death of a close friend, just a few months before the end of his own life. In contemplating life and death, he considers the idea that, even though we cannot prove that anything actually exists outside of our own minds, we continue to believe in our illusions.
When our ego focuses on the narrative of our lives, we use the roles we inhabit to frame our reality, falling into a kind of dream-state of acceptance, one day blending with the next, moving through our lives as if in a trance. When that narrative is brutally interrupted and our certainties splinter and fall away, what is left? What truth can we find amidst the wreckage of our shattered realities?
For some of us, certainty about our own fixed reality gives a sense of security and safety, but if our focus is too narrow, our tunnel vision may blind us to the possibilities at the periphery. For others, the belief that our reality is fixed and permanent may feel more like an unbreakable trap. Limiting and restricting us with negative thoughts and feelings.
So, perhaps it could benefit us all to take the opportunity to stop -- in this time of nothingness -- and take stock of our mental health. Can we recharge and reflect? Perhaps this conscious reflection will encourage us to be more mindful of our emotions and prepare us for the next unforeseen event. When we directly experience the quality of the present moment, we step outside of the illusion, rising above the experience of simply being buoyed along by events that are out of our control. Mindfulness allows us to step out of the dream. We are no longer a helpless passenger.
In Buddhist teachings, recognising the illusions we have created for ourselves is an important step on the path to enlightenment. Letting go of these illusions gives us the freedom we need to live our lives more truthfully, more consciously, more fully.
We can become open to the changes we once feared or thought were beyond our capabilities. The tumultuous events of the last year have taught us that we cannot always control what is unfolding around us. But, perhaps we can choose how we respond to them. The ways in which we internalise them will shape our future lives.
The Buddha reminds us that "All is illusion. Your mind's projections onto reality are illusions".
I hope that you will find inner peace and truth in your existence and reality when your mind is free of illusion.