The world is empty of meaning or truth, before we come along and project our human concepts onto it.
This nugget of wisdom is a commonality between Buddhism, and the American philosophical tradition known as pragmatism. The stories we tell ourselves about how the world is, or how things exist out there, are nothing but habituated patterns of thinking that help us to cope.
We feel the need to cope to a greater (science-based) or lesser (dogmatic religion-based) extent with the sheer nothingness of Being.
You could say we live in a network of fictions, fictions that nevertheless function to give our lives meaning and significance. Some fictions are liberating, some not so much. Examples of the latter might be the fiction that we live in the best of all possible societies, that the nuclear family is the most “natural” form of family, that McDonald’s McNuggets are made with real chicken, or that the resolution of our internal turmoils is realized through a manipulation of external factors.
Even the notion of reality has shifted and changed over time, showing us just how fluid and malleable the world is.
If we accept this wisdom and get over mourning the loss of some “big R” Reality “holding things down”, we begin to understand our radical potential. We may then begin to ask ourselves significant questions. Is my fiction functioning? Are the range of concepts and prejudices I rely on to make sense of the world helping or inhibiting me? Are my ideas connecting me to others, or alienating me in stagnant cynicism?
If the answers to these questions leave us daydreaming of wrists and razor blades, it is likely time to deconstruct old fictions for the sake of some new ones.
We, and the people in our worlds, would likely benefit if we dropped a few of those nonsense narratives we tell ourselves about who we think we are. The stories that often make us angry, jaded, and resentful. Why not create a new narrative? Paint a new portrait of how the world can be? After all, we are all artists, though so many of us remain blind to this fact.
We are all seekers of truth, a truth that we only find when we begin to write it.
A yoga practice is just one of many possible methods to shake up the habits of body and mind, to create the space from which to see that all is not as it seems. Seeing that things are radically open to our creative efforts, instead of static and concrete, can take courage, time, and virya, or joyful effort.
While beginning to see things anew, we must at the same time be wary of slipping into narcissistic nihilism, the kind of thinking that says, Nothing is real, so no one else matters. It takes a wisdom often acquired through suffering to realize that no story which separates us from other people will get us where we want to go.
To quote Anais Nin, as I often do, “We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are.” So seeing ourselves as kind, open, compassionate and wise, we know that the world will follow suit.
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Apprentice Editor: Chrissy Tustison / Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: via Flickr