If you want to live a meaningful life that is more in touch with reality, begin developing your spiritual self. There is far more reality in our spiritual space than we may realize.
My 8-year-old son came home with a very interesting image a few days ago. It had two words, reality, and fantasy. I’ll have the image posted on the episodes page, beginningwithin.com/podcast/030, for you to take a look at. The way the two words were shaped, when you flipped and inverted the word fantasy, you can see the word reality spelled. It made me think of how often we see a reality which is truly a fantasy or we perceive something to be a fantasy when it’s the reality.
There’s a brief incident related in the Talmud. Rabbi Joseph who took ill and slipped into a comatose state. This may be the first recorded out of body experience. When he regained consciousness, his father asked him what he saw. He said to his father, “I saw an upside-down, inverted world.” “What is given great value in this world is of low value in heaven. What is of low value in this world is given great value in the next world.”
Along these lines, I’ll share another quote which can shed some light on this piece of Talmud and the fantasy/reality image. This is a quote from Rabbi Chaim Miller’s book, The Practical Tanya, Chapter 1. “I possess two sorts of consciousness, two ways of interpreting the meaning of reality. My Animal Soul conceives the world purely in terms of sensory perception, the visual and the empirical. Since my five senses cannot directly experience the spiritual or the Divine, my Animal Soul mistakenly views itself as possessing an independent existence from G-d and has a self-centered orientation. My second, Divine Soul interprets the world through the more abstract lens of contemplation. It attempts to discern the truth of things beyond their deceptive appearance, believing that the direct experience of the senses is short-sighted. Its natural tendency is to be drawn to its source. The task of my Divine Soul is to enlighten my Animal Soul about its erroneous Perception and to teach it the truth beyond its limited sensory faculties.”
I have to say that the Talmudic story and this clear explanation from Rabbi Miller instruct much of my life. It reminds me that too often things are quite the opposite of the way they look and maturity is knowing this in real time, now, and basing my decisions on this knowledge. There are many examples of how our external selves believe one thing while our internal selves know better than that. We all know that money doesn’t bring happiness, yet we make many decisions as if it does. We all know that people on their deathbed don’t wish they’d spent one more day at work, yet we often choose one more day at work over many other meaningful options. This is all because we live in an upside down world, an inverted reality where the physical and material seem so true that even when we know otherwise, we struggle to let go.
The anthropologist Matt Cartmill once said, “As an adolescent, I aspired to lasting fame, I craved factual certainty, and I thirsted for a meaningful vision of human life — so I became a scientist. This is like becoming an archbishop so you can meet girls.” I’m not sure this is exactly what he intended but I would say that if you want to live a meaningful life that is more in touch with reality, begin developing your spiritual self. There is far more reality in our spiritual space than we may realize.
Here’s another way that G-d reminds us of how deceptive the physical world is. You may have heard that the images formed on your eye’s retina are upside-down. Our brain works very hard at flipping the image so we see it right side up. This is why simply closing your eyes for a few minutes can give you a well-needed rest.
Your brain can be retrained, though. In one psychological study, participants were asked to wear inverting lenses – lenses that invert the image before they get to your eye, so when your eye inverts it, it’s right-side-up. At first, everything appeared upside-down to the participants. But, after a few days, people began to report that everything appeared right-side-up! As a second part of the study, the people were asked to take the glasses off. Now that they are used to the lenses, their NORMAL vision appeared upside-down!! Within a day, though, their vision returned to normal. The reason you don’t see everything upside-down, then, is simply because it’s easier to think about right-side-up!
Now, who came up with this design? Why not just have the eye see right side up and save a lot of brain power? Science can explain how the eye works as I just demonstrated. Spirituality, on the other hand, can explain why, what’s the meaning behind it. The only part of our experience we first take in upside down is our vision. Do you hear the meaning I do? Don’t be fooled by your physical experience, there are many more dimensions of reality floating around and within you which physical tools cannot capture or measure. Just like your brain has the ability to flip any image it sees, you have the ability not to be deceived by the false impressions of the physical world. And as I always like to add, the greatest beneficiary of practicing this is you. It will deepen all you experience in life because you’ll be operating on a deeper platform.
So G-d gives us an annual holiday which we call Purim. One of its main themes is v’nehapoch hu, how a sequence of events seemed to be going one way and ended up going an entirely different way. Only someone with a deeper perspective would’ve given consideration to such a possibility.
There is physical maturity and there is spiritual maturity. Physical maturity comes on its own and remains relatively shallow. Spiritual maturity comes through effort, revisiting what appears to be so true, and gives you a life of depth and richness.
So I leave you with this question, “What is one thing you are doing on an ongoing basis to become more spiritually mature?”