Mirror of Zen Blog

Only Real to You

It has often happened that someone will come to me and report, “Sunim, you appeared in a dream I had last night. You said some very difficult things to me/very harsh things to me/very strong things to me/very bad things to me. I was very hurt/very shocked/very angry/very frightened.” (There are quite a few variations on the menu of dreams and strange interactions.)

There’s not much to reply to that but an “Oh, really?”

“Yes, and I am still very upset at you for that.”

This happened a lot more in Korea than it has happened here in the West. This might be due to that culture giving an inordinate amount of meaning to dreams as portents of things happening or “about to happen” down here in awakened reality.

But there have been people who have literally had a hard or difficult or changed experience with me — for that day, or for some period going forward — as a result of things that they have experiencing “me” doing or saying in their dream-state. And then there are all of the other unrealities that get projected on you from what people react to or imagine in their eyes-wide-open dream-states of semi-conscious life, bouncing around within activities and their daily flow. Perhaps this is an experience common to other “teachers” or “guides”. It certainly must be.

It might be helpful to print out the above graphic as a card to hand people in these situations. It would definitely save lots of O2. It could be totally useful in a whole range of encounters. We are certainly interconnected, and when I am not behaving with clarity, I definitely do have some real responsibility for fostering in someone else a mind-state that should be real to me, if I have caused it through some sort of willful blindness. For sure.

But as the ancient philosopher Epictetus (c. 50 – c. 135 CE) said, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” We all bump up against each other in this life, and sometimes painfully so. It is really each and every one of our own responsibilities to have mindfulness that we do not project that “reaction” back onto another person and attempt to convince them that it is the reality you both share. To experience this is one of the most tiring things in the world.

People think that those who get a little insight — much less a profound awakening — are no longer “bothered” by the narrow handicaps of others. But no — it is quite the opposite, sometimes: The narrowness of some other’s entrapment, if they hold it as their precious treasure or — much worse — their weapon, can present a truly excruciating level of discomfort in the ears of one whose life is really no longer interested in ascribing any sort of substantial meaning or “reality” to such shadowy delusion, either in himself or in others.

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