As I conclude what arguably could be a “series without end,” I realize that so much of my thinking about the illusion of Life began in childhood. I have recounted the Hall of Mirrors story; as I presented that tale, my mind began to corral the multiplicity of thoughts and awarenesses that have always accompanied me. From my loyal and mischievous “imaginary” friend, Bootsie, to my favorite books (try a re-read of Harold and the Purple Crayon), to magical moments sitting in a tree when I began to sense and play with the energies of Nature: If I had to thematically designate my karmic and destined path, Knowing and Mystery would prevail, and they would contentedly coexist.
There have been moments throughout my lifetime that I lunged excitedly, hoping to seize a secret-from-beyond that seemed to be revealing itself to me through sleeping or waking dreams. As one with a “good memory,” I would be amazed to find soon thereafter that the epiphany had vaporized; no anchor of consciousness moored it to my brain. What surprised me further was that I was immediately accepting of the void. Early on, I uttered what has become a constant near-mantra: “We are not supposed to know…” The ease with which I was able to acknowledge the realms of energy outside of the earthly and human incarnations deepened the feeling of calmness and security that I seem to have with Mystery, the not-knowingness of Life.
The technological gargantuan of today’s 21st century world clashes furiously with any allowance for not-knowing. My use of the word “technology” is my own shorthand for the use of various devices to perform mundane tasks in what seems to be the most efficient manner. To pay bills online; to text message when you can not speak; to check in with “breaking news;” to shop for household items… None of these things were possible during the first half of my life, and I mourn the feeling of rootedness and attunement that resulted from that more tangible and perceptible time.
The earlier era to which I refer of course was and is part of the totality of illusion that is Life; however, a feeling of predictable “simplicity” (which was nothing compared to its predecessor centuries of no applied electricity or indoor plumbing) streamed through most days. Wars broke out, tragedies occurred, economies sank; yet the “reality” of daily living seemed less fraught. Any sense of suffering resulted from specific events or particular circumstances.
Today, however, angst and anxiety seem to reverberate continuously and globally. The advent of social media and its army of related devices is in large part responsible for an exaggerated sense of duality, confusion, and illusion. As tech wizards purport a stronger connectedness and enhanced communication in the earthly realm, the universe sways and tilts in response: Our rapid attachment to the illusions perpetuated by tech devices disconnects us from the power of subtle realms and restricts our ability to elevate unconscious knowing to conscious awareness.
In some of my earlier articles, I addressed the nature and effects of the Aquarian Age. Certainly, the qualities therein contribute to the pervasive feelings of uneasiness that accompany existing in the world today. That cosmological component represents and underscores the need to accept that which we cannot see. Yet the “suffering” that arises need not be accepted so readily, in that we can manage how acutely we feel it, or how deeply we allow it to burrow into our being.
From a yogic perspective, suffering is the result of four states: change, longing, habit, and gunas (roughly, physical conditions). When we break down the “causes of suffering,” it becomes apparent that tech devices slide easily into the framework:
Change: Rapid shifts from device to device, focal points of attention; ever-changing stream of information, ideas, trends, suggestions, critiques, etc. Also: Ongoing need to update or acquire new device. Incessant change with little time to process or adapt.
Longing: Need to know, have to have, want to see, urge to match/better others, etc. Also: attachment to devices; anxiety when separated from technology.
Habits: The aforementioned causes trigger the habit of keeping in touch/up to date, etc. For most of us, the device and its wealth of communication and information have become woven into daily routine. As we eat, wash, walk, drive, work, play: We are “hooked in,” without realizing that in an attempt to monitor Life, we have succumbed to a habit that further fosters the illusion.
Gunas (physical body issues): Hand, wrist, shoulder, neck pain; eye strain; headaches, adrenalin, cortisol increase, increased heart rate/blood pressure, potential damage to ears if high volumes used too often.
Special note: The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali reflect upon these four illusions (kleshas). Buddhism discusses suffering in much the same way, albeit with some variation. This post, however, intends not to compare or debate eastern philosophies; rather, it is designed to induce curiosity and encourage possibility.
Note that the causes of suffering intertwine and feed off of and into each other. Part of the practice of meditation is to develop the willingness and ability to accommodate duality: With those capacities, one is better positioned to discern the individual cause of suffering (i.e., to separate the “main culprit” from the synergistic interplay of the combined bunch). As we exist within the illusion that is Life, part of our task is to discern the moments when we roam too far astray from awareness of the illusory world around us.
Technology easily seduces and deludes; to be beholden to its lures provides fertile soil for the deepening of duality. I do not wish, however, to rail unequivocally against technology; rather, I highlight tech devices to exemplify how duality and illusion can overcome us when unchecked. I contend that to address the abundance of technology and social media in our lives is a direct road to the attenuation of suffering.
I sense an awakening to the underpinnings of these ideas. Already, people have identified a need for “device detox,” or specific periods of time when they forego the need to be “connected” at all costs. These are the bright openings through which one can identify personal sources of “suffering,” and thus address them. If and when a sense of overwhelm permeates your mind or daily routines, it is possible to step away from the fray, to merge with your preferred physical or spiritual practice, and to allow the eternal interplay of Illusion and Reality to take place within and around you, rather than against you.