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People often talk about reality as if it is a fact. That there is only one reality and that every viewpoint that contradicts this reality is therefore …well… wrong.

Sounds good, doesn’t work.

If this were true and there was only one objective reality, that would mean that this would be the only way that everybody and anybody would see things. That’s what would make it objective. Free from opinions and viewpoints and just the way it is.

It is true that all we know objectively is through the mind.

Rupert Spira

Where it gets tricky is that in the search for enlightenment, we come to realize that there actually is only one reality. One consciousness. While I do believe this to be true, the problem is that we, as ego-driven, non-awakened beings, do not see this one reality. We see our own illusions and perceive them as reality. We perceive our own personal reality through the filters in our minds.

Personal reality

The reality that we perceive is literally different for every person out there. Yes… every single person out of the current 7.8 billion people. If this wasn’t the case, then there would never be an argument, a miscommunication, a dispute, or any form of disagreement. If people all saw things the same way then what would there be left to be right or wrong about?

The problem arises when we take this reality, which only we can see, and then project it onto everyone else out there. Making our own personal reality the only correct way to look at things. Therefore, anyone who doesn’t see it our way is wrong. This is of course by definition a flawed way to see things since everyone’s reality is only that way for them.

It gets even worse when large groups of people have a certain part of their perceived realities in common. This only emphasizes to the individual that their way of seeing things is the “real reality”. Why else would other people see it the same way right? They might agree on a certain viewpoint and if this is about something harmless like “the color orange” then there is no problem. However, when this is something more harmful like “white people are superior” or “there is only one true religion”, then serious issues can, and usually do, arise. If these groups also grow large enough in size, then anyone who challenges their views will be deemed insane, out of touch with “reality”.

Objective reality

The dictionary defines objective as: not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts.

This is clearly not the case when talking about perceived reality, as all realities are influenced by personal feelings and/or opinions. These different ways of seeing things can come from any source; upbringing, culture, society, friends, family, experiences… basically anything and everything in your entire life has shaped and will continue to shape your perceived reality.

What we need to realize first is that this goes for everyone. Me. You. Everyone. Second, we need to stop thinking in terms of deciding who is right or wrong. Obviously, some viewpoints are harmful and don’t contribute in a positive way to the quality of life in general. As with anything in life it must start with ourselves though. Making other people wrong won’t change anything. Therefore, the first step must be to become conscious of this principle of there being no objective reality. Understanding that everyone sees things through their own filters, and not one filter is exactly the same as another.

How can we use this in daily life?

In short: the way you see reality is not how anyone else sees reality.

If we realize that the reality we perceive is only real to ourselves and nobody else and that this goes for everyone else as much as it does for ourselves, then maybe we can find it easier to understand where people are coming from. Or at least open up to learning where their notion of reality is coming from.

When we realize that the other person, in their mind, is just as right about what is being perceived as we are in ours, then perhaps we can enter into a discussion with a more interested, open mind than if we assume the other person is wrong, that they are seeing a false reality.

The notion that there are 7.8 billion realities out there, and every single person is only able to see one of them, can perhaps make it easier for us to understand why we don’t always agree. Again, some viewpoints are of course more productive than others, and obviously, some ways of perceiving reality are more harmful than others. This mental exercise is about opening up to the other person, in order to have a meaningful discussion, instead of devolving into a blame game. The only way to facilitate change for someone who is stuck in a fixed, harmful mindset, is to start by not judging them for it.

If we can challenge ourselves to try to understand what shaped their reality, then maybe we can help them towards a more productive and beneficial way of seeing reality and in turn a more prosperous and happy life. However, to gain understanding, we must give understanding and compassion first.

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