Experience Deviates from Our Interpretation of It

Published on June 2, 2016, by in Uncategorized.

As human beings, we are in a near constant state of interpretation, conceptually mapping and modeling what is happening here experientially. [In fact, even the notion that we are "human beings" is itself an interpretation, but that's a matter for another post!] In and of itself, the fact that we are conceptually and linguistically rendering experience is not a problem. It appears to be what we do, quite naturally. However, what creates the lion’s share of the unrest and suffering we experience is mistaking our interpretations and resulting definitions of reality for reality. In short, we believe the interpretations as true, imagining our ideas about experience accurately represent it when in truth, those ideas are merely ideas, approximations or conceptual oversimplifications of something (the field of experience) that simply cannot be reduced or collapsed into any interpretive framework, no matter how seemingly accurate or true it might be.

Freedom from this innocent tendency we have to believe that our mental interpretations of reality (i.e., our points of view about it) accurately represent what it is can be realized by exploring the ways in which the interpretations deviate not just somewhat but completely from the actuality they endeavor to define. We don’t need to stop interpreting; that’s probably not even possible. But we can see the interpretations as interpretations and stop mistaking them for truth.

Here are several examples of the ways in which experience deviates from our beliefs about it:

While we think of ourselves (and the apparent world) in terms of an inside and an outside, experience has no discernible inside or outside to it.

Conventionally speaking, we conceive of things as having a beginning and end. However, no clear beginning or end to experience can actually be found to exist.

We imagine that the people, places and things we experience have continuity and coherence, being more or less what they were a moment ago. But experientially nothing actually lasts; experiences never repeat themselves, each flash instant being utterly distinct from the next.

While we believe in the existence of things that persist over time, in reality experiences have zero duration; each thought, feeling and sensation literally vanishes no sooner than it appears.

We conceive of a world that is divided into this, that and the other thing. And yet in the field of experience, no actual lines, seams or divisions can be located.

Conventionally, we think of reality in terms of past, present and future. But in direct experience there is only ever this flash instant. No before or after can be found experientially.

We imagine that things have a kind of stable, static nature. However, experience is utterly dynamic. Reality is always changing, never holding still for even a nanosecond.

While spatially we conceive of ourselves as being “here” and the world as existing “out there,” in actual experience, “here” and “there” cannot be located or distinguished.

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