Most of us fail to see reality. We see things as we believe them to be, or wish them to be.
Examples are all around us. Whether it’s religious beliefs, or political affiliations, or our sense of beauty or ugliness. Discrimination based on colour or community stems from this.
Our beliefs arise from our upbringing, experiences and expectations. The reality, however, may be vastly different.
Our world view is coloured, so is our self-image. In most cases, the truth is there for all to see, but we refuse to accept is because it may not match our perception of health or beauty.
There are so many well-known people, who do not accept their appearance. Popstar Michael Jackson indulged in a variety of facial modifications to appear fairer.
For instance, ageing is a reality none can escape. However, many want to delay or deny it.
A multi-billion-dollar industry thrives on this tendency – anti-ageing creams and medications, Botox, plastic surgery, alternative medicines and exotic practices.
To accept reality, we first need to explore the world. This can happen on various levels.
We can travel extensively and discover that culture, language, belief systems, religion, and social norms vary. All of them are real for the people living in that space.
We can also explore the spiritual world. Some choose meditation to explore their inner reality and confront the emotional dregs of past experiences.
They may thus clean up their past and create a new, refreshed reality that is unbiased by emotional baggage.
While others may seek the help of a therapist. They explore their reality with the help of a guide and break through barriers created by the mind.
In the Eastern world, people seek the guidance of a ‘guru’ – and there are many. Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs found their guru in the Himalayas – Neem Karoli Baba – who gave them clarity and a mission.
The Beatles too travelled to India and spent time with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a spiritual guru.
Ancient Hindu philosophy views the world as an ‘illusion’. Buddhists say the root cause of all misery is desire and attachment.
Denial is the opposite of reality
We are all familiar with denial. In fact, it is a symptom of the compromised judgement of addicts and alcoholics. For any recovery to be initiated, denial has to be broken.
The individual has to accept his condition to start the recovery process. Denial is also apparent in other painful situations.
When the individual doesn’t want to accept the reality of his condition, such as a life-threatening disease, he or she first slips into denial – This cannot happen to me!
One of the most common denials is old age. Many people refuse to accept their age and related health and mental issues.
They strive to regain their youthful status. A major medical industry thrives on this. When all treatments and medications fail, they are left feeling miserable.
Acceptance is the key to happiness
It needs a keen and calm mind to accept reality. What we see and feel right now is the reality. It will change the next moment.
Just as a river appears the same every time, we look at it, but in reality, it is different every second. The water we saw a moment ago has flowed down, its new water right now.
There are many things we need to accept and not strive to change.
Acceptance is the key to happiness.
Stay rooted in your acceptance, do not try to change things you cannot change. As the Serenity Prayer written by American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971):
God, grant me the Serenity
To accept the things I cannot change
Courage to change the things I can
And Wisdom to know the difference.