When I have tinnitis, I hear a ringing nobody else hears.
When my retina is detached and then repaired, straight lines are wavy and the moon looks like a cluster of grapes.
With my cataract, the traffic light looks like a three-leafed clover.
When my hallucinations are acting up, I think someone is shouting and touching me.
My leg was amputated, but I can still feel the pain in my foot.
Somebody told me I have B.O. and bad breath, but I don’t smell anything.
Growing up, we learn to rely on our senses to map reality. Normally, they work so well that we just assume that what we perceive is reality. Roses are red. Violets are of a hue of that portion of the spectrum that may be evoked in the normal observer by radiant energy of wavelengths approximately 420 nanometers, but not exactly blue. We think we know what an old shoe smells like, but our cat seems to be extracting much more information from the scent. What are we missing? Dogs hear those whistles that we can’t. Bugs can apparently see parts of the light spectrum that we don’t. Watching an airplane warm up it’s engines, we can see that the propellers are turning, and then they seem to reverse directions, and then they become virtually invisible. We don’t get it, but we accept it and eventually, we fail to even notice the wonder of it.
Normally, our senses are so well integrated with our brain function that we accept that what we see, hear, feel, taste or smell is real. We look at the sky and say that it is blue, and everybody agrees with that, so we accept that it is blue. But that blueness depends on the quality of the lens in our eye, the effectiveness of our retina in registering the color, the ability for our optic nerve to get the nerve impulses to the brain, and the brain's ability to interpret the impulses and give us consciousness of blue. The sky is blue, but more accurately, the blue is in the interface between our brain and the light reflected from gases and particles in the atmosphere.
“So what?” you say. Well, it doesn’t really matter if you don’t mind living in the illusion. But if you want to look beyond the veil of Maya, the realm of illusion, you can find a truth that can take you to a deeper understanding of reality, of our place in the universe, of what the universe is and who we really are.
In meditation, we can see the mind working. In stillness, we reduce the stimulation of the senses. Images come up and we can readily see that they are illusory products of mental activity. In a state of deep calm wakefulness, we may be able to recognize the work our brain does in giving us perception and awareness. Going deeper, we may gain understanding of the nature of consciousness. We may see the light beyond what we see with our eyes. Be quiet. Sit still. Look behind your eyes and see what is beneath the light and dark.
© 2005 Tom Barrett