There’s a difference between what something is and what we think it is. Rather, there’s a difference between the idea that anything is and the awareness that everything is illusory.

It sounds abstract and impractical, but it’s a truth that runs steady through the things that seem to matter most to us: we don’t get over someone just because they’re gone, we get over them when we get over the illusion that we still have to grieve. We don’t wake up one day and start loving ourselves, we start realizing that the reasons we didn’t were false beliefs illogically held. We compare ourselves to others to craft these ideas, we narrate our lives through the minds of others because the illusion of their perception, when we create it in our minds, is one we can control.

And we need to feel that control. When we can affirm (or rather, we can choose to assume and believe) that someone else’s perception of reality aligns with ours we find an unprecedented calmness and belonging. We have steady ground on which we can finally rest — we’re not crazy, this is real, this does matter. We matter.

We create our illusions because we need them.

Imaginary things are easier to see because they don’t need to be in front of us for us to believe in them. They always exist. They’re always there to comfort us and let us live the lives we imagine we want.

But that’s the problem: when the illusion isn’t the truth, the two collide eventually. The illusion just limits us.

So the comfort dwindles and discord arises and we find we are anxious and blocked and irrationally upset — we go to war with our illusions. We start destroying the physical because it’s easier to kill a man than a ghost. We tear our lives down piece by piece and for a second, we’re liberated. We’re in the light. We’ve let go. We know that nothing matters. For a brief second, we just are.

Until the letting go leaves us in the illusion of nothingness. And so we create another one.

The intangible things that are present in our lives are the things we don’t think we can go on without. The illusions we have to live with so we can go on with living.

We eventually realize that all things are myriads of expressions of distorted ideas, and that all things are the simple alignment of the illusions we perceive and how the world reflects them back to us. That happiness always came from getting the things we thought the illusion would like, and that unhappiness was realizing that receiving them filled the void and then we crafted another illusion to replace it. All unlasting, false things are products of this, and the only way to transcend them is to simply be aware.

The past is rosy because the illusion shifted as we did. Our lives are only ever projections of ourselves. Any tension over a given situation immediately dissipates as soon as we look at it from another perspective because all of a sudden we realize that our perception was just one of them — and we weren’t necessarily right.

It’s impossible to let go of the things that only exist in your mind. The only thing you can do is be aware that they’re there. The only thing you can do is ask the questions, challenge the beliefs, put assumptions and certainties on the table and dismantle them. Question what you were taught. Question the whole and the core and the root and the things that have otherwise gone unquestioned.

The greatest secret of life is realizing that these things aren’t part of us. They aren’t natural. As easily as we created our illusions we can get rid of them, we just have to be aware that they are just that. Ideas.

If you don’t, you end up living in the illusion that others have created for you. And you’ll call it “reality.”

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