Elon Musk recently said there’s a “one in billions” chance that we’re not living in some kind of simulated reality. In other words, he’s almost certain that you and I are reading this article within a universe created by an incredibly advanced artificial intelligence.
Now, I’m not here to debate whether or not we’re living in The Matrix. Physicists and philosophers have been debating some form of that question for a very long time. The ancients said, “All is maya.” Everything is an illusion. When Mr. Musk made his comment, he was really restating something that mystics have been saying for thousands of years.
Science and spirituality are beginning to collide.
Now, rather than debating the “truth” of the idea that we’re living in a virtual world, which by the way, no one seems to be able to prove or disprove, what happens when we “try on” the idea that everything is not as it seems?
That’s what I’ve been doing for the last 15 minutes, and I feel like, if this is a virtual reality, I just leveled-up about 16 times. With one simple practice, I went beyond meditation and mindfulness and tasted the realm of transcendence.
As I began the practice (which I’ll write-up below), the first thing I noticed was that reality, virtual or not, suddenly sprang into focus. Things became vivid and bright. It was like waking up in a dream. I was much more aware of the texture and the feel of things. As I explored this strange, new world I began to be amazed. The intricacy! The detail! This was a masterful creation. There was so much richness and beauty around me that I’d been ignoring. I was looking at the world as if for the very first time.
As I opened the door to go outside, I noticed that the stress that had been in my space moments before was gone. While admiring the reality around me, I had let something go. Illusion. I continued walking in the virtual world and found myself smiling at first, then laughing as awareness broke through.
It’s just a game! I had been upset about a game! I had been afraid of a game! None of my problems are real! I’ve been worrying about nothing!
The first realization excited me.
If this is a game, I can do anything I want. I can be whoever I want. What happened twenty years ago is of no more importance than what happened twenty seconds ago. In the game, there is only This Moment. Nothing matters except what I’m doing Right Now.
The second realization set me free.
These were all ideas I’d heard before, but now I was experiencing them. I was living them. And that little difference was everything.
We’ve all heard the expression, “He lives in his own little world,” but what does that actually mean? I remember when my daughter was three and she saw a man getting yelled at on TV. She started crying.
“Why are you crying?” I asked her.
“That man is being mean!” she said.
“That man is being mean to me” is what she meant. To a kid, we’re all one. When you yell at someone, you’re yelling at the kid. When you’re nice to someone, you’re nice to the kid. It’s not until we begin falling under the illusions of the ego that we start experiencing separation.
Separateness is one of the first filters we put up to start building “our own little worlds.” As time goes by, we create more filters. I am shy. People aren’t nice to me. Things don’t work out for me. I’m just unlucky. Guys are jerks. Money is hard to come by.
Each belief we adopt creates another filter through which we view reality. By the time we’re adults, we have so many filters up, that we each live in our own little words, each radically different from the next, each completely made up. We don’t live in reality, we all live in virtual realities. I’m not shy, I just believe that I am. And I’m viewing the world through that belief. All my beliefs create a great veil that covers the world as it really is. I live in illusion, but I swear up and down that I don’t. “No, I really am this way! The world really is harsh! Life really is unfair!” I view the world through a set of filters called ego.
But then Elon Musk came along and inadvertently pulled the plug on my ego’s VR headset. He said it’s almost certain I’m living in a virtual reality. So when I began viewing the world as a virtual world, a curious thing happened. All my filters dropped. In order to step into a virtual world, I had to step out of the world I was in. Everything I believed about myself and about the world got suspended because by accepting the world as virtual, I was rejecting the world that I thought I knew. When we view the world as a virtual reality, we leave the false reality that we’ve been caught up in and begin to experience the world as it really is.
As I continued “trying on” the idea that I was in a simulation, filters continued to fall.
Guys aren’t jerks. I’m not shy. Money is easy to come by. Things always work out for me. I’m the luckiest guy in the world. None of this real!
Feelings of freedom and power welled up inside me. Lifelong habits and crippling ways of being vanished like fog before the light of awareness. I felt like a kid again. The weight of my world was gone, and I was unburdened, unleashed, and transformed.
My neighbor was walking her dog, slowly passing by along the sidewalk in front of our house. I’d seen her do this every day for the last couple of years, and I’d never spoken to her. But now I realized she was another player inside the game. She was an avatar inside my world.
By this point in the exercise, all traces of fear were gone, and I was overflowing joy.
“Goooood morning!” I sang to her from the porch, radiating bliss as I sang. “How are you?!”
“What? Oh. Good morning,” she replied.
She looked at me again, doing a double-take when she saw my goofy grin.
She shook her head. I don’t know what she said to herself as she continued her walk, but I saw her smiling.
As I continued my exploration of this virtual world, at some point I noticed my mind had gone completely still. The monkey-mind, that great enemy of meditation, mindfulness, and really, of life, had all but vanished. I’d gone from zero to zen and the stillness that followed was glorious.
I concluded the exercise. Fifteen minutes had passed. In fifteen minutes, I felt like I’d spent fifteen days in meditation.
If this was all just a game, as Elon Musk implied, from now on, I was going to enjoy the game. I was going to take risks, live boldly, and have as much fun is possible.
And if this was the real world, well…
I realized I was going to do the same.
Mindfulness Practice: Exploring virtual reality
Time required: 15 minutes
Expected results: freedom from stress and anxiety, stillness of mind, transformation
How to do it:
“Try on” the idea that you have just woken up within a virtual reality. Your life up until now is simply your backstory. Since it’s your first time playing this game, you’ll want to do a bit of exploring. Go for a walk and admire the detail of this virtual environment. Notice the vividness of colors and textures. Explore how real everything seems inside this holographic universe. Allow yourself to be amazed that this is all being generated by a computer. While cultivating a sense of awe for your virtual environment, continue your exploration for 15 minutes.
If your mind becomes active at any point, simply realize that you’re talking to yourself. If this game were occurring on a laptop, this would be the equivalent of you typing random things into your chat box and then reading them out loud to yourself. The game is much more interesting. If the mind becomes active, simply get back to being fascinated by the virtual world around you.
When the exercise has ended, if you’d like, start living life like you’re still inside the game.
And if at any point you figure out how to fly, be sure to let me know.