I attended Buddhist classes regularly for several years. The teacher did a great job of explaining Buddhist principles in a western format and in a non-dogmatic way that I could relate to. The teachings were logical, relatively easy to apply (at their basic level), and when I put them into practice, they really helped me to feel calmer and happier. Bottom line: I got results.
The teacher often talked about how it was possible for us to experience happiness, peace and other positive feelings in nearly any situation. We just had to retrain our minds to view things differently.
Perception was everything. It made the difference between experiencing deep suffering and feeling great.
The other important concept was that the external world is not the source of our suffering. The external cannot transfer a feeling or emotion to you simply by looking at it, touching it or being near it. It is our minds that interpret the external, make a judgement, produce thoughts and consequently experience an emotion.
The Holodeck Technique
One day, while I was contemplating these Buddhist concepts of using your mind to reframe your experience, a strange thought popped into my head:
What if my world were actually the holodeck from Star Trek and people were just computer-generated simulations? How would I react to offensive and difficult behaviour in the holodeck?
Briefly, the holodeck is a virtual reality simulator where all people and objects are made solid using magnetic force fields. Check out a short description of the holodeck and a short clip from Star Trek explaining the holodeck.
This question about the holodeck got me thinking…If I knew that I was in the holodeck room and a holodeck character insulted me, I wouldn’t take offense to it. It’s just a holodeck character, so I wouldn’t take it seriously. It looks absolutely real and behaves like a real person but I know it’s fake.
So why couldn’t I apply this unbreakable mindset to the real world too?
Your Reality Isn’t as Real as You Think
Imagine this scenario: Last week, while you were sleeping, a team of scientific researchers drugged you and moved you into a large version of the holodeck which was set up to be an exact replica of your house, neighbourhood and city, with all the people in it. You woke up and spent the whole week interacting with this environment and people in it, as though it were real.
When your holographic boss was rude to you, you took offense. A holographic driver cut you off while on the way to work and you got angry. Other unpleasant events occurred, you had “normal” negative reactions to them.
This fake holographic world was spinning you around like a marionette, pushing your buttons, all the while, none of it was real. How would you react to this fake holographic reality if you knew you were in the holodeck?
Maybe it would feel more like a game to you, maybe you would just smile or shrug when a holographic character insulted you. You would feel more like an actor participating in a play. It would all be just fun theatre for you. The same actions people do in the holodeck would have a completely different effect on you than actions of people in your real world. What causes that difference?
How to Use the Holodeck Technique
- During your day, occasionally imagine that you are in the holodeck. Do this especially when a situation is pushing your buttons. Imagine that you are in a virtual reality and the people you interact with are only computer-generated holographic images. You are like an actor in a play.
- Recognize that your mind influences emotion. If someone insults you during your day, ask yourself, “If this were a holographic character, would I even care? No. So why do usually I get so pissed off when someone insults me?”. It’s the exact same behavior from a person who appears very real. The difference would be in our perception. Here’s another example of how perception influences us: If someone recklessly cuts in behind you in traffic, narrowly missing your car by an inch, but you didn’t even see it because you were focusing on the road ahead, this “offense” wouldn’t even affect you. You didn’t see it, you couldn’t process, judge, label the behaviour, so you continued on, oblivious. The action still occurred but your state is unaffected. Now, imagine if you had seen the driver do this. The possible result? Instant road rage.
- It’s a game. Just play with it. Be loose, be flexible. If you’re pretending that sometimes you’re in the holodeck, it gives you the effect of not taking things so seriously. Relax, have fun and enjoy the “game”.
Obviously, I’m not suggesting that we treat our world as though actions don’t have real consequences. The holodeck technique is designed to help us see that our minds create our suffering according to the stories we’re telling ourselves all day, every day. We have the ability to play with our flexible reality and re-write it.
The main takeaway of this is to recognize that your mind is causing you to experience negative states. It’s not the external that “pushes” a negative state into you. By imagining that we’re sometimes in the holodeck, we can get glimpses of experiential insights into how our minds paint the world with a constant veil of misperception.
By the way, here’s NASA’s take on the scientific plausibility of Star Trek’s technology. The writers loosely based the show on scientific theory.
Got any mind hacks you use to remain centered? Leave a comment below or email me personally.