“Everything in life is an illusion” – we’ve heard this phrase before.
It’s a Buddhist phrase. So, there must some truth to it, right?
But, what does it mean?
The butterfly I chased this morning – was that an illusion? If so, how about my tuna treat last night?
More importantly, will my trip to the veterinarian tomorrow be an illusion? If tomorrow is an illusion, then why am I so nervous about going to the vet?
My human mommy said that going to the vet will not hurt. She said that the vet is a nice woman. Mommy also promised that I will get my favorite tuna treat afterwards.
But, why am I still nervous?
This could be because how we remember the past and what we project on to the future, based on our memories.
I remember that going to the vet in the past was not pleasant.
There was a large dog at the waiting room who wouldn’t stop barking. There was also an iguana who kept looking at me strangely. Oh, and then there was a massive needle the vet pulled out when I saw her.
The visit to the vet certainly didn’t feel like an illusion! And now, I’m projecting what I remember from the past onto how the experience will turn out tomorrow, which is creating immense fear.
My fear doesn’t feel like an illusion though. The fear is real…or so it seems.
But, if it “seems” real, but actually isn’t real, then how do I dissolve this fear?
Dissolving the illusion of pain
Let me try to identify five things I enjoyed about my trip to the vet last time to see if this fear dissolves.
It’s hard to identify good things because all I remember is the barking dog and the unfriendly iguana. So, I’ve to try much harder.
OK, here’s a list of five things that were enjoyable:
- Kitty toys in the waiting room…I loved the turbo scratcher! I almost forgot that I was at the vet’s when I was playing with it.
- Vet’s lovely voice. She had a soothing voice. She adored me and was gentle with me even when she pulled out that needle.
- My tuna treat afterwards – yummy…I can pretty much taste it all over again!
- Lots of petting from mommy, which is always nice. I can never get tired of that.
- Homo sapiens at the vet’s office who always fuss over how cute I am when they see me (and who can blame them).
Actually, now that I’m reminded of the pleasant things and I was able to re-experience them again in my mind, I’m starting to feel that my trip to the vet in the past wasn’t too bad after all.
Maybe…just maybe, the dog who kept barking was also nervous like me. And the iguana kept looking at me that way because he wanted to be my friend. And even though the needle looked scary, I actually don’t remember it hurting. Hmm…
And here’s a list of five good things to anticipate tomorrow:
- Tuna treat…yummy!
- Playing hide and seek with mommy, especially when she tries to put me in the kitty stroller before going to the vet.
- Being in the kitty stroller and looking at trees, people, squirrels, butterflies and everything else.
- New friends at the waiting room. Actually, it would be nice to see the iguana again to see what he wants.
- Unexpected adventure that I don’t know about yet (whenever I’m out with mommy, something fun and unexpected always happens).
Now that I think about it, tomorrow may not be that bad after all. It could even be fun.
I think I just dissolved my fear to an extent by dissolving the illusion of “pain” that hasn’t even occurred yet. The pain that I’m anticipating tomorrow is an illusion precisely because it hasn’t happened.
To be honest, I don’t know even know for sure if there will be pain…yet I’ve been afraid.
So, next time when you’re afraid of something – whether it’s a performance review with your boss or following-up with your doctor about your health, do this exercise to test if your fear is an illusion.
If you’re still afraid after the exercise, that’s OK!
Just remember that it even took the Buddha a long time to realize that everything in life is an illusion.
With loving purrrs,
P.S. Find out how my trip to the vet went at “Why do bad things happen, even when we anticipate good things?”