Barbara Emrys

Hold the Phone!

Summer’s almost over! Maybe you went on vacation for part of the summer, or maybe not. In any case, it’s not too late to reflect on the past weeks with clarity. You may have documented every moment on Instagram and Facebook, so clarity isn’t a problem. You had a blast, and the proof is there on the screen, right?

Well, maybe. It’s easy to look at people’s social media posts– with a few hundred photos of their kids, their meals, their moments– and wonder if they really lived those moments. If we’re doing it all for the ‘gram, is it an actual experience? I was with some friends and their kids at a picnic last week. As one of the dads picked up his camera, his five-year-old daughter turned to her little friend and said, ”Stand next to me! We have to pose!” The little boy looked at her in bewilderment. “Pose?” he repeated. The word wasn’t in his vocabulary, and I found myself hoping it never would be.

Of course, we’re acting all the time. We’re acting for our family, for our friends, and for posterity. We’re acting for ourselves and we’re judging every performance. At the end of the day, we want to be able to say we put on a good show…but, for whom? If everyone’s in it for the reviews, then who’s left to enjoy the show?

It’s not just old fogies like me who wonder at our inability to focus on the moment. Most people agree that we spend too much time looking at our screens– our phones, tablets, computers, video games. It’s not an original observation, but this little blog was created to put things in a Toltec perspective. So, in the spirit of this teaching, let’s talk about the real and the unreal for a moment.

If you’ve read any of don Miguel’s books, you’re familiar with what he calls the dream– the virtual version of reality that we create in our minds. As soon as we learn to name things, we start telling stories about things. Our stories eventually become more real to us than the things themselves. As we accumulate more knowledge about more things, our stories become the only ‘reality’ we respond to.

In that sense, we’re all dreamers. Creating a virtual world is what the mind does. It also gets trapped there. The mind thinks, and it believes what it thinks. Still, there are those who make the effort to wake up– to become aware of the dream while they’re dreaming it. They start clearing away their own web of spells. They begin to perceive in new ways. And– whoa!– their relationship with life changes dramatically. 

We’re all dreaming within another dream: a shared reality called the dream of the planet. Now consider how this ‘dream within larger dream’ is layered with electronic realities– the images on our screens that describe non-existent worlds. There are countless ‘truths’ being sold to us– not just from politicians and advertisers, but from family, friends, and pundits. No wonder our heads are spinning at the end of the day. No wonder we’re praying for help in the middle of the night! 

A video is an awesome thing. We shoot it, we send it, and people believe what we want them to believe about us. But truth can’t be captured on video. Nor is truth an opinion. We’re living in a dream of our own making, so how we direct our attention makes all the difference. Attention determines how our personal dream plays out in every moment….attention to truth determines our own authenticity.

What did she say? Authenticity? Like the little boy who heard the word ‘pose’ for the first time, maybe you’re not sure what to do with this one. You talk about authenticity, you probably like the sound of it, but you’d have to strip away a lot of pretenses to find it again. Well…is there something more worthy of your time this summer? Is there anything more rewarding than being present in every moment? Is there anything more liberating than being honest with yourself?

While these summer days last, maybe you could look up from your screens occasionally and appreciate life as it is. You might stop shouting, “Check out this view!” and dare enjoy it. You could be brave and true, for your sake. People need you to be brave for their sake, too. What will you see, what will you hear, when you step away from the screen? What will be your authentic response? Let’s find out. Hold the phone for a minute, and take a big step toward awareness…for everyone’s sake!

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