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Dualistic Appearance – The Dance of Reality & Illusion

Dear Integral Meditators,

When you look at something, what is it that you really see? This weeks article looks at the way in which our mind projects itself onto our reality, moulding it in its own image. I then offer practical method for starting to gain awareness and benevolent control of this process.

In the spirit of the journey,


Dualistic Appearance – The Dance of Reality & Illusion

Dualistic Appearance is a meditation term originally coined by the Buddha. It means the appearance of an object together with our minds projected or imagined image of what we think is appearing. For example let’s say my partner and I had an argument last night. She comes into the kitchen in the morning and two things will appear to me:

  • The literal body and person appearing to me right there, in the present moment
  • Almost instantly after I see her my mind with project an imagined image of what it thinks it sees upon her, based upon our history, last night’s argument and so on.

So, in fact there are two thing s appearing when I see my partner, one ‘real’; and one a mental projection.
One of the main functions of meditation and mindfulness is to help us to separate our actual experience of each moment from our mental projections, and by doing so improve our ability to feel deeply at home and in touch with each moment of our reality.

The problem of dualistic appearance is that if we have no sense that our mind is projecting this second ‘imagined’ image upon our reality, then it is very difficult to avoid literally living in an illusion. It is like being in a hall of mirrors; we cannot tell what part of our experience is real and which parts merely mental projections. We live out of touch with our reality in a ‘world of our own’ which is often filled with a lot of mental and emotional pain.

The potential beauty of dualistic appearance is that it enables us to project and imagine ideas onto our reality that can change it in radical and positive ways. We can imagine a picture on a blank canvas and then do it. We can find ourself in a difficult work environment and imagine ways in which we can change it for the better. We can bring new realities into existence through the power that our mind has to project images and ideas.

So then, as you start to reflect upon this, you might like to consider how your own experience of dualistic appearance has been working today. Has your minds ability to project itself onto what it experiences been working for you or against you?

Meditation on dualistic appearance – Three basic movements

1. Observing the play of reality and projection – the first stage in meditating on non duality is to observe the process of dualistic appearance and how it happens in your own experience. Let’s say I take the view from my window as I write this. I can see the view itself as it is, and then I can start to see how my mind projects itself upon that view. If I am having a bad day my mind might project ‘bleak meaningless urban landscape’ upon it, and feel depressed. On another day where I am feeling great I can look out the window and project ‘city filled with wonder and beauty!’ Same view, different projection.
2. Dropping the projection & connecting to reality as it is – Once we have observed this play of dualistic appearance, we can then work to ‘drop’ the mental projection and just see what we observe ‘as it is’ without projecting. To go back to the example of me looking out of the window at the view, I simply try and see the cityscape without projecting good or bad, pleasure or pain, beautiful or ugly, or any other form of mental image. I simply sit and see what I see without projecting, resting in that space of alert awareness.
3. Consciously working with dualistic appearance – Once we have developed a basic capacity to sit and observe our experience of each moment without projecting, we can then start to make conscious choices about our projections, and by doing so learn to further take benevolent control of our experience of reality. For example if I notice I am looking out of my window and unconsciously projecting ‘bleak urban landscape’ because I am feeling down, I can recognize that and refrain from re-enforcing or strengthening that projection. Instead I can consciously choose to project a more useful and positive idea of what I am seeing.

This week if you like, take these three stages of working with dualistic appearance and start to work with them in chosen areas of your life, observing how your perception of what is really going on changes when you do so

© Toby Ouvry 2015, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website

Upcoming events at Integral Meditation Asia in October

Every Wednesday, 7.30-8.30pm – Wednesday Meditation Classes at Basic Essence with Toby

Saturday 3rd October, 2.30-5.30pm – Going From Over-whelmed to Over-well: Meditation for Quietening the Mind – a three hour workshop

Wednesday  14th October 2015, 7.30-9pm – Evening Event: Integral Mindfulness –Co-creating Your Professional Success and Personal Wellbeing

Saturday 17th October, 2.30-5.30pm  Meditation & Mindfulness for Creating a Mind of Ease, Relaxed Concentration and Positive Intention 3 Hour workshop

Sunday October  30th, 9.30am-12.30pm – Engaged Mindfulness: Take Control of Your Life Direction and Wellbeing Through Awareness, Curiosity, Courage and Care – A Three Hour Workshop

Integral Meditation Asia