Take the Red Pill

March 28th, 2005 by Steve Pavlina

In my last post, I mentioned that I believe there’s some kind of linkage between thought and reality that bypasses direct action. In this post I’d like to clarify what I mean by that and why I believe this.

First of all, recognize that this is a field in which we cannot apply the Scientific Method. Why not? The Scientific Method has four steps: observation, hypothesis, prediction, testing. The underlying assumption to this methodology is that the observer and the object of the experiment are separate entities. The Scientific Method pre-supposes the existence of an external reality separate from the consciousness of the observer. So it can only be used effectively within such a reality. What I’m saying, however, is that we do not live in such a reality.

If we live in a reality where the thoughts of the observer can influence the object of the experiment, then the Scientific Method will not work. Why not? First, the process of observation is corrupted. If you try to use the Scientific method to observe reality, you won’t be passively observing it as something separate from yourself. You’ll actually be creating some of the reality as you observe it. There’s no way to completely separate yourself from it. Secondly, when you form a hypothesis based on your observations, you’re again creating with your thoughts instead of assessing something objective. Prediction is another creative process. And by the time you reach the testing stage, the object of your experiment has become so corrupted by the influence of your own thoughts that you’re measuring a combination of the object plus your creative impact on it, not the object itself. Every additional test conducted by other “impartial” testers will likewise be affected by the creative powers of their thoughts, beginning with their initial reaction to hearing of your results. So if this is indeed the reality in which we live, then the Scientific Method is not what it appears. Instead of being a pure process of measurement, it is a combined process of measurement plus creation. There is no pure act of passive observation for conscious beings — every one of our thoughts has a creative impact. The observer cannot be separated from the experiment. Think of this as the Heisenberg uncertainty principle applied to consciousness. Whatever we try to measure is changed by the act of measurement.

What if you firmly belief that there is an objective reality separate from your thoughts. Am I saying then that the Scientific Method is bunk? After all, look what it has given us. We’ve discovered all these laws of physics and created all kinds of useful things with them. How can I say it’s useless?

I’m not saying the Scientific Method is useless. I’m saying that it isn’t a process of measuring objective reality. It is actually a process of creation. So while you might say that we discovered the laws of physics, I’m suggesting that we created them.

Set aside your skepticism for just a moment, and consider the possibility that you’re right now living inside a thought bubble created by your own beliefs and expectations about reality. Now if that were true, then if you believe in an objective external world separate from your thoughts, then that will become your reality. So if you don’t believe there’s any direct linkage between thought and reality, then you’re not going to experience that linkage in your life. You won’t be able to see it. It won’t exist for you. Your thought that it’s impossible will form a reality for you in which such things are impossible. You’ll interpret my words in such a way that they’ll be congruent with your reality — most likely you’ll just conclude I’m mistaken (although you may choose a less kind word for it).

And this is exactly how I reacted to anyone who suggested there was no objective reality when I was in a similar thought bubble.

But after many years of living within that thought bubble, I began getting curious. Was I indeed living within a thought bubble of my own creation? Did I have the ability to step outside of it simply by changing my beliefs and expectations about reality?

Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!

I decided to go for it. I wanted to know if changing my beliefs would actually change my experience of reality in such a powerful way that I felt I was actually changing reality itself. If I was wrong, reality would slap me back. Assuming I began with changes that wouldn’t prove fatal if I was wrong, it seemed a reasonable risk. But what if I was right? I took the red pill and opted to find out.

The mere act of making this decision seemed to have an effect. My first obstacle was that I didn’t really know how to recondition my old beliefs. I couldn’t see a way to convince myself to believe something that I didn’t think was true. After all, I was going into this experiment with skepticism — I doubted it would actually work. And that would corrupt the experiment because those doubts would hold my beliefs about reality fixed. So I needed a way to really believe something new, almost like a way to hypnotize myself. It was around this time that I discovered NLP and learned how to do exactly that. I needed a way to recondition my beliefs, and it suddenly appeared. Hmmm….

Through NLP I learned how to interrupt the pattern of old beliefs and condition new ones. These techniques are often used for overcoming fears and phobias. So first, I learned that it was indeed possible to intentionally reprogram my own beliefs, and I learned how to do it. A good book on this subject is Using Your Brain for a Change by Richard Bandler.

The next step was to think about what new beliefs to install and which old ones to erase. I wanted to begin gently, but I also wanted to change big global beliefs that would affect my experience of reality. We’re talking years of experimenting here, which is far more than I can write in a blog entry. And if you’re in a certain type of thought bubble right now, you probably won’t even believe me. I guess the question is what should I share that will get you curious enough to try this experiment yourself and start pushing to expand your current reality vs. what will freak you out too much and make you afraid to try it or just conclude I’m nuts. The hard part is explaining all of this within the confines of a thought bubble that says it’s impossible.

So I’ll keep it gentle for starters.

One of the first experiments I tried was to reprogram my religious beliefs. I was raised Catholic, and then went atheist for several years, but I was somewhere between atheist and agnostic when I started these thought experiments. This was around 1993. I didn’t believe in the Christian idea of God anymore, but I was open to the idea of there being some kind of higher power at work, although I had no clue what it’s nature might be. So I started with some of the more interesting new agey belief systems and adopted some of their beliefs, many of which conflicted with my previous beliefs. These included beliefs about the interconnectedness of all conscious beings and the existence of other astral realms populated by conscious beings. As soon as I installed these new beliefs, it was like a floodgate opening. This first thing that happened was that I attracted into my life other people whose beliefs were congruent with my new ones, people unlike any I’d ever met, including my future wife. When I was Catholic it was as if such people didn’t exist — they never seemed to intersect my reality. Now they were suddenly the people with whom I was spending the most time. That alone was strange.

I learned about lucid dreaming and astral experiences, and out of nowhere I suddenly started experiencing them frequently.

Lucid dreaming means having a dream where you become consciously aware that you’re dreaming, thus able to take control of the dream and do whatever you want — fly around, create characters, wield superpowers, etc. Incidentally, if you want to start having lucid dreams yourself, then expand your thought bubble by reading Stephen LaBerge’s books: Lucid Dreaming and Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming. But the most important step to begin lucid dreaming is just to decide to start having them. Eventually you’ll be dreaming, and you’ll wake up within your dream and become aware that your body is asleep on your bed, and you’re inside your own dream. But it will feel like you’re wide awake. Then you’ll most likely freak out and wake up within a matter of seconds. But with practice you can learn to do some pretty cool stuff. I’m getting pretty good at flying without crashing into trees. Sleep is just as restful when you lucid dream.

An astral experience is a form of OBE (out of body experience). Near-death experiences are one example. It’s a feeling of leaving your body and traveling somewhere else, possibly on earth, but most often for me it was the feeling of being in some alternate reality, full of other conscious beings with whom you can communicate. In some ways it’s similar to a lucid dream, since you remain conscious while it’s happening. I don’t think we have adequate words to explain the difference between lucid dreams and astral experiences, but I don’t know anyone who’s experienced them both who can’t tell the difference.

Usually the astral stuff would happen while I was sleeping, but sometimes it would even happen while I was awake. I documented many of these experiences in my journal, especially because this stuff seemed so unreal at the time. But for certain people I met, it was no big deal — they’d been experiencing similar things their whole lives, even taking steps to develop their abilities to do interesting things while having astral experiences or lucid dreams, like communicating with other conscious beings and coming back with answers.

Of course, this is nothing new for people who have such beliefs; it’s just a normal part of their lives. If you’re in such a belief system right now, you’re probably just nodding along as if I’m describing a piece of lint. If you’re in a belief system where such things are impossible, then you’re obligated to conclude I’m nuts or that I’m misinterpreting reality because your thoughts prevent you from ever having such experiences yourself (either that or you’ve already stopped reading). But these experiences are just a belief away.

After a few months of this stuff, I’d had my fill of leaving my body (most of the time it would happen unintentionally), and I shifted my beliefs again, this time going in a more Hindu/Buddhist direction. And lo and behold, my reality changed too. All those freaky astral experiences died off almost immediately, and I started having very different experiences.

After several years of these kinds of belief-shifting experiments, it became clear to me that there was something happening that went beyond anything I could explain as a form of reinterpreting an objective reality. Stuff was happening “out there” that had to be more than tricks being played on my senses. I began to experience events, even with other people, that would just never happen to me in other belief systems, stuff I used to believe was impossible. It was as if the mere decision to allow the impossible to become at least possible not only make it possible but invited it into my daily reality. One of the milder examples was telepathy — like picking fairly unique full sentences word for word out of people’s heads before they said them and having others do the same to me. Shared dreams (having the exact same dream as another person) was another. Creating money when I needed cash was yet another.

Eventually I came to understand that whether you’re an atheist or a Christian or a Buddhist, you’re right. But instead of your beliefs being based on reality, they’re creating your reality. If you don’t believe in stuff like ESP, you’ll find none of it anywhere in your life. But if you do believe in it, incontrovertible evidence of it will be everywhere.

I can’t prove to you that you’re in a thought bubble right now. But you can prove it to yourself if you have enough curiosity to make the attempt. You have to decide to swallow the red pill. The only way to prove you’re in a thought bubble is to consciously change your thoughts in such a way that you contradict at least one of the foundational beliefs that form the bubble. This begins with opening your mind to the possibility that your thoughts are shaping your reality. You think your thoughts are actually based on some reality “out there,” but they’re really creating your reality. If you believe in an objective external reality, then that will be true for you. But are you aware that you don’t have to subscribe to this belief? And that doing so unnecessarily limits your experience of life?

Start to challenge some of your beliefs and see what happens. Actually expect to experience something that contradicts one of your beliefs this week. Just open yourself up to the possibility, and even invite it. Dare the universe to prove you wrong; ask it to show you which of your beliefs is limiting you the most. Then see what happens. Don’t challenge your belief in gravity. Start small. Pick something that you know isn’t going to hurt you if you’re wrong, something that won’t make you gullible and do something really stupid if you’re wrong, but something that will open you up to fun new experiences if you’re right.

To what degree do our thoughts create our reality? That I don’t know. I’m convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that our thoughts have a strong and powerful effect on creating the reality we experience. But I don’t know how strong this factor is. I don’t know how deep the rabbit hole goes. I’m sitting in a thought bubble of my own, and as such my own reality is being shaped by the nature of that bubble.

In my current thought bubble, I experience a reality where my thoughts combine with those of others to create a shared reality, yet we each experience that reality through a different lens. Every time I shift my beliefs consciously, I can see my reality changing faster and faster to reflect the new beliefs. So I think my increasing comfort with this process allows the changes to manifest faster. One of my current thoughts is that we cannot adopt beliefs that would contradict the realities of others. So if everyone thinks it’s impossible for me to fly, then I can’t do it because it would conflict with their reality. But whenever there’s the possibility for a personal experience which people can easily explain within the terms of their own thought bubbles, there’s no conflict. That means personal experiences like ESP and astral stuff can be had abundantly without any contradiction — if there’s no physical proof, then other people with different thought bubbles can just dismiss them. It’s the same way that non-Christians can easily dismiss Jesus’ rising from the dead; for Christians it’s reality, but for non-Christians it’s just a story. Of course, what I really wonder is whether my beliefs about these limitations on our shared reality are themselves part of a thought bubble which can be escaped by conscious choice, and if I go that way, then what? I’m not quite ready to try that just yet, since I’m still getting a lot of mileage experimenting within these limitations, but someday….

Changing your beliefs is a powerful concept. Even though I’ve been doing this for well over a decade, I still feel I’m just scratching the surface of it. There are so many interesting beliefs to try, and I’ve mostly been experimenting with high-level philosophical and spiritual beliefs. If you opt to go this path, do be careful though. If you change too much too quickly, you can easily lose perspective, fall into a prolonged funk, and wind up meditating in a cave the rest of your life. And just as a word of caution, I don’t recommend challenging any beliefs that include the word “alien” for your first attempt unless you’re really brave. They don’t exist, OK. :)



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