Ceci n'est pas un sandwich
Updated: Jun 9
In this post I would like to talk about our inability to see reality for what it actually is, a perspective that makes us missing out the juicy and magical aspect of life. Mind has a huge role in keeping us trapped in this illusion and each of us should learn how to get rid of its chains to live a more conscious life.
"The day is coming when a single carrot,
will set off a revolution".
- Paul Cezanne -
This post might sound a philosophical attempt to prove something that at first sight might seem totally irrelevant for our daily mundane life. When I have firstly approached to this kind of contemplation exercises I was quite skeptical and I did not foresee the enormous impact that this understanding would have brought in my life. But I promise you that by grasping what a sandwich truly is will change your whole life.
I chose as an example a sandwich because it represents something tangible and mundane, an ordinary object that all of us have been in contact with. I have not chosen a more mystical or extraordinary object because I want to stress the point that everything in life is magical and mystical if we learn to look at reality in the right way, cleaning our lenses away from our foggy minds. By grasping what a sandwich truly is you will walk around and look at a tree, a car, the sky, the stars, yourself, other humans with renewed wonder and gratitude.
Everything will look exactly as before, so do not expect to see angels, spirits and bright lights shedding on you. But at the same time, nothing will be perceived in the same way, everything will be experienced as a miracle. Your heart, even the hardest and coldest one, will start to open up and even the toughest guy on Earth will not help dropping few tears of joy.
This is one out of many rewards from doing this inner journey, something that does not come to you freely. You need to work your ass off, spend hours in meditation and contemplation, questioning the obvious, facing paradoxes, facing moments of depression and moments of deep confusion. You need to accept the possibility that all you currently know might be inaccurate and that the way you perceive reality is highly distorted.
All humans, especially Western ones, have been taught to look at reality from a frozen perspective that has been shaped by our society and by modern science which models reality as a material and physical Universe made out of dumb, inert matter. True, a big shift is currently happening thanks to quantum physics but we are still far from recognizing reality to be a metaphysical entity (see my post "Science Is Working For God" to read more about where science should head to in my opinion). This work is not about coming up with a new model of reality to hold on at the conceptual level. It is about directly experiencing what reality is and live and transform your life accordingly.
Read this post as a meditation/contemplation exercise, as something to take with you every time you have some instant off from your frenetic life: when you take the bus or the train, when you wash dishes, when you sit on the toilet, when you eat, when you are queuing. Find some time in your day to think about the scenario I will be presenting you and instead of being distracted by the phone, TV and radio stay silent and give it a try. Not once but as much as you can.
Ask then yourself: "What is a sandwich?"
A quick and obvious answer would be: "a slice of bread containing different fillings such as ham, cheese, salad or whatever I like". To get right to the point it is important to notice that this answer is a conceptual description of reality that does not tell us anything about what a sandwich truly is. Through years of education we have been learning thousands of different words and concepts to be able to refer to something that seems to exist objectively as a physical object out there.
The invention of language has set a fundamental step into evolution, allowing humans to refer to something by using a combination of letters to which has been assigned a specific meaning. Thanks to this powerful invention, we can talk and communicate about many different topics without necessarily having at disposal the object we are talking about: I could describe my room in detail giving you a quite precise idea how it looks like without the need you coming here to check by yourself. This is a unique human skill and it represents a powerful tool that most of the time we take it for granted.
However, this tool has started to make us lose contact with the true substance of reality. We have learnt to live in a conceptual world, we are lost in our own minds full of words, concepts and ideas that have pushed us away from tasting the juice of life. This tool has become our main lens through which experiencing reality and we have sanctified rationality and logic to the detriment of what truly composes our experiences.
Stop for a moment and observe a sandwich (or whatever object you have at disposal). What is truly there? Do not use your mind to label what you see, be more direct. Concepts and words represent an indirect way to describe reality, they give you a mental idea of what we are talking about, they represent a mind movement but definitely they do not represent what is actually there.
If you are honest with yourself, all you know about a sandwich (and life in general) are subjective experiences, that is, seeing, touching, smelling, tasting, hearing, feeling emotions, having bodily sensations, thoughts, mental images. Those experiences might have different amplitude and strength but everything boils down to subjective experiences.
Throughout your life you have not got in contact with an external material world physically existing out there and having its own existence but with your subjective experiences. The external objective world is actually made out of your subjective faculties. This has to be clear, so spend some time to "prove" to yourself that what you call an objective material world is actually a subjective creation and does not represent at all a physical reality existing out there independent of your experiencing it.
I know you objection: "If it is so, how come we share the same reality among humans? How come we can participate and share the same world?" Be patient, I will be back to this objection at the end of this post.
Coming back to the sandwich, we cannot say that what we have in front is a physical slide of bread, ham and cheese made out of wheat, protein and fat. These are all concepts, mental movements. What we should say instead is that our actual experience is made out of the sight of the sandwich, the smell of the sandwich, the texture of the sandwich. These are not physical objective and material features of reality but ethereal, subjective and immaterial ones.
I know that when touching the sandwich it seems like you are touching a solid, concrete object existing out there independent of your perception but this is the result of a shallow interpretation of what is actually happening. I know that when you hit the wall it hurts and it definitely feels like there is a physical objective pile of bricks in front of you but it is not.
Listen to me carefully: I am not saying that your brain is dreaming or hallucinating about the sandwich and I am not saying that the experience of eating the sandwich or hitting the wall is illusory. What I am saying is that there is not a physical material sandwich or wall standing out there independently of your perception. For the matter there is not even a physical brain creating those experiencing. What we call sandwich, wall and brain are in reality a mixture of subjective experiences that have not physical and material substance at all, their existence is strictly dependent on your perception of them.
The sensation of "hardness" represents simply a sensation that feels in that specific way but it does not imply the existence of a physical wall interacting with a physical body. The experience should be interpreted in a more direct way: all there is in that experience is the sensation of hardness. It is then our mind then embellishes that experience with the idea of the existence of two separate objects getting in contact each others.
Mind literally creates physicality and limitations over something that has no real substance and no limits such as subjective experiences. Can you actually draw the boundaries of a sound? Can you actually say where it starts and where it ends?
The experience of the sandwich in term of its taste, its appearance, its smell is true and real but it represents a subjective experience strictly dependent on you. Therefore, to be more precise, we should say that all we are experiencing is sight, smell and taste. The second part of the sentence, that is, "of the sandwich" is a concept, a mental construct that only serves the purpose to easily communicate to others our experiences. However, it represents a oversimplification of what is actually occurring and if concepts become how you interpret reality, if your perspective in life gets so deeply influenced by your mental constructs, you are creating huge limitations in your life and therefore suffering.
Any time we experience something, we are "only" experiencing sighting, smelling, touching, hearing, tasting and the "of" is never experienced, it is simply a concept that we have learnt to superimpose over our subjective faculties creating the illusion of the existence of a physical and objective object out there, existing independently from our subjectivity. Already grasping this point should create a big shift and shock in the way you perceive reality.
Because this insight implies that reality is all about how you experience reality, it is about the quality of subjective experiences you are creating each time in your life and that "out there" there is nothing that can really threaten your life. Trying to transform your life by changing the "external" world is like punching air, you will never hit the target. It is like shuffling a deck of cards composed by the same card: whatever you do, you will get the same result. To really transform your life you need to become conscious that you are the creator of your reality and that whatever you experience and the way you respond to life it is entirely up to you.
Taking an extreme example, if a tiger stood up in front of you, you would understandably run away. But you need to be conscious of the fact that you have learnt to create at the mental level the idea that "tiger" means danger and together with this idea, you have created a network of emotions and feelings (such as terror and fear) that trigger your reaction. You are not reacting to the tiger, you are reacting to what you have personally created at the mental and emotional level. If you did not know what a tiger was or if you could master your emotions and feelings you would respond differently.
Fear is not something out there chasing you, it is something you have created and that you can get rid of if you take this work seriously .
It is not what seems to be out there the root of your suffering since the "out there" is actually made out of your own personal way you relate to it, the way you create your own personal subjective experiences. These experiences can be entirely changed and transformed by firstly becoming directly conscious of who you are (see my post "Look Within You", "No-Self: The First Step Towards You", "Neti-Neti: Who Am I?") and then by doing the Work, that is, through self-observation (see my posts Self-Observation - Part 1", "Self-Observation - Part 2", "Self-Observation - The Ultimate Guide").
If before you were reacting in a certain way by being trapped in the illusion that you were the victim of a certain external situation out of your control, you now have in your hand all the power to change the way you respond to life. On one side this is good news, on the other hand all responsibilities fall onto your shoulders and no blaming and pointing fingers will be accepted anymore.
When we eat our delicious sandwich we are not eating physical dead matter. We are rather experiencing sensations that most of the time go unnoticed due to the prevalence of our mind. This journey is being teaching me to actually be aware of what is going on when the sensations that constitute what we call "lips and tongue" meet the taste of what we call "ham": it is not anymore a physical body swallowing physical food, but an encounter of feelings and perceptions and emotions. Such a different experience.
By being lost in mind all these experiences get flatten, they get covered by ideas, concepts and inner chattering that hide this burst of experiences making them appear as if a physical human is eating a physical piece of bread. This is what it means to live in the present, to live the now: to not miss out a single moment, a single feeling, a single experience even (and especially) in the most mundane experiences like "eating a sandwich".
It is all up to you. You cannot blame anything or anyone in life. It is your own unconscious creation at the mental and emotional level that is ruling your life and by doing this work you can change the entire deck of cards learning to respond to life consciously, taking your own responsibilities.
I hope you could follow me so far and that you understood that these exercises do not represent some mental philosophical masturbation but something that can profoundly change your life in revealing the beauty and magic in every aspect of reality and in being in charge of your life. But I am not over yet. There is another deeper level of reality that makes everything even more magical and mystical about a sandwich. So let's move on.
What I have claimed so far and what I invited you to prove to yourself is that what we call "sandwich" is far from being an agglomerate of physical dumb atoms existing out there independently from your perceptions, but rather something more ethereal and subjective that makes life much more exciting in all its aspects if we are able to pierce the mind's layer.
The next fundamental question is: "Who is actually having those experiences? Who is enjoying the mix of emotions, feelings and sensations that we erroneously label as sandwich?".
It cannot be your body since your body is nothing else than a mix of feelings, sensations and emotions. It cannot even be your mind since mind is nothing else than ideas, concepts and images. What is left? If you have followed me in my blog, you know that the answer is That which is conscious of all these experiences, Consciousness. Those experiences could not be experienced if there was not "something or someone" conscious of them, "something or someone" that is not a thing, that has no features and no objective qualities. And you are That.
Try to stay focus on whatever experience you like and discover who is behind the scene, who is having that experience. Do not get distracted by the mind that will demand ownership over the experience. Just stay with the experience and find yourself, that is, the one conscious of it. You will discover that there is no physical entity behind the eyes: no matter how hard you try, all you will find are more subjective experiences experienced by nothing and no one at all.
But do not get depressed: you still do exist and the nothing I am talking about is not meant to assume negative connotations. Not only you are the one conscious of any experience experienced in life but you also represent the very real and only substance that constitutes all experiences. There is no you having an experience, you are the experience itself. There is no you experiencing life, you are life itself. There are no real separations and boundaries in life but the one you create with your own mind.
If before a sandwich was a slice of physical dead bread mixed together with dead meat, it then became an encounter of emotions, feelings and sensations that turned out to be "something" that has no substance, no feature and that cannot be described in any accurate way by mind but simply experienced directly. In a nutshell a sandwich (as everything else in reality, you included) is a miracle supported by and made out of a mysterious formless force that has managed to fool itself through several steps of self deception in believing to be a physical human being made out of physical flesh and bones eating a physical sandwich when in reality there is only itself, "something" with no substance.
To use a well-known metaphor in my blog (see my post "Like Water"), it is as if water (Consciousness) believed to be a distinct separate wave (human) swallowing bubbles (sandwich). All there is water but by fooling itself it managed to believe to be someone interacting with an illusory external independent world believed to be made out of substances different from the only one existing.
So to answer to the question: "Why do we share the same reality among humans?". Because what we call humans are actually forms (waves) informed by and made out of the same formless substance, Consciousness (water), that falls into the illusion to be a separate being. Among humans, we can share the same reality not because an objective material physical world exists out there having its own existence but because we, Consciousness, are creating this specific reality filtered by a similar point of view, the human's one. A cat or an ant are living a really different reality.
It is like within a dream, where the characters within the dream can share the same world with others since they are informed by the same dreaming mind. But the shared world and the characters within the dream are not made out of matter, they are not physical, they are not having their own existence. Their existence strictly dependents on the dreaming mind, they are made out of mind stuff, a substance that I would not personally define being material and physical. This substance, to experience its own dreamed world, needs to assume a limited perspective to participate in its own creation.
By doing this work you will discover that you, Consciousness, has no limits and no boundaries. You are everywhere and everything but to be able to experience yourself you cannot stay in this formless structure: you need to fool yourself in believing to be a limited point of view, what we call humans, experiencing an external world. You need to narrow your perspective experiencing yourself through specific lenses to participate in your own creation but in reality all there is, it is you!
The revolutionary revelation by doing this work is discovering that, as within a dream, reality is not a physical, material and objective structure. It is something you create, it something subjective and relative to the different lenses we use. There are infinite different realities, all of them being real and relative to the adopted perspective, all being created, supported by and made out of you, Consciousness.
Life can be described as a matrioska of illusions, one within the other.
You might think that awakening simply ruins the fun like when you discover the trick behind the magician's illusion making worthless and less exciting to live life knowing to be illusory. This is a phase I had personally experienced but it turned out to be another mind attempt to play the victim's game and stay under the spotlight all the time.
In reality awakening teaches you how to fully live life. It makes you realize how many experiences we waste during the day by being trapped in the mind. It makes you become more conscious about any single actions you take. It gives you back the sense of awe and admiration towards life like a new born baby instead of behaving as a cold, insensitive being brainwashed by the materialistic paradigms. It makes you appreciate any experience, even the toughest one, by realizing what an incredible intelligent system is behind each of them. And finally it gives you back full authority to be the creator of your life.
Awakening represents the best therapy for those who are lost in whatever addiction and depression, trying to escape to a better place, tired and frustrated by the ordinary life. Awakening will reveal the extraordinary in what we have learnt to call ordinary and the magic in what we have learnt to call routine.
This different scenario of reality is what I wanted to share with you, something I could "prove" to myself by doubting several assumptions I had taken for granted in my life. I might be totally wrong, I might be full of shit. It is entirely up to you to be bothered in "proving" this model to yourself by starting doing the work. If what I claim resonates with you more than your current model of reality give it a try!
A valid sign whether or not your model of reality is a good one, it is by checking your level of happiness in your life no matter all the challenges you have to deal with. Your model of reality directly shapes, influences and creates your daily choices, your fears and your attitude towards life. As a specific and limited point of view we cannot control all life's events but we can control how we relate to them and this is all it really matters, this is what your life is about: your own creations.
By taking this journey I discovered that reality is magical, that life is a miracle and so am I as a "human" and I try to work every day (mistake after mistake) to align this understanding of reality with what it is commonly called "human life".