I Get the Strange Feeling Like Nothing is Real


when I just sit sometimes at the beach and try to become present I still get this strange feeling like nothings is real or like you have a veil over your head, does anyone else get this strange feeling.


Dear Dhamma-follower

The mind is a tricky maze that continually changes to meet our animal and human desires. So when there are times of contemplative thought, we can find our imagination pulling back the veil delusion of samsara and feel a little uncomfortable. If everything is impermanent and perceptual– then what is real?

What is real is the perception of aggregate objects.

For example: a chair is only a chair for those who perceive that purpose to that shape. To an ant, it would be a mountain. To a termite a feast. To an elephant a play toy.

A chair does exist. You use it. You can interact with it. However, a chair is understood in Buddhism as aggregate matter of color, shape, dimension and time. It looks like a chair to us because AT THIS TIME we cognize or re-cognize that shape to be useful as what we label as a chair.

This is the nature of mind. It is very useful, because otherwise we would have to ponder every object in front of us over and over again. So we label and tuck information in our heads to function. But this recognition, while useful, must be mixed with wisdom or it fails us.

EXAMPLE: “Momma what is a cow?”
“It has two pointy ears, four legs, big eyes, a tail and lives on a farm.”
“So is THAT a cow?”
“No, honey, that is a horse– which also has those qualities but others as well.”

In understanding these concepts we can read the Abhidamma and see that form is impermanent (being temporal), and perceptual (existing in our understanding of its form and purpose). We can fall into samsara when we forget the impermanent nature of things AND we are deluded that the world around us is not a perception of convenience.

Nevertheless, aggregate matter of the elements do exist in perceptual objects other than our own. We engage with them by the quality of their existence. That is to say, we engage a rock because its aggregate materials of elements create the quality that is perceived as a rock at this moment.

Being mentally “present” does not necessarily help us in this wisdom. Nor does understanding this wisdom necessarily make us be “more present.”

When we use the terms of things existing, it is the mundane expression needed for communication.

The Buddha said, “I and you” not to mean that I and you are real form, but as a shorthand to mean “the five aggregate processes that exist at this moment and those five aggregate processes that exist at this moment.” That would become tedious, so we use the mundane terms and nouns of speech with the expectation that we understand this shorthands true meaning.

To go back to the original question– with all of this competing information: samsaric desire for everything to be as we perceive and wish it to be VS. the wisdom and understanding that all things are in flux and impermanent– it can be daunting for the mind.

The mind wants assurance and certainty to act in the world.

The instinctual and limbic brain wants a world that its animal mind can function in. It has created automated processes for survival. Pain is bad, food is good, displeasure is to be avoided, and pleasure to be craved: these are part of our animal mind. Our human mind (the rational and contemplative outer area of the brain) turns these contacts and feelings (two parts of dependent origination) into judgements and beliefs. We do this to makes sense of the world around us.

A Buddhist universe opens the mind to the reality that nothing is certain. All things are temporary and every changing. All things are perceptual and not actual. All things are verbs and not nouns. It is hard to understand because the mind must be rewired continually until it become who we are.

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Categories: Buddha, Dharma, Four Noble Truths, Mahayana, Meditation, New Age, Philosophy, Theravada, Tibet, Uncategorized, Virajana


Joshua Hudson is a license clinical social worker with post graduate certificates in mental health. A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, he has worked as an healthcare advocate for the Department of Veteran Affairs, Director of Psychological Health for the Air Force, in-patient counselor for inpatient adolescents, child and family therapist; and currently is a Prevention Interventionist for the Air Force creating programs to reduce interpersonal and self-directed violence (e.g. Sexual assault, suicide, alcohol abuse, domestic violence, etc.) in the military


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One Comment on “I Get the Strange Feeling Like Nothing is Real”

  1. April 30, 2012 at 5:17 pm #

    I know what you mean i feel the same way like im watching everything through a tv screen. Like im not the one living my life, that im merely watching it like an outsider. ive felt this way ever since i was born and im 17 now, i just wish there was a way to explain it…

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