“The menu is not the meal”. This is the great Alan Watts’ way of re-stating Alfred korzybski’s famous quote “the map is not the territory”.

As humans, everything we know of the external world comes to us through our nervous systems. Our senses interpret the data coming in from the outside world, and we then create a world in our minds based on that information.

The words that we have in our minds which label things in the external world such as “chair”, or “apple”, or “god” are just that, they are in words in our head. They are how we internally represent external objects and events.

Words are like maps, in that maps are representations which by their very nature have to generalize, and distort, and delete information. A truly accurate and detailed map of Los Angeles would have to literally be the size of Los Angeles, with every detail of Los Angeles included within it. It would in fact have to be Los Angeles itself.

Simply put, words are not the objects they describe. The miracle of language is an abstraction, a construct, that tends to get mistaken for reality itself.

Even reality itself is not a thing. There is not one “Reality” that is out there somewhere. Reality is not a noun. Reality it is a verb. Reality is a process. Reality is an interaction between your nervous system and the universe around you, and the way you interpret the information coming to you determines the kind of universe you live in.

Each of us distorts and generalizes incoming information in our own conscious and unconscious ways. The way you process information is not the way I process information. Techno music might make me want to puke blood, but it might make you feel like you are in an ecstatic trance. Meaning is relative and as the saying goes, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.

So ultimately what we think is reality is just our particular version of reality. Based on our upbringing, education, and life experiences, we make a subjective mental map of the world, which is not to be confused with the actual objective reality around us.

The great Robert Anton Wilson coined the phrase “reality tunnel” to describe an individual’s filter for organizing information. We each have our own private reality tunnel. Throughout our life, this reality tunnel, this filtering and labeling system becomes unconscious, and mechanical. It it this habit of ourselves that comprises what we think of as the life or personality we are stuck with.

Thankfully, there are certain techniques (NLP, MER, meditation, etc.) and/or chemicals (psychedelics) that can help you break free from the mental habits and labels you have placed upon yourself and the rest of the world. It is possible to change the way you think about the way you think about the things you think about, and thereby change the world around you. (That is why I am so passionate about NLP, MER, etc!)

What this means is that the meaning of an event/experience depends entirely on you and how you decide to think about or label it. Our internal representations are completely subjective, which means our experience itself is subjective, and is therefore ours to control. How cool is that?!

(And if you don’t think that’s cool, take a moment right now to decide that it is cool, and….it IS cool! Get it?!)