Do You Love Life or Fantasy?

“Life is suffering. There’s a way beyond suffering.” – The Buddha

“In this life are many tribulations, but be of good cheer.” – Jesus the Christ

“My situation is a gift, a gift wrapped in pain, but a gift nonetheless” – Michael J. Fox

Okay, so you’ve heard me state many times over the last several blogs that at some point we all must decide to be a “lover of life or a lover of fantasy.” Some of you have asked, “What does that mean?”
This is an important topic—really important—and we’ll probably need to take a series of conversations to walk through it step by step. If you’ll stick with me I think it’ll be worth it.

The three quoted above are all attempting to convey the same message to us. But I’m not sure we’re listening. The reality of life with its “suffering, tribulations, and gifts wrapped in pain” is often a hard pill to swallow.

When I say “life is hard” or “life is messy” many still attempt to deny it, attack, or at minimum put a “positive spin” on it. But no matter how hard they spin, they still continue to experience doubt, fear and frustration; and the more we resist these human characteristics, the more they persist.

Some fond of Eastern teaching want to “wax Eastern” and tout “it’s an illusion James.” Let me challenge you to kick a brick with your bare foot and tell me the pain you feel is an illusion—it’ll hurt like hell (no don’t test me on this literally).

I encourage the Eastern advocate to consider that you’re a Westerner; and you were not born into the West by accident. The “dharma” (purpose) if you will of the West is very different from the East; and the biggest mistake you can make in my opinion is to attempt to adopt the robes and practices of another culture.

Now if I just lost you, please disregard the above two paragraphs as they’re obviously not written for you. Truth is one, and yet there are many paths to the same place (even your GPS knows this).

Bottom line, Buddha also stated: “All human unhappiness comes from not facing reality squarely, exactly as it is.” Love this.

Stop chasing positive emotions. Authentic happiness has nothing to do with the temporary dopamine spike the masses call “happiness.” Read more about it here.

The first step to being a lover of life versus fantasy is to see things clearly, exactly as they are. A nail is a nail, not candy. Pain is pain. Difficulty is difficult; and the more you resist the more it persists. It’s all a part of life–real life.

See clearly, be a lover of life,


james arthur ray

39 Responses

  1. Hey James,

    Thank you for this. As a professional in music and film it is easy to get on fantasy autopilot instead of looking a things as they are. Music is one of the more fantasy driven medium there is to work in as is editing in video and film to they the story as you want it told. I have to constantly detox in every area to gain my clarity to go to the next project.

    Much appreciation for advocation of being clear. The hardest lessons in my life have been from making decisions without physical, emotional, mental and spiritual CLARITY. One can never be sure they did there best at anytime unless they have clarity in the choices they make. My system is not altered by any chemicals at this time of my life and I’m glad that I am even free of the additive influence of refined white sugar, but all addictions do not come in the form of food and drink.

    Your excellent reminder is very appreciated by me.

    Seeing you at your best always sir,


    1. Kenya, Thanks for this; and you’re absolutely correct. So many of us are “addicted” to some fantasy of how life should be versus finding the beauty and appreciation for how life is. Unfortunately with this strategy we severely risk coming to the end of this tour and realizing we’ve never really lived. Stay awake–love life ~ JAR

      1. Sometimes our actions do attract adversity. But, this does not mean I have done something bad, or wrong, or that I am on the wrong path? It simply means that the adversity I have attracted into my life will provide me with a much needed lesson to help me grow. Is this a “bad” mistake? My philosophy is that “Mistakes are rungs on the ladder to success, if we learn from them” I have made many mistakes, that have furthered my spiritual growth through adversity. Life is a journey without a defined road map.

  2. James, I agree. The path includes acceptance of the way it is… once you fully appreciate the way it is. I have found balance, risking falling. I have found relaxing, accepting tension. I have found peace, accepting anger as what’s so and noticing it also so what. The recent research seems to say most of us have zero free will, our subconscious makes every decision seconds and minutes before they occur and we use our conscious mind to justify our behavior. Replacing one habit with another is still just being a machine with different programming. Awareness of all of it gives a small chance to choose a different outcome. Living in a different culture than the one I grew up in is perfect for me and we are all human!

    I read this quote daily .

    The truth of life is not a matter of self-perfection nor a lonely road to personal salvation, but a headlong plunge into the turmoil of complex reality, a loss of selfishness in the seething ocean of joys and sorrows, births and deaths, victories and defeats of the mass of humanity struggling toward its final and complete fulfillment. Yes, we still live in an imperfect, suffering, hurting world. No amount of love will ever do away with the pains of rebuke, frustration, ingratitude, misunderstanding, malice, or plain stupidity. But the difference is that, with love in our hearts, these miseries will no longer be overwhelming: we will have learned to swim in the moving, salty, treacherous but exalting sea of mankind, to live it in spite of everything. And if we ever do come to perfect wisdom, we will love it because of everything, for we will be able to see the striving behind the sin, frustrated hope behind despair, failures of love behind acts of malice, and infinite mercy covering them all. – Jose De Vinck

    1. Michael… nothing to say but Wow! I won’t diminish the power of that quote by adding one word. I’m going to cut and paste and send out to all in chunks. Great stuff. Stay awake ~ JAR

    2. Michael, thank you for that! It’s going in my wallet … laminated. I’m beginning to really enjoy these waters of life I swim in, this quote describes it perfectly. Much gratitude.

  3. So true, the definition of frustration is unmet expectations. So many of us need to stop and see what is actually there and not what we want or expect to be there. As they say in therapy, the first step in solving an issue, is to admit that there is a problem.

    1. Mike you’re so right! One of the biggest problems (in my experience) in personal and spiritual development is attempting to sugar coat a nail and call it candy. This is not only living in denial, but is also living in suppression (which is seriously dysfunctional). What many don’t realize is that you’re “lower vibration” emotions contain some of the greatest power; and to deny and suppress these is to limit your ability for creativity and creation. Something to think about. ~ JAR

      1. So true. Nature insists that things come to resolution. No matter how much we ignore or how deep we bury something, it’s always there in our thoughts, conscious, subconscious or unconscious. And as long as it is, energy is being fed to it. At some point, it will come out. All that energy building up has to go somewhere.

  4. I applaud your true commitment to your life path and your sharing it…the light as well as the shadow. Psalm 23 is a map we can use as we walk this earthly journey together. May the Blessings fall upon us all as the rain falls, as the sun shines.

    1. Marsha, thanks so much. I think that life is not so much about wishing the storms would stop but rather learning to dance in the rain. I appreciate your being here. Much love ~ JAR

  5. My light bulb moment came reading Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch. There are so many gems and truths in his writing, but the one that floored me in the midst of my own “dark night of the soul” was this:
    “What you resist persists, and what you look at disappears.” I have found this to be true in my own personal experience. Resisting the idea that something is not what you wish it to be is like trying to roll a boulder up a mountain by yourself. But when you actually look deeply into the situation, person, or circumstance, there is a truth, a lesson, an opportunity. James you said it this way when I saw you at an event: Force negates. For me, I define it as God providing me with constant opportunities to realize the next greatest version of who I am. That doesn’t mean that I don’t experience pain, hurt, fear, or frustration. It means that those emotions are signs pointing to a deeper meaning, a lesson, or however you define that. My frustration may be a lesson in patience, my pain a doorway to indescribable joy or a much deepened caring and compassion for others. Fear may be the sign to take the chance to step out with my heart beating a million times a minute and do something I’ve never done. In my experience these emotions and feelings are invitations to listen to what’s happening on a spiritual and intuitive level. As Neale says, we’re not looking for right or wrong, we’re looking for what works or doesn’t work. It took Edison over a thousand tries to find the right material for the light bulb. His colleagues called him a fool, but he just saw it as finding all the ways that didn’t work, and by process of elimination, he stumbled upon an invention that has both literally and figuratively brought light into the lives of most people on this planet. I’d be willing to be the felt frustrated at some point along that road, but look at the result! That’s not to say his was the only approach, but another way in the midst of many ways. Thank you for this post James. Much love to you always, I have and always will support you and your journey, it has inspired and moved me many times and I respect your drive to continue on sharing it with us.

    1. J, It always does my heart well when I encounter someone who has actually internalized and practiced with the teachings–unfortunately those like you are often few. Thanks for sharing and thanks for being who you are. Keep the faith ~ JAR

  6. Pain happens, when our view of the world and the world’s view don’t match.

    We cannot change what transpires, we can however change how we feel about what transpired, and then we can act in a way that is beneficial to us,(( a quote which helps ( when at first you do not succeed try, try again)) , failing to do that is when suffering enters the picture.

    1. Vander I would suggest that pain is inevitable but suffering is optional (there’s a difference). Pain is NOT a signal to suffer, it’s a signal to grow. Something to ponder ~ JAR

  7. Great post. Choosing not to see reality, doesn’t change ‘what is.’

  8. “Learning to dance in the rain” when the storms of life come…such a beautiful metaphor. Thank you.

  9. I think that once you accept that life is ebb and flow and learn from the “good” or “bad” situations, you become teachable. Isn’t Good or Bad situations only based on the perception of the one going through it? I think so, for I know of many whom feel like life is handing them a difficulty and yet if I were going through the exact same thing, I wouldn’t necessarily see it that way. And I believe that people are put info our lives so we can teach each other. I also think that as we move through Life we are challenged by ourselves mostly. Too many live in “wishville” if only this would happen then I’d be happy….poo poo – you can be happy and enjoy if you are going into every situation doing and being the best you can be, with the current knowledge you have. I really dislike when someone says, “I’m being Tested” – my answer is, “who’s giving the test? You are!” I know from my personal experiences, there are times when I do it over and over – until the light goes on to try something new. I work at not letting it get me down, and sometimes it does, but that is part of the growth experience too?
    I’m learning to dance in the rain – it’s only water and I won’t melt. 🙂

    1. Suz, once I got over my resistance, denial, and pity party (yes I had a good one for a while) I actually began to find the gifts in my prison experience. More on this to come ~ JAR

  10. PS – Hopefully this will be amusing/helpful rather than annoying – and not that you asked, lol! – under the name field for comments, where it says “Prove That Your Real *”, it should say either “Prove That You’re Real *” or “Prove That You Are Real *”. Also, either drop the little * and add a colon : or put a * at the beginning of the next line, too. I am strongly in favor of the colon versus the *.

    (What can I say? I have an English degree.)
    : )

    1. LOL! Thanks Lisa. Had no idea and I too am a stickler for those things. It always bugs me when my thumb typing on my phone has me spell a word incorrectly and such. Maybe both of us should work on letting that go?? I’ll tell my webmaster =) Much love and thanks ~ JAR

  11. The Buddha also said, “In life, pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”

    You are quite correct that we must avoid denial of pain in life, be it physical or emotional pain. We must recognize that part of this human experience is, in fact, the pain and discomfort of being human. With that recognition, we can learn to accept rather than resist, the pains of life and do so on different levels, from stoicism to appreciation of them as gifts to make us stronger and better able to enjoy the pleasures of life.

    On the other hand, the acknowledgement and acceptance of pain, even the embrace of pain, is not an invitation to indulge in suffering. They are two different perspectives of life. Acceptance of pain is a spiritual perspective with which the mind can recognize that life unfolds perfectly, even in the experience of difficulty, and then choose to learn from the experience. Acceptance of pain enhances life experience and can lead one to wisdom.

    Suffering is not only resistance to pain, but is also the result of the tendency of the mind to focus attention on pain over and over again, thereby re-experiencing that same pain continuously and with almost the same, and at time even greater intensity. Suffering diminishes the experience of life, turns it into a form of punishment, most often self-imposed punishment, lowers energy vibration, limits joy and leads one to cynicism and negativism.

    In my practice I’ve found that most of my clients have unconsciously chosen to indulge in suffering from the pains of life. They come to me with their stories of emotional and/or physical traumas, stories that they’ve repeated to others many times and to themselves almost unceasingly. They become their stories of pain and they suffer because of it. I will often listen on the first consultation to their story and, when they are finished, will invite them to let the story go and not repeat it, in order to create a new reality for themselves. It is amazing how many are, at first, unwilling to do this. They have identified themselves with their stories. The ego has them believe that without their stories they cease to exist.

    When they learn to allow themselves to experience alternative physical and emotional perspectives and sensations, they learn to release their emotional attachment to the suffering of the past and to accept the inevitable pain of life with less fear and without suffering.

    “In life, pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”

    1. Yes David. A good question to ponder, “Who will you be once you’ve let go of all your labels?” Something for all of us to consider, even as teachers ~ JAR

  12. I think for a lot of people, “just being with what is” is hard. It takes some digging, some reflection and finally, perhaps some cultivation of skills for accepting and letting go of the emotions and judgments associated with the desire for life to be different than what it really is.

    Without knowing the responses of those who tend to put an Eastern spin on it, I wonder if it is safe to assume that they are making at attempt at conveying “suffering is optional”? I’m just curious.

    In any case, I’m pretty sure nobody ever said we have to like or enjoy the obstacles and difficulties we encounter, but how we choose to deal with them can be an opportunity to learn, grow and embrace the resultant wisdom. Likewise, we also have the choice to withdraw, shrink, resist and become resentful.

    If everything is okay right now, in this very moment, that’s all there is.


    1. Terry you make some very good points. My experience is that what a lot of those who follow Eastern thought (as well as Western “positive thinking”) are doing is living in denial. In Hinduism the cause of all suffering is “avidya” or translated as “ignorance.” Look at the word, “ignore-ance” Ignorance is to ignore, deny, suppress the reality of what is. Sometimes things hurt. Sometimes they actually suck (technical term). But when we see things clearly we realize that’s how life is and we can possibly become okay first and then maybe even grateful for the hurt and the things that suck. Easier said than done and most often we’re better at this in retrospect but mastery is finding it in the moment. ~ JAR

  13. Very interesting and intense words. A famous but past away football coach said when you make a mistake there are only three things you can do 1. Admit it. 2. Learn from it. 3. Don’t do it again. And yet it still comes back to simplicity, with out joy we don’t understand unhappiness, without failure we can’t have success without making a mistake we can’t learn unless we choose safety and just learn from other people but that is not the life experience…….it seems one goes hand in hand with the other which brings use back to the cycle and the seasons of life. So the saying of make hay while the sun shines runs true…..when it is time to reap reap because sure enough there will be a time to suffer so I guess the trick is how you respond to each experience as to how you set up the next one and having the strength to stay on track when everything seems to be pulling you off track!!!

    1. Yes Liam, yes. There is a season to sow and a season to reap but they are NOT in the same season. Let me just give you this thought to ponder. Pain is inevitable and a part of real life… suffering is a choice. Something to think about ~JAR

  14. Thanks James! It’s really so. Lots of people prefer to believe in their illusions about life and not to live life itself and to hide behind those images they created or give the explanations of their reality from the point of various philosophical paradigms and schools instead of looking straight into their own reality and feel the message from within.

    I’d like to translate the message of yours into Russian and place it in my website (certainly with the link) for Russians could read it, if you allow me to do it.
    Thank you!

    1. Natalia, I would LOVE for you to share in Russian and thanks so much for your willingness. I hope some of the people in the Ukraine can read it as well with all that’s going on over there–my heart goes out to all. New birth and transition is difficult, as is it to look reality/life square in the eyes. Only when we begin to see clearly can we TRULY live in gratitude and find the gifts. More to come. Keep the faith ~ JAR

  15. This is mostly in reference to the last Buddha quote in the post. That all unhappiness results from not facing life squarely as it is. I had not heard this quote before but it mirrors my own experience. My version of it is this:

    All unhappiness or negative feelings comes from the difference between the world of our imagination ( how we think the world should be) and the world perceived through our senses.

    There are only two areas where you can place your awareness, either on your senses or on your thoughts. If you find more than this, please let me know. When you are unhappy or frustrated or angry, your awareness is on your thoughts.

    All the best

    1. Luther, nice job. All suffering comes from the resistance to what is. In other words, being in love with some fantasy of what “should be” versus the reality of what is. Keep awake ~JAR

  16. “Suffering is not good for the soul, unless it teaches you how to stop suffering. That is its purpose.” ― Jane Roberts, Seth Speaks: The Eternal Validity of the Soul

    Call me Pollyanna, but life is not meant to be hard, and we are not here to suffer for some greater good. Pain generally comes from giving too much attention to the things we don’t want. Our realities reflect our beliefs. If you believe that life is hard and messy, then that is what you’ll experience. I chose to believe that life is easy and fun, and that’s what I am seeing.

    1. Deborah, consider this. Pain is inevitable suffering is a choice. That being said, there’s potential salvation through suffering. Something to ponder ~ JAR

  17. If I can take a step back and observe my perceptions causing the suffering….I am humbled; and remind myself I MUST protect myself from suffering: an undisciplined mind is like a wild horse …. I make myself suffer…been doing it forever…I am learning to tame my mind.
    This is something my teacher wrote:
    Monday, January 4, 2010
    Staring at Himself
    “The basis of Mahayana altruism is that suffering exists. We are feeling suffering, and all living beings are feeling suffering as well because the object of their attention is also themselves. The developed stage of this unnecessary attention is called self-cherishing. Not only do living beings stare at themselves, but they also take themselves as the inner object of their attention making their own needs vastly more important than the extreme needs of others. This self-cherishing causes them to take all kinds of wrong actions, for example, craving to feel happy and inflicting various degrees of harm on others so that others do not get in the way of acquiring that happiness” ~Domo Geshe Rinpoche ~~~

  18. I absolutely agree with the idea that we have to face reality squarely, exactly as it is otherwise we are not able to use the Law of Attraction to it’s highest and best use! Makes complete sense to me!
    I have to deal with my underlying fears head on, dissipate the energy those fears have, replace with faith and THEN use the Law of Attraction. Otherwise it’s the old saying “garbage attracts garbage”
    As a Coach I work with a lot of people who say they want to make “a lot of money” (I ask “what is a lot? define it? and then define what you are willing to do for that). What I have discovered in the past year 20 years of working with people is that if they do not deal with the underlying issues; have awareness and then acceptance of where they are at; they CANNOT take action that will lead them into a more harmonious way of looking at money and then attracting it!
    Continue with thought provoking ideas James as I, for one, am loving it!


    Astrologer Dawn

  19. We can create our reality by where we choose to focus our attention. We are programmed by our thoughts of the past, which creates our future. Judgements and blame keep us in a state of finding more reasons why our lives are the way they are today, denying the possibility that we my be responsible too. For example, I know an author who wrote a book about bullying. Knowing some of the facts of her life, opened my eyes on what she was doing. Her intentions were to assist others by telling her story and then portraying herself as one who succeeded, yet, she chose to be a martyr/victim by her judgements of others. Never bothering to clear her past by meeting with some of the people who she was disappointed with, allowed her to continue with her pain and judgement, when in actuality she had not walked in the others’ moccasins! Examining our limited beliefs fully opens us up to new possibilities, but if we continue to carry the baggage, there is no room to take in more life enriching thoughts and feelings. Finding reasons daily to be grateful for, can quickly change your attitude, but in reality, one still has a lot of junk inside that will find its way out. It is like putting lovely frosting on a pile of dung.

  20. But why must we have pain to make us grow? I know we must have it. I know we chose this for our spiritual development. But
    I still don’t know why…..

  21. Buddha also stated: “All human unhappiness comes from not facing reality squarely, exactly as it is.” I don't think he did. Please provide source.

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