I once heard an avid Buddhist claim she was completely non-attached to anything. She declared someone could shoot her with a gun and she wouldn't care. Non-attachment may well exist in the depth, but not on the more superficial personality level. Trying to impose the values of one level onto another is called "cross-realm projection." Deep within, we can be spiritually non-attached, but we still deeply love and care about our family.
Life exists on several realms: the physical (body), the thought/emotional (mind), and the spiritual (spirit). We tie ourselves up in knots when we cross-realm project—when we project the values of one realm onto another.
Steve, a friend of mine, had a girlfriend, Carol, whom he said he loved. At the same time, Steve knew something just wasn't right. He was confused. Having known Steve for many years, the situation was pretty clear to me. Carol was beautiful and Steve always liked beautiful women; but when I saw them together, they just didn't click. I really don't think he even liked her. In his state of confusion, Steve asked me what I thought, and so I told him. It was like a lightbulb went off in his head. He had fallen into the common trap called "cross-realm projection."
Steve thought he loved Carol because he was attracted to her physically. He was projecting deeper realms onto the more superficial physical realm. To love someone lies deeper than the physical.
The spiritual notion of desirelessness often falls prey to cross-realm projection. At the depth of our being, it is possible to experience spiritual Oneness with all that is. In that realm, we do not desire anything because we are already one with it; we already have it. Through cross-realm projection, people try to live desirelessness on the surface of life. Sometimes they even convince themselves of their desireless state, but it is unnatural. If physically alive today, Jesus might desire chocolate ice-cream over vanilla.
'Mindfulness' also regularly succumbs to cross-realm projection. The eternal present dwells deep within. Trying to live in the eternal present every moment of every day is unnatural. It is, at best, a hypnotic state that imposes stress upon the physiology. On the surface of life, it is completely fine to sometimes reflect upon the past or ponder the future.
Someone once told me they didn't have money to pay their rent next month, but they were just letting God take care of it. Evidently, they had been taught about the principle of letting go and letting God. Again, this is cross-realm projection. At the depth of our being, we can be free and unbounded. But on the surface of life, we need to be responsible and practical.
We complicate and confuse our lives in so many ways through cross-realm projection. Understanding these few examples is good. But beginning to discover how we, and the people around us, fall prey to cross-realm projection in our daily lives is invaluable. It's well worth spending some time to get familiar and comfortable with the concept.
The best way to stop cross-realm projecting is to simply understand the principle. Then, when questions or conflicts arise or something just feels off in our thinking or another's thinking, we see if we can apply the concept. Learning to apply the concept is simply a matter of keeping it in mind. It can be helpful to apply it in times when we feel the need for greater clarity regarding our life. This can include either small or major decisions.
We could even put up a sign in our home or office that says "cross-realm projection" as a reminder that we have this new tool available. As it has been said, "The light of awareness heals." In other words, having awareness of cross-realm projection thought patterns is our best way of catching ourselves in the act, and healing those patterns.
The first time a practical application of cross-realm projection is discovered, it is like an epiphany, an experience of eureka. Suddenly, the clouds part as the truth of the situation shines forth. As time passes, identifying cross-realm projection becomes more and more spontaneous. Each time, it's as if we are solving a major part of the puzzle of life.