Maya is a well known concept in Eastern religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Sufism, etc, and it is more and more known in New Age circles as well as in Esoteric traditions worldwide. The concept entails that the entire third dimension in which we live is a material dimension created for beings to learn through suffering and paying karma, and to eventually start removing animalistic and negative impulses which consequently leads to knowledge of oneself and the reality of existence. The substance used to create this third (material) dimension is illusionary in comparison to higher planes of existence. Some traditions go even deeper and say that all created dimensions are illusion and that only that which is uncreated (Absolute/Source/God consciousness), which always was, is and will be, is real.
However, Maya doesn’t relate only to external illusions, but also to internal ones. Internal illusions are thoughts, emotions, drives, impulses and sensations which we feel within ourselves. All those inner states are like colored glasses through which we see the world around us. Sometimes they make us see things in a positive and sometimes in a negative way, but nevertheless none of what they present in front of us is real.
Many people get scared and angry when hear that thoughts and emotions are part of Maya and not really us. Those who are able to go beyond this initial reaction of fear and anger, and are willing to apply spiritual techniques that enable them to remove those inner subjective elements, will eventually verify through direct experience that we are something far different from our thoughts and emotions. Those people will also learn about the nature of those subjective energies and the illusionary way they make us see.
Our inner illusion is very powerful. It keeps us in an almost constant state of daydream, controlling our life through mental and emotional images with which we identify and think that they are reality. I remember a situation where I was waiting for a tram on a square in a city where I used to live. There were many other people also waiting for the same. At one point I noticed a woman sitting a meter or so from me. She was staring at one point and it was clear that she is day dreaming, unaware of what is going on. She had unusually big insect on her face, from under an eye all across the cheek. I stretched my hand and waved in order to chase it off. The woman noticed me waving and confusedly leaned back, still not aware of what’s on her face and why I was waving. This experience showed me more clearly the state in which we are all in.
The more a person is practicing the spiritual teachings, the more one is able to see the nature of both inner and outer Maya, as well as the reality beyond it. Techniques such as being aware of the present moment, self-observation, elimination of animalistic drives and subjective elements, and some other techniques, transform our sleeping psyche and make us see the world around us as it really is. We awaken to the fact that the world is asleep and driven by negativity, yet capable of becoming better due to the Divine spark that each human being has within. This Divine spark (soul/consciousness) which is the real us beyond the veil of Maya, grows and increases our capacity for love and compassion if we do the spiritual work. We then gradually see the Maya more and more clearly, both within us and in the substance structure of this dimension. Getting free of it requires a lot of effort, dedication, persistence and truly knowing what we want out of life.