Whether we can differentiate the word exist from real is only for the mind's playground, and that is the key word: the mind is that which creates the idea of existing and the idea of what is real from its concept of itself as the body looking out into the concept of the world. It's like an illusion looking back onto itself for a remedy to that illusion only to delve deeper into its own illusion. In simple terms those words (real & exist) are placeholders for consciousness to find a convenient footing which turns out to be a cyclic, neurotic and fruitless endeavour. Those consciousness-based things rise and fall, almost as if converging within a narrow aperture of time we call now and then confining itself to the annals of our memories. What about that now part? Could that be real? Could that exist? Not at all. Anything that passes through that now-ness has already fallen away.
Therefore, the words real and exist might be better understood as avijjā or ignorance. This is not to say that there is nothing, but that the six-sense consciousnesses are not the resting place for wisdom-understanding - rather, the six-sense consciousnesses have form-becoming as their self-governing impetus.
To a Puthujjana or a struggling noble one, this can easily be mistaken as a solipsistic view. You can read my answer here about why suffering is still acknowledge by an enlightened mind thus refuting the ideas of solipsism.
Back to the answer, there's a great book called Mae Chee Kaew and in that book is a section you might like about how she suddenly comes to understand that what her mind created only appeared to be real, only appeared to exist. See if the wisdom here calls out to you.
Spontaneous Awarenes - Page 184
Mae Chee Kaew’s meditation had reached a decisive phase in body
contemplation, a turning point in which the root-cause of the mind’s
attachment to bodily form was seen in stark clarity. As instinctive
feelings of revulsion reunited with their primary cause, a profound
realization suddenly occurred: the mind itself produced feelings of
revulsion and attraction; the mind alone created perceptions of
ugliness and beauty.
Those qualities did not actually exist in the objects of perception. The mind projected those attributes onto the images it perceived, and
then deceived itself into believing that the objects themselves were
beautiful and attractive, or ugly and repulsive.
In truth, the flow of consciousness was consistently steeped in a
proliferation of mental imagery and attending emotion. Her mind
painted elaborate pictures all the time — pictures of herself and
pictures of the external world. It then fell for its own mental
imagery, believing it to be substantially real.
At that stage, the infinite, space-like awareness of mind essence and
the particularity of conscious perception were operating
Gradually the illusion of cohesive mental images began to break down
as well. Within the flowing current of consciousness, myriad amorphous
forms and fragmentary shapes arose, coalesced into images, and then
broke apart immediately, only to regroup and disband time and time
again. No sooner did an image of the body appear than it vanished
Before a particular desire or expression could fully formulate, the
source of awareness simply enveloped it, causing it to dissolve into
emptiness and disappear. Countless potential ways in which body and
mind could express themselves seemed to arise in random succession,
only to dissolve into emptiness, one after another.
Habitual concepts of bodily existence expressed a desire to take form
and declare their individual characteristics, but the knowing essence
dissolved them all before they could establish a definite presence in
This insight occasioned a momentous revolution of Mae Chee Kaew’s
entire being. She understood the truth with absolute certainty:
delusion about imagery produced by the flow of consciousness leads to
feelings of repulsion and attraction.
She realized that both were rooted in a deeply instinctive, but almost
subliminal, distortion of conscious perceptions of body and form. When
the real basis of those perceptions was exposed, completely
undermining their validity, the external world of appearances
collapsed, and her attachment to it ceased of its own accord.
With the cessation of all images created by the mind, came the
cessation of attachment to form. Once her mind had withdrawn
completely from all sensual involvement, a feeling of profound
serenity enveloped her entire mental being.
Finally, for Mae Chee Kaew, bodily images, even as bare forms, no
longer existed within her mind’s conscious framework. Since no shapes
or forms remained in the mind to be grasped, Mae Chee Kaew knew she
could never be reborn in the realms of form again.
The mind’s usual sense of physical limitation and embodiment
completely disappeared. She felt her being dissolve, expand outward
and merge with all things, as though forming one essence with the
universe; resting within, unfettered by any dependency, was a supreme
emptiness — clear, bright and still."
Mae Chee Kaew pdf book
(Also an audio version here)
Allowing this radical change to come to the fore does not mean that one must sit on a zafu cushion, although that's helpful. In every waking moment it is possible to realise what is real through a practice called non-objectless awareness taught by Hongzhi Zhengjue but originating from the Buddha. From this practice comes a silent illumination brought about by the relinquishing of form-based consciousnesses and the best part: it can be done anywhere, at anytime and completely impromptu. It is a moving into the unadulterated, all-inclusive field of in the seeing, there is just seeing... without being clouded by concepts, grasping, clinging and duality. The Buddha teaches this to Bahiya thus:
"Herein, Bahiya, you should train yourself thus: 'In the seen will be merely what is seen; in the heard will be merely what is heard; in the
sensed will be merely what is sensed; in the cognized will be merely
what is cognized.' In this way you should train yourself, Bahiya.
"When, Bahiya, for you in the seen is merely what is seen... in the cognized is merely what is cognized, then, Bahiya, you will not be
'with that.' When, Bahiya, you are not 'with that,' then, Bahiya, you
will not be 'in that.' When, Bahiya, you are not 'in that,' then,
Bahiya, you will be neither here nor beyond nor in between the two.
Just this is the end of suffering."