One has not only an ability to perceive the world but an ability to alter one’s perception of it; more simply, one can change things by how he or she looks at them. -Tom Robbins
How we see the world is so much of how we experience it that it’s important for us to slow down sometimes and take stock of our perceptions to make sure that we’re seeing it as positively as possible. Sometimes, we see things through a glass darkly–things look negative, intimidating, or downright fearful–but we have to question whether that perspective is accurate.
We do have the power to change our perception of the world. We can see things differently than we see them on our bad days; we can see them differently than the ways that tell us that we’re wrong, that things are terrible, or that the world is out to get us. Shifting our perspective is ridding ourselves of the destructive stories we’ve been telling ourselves about how the world is and replacing them with positive–and more accurate–stories that lift us rather than drag us down.
If one wants to change perspective, much of the task is changing one’s beliefs about what one sees. If a person insults me, I can respond by feeling bad about myself or by feeling bad for someone who needs to insult others to make him/herself feel “better.” If I lose my job, I can focus on what I’ve lost or gained–and experience tells me that losing a job usually turns out to be for the best all the way around, as it allows one to find something much, much better.
We must acknowledge that things may not be exactly what we think they are, no matter how much we cherish our beliefs. When we do this, we can start to see the world in different ways, and the world we thought we knew can become a marvelous new world full of amazing things due to a slight shift in perspective.
Questions to consider:
Why do we think we know exactly what the world is (and isn’t)?
What would be some possible benefits of a shift in perspective?
What kinds of beliefs do you hold so dear that you’ve never even considered the possibility that they may not be just as you think?
For further thought:
A friend’s son was in the first grade of school, and his teacher asked the class, “What is the color of apples?” Most of the children answered in red. A few said green. Kevin, my friend’s son, raised his hand and said white. The teacher tried to explain that apples could be red, green, or sometimes golden but never white. Kevin was quite insistent and finally said, “Look inside.” Perception without mindfulness keeps us on the surface of things, and we often miss other levels of reality. – Joseph Goldstein