Do you remember going to the school nurse for the annual eye exam? Resting the chin on the bar and deciphering the tan dots of the number 4 from all the other speckled dots, while the nurse tested for color blindness – the vision test, not the racial test. Sometimes we have an incomplete view of reality and don’t see the whole picture (in various circumstances). Often, we aren’t conscious of it. Archie Bunker and his son-in law, Meathead from All In The Family lived in the same house yet they had radically different perceptions of the same event.
Take these two examples I used in MBSR class this week and play with your perception.
Can you see two women?
When we are stuck, we need to meet our resistance by thinking outside the box, allowing us to see with a new set of eyes. It takes a certain amount of intention to meet a situation with openness, curiosity, and kindness to counteract the part of ourselves that thinks we have it all figured out. Suzuki Roshi said "In the beginner's mind, there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few".
It’s only natural for us to view the world from our history. Who we think we are is based on our beliefs, environment, and the identities we’ve taken on. All of that conditions and confirms our sense of self in the world. Our perception determines whether we see the glass as half full or half empty. Dr. Richard Lazarus took Selye’s definition of stress and added this magical word called perception. “Stress occurs when an individual perceives that the demands of an external situation are beyond his or her perceived ability to cope with them”. We can change our perception of stress by changing our distorted perceptions. Whether we see something as a full-on catastrophe or an inconvenience comes back to our perception and our resources we have to deal with them.
What situation in your life calls you to take on a new perception?