“This is good, that’s bad. This I like. That I don’t like.” Our tendency to label things as being good or bad often puts us at a disadvantage when it comes to using our experience to our advantage and the advantage of others.
There is a parable about a man who captures a wild horse. The people in his village say how fortunate he is. The man's response: "Maybe." Then, his son breaks his leg while trying to tame the horse. Everyone says "How unfortunate". The man again says "Maybe". Then the army of the local warlord comes around to require service from the young men of the village. The son is not taken because of the broken leg. “How fortunate.” If the “lucky” man had experienced the roller coaster of emotional responses would it have helped him?
Our perceptions are filtered by our mental models - beliefs, values, cultural norms, etc. - and by our emotional reactions. Our perceptions drive our judgment and behavior. To change perceptions, step back and free the mind from the habitual reactions. Respond skillfully, where skillfully means in a way that helps to achieve goals.
How do we step back? Using mindfulness meditation we can cultivate the ability to be objective; to experience a state of mind that is behind (above; beyond) our normal sense of self. This doesn’t mean to deny that we are who we are. It doesn’t mean to give up our ego or to give up anything else. Instead of giving something up, it is reconnecting with or emphasizing a part of our mind that is already present. When this part of the mind is active we can simultaneously be aware of what is happening and be completely engaged in it.
There is nothing particularly magical or mystical here. To meditate there is no need to join a monastery or renounce the material world. We simply learn a relatively simple technique and make the effort to use it.
When we look without filters, objectively, we can see things as they really are. When we drop away useless or damaging mental models we are more likely to address real issues with effective responses. As we take that step back, we are less likely to be caught up in our emotions. That is what emotional intelligence is all about, the ability to avoid emotionally driven reactive behavior.
If we expand this idea beyond the confines of our own mind we can see that sharing our experience with others enables us to see things more clearly; we are less likely to react; more likely to respond.
In the world we live in there are successes and failure; positives and negatives. We might all agree that a project or an event that fails to meet expectations is not as “good” as one that does. How can we reconcile this with Wayne Dyer’s quote and the notion of objective, non-judgmental perception? We can look at failures as opportunities to learn. We can perceive harmful events as they are and be in a position to first accept and then make the best of the situation.
As Max Lerner has said, “I am neither an optimist nor a pessimist. I am a possibilitist.” We can adjust our perception from looking at the past and reacting to it, to one of looking towards the future and responding in the present in a way that makes the future more likely to be of benefit to ourselves and those around us. We can look at the glass as being half full or half empty or simply as a glass with an amount of liquid in it that just happens to be half of the glass’ capacity. Then we can look at it with a clear mind and see what it may mean to us.
Don't forget to leave your comments below.