“The real voyage of discovery lies not in finding new landscapes but in having new eyes.” —Marcel Proust 

So how do we develop “new eyes”?  Well, have you ever heard of John Perkins?  He’s the fellow who wrote “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.” and has recently come out with an update, “New Confessions…”. He used to work for mega-corporations to help them maximize their profits, cheating countries and people out of billions, and regardless of the effects on the environment or the people involved.  He left this dark side to join the ranks of folks working for a better world.

Perkins8f182062-3785-4661-b230-bf001d5238d2 recently wrote a piece about what he calls “The Perception Bridge”, the ability to alter objective realities by changing perceived reality.  He says this is a capacity that “elevated George Washington, Henry Ford, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King Jr, Steve Jobs, and other successful people to the heights of their success”.

Here’s another way to formulate this powerful idea: our perceptions literally, and significantly, change “objective reality”.   (Sound like hokum?  Remember that Einstein has said, “Reality is merely an illusion...albeit a very persistent one.”)

I suggest you read the entire article:  The Perception Bridge: Objective Reality Vs. Perceived Reality — What Drives Human Activity.  I find it utterly fascinating!

I’d like to expand the focus of this intriguing idea, and take it into the mental, emotional, and spiritual realms, where I find it also makes palpable differences — both in the way I perceive the world and also myself.

Here I am also drawing on a post from the Buddhist teacher 17dfa35c-1593-4168-8776-d1c8d3f3d8e7and writer, Jack Kornfield, Open to Mystery. (You can read this article here.)

Kornfield points out something obvious to me, except when I forget it :-):  Opening my eyes, or “having new eyes”, is an invitation to awe.  

I recently had the precious opportunity to hike our west coast rainforests with some dear women friends.  It was truly eye-opening to me to see first hand, hiking along in the woods, how my perceptions affected my “reality”.  Sometimes my perceptions focussed on my aging body: I was checking whether my knees were hurting, wondering when we’d stop for a snack, how much longer we’d be going up, up, up… At times I caught myself thinking, “if you’ve seen one tree/fern/moss-covered boulder, seen ‘em all!”  Yikes.  I marvelled at the dullness and knew there is another reality, realities.

img_7980It’s so very true that I/one can become dampened down by ordinary perceptions, habitual patterns, and miss the forest for the trees, so so speak :-).   Jack Kornfield, Annie Dillard, Mary Oliver all help to blast me out of this perceived reality into the mystery!  So does having new eyes!

Whether we look on the big scale, and marvel at images from the Hubble telescope that show us billions of stunning, mystical, magical galaxies in a square inch of sky, or shift focus to the small, intimate, delicate, micro, nano-world and find an equally astonishing universe in a tablespoon of soil, we see magnificent collaboration of forms weaving together to create the web of life and reality.

Objective Reality 1 could be that the world is essentially matter, showing up in different forms, each separate from the other.  Remarkable, yes, but a reality based on the perception of materialistic world view.

What happens if we change the fundamental perception to comprehend the world as not merely matter, but unfathomable Mystery.  Then humans are seen to be part of a dynamic unfolding; connected to the whole; consciousness is an intrinsic aspect of reality.  What’s even more thrilling, in this frame, mind and life play a participatory role in reality, and Objective Reality 2 emerges:  the moss, the trees, even the boulders, let alone the stars and galaxies, human friendship, and bountiful harvests, are an “extension of the universe’s ongoing creativity, and we are an integral part”.   Indeed, we are part of the universe actually waking up!

Take a moment to feel into this!  It blows our minds, in a good way 🙂

Another related, equally intriguing article that speaks to the connection between perception and the nature of reality, appears in the Institute for Noetic Sciences, and is called Consciousness and Cosmos.  You can read it here.  It’s quite a ride!  Science is addressing the challenging question of the nature of subjective consciousness, and the relationships between perception and reality.

Einstein weighs in on this in several ways.   One version is the “Reality is merely an illusion...” quote.  There is no “reality” in any fixed, unchanging way.  He also says, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.”  He goes on to elaborate on how this affects our lives, and art, and spirit.

I’d like to close these musings on perception and reality with a call for compassion for all of us, for the ways we forget to open our eyes, and a call for us to stop in wonder, to appreciate the gifts we’ve been given in this amazing life.  I want to remind myself, and you, to remember that each moment is a fresh opportunity to tap in to the present moment with wonder and gratitude.img_8008

Arthur Rubinstein says: “To be alive, to be able to see, to walk, to have houses, music, paintings — It’s all a miracle. I have adopted the technique of living life from miracle to miracle.”

PS Einstein also says:  “Do not grow old, no matter how long you live.  Never cease to stand like curious children before the Great Mystery into which we were born.”  This helps with the aging body and dubious knees!

Jill Schroder is the author of BECOMING: Journeying Toward Authenticity.  BECOMING is an invitation for self-reflection, and to mine our memorable moments for insights, meaning, and growth.  Check the website for a sample chapter, or see the reviews to get a flavor for the volume.  Your feedback, forwards, tweets, likes are most welcome.
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