Mar
22

Playing with Perspectives-Learning to See Part 3

By

I have a pine tree outside of my office window.

From the outside, the tree look rather unsightly. People have told me I should cut it down. “It’s ugly.” “It’s too near the house.”

However, as I sit at my computer and look out at the tree, a whole world of nature opens up.

The branches, and blue sky between.

I enjoy seeing the birds that often come to sit in the branches and chirp away. Or the squirrels that climb up the limbs. Occasionally I’ll even see a chipmunk racing up the trunk, or picking off the berries in autumn.

I will not cut down that tree. It offers me too much joy. My perspective “from the inside” is completely different from someone who sees this tree from the outside.

Playing with perspectives is a fun way to gain mental agility and even develop more compassion.

rain drops on clear glass windshield

Photo by Ashwini Chaudhary(Monty)

For instance, how often were you cut off in traffic? What were your first thoughts?

“What an inconsiderate person. They could cause an accident.” Anger and judgment rise up as you clench your teeth and your blood pressure rises.

What if you noticed this automatic way of thinking, and deliberately shifted to non-judgmental curiosity about what else might have caused the person to rush and cut you off?

What if that person just got bad news that a loved one is in the hospital, and they are rushing to get there before the person passes away?

What if they got delayed at work, and are rushing to pick up their child from school so the child does not feel abandoned?

How would those thoughts color your feelings and even, how your body responds?

Our perspective colors and even creates our reality.

person holding crystal ball

Photo by Nadine Shaabana

To test this out for yourself, I invite you to think of a common scenario in your life that annoys, frustrates, upsets you. Perhaps it’s that you have to remind your spouse yet again to take out the trash, and it’s 10pm and you’re tired and you just want to go to bed?

Your thoughts might be: Why can’t he remember? Trash day is always on Tuesdays, and here it is, 10pm on Monday and he’s still watching TV, oblivious.

Notice your thoughts. Notice what’s going on in your body as you think these thoughts.

Now, what if you shifted your thoughts to review the day from your spouse’s perspective? What did he actually do that day? Was his day particularly busy? Did he seem stressed? Did he mention that he had a tough day at the office?

How might that color your perspective? Your feelings? What’s going on in your body?

Our thoughts are energy, and our thoughts help to create our reality. Especially our emotional and physical reality.

Getting back to the Bates Method of vision improvement, he talks about how we can easily create tunnel vision. “Poor vision habits” is one of the three causes he cites for declining vision. Bates encouraged people to use their eyes in various ways, such as following the outline of a window or a painting on the wall, or shifting your gaze from near to far. This both rests and exercises the eye, and widens the ability to see in a wider range.

a man standing on top of a mountain with his arms wide open

Photo by Ryan Hoffman

One hundred years later, when we’re all staring at screens, tunnel vision is probably even more of a problem. The antidote is to get up, move your eyes as mentioned, gaze at something very near, then very far.

Dr. Liz Stanley, in her book Widen the Window, says that slowly moving your head and neck to gaze at neutral objects in the room calms the “survival brain” and allows the “thinking brain” more access to solutions and insights.

The physical ways to change perspective point to more metaphorical ways of “widening our window” to allow for several perspectives.

When you can begin to “see” from different perspectives, different points of view, it deepens your ability to be more compassionate, with other people, and even with yourself.

This is very good for your nervous system. The fear response does all kinds of nasty things to your body, when it becomes chronic. A neuroscientist, Dr. Jim Wilder, once told me that the circuit in the brain that’s associated with fear is the same one that curiosity rides on. So, if you consciously get curious about something that scares you, you interrupt that fear response. Your nervous system is not activated, and your higher functioning “thinking brain” can take over.

gray owl on brown wooden fence during daytime

Photo by Josh Mills

Curiosity, by its very nature, counters fear. It encourages us to explore and understand rather than avoid and fear the unknown. It is a great antidote to the uncertainty of these unprecedented times.

Next time you feel anxious, worried, or fearful because you’re facing uncertainty (possibly in the next two minutes), notice those feelings and then switch to curiosity. Try on different perspectives, as mentioned in my examples and the suggestions below. Train yourself to “see” multiple viewpoints at the same time.

Not only will that quell fear and anxiety, but it’s a whole lot more fun. It’s akin to the eye exercises Dr. Bates suggests retrain your eye muscles to their proper functioning. You’re training your “neurological muscles” to “see” in different ways, thus opening you up to new possibilities and countering the rigid thinking that locks you in fear.

Here are some fun things to try.

1. At different times of the day, check in with yourself and how you are seeing. What is my current perspective on what’s happening? Is this current way of seeing helpful? If it is not helpful, ask yourself: Can I shift my perception to a different way of seeing this? If you do shift your way of looking, evaluate: What changes? What changes in your experience of yourself (thoughts, feelings, body sensations), of others, of the world around you?

2. Like trying on different pairs of glasses, you can also “try on” different ways of seeing very deliberately.

man holding eyeglasses

Photo by Nathan Dumlao

Some different “glasses” to try on and play with:

  • different emotions (anger, anxiety, shame, sadness, joy, tenderness, etc.)
  • a hurried, running-late person, or a sleep-deprived person, or a stressed person
  • some role(s) you hold (e.g. parent, child, spouse, professional role)
  • some identities you hold (e.g. your gender, race, age, ethnicity, nationality, religious identity)
  • open, spacious awareness
  • a person of faith, or a person with no faith

As you try on these different “glasses,” notice how you feel about yourself, what you notice about your mind state, body sensations and energy level, body posture, values, thought patterns, emotions, voice, and behavior.

You can also notice where your attention and awareness are drawn. With these “glasses” on, which cues are most prevalent about yourself and about the world around you? Notice how that way of looking affects your actual experience of yourself and others and the world.

3. Finally, you can start noticing the way others are perceiving the world, themselves, and other people. As you consume news, social media, and talk with people, notice their default ways of looking, and how that may be creating their experience of reality.

Does being able to see from their perspective open up new ways of understanding them for you? Does your appreciation of their perspective shift the way you perceive and relate to them? Can you bring non-judgmental curiosity to their ways of looking, even if they’re different from yours? Why or why not?

I hope you have fun with these exercises! In Part Four I will talk about a paradigm shift that can change everything.

If you would like more, ongoing help in healing and transforming your perspective (a.k.a. your whole life), check out my Align with Your Divine DesignTM program.

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