Perceptions and Reality

I always feel a slight nudge of inspiration a day or two before I sit and write a new blog entry. I feel inspired, but more often than not I don’t know what I am going to write about until the last minute, when a particular topic suddenly becomes clear in mind. And that’s how it happened today too.

I was reading when I felt that I wanted just to be, so I sat to meditate. I felt peaceful and content. I was observing any thoughts passing by through my inner sky, when out of the blue I sensed that the topic I am to write about next is about perceptions and reality. Now, that’s a tricky one! I am not an expert and I have a whole bunch of my own perceptions (unfortunately!)… So I am just sharing what I experienced so far.

What is your reality? Is it grey buildings, air pollution and a constant competition at the employment market? Or is it a singing of birds, a park that hides behind tall buildings and a ray of sunshine on your skin? This is how one reality can be seen and described by two different people. This is how these people perceive the same place, the same reality.

A perception is what you choose to see, consciously or unconsciously, and you build your world view on it. Well, you build your whole world and reality on your perceptions through the filters of judgements and conditioning. You can feel that the world is a cruel and harsh place or that it is full of opportunities and adventures. Do you remember, “Is the glass half empty or half full?” The same glass, the same amount of water, but two different perceptions. This applies to everything in your life – your relationships, work, studies, health, others people, everything. You create stories in your mind about your world, relationships, and even about yourself.

None of it is true. No perception is ever right or wrong; it is simply not true. It is not true in a sense that it is not a reality as it is, but as a reality is seen by individuals. There are as many perceptions as there are individuals, but only one reality.

A reality is how things really are, free from our judgements and labels. Our mind is quick to judge and label. Let me give you an example. Imagine you are walking down the street in a city. You see tall buildings made out of glass and small coffee shops here and there. You see people wearing suits and cars passing by. Occasionally you see trees and plants. You’ve seen it hundreds of times, you know what things around you are. You see a green spot and immediately your mind says ‘tree’ and you hardly even look at it. You hardly even notice it after it’s been labelled as a tree. When you get home later, you will not even remember that there was a tree.

When you learn what a tree is as a child, you create a mental image of it based on your encounters with trees. Then later when you see a tall plant with a wooden trunk, branches and leaves, your mind tells you that it’s a tree. Once it’s labelled, your mind looses interest in it. Since we are so dominated by our minds, we loose interest too. When you really see a tree, without naming or labelling it, just as an amazing creation of nature, when you feel its beauty and smell the fragrance of its flowers, when you have no words, – only then you see that tree for what it truly is, as it is.

This is a true reality – seeing everything as it is. You can only see things as they are if you are fully present in the moment. Once you start labelling and judging, thinking that this is beautiful and that is ugly, you are not present. Your mind takes you back to your past experiences of beauty and ugliness and labels your surroundings through these perceptions, making them yet another perception.

The mind is tricky and it’s easy to believe that you see things as they are, but it may not be the case. Try this. Whenever you walk outside just look around you, see things that surround you. See space around you and how the angle of your view changes as you walk. Don’t concentrate on anything in particular, don’t read anything, just try and see everything at once. You will notice an incredible amount of activity and movement around you! Hear all sounds, but don’t listen to anything in particular. Smell, but don’t think that this is ‘bad’ or ‘I know that smell’, just notice it. Feel the wind on your face. You are present and you can see things as they are. You can then play with your focus and shift it from one object to another, without judging.

Soon you will notice that you are labelling again – that’s how our mind works, by default. When you do, just notice that! The moment you realise you are not present, you are present again! It’s like a game. And the more you play it, the easier it gets. Of course it requires some mental effort; It may not be so easy to start seeing things as they are. This is because we’ve used our mind and perceptions for many years and we may struggle to break the pattern. We are comfortable with our perceptions, even if they appear to be negative, because we know them – our mind is uncomfortable with anything uncertain or unknown. So don’t give up, just keep playing.

Our mind may also make us ‘forget’ to be in the moment. Especially when we have a lot to do – work, studies, home, shopping, cooking… That’s why it is easier to do it when you are walking – you can afford to postpone thinking and planning, just walk! These kind of moments are incredibly beautiful. Regardless of what you see, it is a joy to simply see, to be. You are witnessing the reality as it is. There is no space for stress or anything else that can disturb your peace.

When you are present, you don’t judge yourself, there is no space for it either! You just are, because there is no space for thoughts, and all our judgements and perceptions, including those of ourselves, are only thoughts. You are not blaming yourself for anything, you are not thinking that you are not good enough or that you are not worthy, because these are your false perceptions and they have nothing to do with the reality of who you are. In the present moment you are free, you can take a break and rest, finally! Love flows more easily and intensely when you are in tune with the now and vice versa, when you love, you are more present.

Why not join me in learning and practising being in the present moment? Just see things as they are at least once a day for at least a few moments! Feel free to share your experiences.

Image: painting by Josephine Wall