There’s an old and insightful story about a couple, Lisa and John, who moved into a new neighborhood. One morning while they were eating breakfast, Lisa looked out the window and watched her next-door neighbor hanging out her wash.
“That laundry’s not clean!” Lisa exclaimed. “Our neighbor doesn’t know how to get clothes clean!”
In fact, every time her neighbor would hang her wash to dry, Lisa would make the same comment. A few weeks later, Lisa was surprised to look out her window and see a nice, clean wash hanging in her neighbor’s yard. She said to her husband, “Look, John! She’s finally learned how to wash correctly! I wonder how she did it.”
John replied, “Well, dear, I have the answer for you. I got up early this morning and washed our windows!”
We may smile at this, but all of us have a window through which we view the world. What we see through that window is filtered through our own perceptions. It is our reality and we believe it to be true. Journalist and author Kathryn Schulz wrote a book called Being Wrong. In it she states, “The miracle of your mind isn’t that you can see the world as it is. It’s that you can see the world as it isn’t.” She writes that we are often not only wrong, but completely unaware of it.
We can clean our window by challenging our perceptions and expanding them. When we do this, we expand our world and all that is within it.
Jesus spoke directly to this because he knew that if we did do this, we’d be happier people living happier lives. “Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye but fail to notice the beam in your own eye? First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you will see clearly enough to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” – Matthew 7: 3, 5
Expanding Your Perceptions
The word perception is defined as the process of becoming aware of something through the senses. It is our consciousness. All that Jesus taught was for the purpose of raising our consciousness, expanding our view of ourselves and the world, and ultimately understanding ourselves to be consciousness itself.
The first step in expanding our perceptions is our being willing to suspend our ideas of what we think is true for a moment and to entertain the possibility that what we see and experience is our own version of reality.
See your world through someone else’s eyes.
One day this week I took my car to my favorite car wash. While I waited, along with several other adults, I noticed a little girl and her mom. The girl was playing on the railing, talking excitedly to her mother and trying to get her to play too. Mom was distracted and didn’t want to play. But the world was very different through her daughter’s eyes. The railing was a jungle gym and the people around her prospective playmates. I looked at the adults, including myself. We were a pretty serious group – some bored, some on phones, some involved with their thoughts. Had we lost the freedom to play? To make the most of the present moment?
Seeing our world through another’s eyes will open us up to other ways to view the world and invite us in.
Learn from other forms of life.
What’s it like to be a bird, or a tree, or a cat? Take a walk in your neighborhood park or in your backyard and notice the new blooms of roses, how the trees are now filled out with leaves and how the birds are nesting and singing. As humans, we live in a cognitively-oriented way. Our minds receive information and ideas and we process them in words and thoughts. But there are other ways to communicate, other ways to give and receive love, other ways to grow; other forms of life can be our teachers.
Experience another world.
This week Google offered a view into another world. By going to Google maps one could have an underwater view of Loch Ness and look for Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster. Experiencing another world opens our eyes to other perceptions of life, other ways of living, and invites us to look – and perhaps even live – outside our box of everyday habits and routines.
The benefits to expanding our consciousness are many; more freedom to be ourselves, more compassion for ourselves and others, expanded imagination, greater creativity. But the most important of all is that we will learn that we are unlimited in our ability to grow in our awareness of Life. “We do not see the world as it is. We see the world as we are,” wrote Anais Nin. As we become larger, so too, does our world.