The diversity of our perspectives make life rich and more interesting.
I love it when something grabs my attention enough to shift my perspective. I’ve had it happen twice this week and am going to spend some time today reflecting on those experiences, as they provide a wonderful opportunity to check in with my own beliefs and/or biases to strengthen my emotional intelligence level.
The first perspective-reminder was at a workshop I was doing on emotional intelligence with a group of Spanish-speaking community members. In this workshop, I show a series of pictures that some consider positive and some negative to demonstrate how we each have our own feelings about life events based on our past experiences and beliefs, and how we need to take care not to assume that others like us feel like us. One of the pictures is of President Trump and although in my workshops with English speaking participants, there are mixed feelings, when I’m in a Spanish-speaking community, it’s always been a negative response. Until this week. One woman not only indicated she had positive feelings about the picture, but expressed that she loved him. It was so obvious by her expression and body language that she sincerely loves this President, I didn’t even need the interpreter to translate her response.
I highly respected her for not only being honest in a group where she was the lone supporter, but also because she didn’t hesitate at all, nor did she seem judgmental about the rest of the group. And of course, I am grateful to her because I needed that perspective shake-up. I hadn’t realized that I’d gotten a little complacent about thinking that all people of Mexican or South American descent don’t like the current President. That’s obviously not true and gives me a great opportunity for reflection.
The second occurrence was simply a social media post by Bruce Lipton. There’s a very common analogy in spirituality to capture the essence of how we are all connected to each other and to God. It’s that God is the ocean and we’re each drops in the water. For those of you that are not spiritual, it could be that consciousness is the ocean and we’re each a drop, creating collective consciousness. Dr. Lipton’s post said that "we are not a drop in the ocean, but the entire ocean in a drop." I could hear the brakes screeching in my brain. Now I have something else to think about, as that statement resonated in my body, which always indicates the signal to pay attention. It’s a complete perspective shift.
Our perspective defines our 'experience of life' and we can get a little stuck if we don’t pay attention to our perspective, or if we’re not open to shifting our perspective based on new information that’s presented to us. Remember that life is only perception and we each have a different reality. It honestly disturbed me when I first really recognized this versus my old way of thinking - that there is only one reality and we all are experiencing it the same way. It didn’t feel safe and it put the responsibility of the quality of my life on me, not outside circumstances. But once we get past the initial fear of this perspective, we discover that it’s the key to living a full, enriching life where we are in the driver’s seat, steering our lives where we want them to go instead of being tossed around by life’s events.
Of course, mindfulness is a powerful practice to help broaden our perspective and to clearly see that our perception is not the only one, or the “right” one. When that woman in the workshop said she loved President Trump, it was mindfulness that allowed me to accept her feelings in the moment and also prompted a flood of insight into my own biases and assumptions. Questioning our own perspective is a healthy and enlightening action that helps us become even more mindful, as well as become better humans. My brain wanted to know why anyone from south of the border or even had ancestry from that region would support the President’s policies of building a wall or closing the border. Answers flooded my brain not long after because I am open to different perspectives. But not all of us are...Yet. If we stay closed to new perspectives, we tend to get stuck in the right/wrong question. "I’m right and you’re wrong" is a widespread problem we have in the world right now.
The only truth is that we don’t know the bigger picture and we only know what is right for us. What is right for me may be completely wrong for you. But right and wrong are perceptions, not blanket realities. That I would assume that all Hispanics dislike President Trump indicates that I have a cognitive bias in play. We all have inherent biases, whether we want to admit it or not. There’s nothing “wrong” about that. But it’s ignoring those biases that gets us into trouble. If we can recognize that we all have biases, then we can see them as opportunities for growth. When we witness one of our biases in action, we can take steps to reflect and reconsider, minimizing those biases which creates a space for open dialogue and compassion for our fellow humankind.
Andy Puddicombe, former monk and developer of the mindfulness app, Headspace, says, “Mindfulness cannot change what happens to us, but it does fundamentally transform our experience of our situations, events, and circumstances. It is not about fixing anything; it is about understanding everything. And as we better understand our own mind, we can begin to understand others, too.”
Wouldn’t we all be happier if there was less tension and discord in the world? While mindfulness has many health benefits and eases stress, it’s most powerful effects are in how it can change our relationships. We see people differently once we practice mindfulness. We’re less judgmental. We have much broader perspective. We can see that whether we’re each a drop in the ocean or the ocean in each drop, we’re all connected and we all have an impact on each other.
Take some time this week to notice your perspective. And more importantly, notice other people’s perspective and enjoy the fact that it’s the diversity of our perspectives that makes life rich and more interesting.