Almost every single day, I walk my dogs around our neighborhood- a loop that is about 1.3 miles. We used to walk the loop in the same direction every time. And then, randomly, we walked the loop ‘backwards’ one day and I was shocked at the things that I noticed in the neighborhood that I had not seen before.
This is a simple example, but our perspective affects everything. We interpret our reality based on our view and that view can be influenced by things like our family, our upbringing, our culture, our experiences, our belief system. We get stuck in one way of seeing things and we don’t even realize that we have closed ourselves off to other views. From the example above, I thought that I knew all about every house in my neighborhood, but then when I simply walked the route from the opposite direction, I was able to see things in a totally different way- literally.
Our perspective is our view; how we see things. Our perspective will shape our reality, how we experience life, and what we are seeing to then be interpreted by the brain. Perception is how we interpret things. How we perceive them, how we take in information with our senses and then interpret what we are sensing. They really go hand in hand in creating what we see as reality.
In his book Before Happiness, Shawn Achor presents the importance and influence of perspective on everything that we do and think. Our perspective and perception together create the reality we live in, so if we are fixed in our mindset and unable to see other perspectives, change (in any form) for us may not even be a possibility.
I have worked with many clients who are suffering from long-term depression and/or anxiety, and frequently, they believe that what they are currently feeling is how they will feel for the rest of their lives. They believe that they have no control over their thoughts, that nothing will help, and that there will never be any relief from what they are experiencing. Many of them also have negative self-talk constantly running in their minds and they are looking for what is wrong or terrible in their world. Their perspective is supporting their current reality and it is also perpetuating that they are experiencing.
Several people can experience the same exact event and each one will have a slightly different story to tell about it. Our internal experience of an external event is influenced by our perspective, which, as we already noted, is based upon our history, our family life, our outlook, etc. According to Shawn Achor, “your reality is a choice; what you choose to focus on shapes how you perceive and interpret your world.” This can be a difficult idea to accept for someone who has been unhappy for a long time, but this is great news! You CAN change your reality, you simply have to start with your perspective.
By practicing seeing things from a different angle, a different view, we can become more open, more creative, and more flexible in our thinking.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is seen as the primary text on yoga and after the call to begin, the second thing this text states is that the purpose of yoga is to help to settle the mind and redirect our focus to what is true in this moment rather than what we are projecting onto this moment. Through this practice, we begin to retrain the mind into a more peaceful and happy way of functioning.
The teachings of the Yoga Sutras address how we see things. How we perceive each experience and how we then choose to respond to those experiences will shape our day-to-day lives. We often keep ourselves stuck or in suffering by creating our reality based on old or outdated views. We are reminded that pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional and we can begin to see the ways that we keep ourselves in suffering with our thinking patterns.
Today, try seeing things from a different perspective- a new view. Drive a different way to work, eat something different for lunch, or talk to someone you wouldn’t usually talk to. When you feel the impulse to react the same way you “always” react, take a deep breath and do something different. If you want a different result, you have to do something different. It doesn’t have to be huge or life shattering- you could just go on your walk the opposite direction than you usually do.
It may feel uncomfortable at first, but this is your brain adjusting to the change- growing and finding new ways to function. This is a good thing! You can think differently when you see things differently.
Good luck- you know I will be doing the same thing right along with you.
Talk again soon,