The easiest way to see how perception works is to look at the metaphor with colored glasses. If we put glasses with colored lenses on our eyes everything we will see will be of a certain color. If we put glasses with green colored lenses on for instance everything we will look at will seem green to us. It’s not that everything is green in reality, it just looks that way when we put on the colored glasses.
That is perfectly understandable to all of us. But let’s imagine if we would put on those colored glasses, wear them for a really long time and never put them down. Let’s say we would forget we are even wearing them. What would happen is that in time we would completely forget how the world actually looked before we put on the glasses. No matter what anyone else would say for us everything would be green, red, blue whatever. And everybody else who would say the world is of different colors would seem nothing short of crazy to us.
When we are born nothing is distorted. Children see things exactly as they are. Before someone can even say the word “cat” he/she sees a cat exactly as it is. Then parents, teachers, other people and things who have influence over a child fill him with all sorts of distorted views. This is bad, that is good, this is wrong, that is right and so on. The more distorted views we adopt the more distorted our overall perception becomes. Some people see themselves as being trapped by their job or their partner or whatever when they are in fact being trapped by their perception of their job or their partner.
Rumi for instance said it wonderfully regarding love: “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” So when we talk about perception we should not ask: “What to do to expand it? but rather “What to remove so that I may see clearly again?” We all possess clarity when wrong views are removed, but to remove them is where the real challenge lies.
When we look at things in our world through our fears, hopes, attachments and ambitions we will never see things as they really are. When we look and act through fear we give up a lot of our potential. When we look and act through hope we never acknowledge what is already present. When we look and act through attachment we never move forward in life. When we look and act through ambition we leave a lot of collateral damage around us. We will also try to change or influence others in line with our own faults. So our perception is the key element which we owe to ourselves to make it as clear as we can.
If we really want to come to the heart of the matter we have to question everything we have been ever taught or have learned ourselves. We have to start doubting the views that we hold with utmost conviction. And of course, we have to be very skeptical of anything new we hear, read or see. Those are some of the most difficult things in life. Because that means to put into question everything we know and everything we are. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to do all that, but it is the only way to become a more real human being. It’s a process and the best way to begin is to start building up our courage to confront ourselves.
Photo by Mathilda Khoo