About the Author:
This blog is written by Siddharth Mathur, Designated Partner at Lex Protector LLP. Siddharth is a intellectual property rights practitioner and a prolific blogger who writes on issues of mental health, mindfulness, art and culture.
Henry David Thoreau, an American philosopher and poet once said “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see”.
It’s a very simple, but extremely powerful proverb that can have multiple interpretations. However, when observed from an abstract level of mind, it introduces us to an important aspect of mindfulness: “Perception”. I heard a monk once state that “It’s not what we look at, it’s what we see. It’s not what we hear, it’s what we perceive.” Perception can only be defined by experience and we only truly experience something if we are 100% present in the now, in the present moment.
In the last blog, we had discussed reasons behind origin of various thoughts in our mind and how our relationship with them defines our life’s experience. Today, let’s explore further as to how the perception about various things happening around us mould our reality and what we can do to make our perception more “practical” through mindfulness.
We may be influenced by world around us, but it is the mind alone that defines the whole experience. There are lot of different ways of expressing resentment of this idea, but we all know that one person can look at one thing and see it in one way another person can you look at exactly same thing and look at it in entirely different way. The half empty half full glass example is a good way to explain that. But, what really makes a person look at things the way he looks at? Upbringing? Relationships? Religion? Or maybe a mixture of everything? Obviously, the answer isn’t that straightforward. But it’s an undeniable fact that perception of our reality is moulded by our mind based on our past experiences. But if you will observe carefully, you will find that it’s our mind’s relationship with the things happening around us that defines our life-experiences. Over the years of evolution, human mind has learned from its past to improve its future and it has worked out really well for us. But there has been a downside to it. In a quest to make our future better, we have started to dwell more into the past, drifting away from the present. That’s why emotions like anxiety and resentment are considered “normal”, or an inherent characteristic of being a human. But this is exactly what mindfulness and school of thoughts associated with this practise intend to challenge. Meditation, as perviously explained, is a tool to change this notion by challenging the establish norms of human unconsciousness, and changing of perception is one of the time tested ways to improve the overall experience of life.
A proverb comes to the mind again. “Life is what happens to you when you are busy planning it”. I think the “planning” section of the proverb is where the perception comes in. On one day, our mind might be experiencing one set of thoughts and reacts to it in one way, while on a different day, depending on the situation, we might experience identical situation and react in an entirely different manner.
It happens because our mind’s framework, at any given point of time, is always persisting in a space that is dominated by thoughts and emotions that derive their existence from either past or future. The more we notice this, the more we remind our mind that it’s not what is happening to us in the world that defines our life, but it’s about how we relate to it. It obviously doesn’t mean that we will start liking everything it’s happening around us. That is never going to happen because something that will make us angry, sad jealous will always be there because it’s a part of human nature but we can shift our perception through tools like meditation and start to understand that we can change our perception towards things happening around us. It can change our relationship with thoughts in our mind and we can stop resisting the flow of life. In doing so, we can create calm and clarity where we can perhaps even take some kind of a skilful action to improve things in the world around us.
If we can train our mind by staying in the moment, the way our mind perceives a thought and the underlying emotion, changes and we are less affected by it. While it’s easier said than done, a change is just round the corner. All you need to do is find some time for yourself where you are at peace with your mind and observe your thoughts as they come and go. The moment you realise that the mind has wandered, you bring your attention back to the present moment. That’s the essence of being mindful. Once you develop this practise, you will recognise your mind’s repetitive tactic of playing same thoughts over and over again, just like an old gramophone record that’s been playing in the background. The moment you realise this, a space is created and that’s exactly what we mean by “Being Mindful”. These “gaps” will be small, the thoughts will repeat, but you will be less affected by it. If you can carry this thought in your day to day activities, your perception changes and once that happens, your overall life’s experience is more determined by your present, rather than your past or future.
We will take our discussion further in more blogs about mindfulness and mental health.