Perception is relative—in constant flux and personal.
I remember a moment in my twenties when I felt that everyone around me was insensitive and oblivious to my feelings. I reached out to an older (wiser) friend for support, and his response…
“If you sense something from everyone… it is probably you.”
Ouch. But he was right. Often we perceive that the people are around us are causing our frustration or suffering, but they are not—we are. I woke up a little that day; I still have work to do but I am now more aware of my thought patterns and better skilled at managing my relationships.
All our experiences are based on relationship, the “I” in relation to “the other”; it may be our partner, our boss, our coworkers, our children, the weather, our car, even ourselves. Everything we experience is filtered through our perceptions.
What we find endearing at one moment may be frustrating at another. What I perceive as wonderful another may perceive as abominable.
My mother snores. I love my mother. As a child, I used to go crazy when we had to sleep I the same hotel room. I would toss and turn, writhing in agony at the sound. I would bury my head beneath the pillows or attempt to crawl between the mattresses. It would drive me crazy (sorry, Mom).
My partner snores. I love him, too. I am grateful for the opportunity to sleep by his side. I am grateful he is breathing. I choose to not be bothered by the sound of his snoring.
Imagine a time when my partner (no longer new) is lying in bed snoring, and I become agitated because I can’t sleep.
It would be easy to identify the snoring as the problem—but it would incorrect. The problem is my inability to sleep (or my frustration with some other event that occurred before bed). Snoring is not inherently irritating to me. My love of honeymoon snoring proves this.
Same snoring. Different perception.
Our minds are like a car’s windshield after we attempt to pass a semi in a sleet storm. Past experience, preconceptions and fears cloud our mind and make it hard for us to see clearly.
Yoga philosophy identifies five Klesas—impurities of the mind.
1. False understanding
2. Mistaken identity
5. Anxiety or fear
Cultivate awareness of the Klesas and our triggers, the things that get under our skin and disturb our peace.
Consider the relativity of our perceptions.
Choose not to let each of these perceptions disturb us.
Recognize what we have the power to control our reactions—our experience of the situation.
Yoga is a practice to clean the windshield.
Life is a process of discovery and unfolding.
Do the work of cleaning the windshield without fear or worry. It may take some time.
Galileo did not fear the dark night, neither should we.
I have loved the stars too fondly
To be fearful of the night. ~ Sarah Williams from The Old Astronomer
(I highly recommend this book: Yoga for Body, Breath and Mind: A Guide to Personal Reintegration by A.G. Mohan.)
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: Jennifer Moore