Lessons From India: It’s All About Perception

Perception, in my experience, has never, ever resembled truth. How many times have I been angry with my mother or a friend, or even a partner, because of my perception of a certain situation? Too many to count. Because at the time I’m 100% certain I’m right. Based on feelings, which are subjective, right? They make mistakes. Have you ever thought you saw something, felt utterly hopeless and then realised your eyes had mislead you? I can’t begin to count the arguments I’ve had because of what I hear in someone’s voice, their tone perhaps- or even in words they haven’t actually said.

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Due to my narrow perspective, I find it terribly easy to find injustices. I tend to have an “It’s not fair” attitude that I forgot to leave behind with my childhood. I can become outraged at the slightest thing, things which don’t even make sense to be angry about. Like coming down for breakfast and finding there’s no milk in the fridge. Or traffic. Or when public transport is late. Having to pay so much for a taxi. When fruit goes mouldy too quickly. Things running out of battery. When it’s too cold… when it’s too hot.

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As we grow older we’re able to open our minds, broaden our perspective. Move past the conceptional level of feelings, feelings based on our senses, to the cognitive level. The truth. We all have that one wise person in our life, the one you can go to with almost any problem (an issue at work, a fall out with your best friend, problems in the bedroom… etc) and after speaking to them you see everything in a whole new light. You see the other side of the story. Maybe you’ve even been that wise person for someone else? Always giving great advice, always calming them down.

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By being objective we become wise. We listen to what this person says has happened, what they saw, perhaps something they thought they heard, and how they feel about it. We ask a few questions. When it becomes clear that they haven’t take anything else into consideration before forming their opinion, we start to make those considerations for them. “Ah”, they say, “Well I didn’t think about that.”. “Do you think she did it unintentionally?”, “Well if he’s jealous why didn’t he just say?”, “Mmm I hadn’t thought about that.” and then

Ding!

Through an objective person we’re able to calm down, see the whole story, and just like that our perceptive changes. We might stick with our original thoughts (especially if we are in the right) but we see there’s more to it now. Our perspective widens.

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In India it was easy to find faults in everything, it being such a different country to our own. Yet lecturers, professors, Indian friends, they all told us it’s about perception. I’d ask someone, “Aren’t you so annoyed about X?”, and they’d shrug, say “It’s all about perception!” smile and walk off. It got me thinking that my perspective sucks.

Why can’t I be the wise person I can go to when facing a difficulty? Yoga teaches us that everything we need to be happy and complete is within ourselves. Wouldn’t that just make me a crazy person? Pacing around, repeating the story to myself 100 times until I saw differently? But I would see differently eventually. I’d only then have to repeat it 50 times, then 20, then only a few. After enough practice I’d be able to quiet my senses in the very moment. I’d listen more instead of yapping on and on and on making what actually happened and what I think happened merge into one.
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This will be hard work, just as maintaining my morning yoga practice has been and remembering to wash my vegetables, but I’m going to work for it. I don’t want to live my whole life with a little mind. How do you tackle perception? Any tips on broadening ones perspective?

Have a glorious week,
Namaste

Sarah

Hi! I’m Sarah. I dropped out of university tired with the mundane life I was living in England. Now I’m an aspiring ex-pat of the world, having already lived and worked in Vietnam, Italy and Maldives. I’m using this blog to document my experiences and hopefully inspire others!

4 Comments

  1. Hey Sarah! Sounds like you had a pretty awesome experience in India. I feel as if my perception has also been broadened by my travelling experiences. Recently I went on a vegan cleanse retreat in Switzerland to a chilly mountain village. I’m not actually a vegan because I still eat chicken foods but I wanted to broaden my perspective. It was a difficult week but I learned a lot about myself. Perception colours your whole existence. I had this perception that I was spiritually enlightened but until I met others on a similar journey of self awareness I realised it was only a perception. Perceptions are illusions. We may perceive ourselves as one thing when in reality we are the opposite. I hope you have found this experience enlightening to your perspective. Much love.

    1. Oh my goodness Tom- this place sounds incredible. Where did you find it? That’s really interesting- so do you think spiritual enlightenment is just a feeling? Even so- to feel enlightened is pretty incredible! Thanks for your lovely message.

  2. Hey Sarah. Sorry for the late reply. My friend sent me a letter telling me about it as we’ve been largely eschewing electronic communication for the past year or so. I guess that’s also part of my attempt to achieve a level of untainted spirituality. Spiritual enlightenment is more than just a feeling I think. It’s not the same as the anger I get when I see the proliferation of environmentally irresponsible man made products for example. That’s in my head. Spiritual enlightenment is in the heart. You actually feel the weight lift when your spirit is released by your philanthropic essence.

    1. Hi Tom, that’s interesting- I just watched a Ted talk of a guy talking about ‘quitting the internet’ for a year and what he realised. Though you’re commenting on my blog, so you must have some usage! Does limiting it make you feel uplifted? You must have more freetime, and receiving letters is so wonderful! Absolutely agree with your last sentence there- though it has to be true. Being generous and kind for external reasons (wanting people to like you, for example) won’t ever result in enlightenment.

      I’ll also add that while anger and other emotions tend to be felt “in the moment”- like, I’m in traffic, I’m late, I’m angry. Or, she lied to me, I’m angry- happiness and resulting spiritual enlightenment are not felt ‘in the moment’. Rather it is in the act of searching for happiness, in the act of doing something to make your dream or calling come true, in the act of persevering, in failing, in pulling yourself back up, in learning, in facing fears. It’s all in the journey . Whatever the destination, whether you’re successful or not, whether your business goes bust or you make millions, etc, that’s not actually important. That’s what I’ve realized. He who goes out trying to make a million is always happier than he with a million in his bank account. (Because he with a million will inevitably want another million, and so on). So I don’t think we “reach” spiritual enlightenment or happiness exactly because that turns it into a final destination, which I don’t believe it is. The goal is there to make us move. Once we reach that goal, we need more goals or else all growth and therefore enlightenment ceases. If it was the final destination, millionaires and business owners and world travelers and newlyweds and parents and the winners of X Factor etc, wouldn’t be as unhappy as it seems they all are a while after they achieve their primary goal.

      It’s like people achieve something and then say, “Why aren’t I as happy as I thought I’d be?” and that’s because they didn’t realize their happiest time was in the journeying to one goal or another.

      Would you say that you are spiritually enlightened then? You said you’ve felt the weight lift, And what now? You’ll be content and happy for the rest of your days? I imagine there’s a lot more hard work, and inner work, to it than that, would you agree?

What do you think? Let me know!

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