What Other People See

Do you ever wonder what the view is like through someone else’s eyes? It’s likely to be very different, but in what ways? What might we learn about them if we asked, and for that matter, based on the questions we ask, what might we learn about ourselves?

When I was in Junior High School, I discovered that I couldn’t see the blackboard at the front of the room well enough to read it. Clearly this was a problem since the homework assignments for the next day were written there.

Perhaps I need to pause here for a moment. Yes, I am dating myself. Now of course, it’s called Middle School and probably all the assignments are on a Chromebook or other laptop. Although there are always changes, not being able to see well enough remains the same.

At first, I tried to sit closer, but that wasn’t good enough. Even squinting didn’t help. So, I broke down and told my parents and they took me to get my first pair of glasses. I hated wearing them. Still do actually. And yet I need them for seeing anything in the distance.

I am often asked why I don’t wear them all the time. And some folks in my life want to know how I manage to get along not being able to make things out.

I guess that over time I’ve learned ways to adjust. I can usually determine who is in the distance by their gait or mannerisms, but not always. Sometimes I am at a complete loss to identify something or someone.

When this happens, it occurs to me that perhaps everyone has their own version of this.

It seems to me that it’s pretty easy to take things for granted. We only see certain things and miss others. We have blind spots and could use more acute vision. Maybe it would be handy to have an optometrist for our life, who could help us see what others see.

If a friend stopped you the next time they saw you and asked what your life is like, would you be able to help them see it through your eyes? Could you explain why you feel the way you do?

If you asked them to tell you how they see you, what do you suppose they would share? Is it likely that it would match what you see yourself?

Earlier in my life I wrote out a list of adjectives and asked several of my friends to circle the ones they thoughts best described me. It was a bit of a risk because the list included some unfavorable adjectives, ones I hoped they didn’t choose. When I got the completed lists back, I eagerly poured over them. This was a chance to see through someone else’s eyes and to satisfy my own curiosity.

I was surprised by many of their choices. In some cases, it tipped me off balance. I had to stop and think about how I related to each person in order to make sense of their answers.

For me, it was a grand opportunity. I had a choice to make. I could discount their answers and go on thinking that I knew best, or I could yield and accept that their perspectives had merit. That they knew things and saw things about me that I didn’t. I could shift beliefs about myself. And I could change whatever didn’t fit with who I wanted to be in the world.

I think we all have this same chance, if we pay attention. If we listen with an open heart. If we acknowledge that we have vested interests in maintaining our personal story, and yet if we listen carefully when others speak, we might be able to grow wiser.

If we loosen our grip on the image we project into the world, we can evolve and expand. If our eyes are fully open, we can flourish and see with clear vision this beautiful world of ours.

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Was Buddha Worried About His Weight?

One day I was wondering about all of the diets there are around, so I decided to investigate a little. A quick search of the internet produced thirty-nine diets, identifying their strong and weak points.

It was mind boggling.

How could anyone ever hope to understand all of the differences between them and conclude which would be the best to try, if in fact, you wanted to try one at all?

The specifics of each diet change depending on the emphasis of the plan. Many diets support the idea of increasing fruit, vegetables, fish and plant-based foods. Others capitalize on certain foods groups to counter physical conditions like, high blood pressure, diabetes, cardio concerns or to improve mental functioning. In all the cases I read about, nutrition and safety play a major role, but there seems to be a significant difference of opinion, depending on the expert who is providing the information.

Some diets are notoriously difficult to follow, while others make it too challenging to understand the differences between good and bad food items or some other key components.

In many cases there are supporting statements made to attempt to convince a potential dieter of the values or reasons for the individual plans. For instance, some report that the Paleo Diet says, “that if cavemen didn’t eat it, you probably shouldn’t either.”

It wasn’t until my mid 60’s that I felt the need for a diet. A gradual increase in my weight each year suggested I would be in trouble if I didn’t make some immediate changes.

So, off I went to Weight Watchers.

Their program stresses adherence to certain point goals (each food is assigned a point value) and highly recommends attendance at weekly meetings, to monitor weight and participate in conversations with other members, guided by an instructor.

I did, in fact, reach my goal and have been mostly successful in maintaining it, within a reasonable range.

What all of the instructors say is, that to be truly successful, you have to change your mind-set about your relationship with food. Merely altering what you eat for a short time, even though it might produce some results, will fail in the long run.

I believe they are correct.

I believe there is a lot more involved that allows a person to achieve their weight goals. Or, for that matter, any goals they might have.

This is where Buddha comes in.

Have you ever seen a picture of Buddha with a large belly? I bet you have. Do you think Buddha spent any time concerned about his weight? I doubt it.

Bear in mind here (BIG DISCLAIMER), I am not suggesting or recommending that you ignore the sound advice from your health professionals regarding any diet ideas they have, especially, if you have an obvious health concern.

What I do want to share is a thought about our ‘beliefs’, especially in relation to what we experience in life.

Considering all dieters, could the difference between those who are successful and those who are not, be their belief about the outcome they would experience, rather than the particular diet they were on?

If you substituted a different concept for dieting (academic, career, relationship, finances…), would it work the same way, meaning your outcome would be directly related to your belief about your outcome, rather than one of the individual steps you took?

It certainly feels to me like an important idea to consider, mostly because it alters the dynamic, shifting it from a conceptual form to one of belief, particularly if the belief is deep seated.

This idea is creating a shift in my mind-set about my food intake and maintaining my weight. What if I had a strong belief that it is not so much about what I eat, as it is about what I believe about what I eat?

That’s something I think Buddha would have something to say about.

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Shifts in Belief

One of the best things I can do for myself, when something in my life is not going the way I’d like it to, is shift one of my beliefs. I may not immediately know which belief or how to change it, but I know it’s the wise thing to do.

Folks often tell me they have bad memories. My usual response is, “I bet it’s far better than you think it is.” I follow this statement by asking, “would you like some proof?”

Doubtful, but intrigued, folks almost always say, “yes”.

There are numerous methods to improve memory and I’ve worked successfully with several. Based on what I know about the person, I choose one I believe will appeal to them.

In one case, I was talking with a staff member (who I’ll call Gwen) and she explained that she had trouble remembering when she needed to retain several things at once. Gwen added that they all kind of ran together, making it hard to recall any of them and asked if I really thought she could get better at remembering.

“Absolutely,” I said. I asked her to write down a list of ten random things. She glanced at me with a hesitant look, but picked up a pen and wrote them down.

“Okay,” I said, “now we’re going to make a movie together. I want you to tell me your first item and we’re going to create a visual picture in your mind.”

She’d chosen ‘tie’, so we visualized an enormous tie the size of a house with a bold rainbow pattern on it. Next item happened to be ‘house’, so we visualized a scary haunted house and wrapped the tie around it. We continued this way through all ten items, making each stand out, the more bizarre the better, and then linked them, one to the next to the next, until we’d connected all ten.

“Now we’re going to practice our list three times,” I told her. Gwen repeated the movie we’d created three times, getting quicker with each repetition.

Her manager (Sadie), who had watched the whole episode, was given the task of asking Gwen to list the items in order, while she compared it with the list Gwen had written. Gwen did it flawlessly.

I asked Sadie to randomly select any item and ask Gwen what item came before and after it. Sadie made her choice and Gwen responded correctly. I asked Sadie to choose a random number that corresponded with an item and ask Gwen what the item was. Again, Gwen answered correctly.

Gwen was stunned. “That was so easy,” she said, “but I’ll probably forget by tomorrow.”

“No, you won’t,” I said, “and not only that, you’ll also be able to change other beliefs. It’s likely that you have been telling yourself other things that are equally untrue. Here’s a chance for you to shift your beliefs about anything you’d like.”

I saw Gwen once or twice a month following this memory visualization exercise. She’d see me coming and knew what to expect, because each time I’d ask her about her movie and each time she recalled it with ease.

“So,” I asked her, “do you still have a bad memory?”

Gwen would laugh and say, “Guess not, huh!”

Nope, guess not.

The funny and wonderful thing is that we are all capable of shifting any of our beliefs. Once we recognize that they exist, we can decide if they serve us and make our lives better. If they don’t, we can choose to shift them in ways that do serve us.

Nothing in our inner life is set in stone. We have the freedom to decide and choose whatever we desire and set a pathway toward experiencing it.

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Conviction

Have you ever heard of Jeannette Rankin? I’m willing to bet that you haven’t. I certainly didn’t know about her and her name only came to light because of a curious question I asked myself.

It seems we are living in a time of great political and social upheaval. The USA seems incredibly divided at this time, which made me wonder if there was ever a time in our history when there was a unanimous vote about anything.

My first thought was the United States entry to World War Two following the attack on Pearl Harbor. I decided to satisfy my curiosity and looked it up. Nope, not even then did everyone agree.

I discovered that one person voted against going to war. I had to know more.

That’s when I found out about Jeannette Rankin. She was the first woman ever elected to federal office in the United States. In 1916 she became a member of the House of Representatives from the first district of Montana. Shortly after her term began there was a vote to go to war with Germany. She and 50 others voted against it. Unsurprisingly, she was singled out for criticism, no doubt because she was a woman. She was not reelected once her term expired.

She went on to rise in the woman’s suffragist movement and championed social reforms, in particular a woman’s right to vote, which finally occurred as the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

In 1940 she decided to ran for a seat in the House of Representatives from Montana and won. Again, shortly after her term began, there was another vote to go to war. As a life-long pacifist, she again voted against the proposed declaration. This time she was the only person, male or female to vote ‘no’.

After the vote was taken and the session was over, she was pursued from the House floor by angry members, who cornered her in a telephone booth and would not allow her to leave. She had to call the Capital Police to rescue her and escort her to her office.

So, I wonder, how did Jeannette have the strength to vote her convictions? Certainly, she knew what was in store for her and how utterly persecuted she would be. After all, she already endured this once, twenty-five years before. She could not possibly have imagined that others would try to see from her point of view. And, she had to know how unpopular her pacifist beliefs were, especially right after the surprise attack.

I’m sure she knew, but she voted both her conscientious, and according to what she said, also on behalf of all of the mothers from Montana who did not want their sons going to war. Jeanette believed that war and violence were always unjustified, no matter the circumstances.

To me, there are at least two issues going on here. One is whether war is ever justified. There is no doubt a wide spectrum of opinion about this, ranging from the pacifist stand she, and others, like Mahatma Gandhi took, to the all-out hawks of the world who believe might makes right.

The other issue is, what kind of a stand is one willing to take based on their life convictions and beliefs?

Now, that’s a challenging question.

I want to say that I would have what it takes to stand fast, but I don’t really know. Perhaps, no one does until the situation arises.

I do know, that whether I agree with her pacifist beliefs or not, I have enormous respect for Jeannette and the strength and courage she displayed, particularly in the face of such vehement opposition.

When I’m presented with difficult decisions in the future, I’m pretty sure I’ll be thinking of her and grateful for the example of her life.

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Chaos Transformed by Love

I look at the world today and see so much chaos. Fear seems to have taken deep root and manifested intense feelings that surface in disturbing ways. The air around us seems filled with worry, heart break and anger.

What can be done to help heal all of this?

For me, I realize I can not be at peace if I harbor animosity in my heart for another person. If I fail to see that we are one human family and that we are all made from the same love, then I am lost.

When I see the cruel and violent actions of others, I have to be able to distinguish between who they ‘appear’ to me to be and who they truly ‘are’. They are more than the show of their outward actions and beliefs.

Before I cast a stone in their direction, I have to force myself to realize they are no more who they ‘appear’ to be than I am. Beneath our surfaces, we are all a part of the one. All made from the same source of love.

What I am saying goes far beyond ‘acceptance’. If I am to help in the worlds healing in any way, I have to be able to live from a center of love. I have to embrace all of my own weaknesses and my wholeness.

None of this is about condoning the behaviors or beliefs of others that arose from their fear and hatred. Rather, it is looking beyond and seeing that all of their actions come from their separation from the truth. The truth of who they really are, beloved of (god).

If I want to experience more feelings of separation and dissonance in my life, the surest way is to believe myself separate from them or superior to them. I benefit from realizing that I have no idea what their lives have been like and what stories they’ve been told and come to believe about themselves and the world.

If I want to help heal the world, I know that I have to start with myself. And so, I ask for a shift in my focus and that I seek a sense of clarity. I ask to have my heart opened fully, so that I can understand the difficult paths others have chosen. I have to suspend my judgment and I have to listen carefully. And, as best as I can, I have to see the world through their eyes.

My task is to see and feel with a loving undivided heart, knowing I am part of the wholeness and the holiness, and see all others as the same. If I live with this kind of heart, I can be in the world, but not of the world.

For there to be any peace inside of me, the depth of my love has to be deeper than the depth of another’s fear. I need to see beyond their misperceptions and find something within them I can hold inside of me. I have to breathe into stillness, letting go of my fear, until I find my loving heart and some part of the truth that can serve as a guide toward understanding and peace.

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Worthiness

Do you seem to have an endless list of things to do and not enough time to do them? Even the most important ones?

There’s probably some club you could join where everyone feels this way. Of course, it’s likely you wouldn’t have time to go to any of the meetings.

I could be in this club.

I have a TO DO list almost a mile long and as soon as I start to feel I’m getting ahead, I add new things to it. Most of the time I add more than I complete.

I asked myself recently how I felt about this. The answer was, burdened.

My thinking mind said, ‘but there’s so much to do and we need to get it done. We have to organize and prioritize. We can do this, we just need to make some adjustments. Let’s identify ways to handle this.’

My thinking mind set about brainstorming ideas; I could get up earlier, avoid distractions and break up my TO DO list into smaller more manageable pieces.

Perhaps these were reasonable fixes, but the feeling part of me knew each of these ideas would only add more items to my already bulging list.

An idea dawned on me.

Maybe the answer wasn’t to identify and fix the reasons why I couldn’t get everything done.

Maybe the answer or answers would appear if I explored the belief(s) that drove my need to check off all of the items.

This felt promising.

I began to wonder what would happen if I didn’t complete each of my self-assigned tasks. As I looked at each item, I discovered a common theme. I would not feel good about myself.

But why?

That now seemed like the critical question to ask. What did completing items from my list really do for me? Well, it gave me a sense of accomplishment. Beneath this, where my beliefs live, I realized there was more. It also gave me a sense of worthiness, which came through the praise of others and my own self-congratulations.

So, why is this necessary?

That answer eluded me at first, until I went inside and looked into my heart and spirit, and then I knew. I saw clearly how my ego was driven by fear and how it believed this fear was necessary in order to protect the self-image it had created. An image that firmly rested on praise from the outside and the inside. My ego believed it was vital to create opportunities (like the TO DO list) that would serve as nourishment to keep me healthy.

In the past I would have begun an internal argument with my ego. I would have attempted to convince my ego that it was wrong and that this approach would always lead to unhappiness.

But, I’ve learned that my ego plays a necessary part in my life and I no longer argue with it. Instead, I offer it love, which is the only thing that allows it to relax and calm down. I thank it for doing its job and keeping me safe. I offer it my gratitude and then share from my heart and spirit a more powerful truth. That I am inherently worthy and valuable. That I am radiant and beautiful and beloved. That I am a child of god and never need to prove myself, to be found worthy.

Looking beneath the surface, beyond my worldly concerns and thinking mind, I find a place of love. My true home.

In this light, I can let go of the significance of all of my TO DO items and they can each patiently wait their turn now.

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