‘Well, I guess it is time to go back to reality…” Hearing those words, my heart sank, I felt sad. I heard longing, longing for a different life, longing for change, a desire longing to be met. I heard the voice of someone who did not expect the world to be different than it appeared, and I imagined someone who felt a little powerless to make any difference. Within me, there was a voice of rebellion to this statement, a voice that wanted to call out, to shake them out of their expectations, and it is the voice that speaks to me often.
This world can present in many ways, and for any given situation there are thousands of ways to view it, if not more. I have learned that the way that the world appears to me is not the way it appears to others, that the limitations I see, the difficulties I have are not the same for everyone, and I have been curious about this difference for a while. I have watched with envy as others completed a task I struggled to begin. I watch others labor over decisions that I find simple to make, and for years I wondered why there were such large differences, why I could see things other could not, and why I had troubles seeing what others perceived easily.
Part of this process I have come to see is one of expectation, and that the expectations that I hold will constrain the options I see before me. In Zen Buddhism they speak of Beginner’s Mind, the mind that is open to all the possibilities, which is not limited by expectations. Each of us can see this easily when we notice how much longer a trip seems as we are travelling some place new for the first time. Retracing our steps on the return, the distance unchanged, yet the perception is often that the travel is quicker. Our mind bookmarks the landmarks along the way but does not understand the relationship to the destination. As we return, those landmarks serve to mark the passage of time and indicate how much closer we are to the finish. Our brains project into the future with greater certainty and the result is that the return seems quicker. It is not really the truth, the distance travelled is the same, the perception has changed, nothing more.
Perception changes what happens. My perception changes what happens to me. My expectations guide and hone my perceptions so that I begin to see what I expect to see, and my expectations for what will happen are more likely to be fulfilled. But I wonder, is this because I expect it, does my perception set this outcome? Do I influence the system to create the outcome I expect? My experience indicates that this often occurs.
Over the last 5 years, I have worked diligently to understand my own unconscious strategies that influence my perceptions of what is happening in my world. As I have uncovered more and more layers of behavior, unconscious to me, I have changed the way the world looks on a daily basis. Uncovering my unconscious biases and expected outcomes, the unconscious voices offering critic and advice throughout the day, the automatic behaviors that prompt action before thought (or without thought), changed my expectation of the world in which I live. The possibilities available to me are greater, and the flexibility of my actions is wider, changing the perception of what there is in any given moment. In doing this, I have come to see that ‘reality’ is what I make it far more often than it is static and unchanging. True, I am unlikely to make the sun rise in the west and set in the east because of my expectation, but the way I feel about the rising and setting of the sun can change in the blink of an eye.
So, what is this reality that we ‘head back to’? Is it really any more than the reality of our own making? Is it the truth of what is to forever be, or is it just a reflection of our current state of mind, our current expectation, and our current perception? My heart is sad when I hear these words in the world, because I know how they feel to embody, I recall the defeated feeling that accompanies these words the hanging head, the slumped shoulders, the feeling that I am the ox leaning into the traces pulling the plow across a deep muddy field, again and again. I know how narrow the point of view is when the blinders are on and all you can do is pull. I can see how my expectations, in this frame of mind, limit the reality that lays before me, limit the options I can see, and constrain the system so that it produces only what I expect of it. I
But the beauty of this life is that each moment is indeed new, it is a moment we have never had before. It is a moment that has our entire future stretched before it, and we get to choose how to spend that moment. We can choose to do what we have always done, or we can begin to be curious, and in that curiosity change can happen as the possibilities become endless.
If any of resonates for you, and you happen to be curious, and wish to know more, do not hesitate to drop me a line. If you would like to know more about my work, or to work with me, feel free to contact me. I post regularly to Instagram (@gilgrimes), Twitter (gilgrimes) , Medium and Facebook (gilgrimes) about whatever arises. And if you would like to stay in touch sign up for my newsletter (probably once or twice a month at most).