Perspective is a funny thing. There is a story in yoga philosophy about a bird eating, and being thoroughly engrossed in his meal, while another bird watches from some distance, neither tasting the food nor feeling the satisfaction, but merely witnessing the whole thing. The lesson is for us to live as both birds: to experience our experiences, feel our feelings, and be in the moment like the bird enjoying his meal, yet also keep perspective like the second bird on the outside looking in to be freely detached, and simply witness the facts without being hooked or drawn into the emotions and experience.
This may be an easier concept to chew when we think of something fairly neutral taking place, like our bird eating food, but what about when something with more charge is happening? What about when we feel threatened? fearful? angry? unworthy? unloved? Or perhaps when we feel elated? joyful? excited? …and perhaps others don’t share in the experience with us and, in one form or another, tell us we’re wrong? Can we keep our perspective then, without being convinced that how it is occurring to us in that moment is “The Truth”? How can we get there? How can we let things roll off our backs and keep some clarity and calm, remaining true to who we are without letting ego run the show in moments of trial?
Recognize that your experience is YOUR experience. It may be true for you, but it is not necessarily “The Truth.” We can all experience something, the same “thing,” and each have a totally different set of thoughts and feelings in response to it. Take our picture of flowering Cherry Blossoms. Some may see it and think, “oooooooh, pretty!” while some with severe allergies may think, “ugh, I feel like I can’t breathe just looking at it.” Some may imagine the smell of the fragrance (which will likely be deemed either good or bad), some may feel itchy, and some may get a “warm and fuzzy” remembering some wonderful memory that took place near blooming cherry trees. You get the point. It’s one thing, with MANY different possible responses. Each occurs as “true” for each person experiencing it, but not one is The Truth – it’s just how it’s occurring right then, and that can change at any moment. In fact, if the way something is occurring to you is not empowering you and leaving you with a sense of joy and satisfaction, try on a new point of view.
Practice observing yourself. A yoga class is a great place to try it out if you have an instructor who helps you with reminders for this practice, but you really can do it anywhere, in any situation. I don’t mean literally watching yourself in a mirror, I mean observing and noticing your thoughts and feelings as they pass by. Notice your desire to make them “real” and attach yourself to them. This is the human condition. We all do it. We want to define things and fit them into what we already know and we want to prove ourselves right. My oh my, don’t we LOVE to be right! “See, I knew he’d do that.” “Yep, there she goes again – like that was such a surprise.” “I would bet….” “Ugh, I blew that again.” We are constantly trying to fit everything that happens and is said and even every feeling we feel into a box that “fits” our existing views and expectations. So watch yourself. See if you can start to catch it and give things space to just be, without forcing them into a predefined spot. You may be surprised what you find about yourself and others when you seek to discover what is happening now, instead of validating what you think you already know.
Cut everybody some slack. When you do see yourself (and others) judging, assessing, fitting people and places and passing moments into boxes, cut yourself, and everyone else, some slack. You’re NOT “bad” to do it, you’re human. And enlightenment isn’t about not being human and never doing human things, it’s about being conscious to our humanity and how much more the same we are than separate. Having perspective can give you the freedom and detachment to where you can have your thoughts and feelings, but they don’t have to have you (meaning they aren’t running you like a puppet master). In the wise words of the Lion King, “Remember who you are.” You NEVER have to be victim to any circumstance, situation, or even your own thoughts, feelings and emotional responses. Be your true self, not the surviving self you may become when being blindly dragged along by ______ (fill in the blank).
Keeping perspective and simply being conscious is a practice, so don’t expect to “arrive.” (WHAT?! There’s no cure?! No quick ‘fix’??? …yeah, sorry – if there is, I haven’t found it yet!). But, try it out for a little bit. See if it frees anything up or opens any new doors. You may be surprised what you find. And try to keep a sense of humor along the way – self discovery can be pretty entertaining ; )