Objectivity vs. Perception

My sister and I attended a personal development seminar together recently, at which the instructor declared, "There is no suffering in reality." This declaration struck my sister and I just so, that we jested with each other regarding the placement of my next and her first tattoo. 

What I heard in the declaration of the instructor was more along the lines of, "There is no suffering in objectivity." Though it doesn't sound as pretty as what the instructor originally said, I have been stuck on the idea for weeks now! "What a concept!" I've exclaimed to myself in awe of the idea that when we stay in the present moment we can recognize that every meaning our mind is making is merely perspective! And if what you think is indubitably your reality, then changing your thought, changes the perspective. This means that when we are present with our thoughts we can rid ourselves of suffering. Huh.

Did I make that clear?

In case I rambled on or over-explained, as I sometimes do, let me break it down for you. Today can be a wonderful day or a terrible one, based on the way my mind directs my thoughts. Now, I'm not seeing clients today and I own my own business. That is objective. Other objective information is that I have an overuse injury in one of my subscapular muscles (The pain its causing me is my subjective reality, and pretty intense.), I am home alone, and I did not choose to be off work today.

Here are examples of two possible perspectives that can be created from the happenings of my day:

1.) "My business is not busy enough for me to succeed. I'm going to fail at this. I'm a joke. A beautiful day outside and I can't even go workout because my shoulder hurts so badly. I might as well just stay at home and lay in bed because the world is against me. No one is here to help me. I'm so lonely. Why don't I have more friends? What's wrong with me?"

Yikes! You might think that's sad to read, but consider that most people actually think those things! Whether aware of those constantly streaming thoughts or not, there they are, and the presence of them affects our mood. Just consider how you felt after reading that first perspective.

Now consider the second:

2.) "What a beautiful day! I get to sleep in and do whatever it is I want. No obligations, the sun is out: complete freedom. And home alone! That means my activities are totally up to me, without compromise! My shoulder feels like it needs a little TLC... perfect day to have a bit of time to myself."

Does reading that passage feel differently to you? It sure does to me! I'd much rather choose the second outlook if I could!

So, what if I told you you could?

Now I, like one third of the rest of the population, have suffered the strangling hold of depression in my lifetime. I have also experienced great tragedy. I do understand that it isn't always easy to identify the objective in order to push through dark subjectivity and choose the brighter perspective. I also know, based on my personal and professional experience, that consistent and regular practice makes it much easier.

So how do you practice that?

  • First you have to learn to be present with your thoughts. You can't change your perspective if you're not even aware of what it is! Meditation can help with this. Meditation teaches you to be an objective observer of your thoughts and the world around you.
  • Secondly, you must become aware of the difference between the objective and subjective. Our individual and subjective perspectives are so real to us that we can easily get what's actually happening mixed up with the constant stream of subjective thought. Try writing it out! Make two columns on a sheet of paper and generate a list of FACTS and a list of THOUGHTS/FEELINGS. Then let yourself be open to the idea that only one of those columns is actually true.
  • Finally, recreate your perspective. Imagine what that annoyingly happy, peppy person you know would say to you if your shared your struggle. Allow yourself to be open to possibilities outside of what you see initially or would ordinarily consider. Run with the thoughts and ideas that really create a spark in you: the ones that inspire you. 

Now, looking back on the objective happenings of my day, which perspective do you think I chose?

DING! DING! 

Today was a wonderful, restful, active, and productive day! I slept in, cleaned the tub while the coffee pot brewed, read a thoughtful and well written book while i sipped, did laundry, went to Bikram to heat up and stretch out my muscles, painted in my jammies, did the dishes, wrote a blog to aid in the progression of my work, and now I will dress myself up and head downtown to volunteer in helping others see my perspective too (It's a really great one.).