Sunday, May 19, 2013

Why Is It So Difficult To Change What I Perceive?

A subscriber recently asked: “Why isn’t what I perceive accurate? After all, everyone else perceives or see just like I do.” Thank you for another excellent question.
A Course in Miracles (ACIM) distinguishes between seeing and perception. On this physical plane we see with our eyes and our egos equate that with perception, as if it’s reality. On the spiritual (or real) plane we still see with our eyes but perceive with true vision. We have interpreted what we’ve seen with our Christ mind or our True Self.
What we see is not how we apply meaning. Meaning (or perception) does not come from eyeballs, rods and cones in our retina, or optic nerves. Meaning is applied by our minds. Change your mind and you will change your meaning. Changed meaning leads to changed perception.
We’ve all been to family reunions or wedding gatherings where there are a lot of camera flashes, as picture after picture is taken. Inevitably there are infants who, after several flash-and-clicks, begin to reach for the “flash bulb bubbles” that are floating before them. The bubbles are real to them. All of us smile and think: “Isn’t that just darling!”
Although we’ve grown, we still try to grab perceived bubbles, as if they’re real. Our bubbles have changed, of course. For example, individuals, who have studied federal and state regulations and have learned how to “milk” the Medicaid or Food Stamp programs, are considered to be Welfare Queens. We lose respect for them. Corporations, whose legal offices have found unintended “holes” in state and federal tax codes and have learned how to “milk” that system, are considered to be sharp business tycoons.
It’s all meaning. It’s all perception.
While living in Saint Augustine, Florida, my wife and I were downtown one afternoon just enjoying walking, window-shopping, and people-watching. We stopped for a pastry and iced tea at a small French bakery/bistro off Charlotte Street. There were quite a few motorcycles outside. As we walked in there was a large table of bikers and biker-babes – all dressed in black leather, of course. I guess I was expecting Marlon Brando and his bunch of “Wild Ones.” Regardless of my predisposition, they were perfectly polite, social adept, and, as I listened, were speaking French!  My confidence in the “rightness” of my anticipated perception was shattered. All I could do was laugh.
If meaning doesn’t come from my retina, where does it come from? My ego. Your ego. Our taught social/cultural ego. Yes, many have applied the same meaning to similar situations because we’ve all been taught in similar ways. That doesn’t mean it’s correct. It just means we were taught similarly. The Course says: “It is surely the mind that judges what the eyes behold. It is the mind that interprets the eyes’ messages and gives them the “meaning.” And this meaning does not exist in the world outside at all.” [M-8.3:3-5]
We do not “see” meaning. We see things – colors, shapes, objects, and movement. The meaning we assign these things comes from our minds. We’ve all had the experience of noticing something and then seeing it all over the place. I had a friend tell me this past week that she had noticed a bumper sticker on my car that says; COEXIST. It uses symbols from all major religions as its letters. She laughed, then went on to tell me how many other cars she has seen with that same bumper sticker. I told her how we had that same experience after we bought a Toyota Prius – an electric/gas hybrid car. Driving around, suddenly, we noticed there were dozens of Priuses all over the place. We simply hadn’t noticed them.
The Course also recognizes this. “Perception selects, and makes the world you see.” [T-21.V.1:1] As Robert Perry wrote, “If I look for acts of kindness, I’ll live in a different world than the person who focuses on acts of callousness, and each of us will live in a different world than the guy who has a shoe fetish. What we focus on makes our world.” [Path of Light, Circle Publishing, 2004, p.98]
This all sounds very sweet and innocuous. The trouble arises when I say to myself: “I focus on acceptance and kindness, and so I’m more right than the person who focuses on selfishness and greed or the person who has a shoe fetish.”
And I love to be right!
Therein lies my problem. More of my life than I want to admit is a simply a replay of the French bakery/bistro. My perception is coming from my mind, which is replaying tapes and lessons from my past. But the past isn’t here anymore. [Last week I discussed how I make my past my present.]
I’m still working on all this, though. Simply bless me and ask for lots of patience – you’ll need it.
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
#3 May, 2013
Copyright, 2013

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