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Seeing through lens

Clarity of Vision

In the story of Jesus and the blind man, Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52), Jesus asks Barimaeus, "What would you have me do for you?" and Bartimaeus responds, "I want to see." As I read this scripture I wonder, if Jesus asked us today, “What do you want me to do for you?” what would we say?

Since you are reading this, I assume you can see, so you and I probably wouldn’t ask for sight. And, yet, despite the functioning use of our eyes, I wonder how many of us have clarity of vision? Do we really see what is around us and within us?

(For the full video version, click here.)

John O’Donohue, in his book Anam Cara, challenges us to ask ourselves a few really important questions at the end of each day:  What did I really see today? What didn’t I see today? What way do I behold the world?

Clarity of vision is in part what we physically see with our eyesight. Do we travel through the world with blinders on, absorbed in our own little worlds and oblivious to what goes on around us? Do we get so focused on one task that we miss all the rest? Or are we actually seeing and experiencing the fullness of life?

Have you heard of the invisible gorilla experiment? It goes like this... "imagine you are asked to watch a short video in which six people - three in white shirts and three in black shirts - pass basketballs around. While you watch, you must keep a silent count of the number of passes made by the people in white shirts. At some point, a gorilla strolls into the middle of the action, faces the camera and thumps its chest, and then leaves, spending nine seconds on screen. Would you see the gorilla?"

It sort of sounds like a no-brainer. Of course we'd see a gorilla, for heaven's sake! But when Harvard University did this study, they found that half of the people who watched the video never saw the gorilla. How much do we really see of what goes on around us?

The other question that O’Donohue raised was “What way do I behold the world?” This is less about seeing with our physical eyes and more about seeing with the eyes of our hearts.

We each filter the world through our own personal lens. For example, we talk about people who have a glass half full or a glass half empty, people who “see,” or who filter their experiences through the lens of optimism or negativism.  There are a multitude of other lenses including fear, greed, love, joy, judgment, resentment, indifference, inferiority, elitism, compassion, criticism, anger, and more.

Unless we take a step back and find some clarity of vision, we may not even realize what our own filters are.

Let me share a story Dr. Rachel Remen tells in her book My Grandfather’s Blessings about a woman named Patricia. Dr. Remen had been listening to Patricia’s fears for more than 6 months. One day she told Patricia that for the next four weeks she was simply not allowed to be afraid. She had noticed that Patricia’s first reaction to everything was fear and that when people had one reaction to everything, that reaction became suspect. In short, she did not believe that all her fear was true.

Patricia became very angry and told Dr. Remen that she didn’t see her, or understand her, and wasn’t being compassionate. “No,” Dr. Remen responded,” I believe that after all these months I do see you. This fear that has so little to do with who you are got in the way.”

In the end Patricia agreed that she would try the experiment. Every time she felt fear she would think of it as only her first response to whatever was happening, and then she would look further for her second response and follow that. She was to ask herself, “If I were not afraid, if I were not allowed to be afraid, how would I respond to what is happening?” She was reluctant, but agreed to give it a try.

At first Patricia was discouraged to notice how many times she experienced fear every day. But she was surprised to find that often she could step past her initial stab of fear with some ease and that then she had a wide variety of different reactions to the events in her life.

After a few weeks, she even began to wonder whether she, herself, was afraid. For the first time she questioned if the fear that had been her life’s companion was just a sort of habit, a knee-jerk response to life that she had learned years ago from a mother who had been constantly afraid of many things. Over the next few months whenever she felt fear, she would stop and ask herself it is were true, looking closely to see if she really was afraid. Surprisingly often, she discovered she was not. With intention and help, she learned to see more clearly.

Proust said that the voyage of discovery lies not in seeking new vistas but in having new eyes.

We can see life in many ways, but we don’t always have the clarity of vision to see with the heart. That takes effort and a conscious intention to see more of life, to let go of fear, to step up, and maybe even to voice the desire “I want to see!” to our Highter Self, Divine Essence, God (or however you name the Something More). Cultivating a deeper connection with Spirit is also essential in helping us see more clearly, more honestly and more compassionately because that connection reminds us of our oneness with all things. Seeing clearly with our eyes and hearts will enable us to know and live life more fully.

Love & Light!