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Shifting Perspective and Seeing a New Landscape

Victoria waterlilies 4I’ve had a number of things happen lately that have caused me to look at things differently. A recent example occurred when a person accused me of lying, when I was telling the truth. The thing is, I had a lot more information (and experience) to back up what I told this person. It was a legal matter, and I was talking to someone who had no legal training, less experience, and less knowledge of the subject. She

bamboo wave sculpture

bamboo wave sculpture

desperately wanted me to see things her way. When I didn’t, she took it personally. Her reaction started me thinking, because the truth was a matter of perspective. Looking at the topic from the perspective of a consumer and looking at it legally provided two very different views of the same system. Given our very different experiences, we were both right. I learned more about reaching a person where they are, to start a conversation, rather than starting where I am.

Yellow waterlillie 2Being egocentric like many people, I want to see things only from my own perspective, which isn’t always fair or appropriate. I have had a number of occasions recently to shift my perspective.  I was encouraged by a dream I had recently in which I looked at a long-standing situation with new eyes one day. In my dream, I had a set way of operating and the routine was one I rarely even thought of. One day, I suddenly looked at the situation differently. With new eyes, it was a brand-new situation that wasn’t as positive as I thought. Looking at it differently, I had an opportunity to change things for the better.  The dream was telling me something.

Reflecting on my dream, I considered a white waterlillies 1long-standing situation in my waking life that I had accepted as the status quo. I looked at things differently – was there a way to bring some new opportunities into the status quo? Not really. But then I shifted perspectives and saw that if I add a new skill or adapted what I already know, I could make everything work together smoothly. The new solution will address the same old need as before, but fulfill some new ones too. I think it will take some time to make everything work, but the new perspective was helpful, and it feels more accurate for who I am now. The old perspective – the status quo – didn’t fit any more. I just had to notice.

pink waterlillies with bamboo reflectionBut of course, life likes to illustrate a point several different ways. A few days ago, I was approached by a street-person, while walking downtown. He zoomed in on me like a laser, and I wondered if I resembled his mother; he wasn’t much older than my son, after all. I wanted to flatter myself and say it was because I looked kind or non-threatening. In the end, though, I think it was because I was the only one he’d seen with the courage to look at him like a fellow human being. Several other professionals saw his slightly-crazed look, lowered their eyes, and bulldozed past him, unwilling to be bothered by his needs. He begged me to call an ambulance for him.unknown water plants 1The man was just a little off; he was clearly distressed and not very aware of himself or his surroundings. He didn’t look physically injured, but he was having quite a different experience than the rest of us. I knew that he needed some sort of professional help. As a believer in compassion in action, I did as he asked. I talked to him and the 911 dispatcher, waiting the few minutes it took for emergency personnel to arrive and assist him. I didn’t feel threatened, or in harm’s way, talking to him, but I could see how others were disturbed. I was ashamed for the people who refused to look at him –or me while I was with him. They were unconcerned with someone they didn’t understand.

In my profession, I deal with a lot of doctors, lawyers, health care professionals, and high-functioning people. But there are also times I deal with people who have a mental illness; it might be obvious or subtle, significant or minor. I occasionally deal with people on the margins of society who are in pain and want help. Sometimes I can help them; sometimes pink waterlillies 10I can’t. Sometimes, all they need is a little help, and they can get their illness under control and their life in order. Sometimes, they need much more. Whether I am able to fix there problem or not, I can always remember that there is a soul inside, and treat them with the respect they deserve.

What does mental illness have to do with shifting perspective? Everything. As a society, we need change our way of treating these marginalized people. We need to make available the services they need. As individuals, we need to see the divine spark within everyone, mentally ill or not. As human beings, we all want a little compassion. They do too. Even when it’s scary; even when it’s inconvenient.

bamboo wave sculpture

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19 replies »

  1. I liked this post because it reminds me so much of myself. I need to learn to take time to think about my life and see what needs to be worked on. I don’t want to accept my mental illness as is! I want to change. Thank you for your lovely, inspiring post.
    Best,
    Megan

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  2. Beautiful story about compassion. Thank you for sharing your experience.
    According to Adyashanti holding on to our ideas, thoughts, and beliefs is what creates human suffering. When we are able to give these things up we can move into a place of connection and compassion. Nobody sees everything. I love this post.

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  3. I love that you stopped when others wouldn’t. It says alot about you. I cannot even imagine being on the street and asking for help and people just turning away. It warms my heart to read such a touching story. On the shifting perspectives dream, I once was in an argument with a friend and I told him that he was dead wrong. He said to me “you know you can be dead right too.” Meaning that even if you are very right, if your delivery is condescending or if you go into the conversation exclaiming how right you are people shut down the possibility of your argument and stop listening. I used to be very passionate about certain subjects, and found it hard to even entertain the place that the other person may be coming from. I could not understand how they could not see my point, while simultaneously not even trying to see theirs. People can only learn when they are listening to the words. Maturity, open mindedness, and my friends words “dead right” have changed the way that I go about conversations of disagreement with another person now. If I cannot even entertain their perspective, how can I expect them to do the same for mine.

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    • Good point. When I am entrenched or invested in a viewpoint, perspective is harder to find. Sigh. But it is a passionate viewpoint that can change the world — just so we understand the boundaries of those we care about. Still, it is hard to condemn the passion of people like Martin Luther King, Jane Goodall, Ghandi, etc. Their loyalty to their hearts has helped us all. How do we know when to hold and when to release?

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      • True. Passion is the stuff of life. I thought about this post alot today. It recently happened to me, where I almost lost the constructive in the criticism because of how it was delivered. Usually when it comes from a place of love, kindness and humility, the words flow more easily to their intention. That is what I am working on now. By the way, once I got past the hurt and anger from the persons criticism, I heard their words, and it was your post that got me there. Just the whole introspection topic that you put me on.

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        • Sounds like you’ve got your act together! Good job — putting in the work to find the gem among the manure. Getting angry is easy; digging for gems – not so much.

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  4. It’s so true that many issues between people can be helped by shifting perspectives or seeing things through the other person’s eyes. Not enough people put this into practice – on a larger scale, just think of how many wars might be averted if world leaders tried to come to an understanding of each other’s perspectives in order to find a “happy medium”!

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    • Most people lack the motivation to look at things differently; they don’t want to believe that they don’t see everything. It makes war, lawsuits, and contentious political seasons feel inevitable.

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  5. Beautiful! Compassion in practice. You probably changed that young man’s life forever. Wherever his mother is, I am sure she is asking blessings on you.

    You learned a valuable and wonderful lesson about perspective. That takes a lot of maturity and grace. I am very proud of you.

    Mom

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    • I doubt his life was changed at all. The system is seldom helpful for young men like him. People think that everyone is getting welfare, but they aren’t. People like him churn through the system and rarely get the help they need. It’s very sad.

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