From Chapter Four “Learning To See” in What We Ache For by Oriah
One of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to become aware of your conditioned way of seeing, to open to new perceptions, is to spend time with people who see things differently than you do. Most of us spend time with people who share our worldview, people who think and see in similar ways. It gives us comfort to have the authority of our experience reinforced by another’s experience. Being with those who have had different experiences and so see differently not only opens us to new perceptions but helps us become aware of our habitual blinders.
Years ago a talented and innovative composer came to study shamanic ceremonies with me. During one retreat I facilitated she took a tape recorder down into the gorge that ran through the property where we were staying and recorded the sound of the water rushing past the rocks and echoing off the cliffs on either side of the river. These sounds became the inspiration for and part of her later compositions involving electronic music combined with the sound of the human voice. Watching her work and learning to appreciate her music I started to listen differently, to move past expectations about what I would hear in different settings, to suspend instant judgments about what sounds were pleasant or musical, to perceive a much wider range of sounds. I began to notice relationships between sounds, began to imagine a layered wholeness in the sounds of our inner and outer worlds.
I am fortunate to live with someone whose ways of seeing are very different than my own. While this can sometimes lead to lively debate and points of contention it is also presents on-going opportunities to expand my own ways of seeing. My husband, Jeff, is a talented photographer. Often he takes pictures of things I don’t even see: the rich colors and textures of peeling paint and rusting metal on a shed wall; the delicate lace of melting ice set against the dark wet wood of the back deck framed by sun-sculpted snow; shadows in doorways or windows that hint of other worlds. Also, where I am a mystic, Jeff is a scientist. I meditate, read poetry and study metaphysics; Jeff designs computer hardware, builds telescopes and is an avid astronomer. We have different areas of expertise but because the world is inherently inter-connected, when we can set aside our preconceived notions about both the world and our own abilities to comprehend what is unfamiliar, we offer each other new ways of seeing and imagining the world we share.