Imagine a psychology experiment in which a group of people were given a series of tasks to do and problems to solve. Assuming they were being evaluated on the basis of their skills and proficiency, they all put their heads down and focused on the tasks. Some of the problems were impossible to solve, so the subjects became frustrated with themselves and each other, but mostly they criticized whoever it was who designed the experiment.
Imagine the experimenters observing through the one-way glass. For them, what is important is not who is the best problem solver or task completer, but rather, the way in which each individual conducts him or her self. How do they react when their puzzle has a piece missing, or when someone else moves through the tasks more quickly? How do they respond when one of the others is struggling, or getting discouraged? What if the experiment goes on for a long, long time, and just when one thinks he or she has all of the problems solved, the experimenter produces another one, or even several. How do they feel if they get puzzles that are much more challenging than the other subjects?
Mmmm. I often muse about this. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the challenges of life. Ego is here on a mission. Ego is like the subjects in the experiment who have no idea what the whole process is about. Ego gets deeply involved in all of the problems, reacting positively if things go its way, and negatively if they do not. It is possible to spend a lifetime focused on setting goals, making plans, solving problems and feeling remorseful or resentful when things do not seem to work the way we had hoped. Or, perhaps worse, having them work out exactly according to plan, but still not feeling fulfilled. In all of this, we may be missing a whole other layer of meaning behind all we are and do.
It seems that other species naturally flow with nature, flying south or swimming to breeding grounds right on cue. They are naturally guided in the direction which best serves them. Humans must be programmed this way as well, but we also have the ability to think, reflect, analyze, and to go against our own inner cues. External cues may be so strong that they overpower the guidance of our autopilot. We may run like lemmings to accomplish more, achieve more, be more. By the time we realize where ego is pushing us, we may certainly regret not having our focus on what the experiment was really about.
Whenever I bring my consciousness into the present moment, time stands still. Instantly, I see the beauty in everything. I see things like the wind making the yellow leaves of autumn dance across the roadway in a chaotically harmonious way. I notice the couple leaving the mall, she holding a large birdhouse made by a local craftsperson, and he two cups of coffee. What a story, in one image. I notice the bank teller who, even though the lines are long, takes an extra moment to smile and allow a toddler to select a sticker out of a little pail. A ray of sunshine pierces through all of my dark thoughts about the demise of full, efficient service. Like the 3D magic eye pictures, what is on the surface is a mass of confusion, but if we let our consciousness focus, for a moment, beneath that surface, the true beauty of life is revealed in every moment. How much richness awaits there, just for our awareness.
Perhaps the human equivalent of the magic eye process is to look at the world through our hearts, rather than our heads. What we see will be quite different from what we see looking in the more common, but less conscious way. We co-create our experience of life with what is out there. However, and with brilliant irony, what we see out there is dependent on where our consciousness is focused. What you see really is what you get, but in a much more profound sense than such a simple phrase would seem to imply. The phrase, in itself, exemplifies its meaning. In the same way, the life we live, and how we live it, exemplifies the meaning we have given to our own existence.
Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning Psychotherapist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books or cds, visit www.gwen.ca