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Exploring The Landscape Of Perception

By Robert Darby


What if someone told you that there is a very good chance that you don't live in the real world perhaps 90% of the time, that we only directly experience life maybe 10% of the time? I remember that I laughed when I first encountered this idea. But even while I was laughing I knew that there was a small voice deep in the back of my consciousness that was trying to sound an alarm or send a message or something. Whatever it was, I reacted with fear and ran away from the whole idea telling myself that it was silly, and even crazy, and in this way was able to dismiss the thoughts and avoid pursuing it any further. But I was unable to completely forget that little voice, and years later while meditating I accidentally opened that door again. But this time I was stronger.

The Fear of Intuitive Perceptions

What if someone told you that there is a very good chance that you don't live in the real world perhaps 90% of the time, that we only directly experience life maybe 10% of the time? I remember that I laughed when I first encountered this idea. But even while I was laughing I was aware of a small voice deep in the back of my consciousness that was trying to sound an alarm or send a message or something. Whatever it was, I reacted with fear and ran away from the whole idea telling myself that it was silly, and even crazy, and in this way was able to dismiss the thoughts and avoid pursuing it any further. But I was unable to completely forget that little voice, and years later while meditating I accidentally opened that door again. But this time I was stronger.

The idea that we don't live in the real world sounds crazy. And if that is true, just what world do we live in? The truth here is not so much about a geographical location or place, as it is about a state of awareness resulting from our perceptions. Few of us ever question our perceptions much less the concept of perception itself and I personally probably would never have thought about this stuff if not for my adventures with a certain meditation technique called Vipassana. But if you want to get your mind blown, put your fear of those intuitive perceptions aside for a short time and take a look at the landscape of perceptions.

I Saw Myself See Myself

The fact that we rarely examine the activities of our own mind represents our greatest mistake, and makes us completely vulnerable to the very power of that same mind. Put another way, an infinitely powerful tool (mind) not consciously controlled, can become an extremely dangerous and unpredictable liability. If we don't control it, it can control us and how would we know not only that we were being controlled, but how and with what consequences?

Mindfulness is the ability of our mind to be aware of our mind without attachment to the activities of the mind. And it is with mindfulness that we are able to become aware of the landscape of our perceptions. Normally, we are unaware of not only what thoughts our mind is producing, but also what affect those thoughts are having on our feelings and behaviors, that is, how we are reacting and responding to those thoughts. Suppose we take the simple act of hearing a sound as an example of the process and levels of perception.

Our species is capable of many levels of perception but there are two basic types of perception. We can experience phenomenon directly or we can experience a filtered version of that same phenomenon. The filtered version first goes through the thinking processes of our mind and gets conceptualized and intellectualized. It gets categorized, defined, labeled, visualized and described until by the time it gets to our awareness it is just another abstract word symbol.

The direct version is entirely different. A sound occurs in our immediate environment, it is made up of very specific vibration that enters our ears and vibrates the physical receptors of that sensory organ which converts those vibrations into electrical impulses and sends them to the brain and our mind experiences a sound in such rich detail that we may never forget the experience. We never labeled it bird, bell or plane, we just experienced it directly. It was a physical, mental and emotional experience, not intellectual.

Apples and Oranges

The difference is stunning, but the implications of these different levels of perception are of global importance. One is sterile, impersonal and safe, the other is very personal very involved and very risky and therefore courageous. One allows us to be indifferent to the reality of pain and suffering, while the other demands caring and compassion for ourselves and others. One represents the surrender to fear and ignorance and the other represents the courage, faith and commitment to intelligence and an open heart.

When and why we lost touch with our ability to perceive and experience our world directly is valuable to know but is not as important as the "how", because when we know the how we did something then we also know how to change it. The only question remaining is; do we want to change this situation? No! It's not as crazy as it sounds. If it is true that we spend 90 % or more of our conscious lives in the conceptual version of reality, then we have been doing this for a very long time and this behavior is very well entrenched and we are very comfortable with it, so why would we change it?

It is about what our hearts know to be true, and there is a small voice deep in our consciousness that is ringing the alarm with ever growing urgency for us to wake up and begin the journey toward developing our potential as the most powerful adaptation of life ever to appear on this world that we currently know of. We need to abandon our adolescent self serving mindset and find the courage to mature into the magnificent life form that we are destined to become.


Robert Darby is a self change and personal development specialist who writes for many organizations including The Agenda Of Life Foundation. He focuses on developing personal power since that is usually the cause of all Human problems. Robert takes a practical approach in that he looks at the various tools and techniques out there that are designed to help us achieve our mental, spiritual and emotional goals.


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