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The Lens You’re Wearing is Everything.

I’ve found myself talking a lot recently about the lens through which we view the world. It determines just about everything, from our relationship satisfaction to the public discord we are all watching unfold right now around the world. What I mean by this is, where attention goes energy flows.  The truth is, our brains take in 40 billion bits of information every millisecond, but we only consciously process 2,000 bits of that information! There are lots of reasons for this (that’s a story for another time), but my purpose here in bringing this up is that we have some choice in what bits of information we take in. And it has everything to do with the lens we are training on the world around us. 

Here’s an experiment I often take people through during my lectures that easily demonstrates this concept: Wherever you are right now, look up and around you for 15 seconds, and find everything you can that is the color blue.  You don’t have to make a detailed list, just take a look around and notice everything is blue.  Did you get it all? Now, after 15 seconds of searching for blue, I bet you could list a whole bunch of things; blue sky, a blue bird, maybe the chair you’re sitting on, the color of the jacket the person next to you is wearing. 

But, could you tell me everything orange you saw when you looked around? How about yellow? Or green? You likely can’t name many things that aren’t blue, because that’s where your lens was trained. 

By lens, I don’t just mean what you are taking in with your eyes, but your other senses too.  I was at the airport recently. Sitting at the gate I was doing one of my favorite activities; people watching. I find it so fascinating to watch everyone living their own movie; caught up in their own worlds and reality. I love figuring out their lives. Those two are in a new relationship. She’s bored stiff with her partner. Look how that toddler is trying to get his mother’s attention from her smartphone by making those silly noises… 

What makes people watching even more fun is listening to music while I do, because it becomes like a movie soundtrack. I Didn’t Know My Own Strength by Whitney Houston played while I watched a mother chase down twin toddlers.  A couple argued about something as Too Good by Drake and Rhianna played in the background.   It’s also kind of funny. I once watched two siblings throw down as their mother tried to pull them apart to the song, I am Light by India Arie. 

So there I was, my earphones in their preferred airport position; one earbud in and one out, so I could hear any important announcements, as well as my husband when he spoke to me.  The only problem was that the muzak playing through the airport speakers was very loud and very bad.  When only one earbud was out it overpowered the music I was listening to. But when I put both earbuds in, I couldn’t stay tuned into what was happening around me the way I wanted.  Then I remembered, where attention goes energy flows. So I started playing with my focus.  I began training all my attention on my right ear (with the earbud), and the muzak faded away and I could hear my own music. Then I trained to focus on the left, earbud-less ear, and all I heard was a bad vocal melody rendition of Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe.

Feeling amazed at how clearly my focus could change what I heard, I decided to play with what I felt.  I scanned my body and felt a twinge in my left hip that was radiating down my leg a little bit.  I put all my attention there and felt the pain escalate. Instead of worrying about how the pain would likely be worse after sitting on a plane for several hours, much less beating myself up for not stretching that morning, I put all my attention on my right elbow.  The pain disappeared as my focus shifted somewhere else. 

For the next 20 minutes until we boarded the plane, I played with my senses and perception.  I even successfully engaged my sense of smell by training my attention away from a stinky tuna salad someone nearby pulled out toward my husband’s cologne. I was sitting in a busy, stinky, metropolitan airport, filled with people and horrible loud music playing, and I was in a state of comfortable bliss, watching the movies, hearing my own music, feeling at peace and engaged in the world around me. 

Why does any of this matter? First, it’s a reminder for you that if you are struggling with what is going on in the world, feeling out of alignment with your partner, or anything else, ask yourself where you are training your lens. Are you looking for signs of connection and care or for ones of distraction and selfishness? Are you training your lens to all the ways that the world is blowing up around us, or the ways we are lifting one another up?I’m certainly not encouraging you to just stick your head in the sand and ignore the crises and hardships going on around us, or not prepare yourself for harm that is potentially at your doorstep. I am not a fan of spiritually bypassing for reasons I’ve already shared.  But, in addition to and protesting for the rights and safety we want for all, or diligently collecting seeds for when the supply chains dry up, and can we also look for the good around us? Can we train our lens toward that as well? I truly believe if we do, not only will we feel more at peace and supported by the Grace that’s always flowing toward us. We will extend that Grace to others.

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