There is no reality only perception

It can be difficult at times to see where someone else may be coming from when it comes to viewpoints. Lately I’ve realized that there truly is no reality, and it is our perception that rules 100% of the time. Philosophically, no two people will see the world in the same way and this affects how we live daily. When learning how to understand yourself better and as well as other people, it helps to take into account what perception you are viewing the world from at any particular moment.

A story I read once made me realize how we truly operate on various grounds of misperception (I am going to recite it to the best of my memory):

While boarding the subway northbound toward the city, I noticed it was an unusual day on the MTA. Passengers were uneasy to say the least. Reaching up to hold on to the handrail as the doors closed I noticed a man whose children were creating a rude disturbance in the crowd.

They ran in circles screaming, playing, whining and causing the others on the train to grit their teeth. The father? Apathetic at best.

“You think you can keep those kids under control, sir?” I finally gathered up enough nerve to ask. I felt triumphant to speak up as I did. The official spokesperson of every other aggravated commuter aboard that rail car.

He looked at me slowly and life hardly flickered once in his eyes. Nodding his head down then back up again he said softly, “I do apologize. We are returning from the hospital. Their mother is terminally ill with cancer.”

The moment stood still.

What is it like to hear that news? As the father? The children? How could the rest of us be so insensitive?

Suddenly the minor aggravation of the uncontrolled children didn’t seem so major anymore. How many times in your life have you let your perception get in the way of how you interpreted reality?

Can we wire ourselves to subconsciously take a step back when we are about to react to a situation and consider the thousands of possible other viewpoints at play? When we are able to do this, it is boosting what I like to call, our emotional intelligence. Relating to others and seeing things from other angles makes us happier people in general.

Are you willing to accept that your perception is not reality? Lately I’m understanding that there is no reality. If we all look at one scenario and derive different outcomes, the truth is self-evident.

Finding life’s sweet spot

The more experiences that lend themselves to me in life the more I realize the world is a giant spectrum. On each side is a great extreme that is commonly referred to as “black or white”.

With my scientific background it’s hard to break free from molecules, chemical structures and pocket protectors, trust me. But as I began to expand my mind into different realms I realized its not either side of the scale that matters, but that sweet spot right in the middle.

Whenever my mentors counseled me in the form of advice I was taught to seek out those two ends of the spectrum and attempt to bridge the gap to help see what was not in focus.

This is where the solution lies. Hiding, in plain sight.

Life is situational in nature. While the lot of us are struggling in the rat race to make complexities out of simplicity, the wise men are meditating on its simplicity.

I’m almost positive that I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post that the highest respected people in the world are those who are proponents of simplicity. It takes an enormous amount of effort for a toddler to put his or her toys back in the box but hardly work at all to throw them about a room. And quite often they are willing to do this readily.

If we look at ourselves as unruly preschoolers, we can begin to see the correlation. Our default state is to revert back to the kind of behavior we learned as children. One of the most interesting books I ever picked up was All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.

It was interesting to see how banal life’s lessons really are in the grand scheme of things. Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Clean up your mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say sorry when you hurt someone. Put things back where you found them.

Funny when you think about it. How much more complicated the world has become when we get a job, a husband or wife, kids and a house full of responsibility. At the root of it all are these key principles that have been there riding along in the back seat all along.

Herein leis another important gray area of life.

Accepted is the concept of settling down and pushing forward with a certain motive over time but the key to happiness is in persisting to create more experiences. Experiences lead to revealing to us the sweet spot of the spectrum we are looking for.

Bigots and racists are those who have not the experience to appreciate the beauty in culture. Elitists are those who have not the experience to earn their keep in the world from the ground up. Sexists are those who have not the experience to embrace differences in individuality.

The list could go on.

A basic therapy lends itself to seeing the spectrum of life and tackling the blindness that prevents us from seeing the sweet spot by pushing forward with new experiences as well as adoring simplicity throughout the process.

These lessons have taught me much about well being.

Is your lizard brain taking over?

The horse was a focal point of human transportation in the 1500’s. Plains Indians ate buffalo as their primary meat. Hunting buffalo was important in the food gathering process and back in the days where there wasn’t a farm or slaughtering house to outsource all of the nourishment, it had to be caught from the wild. During the hunt, each of the Indians would head out on horseback in groups to alarm, chase and exhaust the gigantic beasts.

It is true that various Plains Indians would occasionally chase buffalo over a small cliff. The Indians, when they found a suitable bluff, would conceal themselves behind the rocks with hides. When the herd would start to move towards the bluff, the Indians would jump up from behind their rocks, shouting and waving the hides, keeping the buffalo moving toward the cliff, according to a caption by Alfred Jacob Miller.

During these critical moments when the buffalo would be forced to make a decision to save their life, their lizard brain would be put into hyper drive. This last ditch effort was dictated by a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. When this part of the brain is initiated it creates a sequence of nerve reactions that will prepare the body for running and fighting. Chemicals adrenaline, cortisol and noradrenaline are released into the blood and cause every part of the physiology to prepare for battle. The same brain that protects the buffalo is what foundation that also affects human psychology.

When our fight or flight system is activated, we tend to perceive everything in our environment as a possible threat to our survival. By its very nature, the fight or flight system bypasses our rational mind—where our more well thought out beliefs exist—and moves us into “attack” mode. This state of alert causes us to perceive almost everything in our world as a possible threat to our survival. As such, we tend to see everyone and everything as a possible enemy. Like airport security during a terrorist threat, we are on the look out for every possible danger. We may overreact to the slightest comment. Our fear is exaggerated. Our thinking is distorted. We see everything through the filter of possible danger. We narrow our focus to those things that can harm us. Fear becomes the lens through which we see the world. – Neil Neimark, MD

Your lizard brain is not making decisions that will help you

On a basic level our lizard brain only has the ability of looking out for the basic food/shelter physiological needs and doesn’t allow us to make rational decisions when it is engaged. How many people are walking around with their lizard brains telling them what to do?

The Indians were dependent on the fact that these buffalo were acting solely on the most primitive part of their brain. Modern society has caused a lot of additional stressors that didn’t affect generations prior. Since there’s such a risk to us for falling ill and degrading our quality of life, it’s important to consider whether or not our lizard brain has taken over.

Next time you are feeling anxious, angry or tense, take that opportunity to ask yourself: Is this my lizard brain talking? Find a moment to release the claws of the lizard and regain control of self. This is a mantra that will help you become the best you possible.

 

“Life is ten percent what you experience and ninety percent how you respond to it.” ― Dorothy M. Neddermeyer

How I Plan Trips

Last minute trips are exhilarating. The most spontaneous I did was during spring break one year I had planned to stay home and my friend called at 9pm and said “jet blue is selling tickets for $20 round trip to fly to JFK but we have to leave at 5am tomorrow”. So 5 of us hopped in the car at 10:30p and drove to west palm beach to fly out to NYC. The catch was, we had to fly back the same day. We went to manhattan, had NY style pizza, saw Wall Street battery park and grand central station, ate sushi in TriBeCa and got on a plane home. Crazy?

Why You Should Always Be Late

My dirty secret is that I fix an asterisk in the title of events where I know either myself or others will be late. Why do I do this? For sanity. The drill sergeant in my head barks orders like, “Don’t be late, jerk. It’s time to leave. Stop scrolling through Pinterest. Your mother didn’t raise you this way.” By the time I beat myself over the head enough to leave the house I’ve also grown a shiny sense of entitlement. Showing up at our meeting location 15 minutes early is an Act of God.

Guilty party speaking here: I’m not always the best at showing up on time for personal meetings. First hand I see the effects it has on myself and others. It took enough psychological effort to pull off an early arrival that the dictator persona is now active; Ready to deliver twenty lashings to any late-comers. That’s not fair to anyone else because there are great reasons for being late.

Adulting Is Tough: Love Your Late Friends

  1. Late people are time economists. We are fearful or anxious about arriving too early with nothing to do. Efficient people problems.
  2. Late people are deeply mindful. Sometimes we get engrossed in a great conversation, flow state with our work or an enjoyable hobby. We never complain when these people are in the same room with us sharing their gift of immersion.
  3. Late people feel guilty. As we rush through the door after everyone else has arrived our apologetic behavior is only a clue. Even though it may not seem like it in the moment I’ve noticed many struggle with Type-A vs. Type-B. Each world is different but it can coexist after a bit of effort on everyone’s part.

Ask For Permission Instead of Forgiveness

Try scheduling flex meetings for events that may not be time sensitive. According to my research, a person is late 12-24 minutes on average. What works best for me is to 1.5X the time I allow for the event then block off the whole slot. A lunch invite sounds a little more like, “Hey, let’s grab quinoa kale citrus salads at noonish (12:00-12:15). I have a few things I’m working on so I’ll tote them to our meeting. Keep me updated on your arrival.” That way it combats the drill sergeant effect, occupies my pea brain and comes across friendlier.

Being up front about your flexible timing makes it easy to gain control over your awesome schedule. If neither party is in a rush to choke down a mochachocafrappalatte at your local cafe, why plan it that way? As I browse my calendar there’s a 45 minute meeting scheduled to catch up with a friend over Mexican. “Yeah, that’ll be enough time to gorge three baskets of chips, catch up on two months of backlogged conversation and feed my taco baby!” C’mon.